I never expected to retire to Panama — but we are living ‘very comfortably’ on $1,200 a month

Kris Cunningham by no means anticipated to be residing in Panama. When her husband, Joel, began speaking about retiring to Central America, “I assumed he had misplaced his thoughts.” She didn’t have a passport and had by no means been overseas.

However after 9 years of residing in David, a metropolis of 83,000 close to the Pacific Ocean and near the border with Costa Rica, “we’re tremendous comfortable right here,” the 69-year-old says. “It’s labored out past my wildest expectations.”

She discovered Spanish, taught herself to play bass guitar and joined her husband’s rock band,  known as Monkey Nerve, when the bass participant moved to Colombia. She appears to fall into dialog with everybody, has biked from house throughout Costa Rica and into Nicaragua, and blogs about her life

Backtrack a decade. Cunningham was working in Florida as a visiting nurse, burned out however knew she and her husband, already retired from his home-remodeling job, couldn’t afford to remain in Sarasota and not using a paycheck or her Social Safety verify. And even a decreased verify was just a few years away.

 “We have been simply working to maintain our heads above water” whereas she counted down the times till she may declare Social Safety at 62, she recalled.

At her husband’s urging, they determined to take a look at Costa Rica and Panama. Costa Rica was pricier. Panama Metropolis wasn’t match — an excessive amount of metropolis. Boquete, within the mountains, is an expat enclave and didn’t attraction. However David felt proper — not too massive, pleasant and foreigners are built-in into the neighborhood, reasonably than residing aside. “It simply feels so free right here, so relaxed, so not alone,” she says.

They ran the numbers and figured they might stay off financial savings till her Social Safety verify kicked in.

She took Spanish courses earlier than leaving Florida, however her pals in Panama don’t converse English. So she discovered, regardless that it meant counting on a dictionary for the primary 4 years.

The price range

In Florida, the couple was spending $3,000 a month on simply the fundamentals, by no means thoughts garments and restaurant meals. In David, it’s between $1,100 and $1,200. Additional prices are minimal; they’re not large restaurant goers, so it’s primarily flights again to the U.S.

They lease a house — 3 bedrooms, 2 baths throughout 900 sq. ft plus a yard filled with fruit bushes — in a pleasant middle-class neighborhood for $385 a month, water and trash assortment included. In Panama, it’s the norm that an unfurnished home means you provide the fridge, the range and the washer.

Feeding the wildlife: an iguana claims a papaya peel

Courtesy Kris Cunningham

The kitchen range runs on a gasoline canister just like that for an American gasoline grill — typical for Panama — and prices $5.12 for a refill, often wanted month-to-month. Web and cable tv collectively is $46 a month. 

Insurance coverage for his or her automobiles — legal responsibility protection solely as a result of they’re greater than a decade previous — is sort of $300 a 12 months.

A primary, good Panamanian lunch prices about $4, she says, whereas the close by fancy Italian restaurant might be $40 per individual. Their favourite restaurant prices not more than $10 apiece. The $45 she not too long ago paid within the U.S. for a meal for 4 of three hamburgers, rooster nuggets and one thing to drink would price half that or much less in Panama, she stated.

“We’re not residing poorly right here, We’re residing very comfortably.”


Cunningham and her husband have opted to pay for healthcare out of pocket, saying they’re wholesome and never on any drugs, and so they put aside cash for emergencies.

A health care provider’s go to prices $40 to $50, she says, and he or she pays $30 to get her tooth cleaned.

When a spot on her tooth become a big cavity, gum surgery, a root canal and a crown, handled by three dentists, “it ended up being lower than $900 for the entire shebang,” she recalled.


The mountains above David.

Courtesy Kris Cunningham

You want a visa to stay in Panama

Panama’s guidelines have modified since Cunningham arrived. Whilst you can keep for 180 days as a vacationer, you’ll be able to’t preserve residing within the nation as a vacationer, she says. 

Panama does require that people can doc $1,000 of verifiable revenue every month plus one other $250 for every dependent, she says. That might be a Social Safety verify or a authorities or private-sector pension. Here is what the Panamanian embassy lists as requirements.

The visa comes with numerous reductions for retirees, together with for flights.
If the usual retiree visa doesn’t be just right for you, seek the advice of a lawyer about different choices. You can too contact the closest Panamanian consulate along with your visa questions.


Cunningham freely admits there will likely be frustrations. Employees might not present up if you anticipate them, and conferences can begin late. It is going to be noisier, too — loud music that goes on late, roosters that crow, canines operating down the road. Relying on the place you reside, you could be coping with common outages of energy, web, even water.

Then there are extra mundane variations. Favourite manufacturers could also be unavailable. Garments and sneakers that match could be arduous to seek out as a result of Panamanians are typically shorter and thinner than People.


A swimming gap in Panama

Courtesy Kris Cunningham

The climate in David is sizzling however, she says, extra snug than in Florida, which additionally bought chilly.

Many People go for mountain residing in Boquete, the place there’s no scarcity of happenings in English and the employees converse English. Nonetheless, she’s seen many individuals come and go. Some depart fed up with what they understand as inefficiency or forms, or they miss the grandchildren, or they need U.S. healthcare. (Medicare can’t be used abroad.) 

“Typically I feel they wished the life that they had within the States however cheaper,” she says.

Her recommendation? Chill. Adapt to the tradition, and also you’ll do higher at getting what you need.

“To make this work, you must comprehend it’s not going to be the identical” as residing within the U.S., she provides. “You simply have to appreciate you’re taking  a leap of religion into the unknown, and also you simply must go together with it.” 

Concerned about Boquete? ‘It is an act of insanity to stay in the U.S.’: Why this 63-year-old teacher ditched Massachusetts to retire in the highlands of Panama

Extra on retiring overseas

‘To hell with it’: She ditched Canada at 56 for Belize, where a couple can get ‘everything you could imagine’ for under $50,000 a year

We retired to Athens without speaking Greek — here’s how we got the easy travel and affordable life we wanted

The five most affordable Caribbean Islands to retire to — and two to avoid

Here are the 10 best places in the world to retire

Four critical factors that can determine if retiring abroad is right for you

Don’t let these myths ruin your dream of retiring abroad

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/i-never-expected-to-retire-to-panama-but-we-are-living-very-comfortably-on-1-200-a-month-11633001564?rss=1&siteid=rss | I by no means anticipated to retire to Panama — however we live ‘very comfortably’ on $1,200 a month


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