The Pensionado Program
Panama boasts one of the best retirement programs on the planet: the Pensionado program, Panama’s retiree incentive visa. It is an instant residency program. It does not give you citizenship, but it does offer a host of discounts and benefits.
Eligibility for the Pensionado Program requires that your pension from a government entity or private corporation is $500 or more per month for a single individual, or $600 or more per month for a couple. Women must be at least 55 years of age and men must be at least 60 years of age.
Tips for applying for the Pensionado Program:
- A statement from the government or private company providing the pension will be required
- Have your bank statements ready
- All visa applications must be made through a Panamanian lawyer.
- All overseas documents to be presented to the authorities in Panama must be authenticated by a Notary and by the Panamanian consulate nearest you, or by a notary and the Apostille. The Apostille is a faster way of authenticating documents and is normally obtained through the Secretary of State in your home state (in the United States), through the Foreign Office (in Britain), or through the Panamanian Embassy or consulate (in Canada).
- Make sure that all of your documents are current (within two months of visa application) and passports must have at least one year before they need to be renewed
- All visa applications require that you obtain a health certificate and HIV test in Panama.
Pensionado Program Incentives:
- Discount of 50% of price charged for entrance to recreation and entertainment activities, such as movies, theaters, sports and other public productions. This discount is not applicable for those events marked as benefits for the youth, homeless or those specifically authorized by the competent authorities.
– Discounts for the following means of public transportation: Inter-Urban buses 30%, Trains 30%, Launches and boats 30%, 25% discount in air fares in public and private national and foreign Airlines.
- A minimum discount of the regular prices of hotels, motels and pensions: 50% from Monday to Thursday, 30% on Friday, Saturday and Sunday
- 25% discount of food consumed by the individual in all restaurants except for the Fondas which do not require license to operate, 15% discount in those rapid food establishments.
- 15% discount in the total cost for services of hospitals and private clinics
- 10% discount in pharmacies for those medications obtained with a medical prescription
- Discounts in the following medical services: 20% in consultation fees of general medicine doctors and medical and surgical specialists, 15% for dental services, 15% for optometry
- Insurance companies that include in their policies health benefits for illness shall adjust their fees to include the necessary adjustment so that the benefits of these discounts are transferred in the payment of the premiums when the insured is 55 years old if female, and 60 years old if male and to the Pensionados & Jubilados: 20% discount for technical and professional services, 20% discount for all prosthetic devices as well as those items and accessories of personal assistance, 50% discount in cost of passports
- 25% discount in monthly electrical consumption of private or public entity up to 600KW’s and the normal tariffs will be applied to anything above that amount
- 25% discount to the basic phone service charges when: the phone service is in the name of the individual, it is for a residential phone. One phone only.
- 25% discount in the water bill up to $30.00
Retirement Abroad: A Growing Trend
The U.S. State Department estimates about 4 million Americans currently live abroad, and a quarter of those expatriates are estimated to be retirees. Most Britons prefer to retire abroad according to a recent study conducted by Aon Consulting. Nearly 150,000 Britons moved abroad last year, and NatWest Bank found that seven out of the ten Britons who are living abroad are happy and plan on staying in a survey.
“Retiring abroad is still very much a popular choice and expats are happy with their chosen life paths. It’s encouraging to see that the majority of expats believe they made the right decision in retiring abroad and are living their chosen dream.”
- Dave Isley, from NatWest International Personal Banking.
Panama was ranked the second best place to retire in the world and the best place to retire in Central America in InternationalLiving.com’s 2010 Index of the World’s 25 Best Retirement Destinations. Forbes.com joins AARP, Fortune, and International living in acknowledging Panama as an ideal spot for retirees:
“Panama has almost everything: year-round sun, low taxes, massive discounts for seniors, first-world amenities, quality private hospitals, bird-filled rainforests, a dollar economy and easy flights from the U.S.”
Low Cost of Living, Low Stress
A recent article in the New York Times marked the growing trend of Americans living and retiring abroad, detailing why they are doing it and how it’s providing them with a luxury retirement for less. Seeking a lower cost of living, a laid-back lifestyle and other like-minded people to enjoy it with, more Americans are retiring abroad to locations like Central America. A 2010 survey by International Living magazine found that 96% of respondents are more likely to move out of the United States now than they were in 2009.
Panama in particular ranks highly with retirees – so much so that Business Week called it “the new Florida” last year, saying it offers “more bang for the buck.” Elaine Finnegan of International Living says, “Panama has always been a top choice for people from the U.S., Canada and Europe who want to significantly lower their cost of living without giving up the good life.”
That low cost of living makes a luxury Panama retirement well within reach, even for those who have experienced economic losses. The New York Times quotes Kathleen Peddicord, author of “How to Retire Overseas,” on low Panama rents. “It could be $200 a month if you choose instead to settle in a little house near the beach in Las Tablas, a beautiful, welcoming region,” says Peddicord.
Panama has become so attractive as a retirement destination that the small country already has several thriving expatriate communities. Just an hour from Loomis’ Isla Palenque beachfront development is the Panamanian mountain village of Boquete. Boquete’s total population of 4,100 already includes an expatriate community of 600 Americans, Canadians and Europeans, and their numbers continue to grow.
For those who prefer Panama’s beach over its mountains, Isla Palenque is launching special pre-construction pricing for its island homes later this year. Loomis recognizes the area’s need to provide for the growing number of retirees moving to Panama. “We plan to meet the increasing demand with a world-class residence community,” says Loomis. “With our pristine island property, award-winning design and unmatched service provided by incomparable The West Paces Hotel Group, there’s no need to give up on the dream of the ideal retirement home.”
Living abroad is now an attractive option for Americans looking to maximize dwindling retirement accounts, and there is no question that Panama has the awe factor that retirees desire. But does the reality of expatriate life stack up to expectations? According to Peddicord, “I don’t know of anyone who has decided to move back full-time after having had a taste of living abroad.”
The availability of direct flights to and from Panama, Low cost of living, government benefits for retirees, real estate investment value and warm climate all create an attractive lifestyle for retirees looking for the easy life in their golden years.
Panama is Paradise for Retirees – MSN Money: http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/RetirementandWills/RetireInStyle/PanamaIsParadiseForRetirees.aspx
Panama Visa and Residency Information – International Living: http://internationalliving.com/countries/panama/visa/
Americans Who Seek Out Retirement Overseas – The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/19/your-money/19iht-nwmove.html?pagewanted=all
The Ten Best Retirement Havens – Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/2009/10/15/ten-best-retirement-havens-personal-finance-retire-abroad.html
Top Five Places to Retire Abroad – Smart Money: http://www.smartmoney.com/spending/deals/top-5ive-places-to-retire-abroad-0/
Forget Florida… – The Street: http://www.thestreet.com/story/10364262/forget-florida-central-america-the-new-hot-spot-for-retirees.html