Mary Taft lives with her two daughters, seven cats and two dogs in an estate in Panama – and she would not have it any other way.
But the former teacher and school administrator did not always know that Panamanian retirement was in store for her. In fact, as he consulted where to move with his two older daughters, there were dozens of spots on the table. "We had a conversation with the blue sky – where we can go and live together," said the 63-year-old former Springfield, MA, resident. "Canada was out because it was too cold. We wanted the tropics because we were sick of winter. We excluded Asia because it was too far and the language barrier, Australia was too expensive. ”
The Spanish speaker has been to Latin America many times, and her older daughter, a musician, works a lot in Brazil, so they start looking around. They ruled out Belize because of "lack of infrastructure" and Costa Rica because of their costs and "poor health performance," says Taft. But Boquete, Panama ̵
"It's a place of indescribable beauty, and culture is complex and vibrant," she says. "This is not a sleepy mountain town, there is art and culture, birds, sailing, tourism, restaurants with chefs from all over the world, it is a food paradise. There is so much going on here. "(The Lonely Planet Guide writes this:" Boquete is known for its cool, fresh climate and pristine natural environment. Flowers, coffee, vegetables and citrus flourish in its rich soil and the friendliness of the locals seems to rub everyone who passes through it. ”)
Plus, Mary says she and her daughters have been fed up with a lot of things in America – including the high cost of living, repeated mass shootings, and what she saw as a lot of" rage and hatred "among residents. "The US is so out of control – social fabric is falling apart," she says. "It is reckless to continue to stay in the US," she added, noting that crime is low in Panama, you are less likely to see guns and life can be more accessible.
(In fact, Panama is a pretty safe country: the US government puts Panama first in terms of safety, the best ranking you can get – though it advises Americans not to travel to parts of the Gulf of Moscow and Darien. It is important to note that some types of crime may be more prevalent in Panama than in the United States, and there are many countries that are even safer.
In 2018, Mary moved to Panama with her two daughters – and she remains.
" Unless someone dies, I don't plan to go back there, "she says." I only came back once. I had to go to Miami to do some personal banking, did banking, and got back on the plane. " That's how it is life – including expenses, healthcare, residency and more – in Boquete, Panama.
Cost: "I spend about the same [as in the U.S.] but have a much better lifestyle for the same costs, "Mary says. While she had one home in Springfield, in Panama she had two homes – a three-bedroom apartment on the beach and a 6,000-square-foot house (which includes a main house and a small two-bedroom casino) landed up in the mountains. Marys said she bought the house for $ 499,000 and the apartment for $ 219,000, adding that "it's possible to buy beautiful, well-furnished homes that are a little smaller in the $ 200,000 range." to her daughters and pets, she says, "Each of us has a separate section of the house," she explains, joking that "there would be blood to flow" if everyone lived on top of each other.)
Some things are expensive in the area, like eating, which can cost "$ 40 per person at prestigious restaurants, or $ 10 per person on average, or $ 7 pa's of a guy at a Panamanian type restaurant, "says Shace, adding that he loves the food in the area. (But local Panamanian beer can be drunk for $ 1, she adds, and you can get a nice Chilean wine at the grocery store for $ 5 to $ 7.)
Other things are more affordable: her electricity bill is only about $ 30 a month because of her solar panels, she says, and her cell phone bill is $ 20 a month, "but everyone uses WhatsApp for everything, "so she says" it's probably overpaying. "
International Living Magazine collapses the cost of living in Boquete, calculating that you could be living pretty well from about $ 1,550 to $ 2,600 a month:
– Rent (two bedroom, downtown apartment): $ 800 to $ 1200 per month
– Electricity: $ 60 – $ 150
– Water and garbage collection: $ 0 – $ 25
– Cooking, heating gas, etc.: $ 0 – $ 10
– Supermarket (combination of local and imported foods / household goods): $ 400 – $ 500
– Entertainments for two (movies twice a month with breakfast; dinner four times a month): $ 140 – $ 400
– Phone: $ 13- $ 20
– you Broadband Internet: $ 20 – $ 45
– Cable or Satellite TV: $ 35 – $ 50
– Transportation (taxis or compact car fuel): $ 75 – $ 200
TOTAL: $ 1,553 – $ 2600 per month
The pension program: "The retiree visa is the most popular visa for retirees," says Jackie Lange, a 2010 forwarder who now manages a Panama relocation program – and gives retirees across Panama deep discounts on everything from airline tickets to restaurants. A retiree who collects Social Security can apply for a Panama Retirement Visa as long as they have a regular income of at least $ 1,000 a month or income of at least $ 750 a month and buy a property for at least $ 100,000. When you qualify, you receive many bonuses, including a 50% discount on entertainment anywhere in the country (movies, concerts, sports); 30% discount on bus, boat and train tickets; 25% discount on airline tickets; between 30-50% discount on hotel stay; 25% discount on restaurants; 15% discount on hospital bills; 10% discount on recipes; 20% discount on medical consultations, 15% discount on dental and eye examinations, etc.
Mary loves the program. When she is shopping, tell her to take her medication, the clerk "calls me jubilos – that means jubilant person – that's where they get the word for retired," she says. "I have a 10% discount at the pharmacy, I give them my old box with whatever it is and they give me a new one. In and out in five minutes. Even my dogs and cats get a discount on medication.
Residence: "It's a discouraging process," Mary says, adding that she has a lawyer to help her navigate through it. The process takes months, has "many, many steps" and is "impossible for an outsider to navigate." Her advice is to "follow your lawyer's directions, provide what he / she requests, and show up in Panama to their pointers and do what they are told." She says getting a driver's license in Panama is also tricky These resources can help you get started.
Healthcare: Healthcare in Panama is considered good for the region (especially in Panama City, which has a number of respected hospitals and is about an hour's flight from Boquette). , and the country ranks in the top 100 in the world in quality and access to health care
Mary has catastrophic health insurance from Cigna International and says she pays about $ 2,000 a year for her. In Panama, she pays from her pocket for occasional doctor visits (about $ 20); her inhaler (has asthma) costs $ 20 at a local pharmacy with a retiree discount, and sleep medications cost about $ 10 for a two-month delivery, she says. WhatsApp if you need anything. Living in Panama: Although Panama has better roads and infrastructure than many other countries in Central and South America, some rural areas are still lacking. And Americans used to speed customer service may be hard-pressed to adapt to the slower pace of life in Panama. Plus, you can't always get all the goods you make in the United States. Mary jokes that the one thing she misses the most is "The temptations that cats treat … to the horror of owners of expatriate cats far and wide!"
Bottom line: Mary stays busy. being on the board of non-profit animal rescue directors, Salvadores de Animales, and says she loves food and activities in the country. But the friendly Panamanian spirit really sells Mary. "Panamanians celebrate many more holidays than in the US, and there are usually music and horse parades. It was explained to me that "Panamans love each other and we love to get together to celebrate our lives," which is why there are so many celebrations, "she says," I like to be in a place where people like each other. “