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Affordable Retirement in Panama

By: Laura Sheridan

affordable panama retirementPanama comes in third position overall in our 2009 Global Retirement Index. In the Special Benefits for Retirees category however, it comes in top position. That’s because, without question, Panama has one of the best retiree programs in the world.

One International Living reader can attest to that—83-year-old Albert Fine. He’s lived in Panama City for seven years and takes full advantage of Panama’s pensionado (retiree) program.

Albert never has to wait in line at a restaurant, hospital, or bank. His condo fees for an area he describes as “the Beverly Hills of Panama City” run $160 a month. He pays just $185 airfare from Panama City to Miami…round-trip.

He eats out regularly at some of Panama’s most popular restaurants. “A couple of bucks for breakfast, $2.25 for lunch, less than $5 for dinner.”
Albert has figured out how to live like a king on a pensioner’s income. You can, too. It’s easy to qualify for Panama’s pensionado program, and when you do, here are just some of the benefits you will be entitled to:

  • 50% off entertainment—movies, theaters, concerts, and sporting events
  • 30% off bus, boat, and train fares and 25% off airline tickets
  • 50% off hotel stays from Monday through Thursday (30%-off from Friday through Sunday)
  • 25% off at restaurants
  • 15% off hospital bills (if no insurance applies); 10% off prescription medicines; 20% off medical consultations; and 15% off dental and eye exams
  • 50% off closing costs for home loans

You are also entitled to a one-time exemption from duties on the importation of household goods (up to $10,000) and an exemption every two years from duties for the importation or local purchase of a car.

To qualify, you must draw a pension of at least $1,000 per month. You can, however, apply with a minimum pension of just $750 if you invest at least $100,000 in property in Panama. Another plus: you may now pool your pension with your spouse’s pension to meet the minimum pension requirement.

The U.S. presence has been such a strong factor in Panamanian life that it can be difficult to remember you are in Central America. In Panama City, high-rise condos overlook the Bay of Panama. Modern shopping centers offer all the latest brands and gadgets anyone could possibly need.

Outside the city you will find the true treasures of Panama. There are beautiful beaches everywhere, with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Pacific on the other. In the countryside, you’ll also find rolling green tropical mountains, fertile farmlands, lush rainforests, and small towns where foreign visitors are made to feel like family. There truly is something for everyone in Panama—so we don’t advise going purely for the retiree benefits…though it really is an attractive offer.

Once you qualify as a pensionado in Panama, learn these words: “Descuento de jubilado, por favor,” which roughly translates to “Retired person’s discount, please.” Then sit back and enjoy your celebrity status.

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