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An Expat Talks about Retiring in Las Tablas, Panama

Dec 27, 2021
Submitted by Fermlich


A retiree in Las Tablas, Panama talks about what it's like to retire there.

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Las Tablas

Why did you choose to retire abroad?

I couldn't tolerate the deterioration of the United States nor its busyness and its makework. I just wanted to read and write and go on long walks.

Are you retired abroad all year or part of the year?

All year for two years now. For forever.

Why did you choose the country you retired to?

I wanted to stay very close to the Pacific Ocean. Mexico was tempting, but I opted for the seasonless tropics of Panama. Seasonless,or relatively so, tucked in between the tropic of cancer and the equator. The cool and deep Pacific prevents most temperature extremes.

Did you ever live abroad before you retired abroad?

Briefly in Puerto Rico and in Mexico.

How long have you lived abroad since you retired abroad?

Nearly two years.

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How many countries (other than your home country) have you lived in as a retiree?

One

What have been the most challenging aspects of being retired abroad?

Understanding the Latin mind. It's possible that it's impossible.

What have been the most rewarding aspects of being retired abroad?

It's Panama. Complete freedom--unbridled freedom to live my life however I choose.

What would you do differently if you were just starting the retire abroad process?

I'd close my eyes and jump in just as I did this time.

What is life like for a retiree in your city and its surroundings? (Is there an active expat community? Cultural Attractions? Recreation? Nightlife?)

None of us expats admit to being expats. It's an unspoken agreement. Oh yeah, even with masks and covid lockdowns and general covid paranoia there are cultural attractions, recreations, and the nightlife never stops. The fireworks have been going nonstop celebrating Christmas, 24 hours a day. Fortunately I'm partly deaf...

What residency documents or visas did you need to obtain to retire in your host country? How difficult was this process? (Please describe)

Well, actually I never got around to any of that stuff. I'm a complete illegal alien. Nobody seems to care, so I don't either. The problem I see is that the attorneys you'd need help from are going to pay attention to your money. I talked to a local attorney who helps with immigration but he wanted a lot of money, so I just kind of ignored him and plopped myself down here. I don't generally recommend this method; but it works for me. I'm not the type of worry about the fine print.

Did you buy a home or apartment, or rent one? Is this a difficult process? (Please describe)

I rented a house. At first I made the mistake of letting a local person insert himself between the owner of the house and me. Money got diverted. Now I'm looking to rent a bedroom only, trying for 80 to 100 dollars per month. Shouldn't be difficult. But mind you, I don't mind living in abject poverty.

Financially, has living abroad in your host country met your expectations? Exceeded them?

Food is fresh and fantastic and very inexpensive. Once I spent $9 on vegetables and they weighed about 10kg--over 20 pounds! My social security is $900 per month, and after two years, I'm still alive and rarely starve.

What are the most important financial considerations for retiring to your host country?

I'm the wrong person to ask. I really don't much think about money or finances.

How much can a retiree live on comfortably in your host country?

I suppose for normal people (unlike me) you'd best have a couple thousand dollars per month.

Do you have access to quality medical care? (Please describe - is it close? Expensive?)

I don't really know. I've been to a doctor a few times and a dentist. A typical visit costs $30. I sort of think I could get some acute care if I needed it. But for instance I had a post-covid heart attack several months ago, and I thought that I was dying. Then I realized that that would be okay with me, over and done with, then I laughed at myself. After a while the pain subsided, and I continued my walk. I am called fearless Fred for a reason.

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Is there a lot of crime where you live? (Please describe)

No. But there are petty crooks here and there, and they do pay attention to "rich" Americans.

Describe available transportation where you live. Do you need a car? Is there access to safe public transportation?

A taxi takes you anywhere in the Las Tablas area for $2.50, not including any tip. The guagua, the bus, costs sixty cents and comes every hour. If you want to travel to another city or even country there are buses for that too. It's a great system and not expensive. Everything is diesel and efficient. Everything is safe.

Is there high-speed internet access where you live?

Fiber optic, on all the time. $35 per month. Well, $36.

Do you have any other thoughts you would like to share about retiring abroad?

Sometimes it seems that Americans want to re-create America abroad. I try to encourage anybody from the U.S. to spend some time talking and walking with the natives here. It's the diplomatic thing to do, and you'll gain empathy from the experience.

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