Throwing Around Numbers & “Last Chances”

My newest email from International Living arrived the other day warning me that it was my … “Last Chance To Retire Overseas Now” but  that “Before you go sign up for our free daily Postcard e-letter and we’ll immediately send you a FREE RESEARCH REPORT on the most desirable —and cheapest— retirement havens available to you today.Each day you’ll learn about the best places to retire, travel, buy real estate and enjoy life overseas.”

So much to do before I go!  But there were emails from others warning me about Obama’s use of the ISIS symbol … the raised fist, which I always identified with the black power movement of the 60s, which might be an even better scare tactic, because then Obama would be a Black Muslim whose been worshiping all these years at evangelical black churches just to confuse folks.  There were two emails telling me that the world was ending, one telling me that the only way to avoid the coming turmoil in the US was to move to Boquete … and create your own brand of turmoil here.

So I’ve learned not to believe everything I read or half the stuff people send to me.  But I’m always amazed at the way people throw around “Last Chances” and numbers, especially numbers when it comes to moving to Panama.

Linda Card, who has lived for a few years in David, about 40 minutes from Boquete, where it’s hotter and cheaper, wrote the recent “Last Chance” article for International Living entitled “Get A Dream Home In Panama’s Highlands.”  It’s mostly about Boquete which makes me wonder why Linda lives in David.  She concludes by stating, “Living in Boquete, a couple can manage comfortably on $1,500 a month. You’ll find low utility costs, no heating or A/C bills, affordable medical care and insurance coverage, and the good-value real estate to go with it.”

Really?  I have no idea how she came up with her numbers, but for a couple to live a  modest life in Boquete, probably not in the “Dream Home” I’d suggest the numbers, monthly for a couple, are more like this:

  • Modest, 2 bedroom casita for a couple that likes a lot of togetherness $600
  • Renter’s insurance including liability $10
  • Basic TV – local stations mostly in Spanish $30
  • Internet (depending on where you live can run from $30-70) $40
  • Electric & propane gas (after Pensionado discount, using small government subsidized propane tanks – most rentals include water & trash) $30
  • Car insurance, maintenance, and minor repairs $60 (assuming you’ve bought a car – of course you can walk, take a bus or a cab, but it limits your ability to explore and isn’t going to work for most expats)
  • Gas $50
  • Personal care (haircuts, pedicures, etc) $25
  • Telephone (1 $15 prepaid card per person, no data plan, $10 per couple SKYPE) $40
  • Food, paper products, occasional eating out $800
  • Local health “insurance” (which really isn’t insurance but a discount services plan) $200
  • Medical out of pocket (occasional MD visit, copays if you do have the above “insurance,” basic dental cleaning) $40
  • Medications (after Pensionado discount) $150
  • Entertainment $50 (a movie, BCP presentation, or bottle of rum)

This does not include cost of pets; contributions to church, etc; assistance like gardener or maid; visiting family elsewhere; travel; legal fees.

It’s very easy to make up numbers, or selectively include some items while ignoring others, but for a couple to live a modest lifestyle in Boquete you’re talking at least $2,125.  I’d welcome Linda and/or International Living to show us how they came up with their numbers.

I think we can still, honestly, say that that for most couples looking to retire on a budget, $2,125 a month is a very attractive number for a very modest lifestyle.  Of course everyone is different, particularly when it comes to medical expenses.  Understand that Medicare does not cover you in Panama.

6 thoughts on “Throwing Around Numbers & “Last Chances”

  1. Rlchard, I challenge you to publish this comment. I wish very much that you bloggers would stop tossing out these “cost of living in Panama”numbers. Your numbers for example reflect a desire to live as one did in the USA. That is a naive expectation. Many of the things you can take for granted in the USA don’t even exist here. Panama City is the only place that comes close to the USA. And that’s a small part of Panama.
    Things that you have in the USA that you don’t have here are a super highway system, a developed electric power grid, airport system, IMAX theaters and an abundance of movie theaters, as well as high-end restaurants, more auto insurance companies, more qualified auto repair shops, continental railroad, Medicare and last but not least constitutional rights.
    Most retired people living in Panama get about $1000-$1200 per month social security benefits. There are rich expats living here and there are poor ones. Many of the upper class ones (like yourself) live in Boquete. Usually a person or family lives within their means. So the the rich ones live better than the poor ones usually. The rich cannot live as good here as they could in the USA but the poor can live better here than in the USA. It’s all relative and so is ones cost of living.

  2. My wife broke her little finger in a nasty way. General anaesthesia and a pin $ 1,250.- 3 days ago
    she broke her upper arm under the shoulder ,a large pin and one night in Chiriqui Hospital. This operation lasted 1.1/2 hours. $ 3,500.- Escellent job of Dr. Riviera Man. He had to drill a hole through the shoulder. Boquete is safe? Like many countries in the world there is bad crime. Gangs that rob you at gun point in your house, tie you up and beat you. Steal a lot and even our car. It happened to us 29th of July. They caught the robbers in David in another robbery with guns in David. 10-12 years in jail. The car was found in David the next day. The police was within 20 minutes at our house. Fortunately I speak fluent Spanish. We live on 2,400 a month in Santa Lucia.

    I have to add that, as Robert says, there is crime everywhere in the world, even, unfortunately, in paradise. We’ve lived here going on eleven years with, aside from opportunistic crime – you leave your car unlocked and your smart phone or iPad in the front seat, or the garden hoe walks away – we haven’t had much crime, actually hardly any, in Boquete. When the new 4-lane road between David and Panama was first proposed, people here feared it would bring problems … and it has. Violent crime, aside from crimes of passion, has been rare. With the new road robbery has increased particularly in locations right along the road, providing easy escape, and in areas that are predominantly expat and where often expats have built homes along the road flaunting their wealth. It is very unfortunate that Robert & Helen, having just moved here from a Caribbean island, were victimized in what thankfully, seems to have been a brief run of crime in Boquete by a loose gang of malientes (criminals) from David. Things seem to have settled Southern California, which by the way was rated year after year as having the lowest crime rate in the US. Regards, Richard

  3. Richard, this just the truth. I worked in dangerous Nigeria, Spain in the Basque country with bombings, shootings and kidnapping in Spain by the terrorist ETA. Saint Lucia in the Caribbean with an unemployment rate of almost 30% has a lot of shootings, gangs and robberies. A couple of days ago one British lady was stabbed in her abdomen and the other in the eye. Just steeling necklesses. We are both still happy here. The beautiful weather, a lot of good local and expat friends. Yes life is far less expensive than in Europe. We are friends of Arthuro the owner of Baru restaurant. Arthuro is a close friend of the Mayor of Boquete. Two new patrol pickups with crew will be added to the Boquete police force.
    At the entrance of Caldera there will be a security post with armed police men and high definition cameras.

  4. Thank you, Richard. It’s heartbreaking to see people who came under financed based on false representations. Many don’t even have enough money to return home.

  5. Thanks for setting record straight, very different from the Rose Colored Glasses of IL. Personally, I live in Pedasi, but from what friends in Boquete have told us, I would say that you need at least $3,000 a month to live minimally. Now David is another story, there you could get by on less than $2,000 per month.

  6. Hi Richard, I appreciate the various cost comparisons you have offered. I was wondering if you or anyone has done a cost comparison on basic prescription drugs that retirees are likely to need, recognizing that many are OTC in Panama but require a costly prescription routine to obtain the US.

    I don’t have these figures, but I’d be very grateful if someone would check out and give me some numbers which I would gladly share. Next time I’m in the States I will try and check. Regards, Richard

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