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Telecommuting from Panama?

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JVfromNE
8/13/2019 19:13 EST

Hi all, My wife and I are considering moving to Panama in about 2.5 years after my middle child graduates high school. My job can be done remotely although I’d have to visit the states a few times per year to market my business. We currently live in CT and the cost of living here is becoming untenable. My 2,000 sq ft home property taxes just went up to $6,700 yr not to mention all the other taxes and expenses that come with living in CT!
Since I can do my (sales) job remotely and even if income did decrease a bit as a result is it realistic to shoot for a monthly budget of $2500-$3,000 living in Panama?
We are so ready to downsize and slow down. I will have our youngest with us and would send her to one of the International Schools. Any idea on cost for those? I read somewhere about $4,000 yr but the websites for several schools don’t publish cost.
I am thinking that if I can sustain an income of $120k-$150k while living in Panama I’d really be able to accumulate some wealth and then retire in 5 or 6 years.
What would be a few regions or towns with proximity to Intn’l Schools, excellent internet and fairly close to the beach (for the Mrs)?
Thanks in advance!
JV

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ssaunders88
8/14/2019 06:46 EST

Hi - 2.5 years is a long time. Your best bet for convenience and quality of serices would be in Panama City

If you are earning your income in the USA - your only tax is in the USA - Panama does not tax foriegn income.

You will need to learn Spanish - very little English spoken - even in the capital city, Which did surprise me when I moved here . It's a must

I recently spent two weeks in Tampa and found that the cost of living there is similar to Panama. . (I also compared costs for food etc.) In fact, porices for real estate, especially for houses was less than in Panama City which is going through a market correction. (prices have been coming down over the last 18 months - it's over built.)

Before deciding of course, you'd need to travel here with your family and spend a month exploring the island. There are always pro's and cons to weigh out.

I am originally from the northeast and the costs of living there are over the top and many people are moving out to states that have no state income tax and lower cost of living & comparable quality of life.

The weather in central Florida is similar to Panama and is outside the hurricane zone, unlike the costal cities in South Florida.

More options for schools in Panama City but interestingly - most parents with means in Panama send their children to University in the USA - usually Florida.

For sure, in the sub-urban areas of Panama, some communities cost less but there is always a trade off.

In the meantime - you can learn Spanish, if you don't speak it already. And BTW - Costa Rica is more expensive and has it own challenges presently. (expats are moving out)

hope this helps

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ranadelnorte
8/14/2019 08:33 EST

Hello and welcome
Here are some points for your consideration:
-Finding a location in Panama that meets all your criteria (reliable internet service, international schools, beach, close to international airport, low cost of living) is not possible IMO.
-“Excellent” internet service doesn’t exist in Panama because of severe tropical thunderstorms during the rainy season. You’ll have short interruptions in service during the day, meaning that people who MUST have reliable internet at all times for their business usually wind up subscribing to both main providers, thereby increasing their expenses.
-Tuition at international schools in Panama City runs about $5-6,000/year. You could email the institutions that interest you for a fee schedule. In addition, the schools charge a one-time registration fee of up to $10,000/child, with a discount for the second child. If you do a search on this site, you’ll find lists of private schools in Panama.
-If you need to commute regularly to see your clients in the US northeast, then a location near Tocumen, the international airport, would be required, meaning Panama City or Coronado/Gorgona, the beach areas. This leaves out Boquete and much of Chiriqui province which is approximately a 6-hour drive away, or has inconvenient local airlines connections through David. This might change over time if the David airport expands, but don’t count on it.
-Your budget of $3,000/month living expenses for a family of 3/4 in Panama City or Coronado/Gorgona is not realistic.

Good luck!

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JVfromNE
8/14/2019 10:56 EST

Thanks for the reply. What would be an expected budget for a family of 3 in Panama City or Coronado?
We do plan to visit a couple times over the next 1-2 years and if we do end up moving to Panama I would be conversant by then as I’ve been learning Spanish already.

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cinparadise
8/14/2019 11:10 EST

Ranadelnorte,

You wrote:

"“Excellent” internet service doesn’t exist in Panama because of severe tropical thunderstorms during the rainy season. You’ll have short interruptions in service during the day, meaning that people who MUST have reliable internet at all times for their business usually wind up subscribing to both main providers, thereby increasing their expenses."

I subscribe to Cable Onda's 160 meg service (they actually delivery 170 meg) for $27.95 monthly using a UPS battery backup and when the power goes out I still have internet service since many Cable Onda locations if not all use UPS battery backup providing hours of reliable service.

You wrote:

"If you need to commute regularly to see your clients in the US northeast, then a location near Tocumen, the international airport, would be required, meaning Panama City or Coronado/Gorgona, the beach areas. This leaves out Boquete and much of Chiriqui province which is approximately a 6-hour drive away, or has inconvenient local airlines connections through David."

Several people I know here in Boquete or David routinely take the evening bus from David to Panama City to catch early morning flights back to the states. You board the evening bus, take a nap, and wake up in Panama City and then a cab to Tocumen for your flight, not bad for $16 one way.

In addition, I personally have found the flights from David to Panama City to be pretty reliable.

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JVfromNE
8/14/2019 11:21 EST

Thanks for the input cinparadise. What would you expect a monthly living budget to be for a family of 3 in David/Boquete ? Excluding Intn’l Schooling?

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JVfromNE
8/14/2019 11:21 EST

Thanks for the input cinparadise. What would you expect a monthly living budget to be for a family of 3 in David/Boquete ? Excluding Intn’l Schooling?

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ranadelnorte
8/14/2019 14:09 EST

I really have no idea what your monthly expenses would be in Panama City: depends on your tastes and habits. Some things will cost less, some more, some about the same. I don’t operate a vehicle, nor do I have private school tuition fees to pay. Coming from big-city Canada, I find my expenses to be about 25% less, with most savings being in services. As one poster pointed out, there are areas in the US that have the same cost-of-living as Panama. You’ll need to do your own due diligence, coupled with scouting trips to see what kind of lifestyle you can afford for your family in Panama. This will take some work.
Suggest on one of your trips you bring your normal weekly grocery list and compare prices here; ditto with your medications and personal care items. Go to Albrook Mall, the largest mall in Latin America to look at prices for clothing, shoes and household goods. Visit the websites of CableOnda and Cable & Wireless to check out the price of their packages for internet, cable and telephone. Electricity is expensive in Panama. If you run air conditioners for most of the day, especially at the beach where it is hot, your bill will be $200-$300/month. Personally I’ve never spent more than $60/month, but I made sure that my apartment has good cross-ventilation, is high up, and has sun protection on the west-facing windows.
Will you require medical insurance? Pre-existing medical conditions might keep you from qualifying for 2 years.
Your biggest expense will be rent. In Panama City, in a new-build high-rise in a decent neighbourhood, count on spending $1700-$1900/month for a 3 br furnished apartment. Visit the Encuentra24 website to look at real estate prices.
Please understand that Panama City is like living in a whole other country compared to life in the hinterland. As you need to travel for business, this closes other living options IMO. Taking the overnight bus from David to Panama City, then getting yourself to Tocumen, and arriving fresh and in form to meet clients would not have worked for me back when I travelled for a living.
Good luck!

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jonoyakker
8/14/2019 15:02 EST

Note: In the city, real estate purchase and rent costs over the past several years have dropped due to overbuilding

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ranadelnorte
8/14/2019 15:34 EST

Yes, am fully aware that rental costs have gone down. That is why I gave this range of prices. I believe that they are accurate for 2019.

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