Finally, after a long working life, you’ve saved enough and set aside plenty into a retirement account, and now it is time to enjoy the fruits of your labor, retiring abroad to Panama! Before you start packing and saying your goodbyes however, there are a few things to research, and many factors to take into consideration while choosing your retirement destination.
Yes, Panama is Safe. The Panamanian people and culture as a whole exude an air of tranquility and peace. With its alliances and alignment with the United States government, Panamanian diplomacy is one that promotes peace and security for foreigners.
Researching can prove a daunting task, as one must check out well and be learned not only in that country’s customs and language, but its more bureaucratic systems such as the cost of living, the standard of living, foreign policy, healthcare, government incentives, and most importantly, safety. There are many factors that contribute to a country’s overall safety rating, such as crime rates and the overall ambiance of being welcomed by the country’s natives.
Let’s dive in and take a closer look at Panama’s infrastructure, foreign policy, and what the jubilados, or retirees, have to say about their everyday life living in Panama.
Why Is Panama a Retirement Haven?
Firstly, let’s take a look at why Panama is a hot spot for retirees. Examining the country’s magnetism for retirees will give us the first clues in determining the level of safety. For example, how does Panama’s cost of living compare to other regions of the world? Is it comparable to that of the Americas or Europe? Secondly, how does the standard of living compare? A country’s cost of living and standard of living are good measures in predicting crime rates. Usually, the lower a country’s standard of living, the higher crime rates will be. In Panama’s case, let’s take a closer look:
Cost of Living
Panama boasts a low cost of living, without compromising the amenities. Panama boasts a warm climate, beautiful beaches, and lush mountains. Over the last several decades, this scenery has made the Panamanian country among the top retirement havens in the world. A jubilado (or called in Spanish also “retirado“) can expect to spend between $1,000 and $3,000 USD per month to live in Panama. With first-world amenities and a solid infrastructure, comparable to those of North America and Europe, it is easy to see why Panama is a favorite amongst the world’s favorite expat destination.
Standard of Living
In Panama, the standard of living is comparable to that of its American and European counterparts. Sings of prosperity can be seen everywhere; nice cars on the roads, up-to-date technologies such as smartphones and laptops, as well as Wi-Fi and cable networks are readily available. The skyline of Panama’s capital, Panama City, is ever-expanding and rivals that of other major cities. There are also many entertainments, and cultural food options to choose from. Foreigners entering Panama expecting to see a third world atmosphere and unpaved roads are often times taken back, and pleasantly surprised.
Since the cost of living in Panama is relatively low in comparison to the Americas and Europe, without compromise to its standard of living, one can anticipate that the crime rates for Panama will be lower. Later, we will hear straight to the jubilados to see if this is the case!
Government and Foreign Policy
A huge indicator of a country’s overall diplomacy towards foreigners can also be a great measure of overall safety. The Panamanian government is stable and has shown consistency throughout the decades in supporting civil liberties. The Panamanian government also endorses and enforces pro-business policies, and most importantly, foreigner-friendly laws and programs. This is reassuring, as establishing foreign-friendly programs, indicate the government’s willingness to not only attract but embrace foreigners into their country. Many jubilados report the ease of obtaining their retirement documentation in order.
The Panamanian currency is the U.S. dollar, so conducting business is convenient and easy for foreigners. This translates into low inflation and zeroes foreign exchange risk, compared to other neighboring countries. Over the last couple of decades, Panama has attracted entrepreneurs, investors, and opportunity seekers, particularly to its capital, Panama City.
The country’s strategic location, a bridge between two oceans, has transformed Panama into a maritime and hub for transport and trade, and a banking services destination. With big businesses establishing a presence in the Central American country, coupled with its foreign policy to embrace foreigners, and alignment with the United States government to promote security, Panama has ensured a dominion of safety for expats.
