Variety is the spice of life, so goes the saying, and Panama offers an abundance. Numerous surveys, articles, and rankings underpin why Panama, located to the south of Costa Rica and north of Columbia in Central America, makes an ideal place to live, either part or all of the year.
I moved here permanently in January 2020, having visited the country on various occasions to look for business opportunities since 1997. The transformation of Panama and its economy has been dramatic in those 23 years, and more prosperity is coming. Any quick review of the geophysical diversity of Panama will tell you that it has a climate and culture for you. Whether it is the cool mountains and coffee growing areas near Boquete or Volcan, the warm and cosmopolitan financial center that is Panama City, or the laid back Caribbean vibe of Bocas del Toro, or many other places less well known, you can choose a place to your liking.
Panama often wins out over other Latin countries in terms of desirability due to its stable democracy, dollar economy, and relative freedom in terms of taxes and doing business. In terms of regional and world rankings, the Heritage Foundation notes that for economic freedom “Panama is ranked 9th among 32 countries in the Americas region, and its overall score is well above the regional and world averages.” The World Bank’s Doing Business Index give Panama a score of 92 (out of 100) for starting a business.
One woman, Mary Taft, recounted to Market Watch her decision to settle down in Boquete:
Mary says she and her daughters were fed up with a lot of things in America — including the high cost of living, repeated mass shootings and what she saw as a lot of “rage and hate.”
“The U.S. has gotten so out of control — the social fabric is shattering,” she says. “It is an act of insanity to continue to stay in the U.S.,” she adds, noting that in Panama crime is low, you see guns less frequently, and life can be more affordable.
As Market Watch states, Panama consistently ranks at the top of International Living’s worldwide ranking of the best places to retire, which reflects quality of life not only for retirees but anyone looking for an optional country for a different style and quality of life. Panama was number one in 2019 and number two in 2020.
I also chose Panama because establishing legal residency here is relatively easy (with the help of an affordable lawyer). I immigrated under what is called the Friendly Nations Visa, but there is also a relatively painless process for retirees, with lots of benefits. My application went in sometime in February, it was approved in June (even with the COVID-19 shutdown), and I got my permanent residency card in August.
I chose Panama City after having considered living on the Caribbean archipelago of Bocas del Toro. The city offers vibrancy, plenty of cultural attractions (including the World Heritage Site of Casco Viejo), a variety of restaurants, cafes, bars, and clubs, alongside economic opportunity (if one is not quite ready for total retirement). Economists predict there will be great real estate opportunities here in 2021, and it is easy to either buy or rent with the help of professionals like those at RE/MAX Panama. There are no restrictions on foreign ownership, and as Forbes noted in 2020:
The best example of a city with brand-name resiliency in the Americas is Panama City. It’s the regional headquarters to hundreds of multinationals and a genuine business and financial hub with deep and diversified pools of both buyers and renters from around the world. In addition, Panama’s economy is backstopped by the Panama Canal, which accounts for about 40% of Panama’s GDP. If you’re in the market for an investment with a short-term horizon, start here.
“Each Office Independently Owned and Operated”