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.

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