Rain Showers: Highly Overrated

No, I didn’t run out to Elmec and buy a new “rain shower” shower head.  The past two days the community water in Palmira hasn’t been working.  Maybe a cow stepped on a pipe or a slide up on the volcano where our water comes from managed to break the pipe.  Anyway, no water.  But we have a well and two 1200 gallon tanks in reserve, right?  No problem!  Only thing is that the pressure pump sprang a leak in the joint and I’ve been trying for a week to fix it.  Turns out the “plumber” who installed it connected it to last for all eternity and of course the connection was plastic and of course it deteriorated and broke off and I’m struggling to get the remains of the plastic out of the metal pump housing.  Another day in paradise!  Bottom line: no water there either.

So, not having a shower in two days, and scheduled to see a local 12-year-old Motzart-like piano prodigy give his last concert before heading off on a scholarship to study at a music conservatory in Utrecht, it was time to improvise.  It was raining so I figured . . . why not?

I stripped down and in the buff headed out to the walkway in front of my house, which, lest you panic is quite secluded.  And I soaped up.  It looked like it was raining hard but . . . with no handle to turn to increase the water flow . . . I waited.  The rain water was pleasantly warm and obviously quite soft so I was covered in suds.   Then the rain eased off as I was furiously trying to wipe off the soap. Needless to say I went to the concert smelling like soap. Like many things showering in the rain sounds like a good idea, but . . .

Jason has a few questions . . .

Jason was a guest on the World Cruise on PACIFIC PRINCESS and bought my book ESCAPE TO PARADISE.  He writes . . .

I have a couple questions about living outside the US that I made notes of when reading your book, which I left in my cabin on the Pacific. – UGH.

  • Can an American citizen living outside the US have investments in Panamanian banks, like CD’s and how is that income reported?
  • How do you take your CD’s from the US when they mature and move a million dollars to Panama?
  • Do Panamanian banks have something like FDIC?
  • Can you get American TV stations where you live, like from DirectTV or some satellite provider?
  • Do you still get Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security living outside the US without any penalties?
  • I assume you can do all the banking you want in the US, while living outside the US and have your earned interest transferred to a local bank?
  • Is there a reason you have not become a Panamanian citizen, financial or otherwise?

Jason

Hey Jason!  Great to hear from you and great questions!

Can an American citizen living outside the US have investments in Panamanian banks, like CD’s and how is that income reported?  No problem with investments outside the US.  However, things have gotten a little more . . . a lot more complicated in the past few months.  The US wants to control information flow world-wide and they want to know everything about everyone, or so it seems, and especially about those of us who supposedly live “in the land of the free.”  Panama has been angling for a free trade agreement with the US for years.  Bush initiated it,  but had trouble pushing it through.  Obama has given lip service to it, as he seems to do with many things, but not pushed it through.  In return for the free trade agreement the US wanted Panama to open its banking books and destroy it’s long-held sovereign tradition of bank secrecy.  Panama gladly bent over, look it where it hurts and has gotten nothing in return.  How smart is that?

Of course the US wants its share, or more than its share depending on your point of view, wherever you live if you are a US citizen.  In the past US citizens invested in Panama banks were required to report any income.  Now the IRS, which has just opened an office in Panama City, will get direct reports.  Answer your question?

How do you take your CD’s from the US when they mature and move a million dollars to Panama I just wired the money from my US bank to my bank in Panama.  I had nothing to hide and felt the paper trail would actually be helpful when and if I repatriate money back to the US.

Do Panamanian banks have something like FDIC? No.

Can you get American TV stations where you live, like from DirectTV or some satellite provider?  Yes there are different options.

Do you still get Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security living outside the US without any penalties?   My Social Security is deposited directly to my bank in Panama.  Although I am eligible for Medicare the treatment must be IN the US.  There are folks who choose to fly back to the US for certain treatments.  When I looked at what was not covered under Medicare, even with the additional optional coverage that I would have to pay for, I concluded that it was almost as cheap in most cases just to have the entire procedure done in Panama and pay for it myself.   Some folks who are ex-military or ex-US Panama Canal have a slightly different arrangement because of their past service.

I assume you can do all the banking you want in the US, while living outside the US and have your earned interest transferred to a local bank?  Sure.  I find it helpful to have accounts both in the US and in Panama.  Before I left the US I transferred my accounts to HSBC in Beverly Hills figuring that since there was an HSBC bank here it would make life easy.  I’ve since discovered that nothing is easy with HSBC.  Although they have the same branding and color schemes they are different banks with different rules, policies, and a vastly different sense of customer service.  If I use my HSBC US Debit card to withdraw money from an HSBC ATM in Panama I am charged outrageous currency conversion fees . . . that’s “converting” US dollars to US dollars!

Is there a reason you have not become a Panamanian citizen, financial or otherwise?  Not that I don’t think about it sometimes!  When you work on the ship with folks from 30 different countries you realize how valuable a US passport is when traveling the world to say nothing of entering, leaving and passing through the US.  I might consider dual citizenship but that would give me tax obligations to both the US and Panama with two sets of tax hassle forms to fill out.  There are ways to come into Panama and get permanent residency and be on the track either for a second passport of full citizenship.  I came in under a Pensionado retirement visa which puts you on a different track and assumes you do not wish a Panamanian passport or citizenship.  Panama’s agreements with the US mean that you are not going to escape the long arm of the IRS no matter what. 

Hope that helps Jason!

Cost of Living

Folks are always asking questions about the cost of stuff in Boquete and I know there is lots of old information on the Web.  So I thought for a few days I’d share with you what exactly I’m buying . . . and what stuff costs.

  • 2 Cinnamon Rolls at local bakery  65 cents each
  • Can of Diet Coke at corner store 75 cents – 12-pack $7.79
  • Gasoline 91 regular $4.08/gallon  - diesel $3.89 per gallon
  • New set of all terrain tires for Mazda pickup including balancing and alignment $700.  These will last 4 years mostly because it is impossible to keep vehicles aligned on our roads.  You’d have to be aligning weekly.
  • Lunch at Sabrosa a cafeteria-type eatery on Avenida Central in Boquete that’s a local favorite – rice with chicken and vegetables, roasted chicken, cole slaw and apple juice $3.60
  • Carriola steel 4″x20′ $24
  • Red zinc roofing 42″x16′ $44
  • 1 Liter Malathion $9.45
  • Sack of cement $8.55
  • 2 gal Mott’s Apple Juice $9.99
  • Blue Nun Wine $6.19
  • Beringer White Zinfandel Wine $4.99
  • Ascan Adult Dog Food $24.49
  • Bumble Bee Albacore Tuna 4 cans $4.99
  • Kraft Parmesan Cheese 24 oz $9.99
  • Scott Plus Toilet Paper 24 rolls $13.69
  • Westinghouse LED 1.5W lights $5.99

Tax on alcohol is 10%.  No tax on food.  Tax on everything else 7%.

Of course NOBODY in Panama has had Cascade dishwasher detergent for two months now.  What’s with that??

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