The healthcare system established in a country plays a huge role in that country’s overall safety and crime rate. The Panamanian healthcare system is comprised of three healthcare systems, two provided through the government and one provided through a private sector. Panamanian law requires that private-sector doctors also establish office hours in the public or social sectors.
Wikipedia reports that roughly, 3.47MM people out of a population of 3.9MM were covered by its provision in 2013. The private sector accounted for 31.4% of the total health spending in 2012, mostly directly out of pocket spending.
Accreditations offered by the Joint Commission International (JC1) have helped to highlight and establish high standards for Panama. The San Fernando Hospital, founded in 1949 in Panama City, was the first hospital to receive the JCI rating. Equipment is similar to that of facilities in America or Canada, with many jubilados, or retirees, reporting they receive better, personalized services in Panama than back home.
Since the early 1900s, when the Panama Canal was under American jurisdiction, Panamanians became accustomed to American foreigners in their midst. Since then, Panama has been a crossroads for every race, religion, and ethnicities, for people from the Americas and Europe. Racial tensions that may exist in other countries that are economically deprived do not exist in Panama. All in all, Panamanians are accustomed to foreigners.
Global Peace Index
The Global Peace Index takes into account international and domestic conflicts and evaluates the level of harmony for that nation. Panama’s Global Peace Index rankings for 2018 – 2019, positioned the country among the top four safest countries in Latin America, and among the top 47 in the world. With such high rankings, it is safe to conclude that overall, Panama is a great choice for a retirement destination.
Annual Global Retirement Index
Taking into account climate change, local lifestyle, cost of living, healthcare, and residency requirements, International Living Magazine has ranked the top 10 destinations for soon-to-be retirees. Not surprisingly, Panama is listed at number one, followed by Costa Rica.
Jeff Barton, a jubilados who has been living in Panama for eight years states that “crime in general, is not a major issue or concern. Compared to other countries in Latin America I would expect that Panama would either have the lowest, or one of the lowest crime rates. In terms of expats, people often make the decision to move to Panama because of the safety they feel as opposed to many other places they could have chosen to live.”
The Expats Report official YouTube channel declares that because of the Canal and the tax jurisdiction, there is an international interest in preserving a safe environment for investment across the Republic of Panama. With the stability of the Panamanian government and a relatively small population, crime rates can be contained.
According to Jessica Ramesch, International Living Editor and an expat declares that she feels safe as a single woman living in Panama and traveling the country. She continues to say that most crimes are not violent, and in terms of safety precautions when in doubt, to do as the neighbors do!
Eve Cabrera, as a single woman, also calls out that Panama is one of the safest countries in Latin America, and to follow the normal precautions you would normally take anywhere you would be.
Benefits of Retiring in Panama
One of the many benefits of retiring in Panama is the Panama Pensionado Program. The only requirement for eligibility is that you must have an income or pension of at least $1,000 per month and $250 for each dependent. This retirement program is among the best in the world and offers attractive incentives. The official Embassy of Panama website reports the following discounts rates and incentives for soon-to-be expats:
|Discount %||Incentivised Service|
|25%||Savings on utility bills|
|25%||Off airline tickets and 30% on other transportation|
|15%||Off of loans made in your name|
|1%||Savings on home mortgages for homes used for personal residence|
|20%||Savings on doctor’s bills 15% on hospital services if no insurance applies|
|15%||Discount on dental and eye exams|
|20%||Savings on bills for professional and technical services|
|50%||Discount on the entrance to movie theaters, cultural and sporting events|
|50%||Discount at hotels during Monday to Thursday, 30% on weekends|
The Bottom Line
All things considered, Panama can be a great place to retire, and above all, safe and welcoming. A low cost of living in conjunction with a high standard of living, and an ever-expanding business sector, ensures that crime rates remain low and the overall safety of Panama remains high. Further to this, the Panamanian government’s foreign incentives, such as the Panama Pensionado program, are excellent ways to incentivize soon-to-be jubilados!
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