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Home / Business / 'It is a madness story to live in the United States:' Why this 63-year-old teacher left Massachusetts to retire in the highlands of Panama

'It is a madness story to live in the United States:' Why this 63-year-old teacher left Massachusetts to retire in the highlands of Panama

Mary Taft lives with her two daughters, seven cats and two dogs in a Panama mansion – and she would have it no other way.

But the former teacher and school administrator did not always know that Panamanian retirement was in store for her. While she was consulting where to move with her two grown daughters, dozens of spots were on the table. "We had this blue sky conversation – where can we all go and live together," says the 63-year-old former Springfield, Mass., Resident. “Canada was out because it was too cold. We wanted the tropics because we were sick of winter. We excluded Asia because it was too far and the language barrier, Australia was too expensive. ”

The Spanish-speaker had been to Latin America several times, and her older daughter, a musician, worked a lot in Brazil, so they started looking around there. They excluded Belize because of a "lack of infrastructure," and Costa Rica because of its spending and "poor route of health care," Taft says. But Boquete, Panama ̵

1; a lush, mild-weather town in the Panamanian highlands popular with expatriates – checked almost all of their boxes.


White clouds over the small town of Boquete, Panama.

"It's a place of indescribable beauty, and the culture is complex and vibrant," she says. "It's not a sleepy mountain town, it's arts and culture, bird watching, sailing, hiking, restaurants with chefs from all over the world, it's a food paradise. There's so much going on here." (Travel Guide Lonely Planet writes this: "Boquete is known for its cool, fresh climate and pristine natural surroundings. Flowers, coffee, vegetables and citrus fruits bloom in its rich soil and the friendliness of the locals seems to rub off on everyone who walks through.")

Plus that Mary states that she and her daughters were tired of many things in America – including the high cost of living, repeated mass shootings and what she saw as a lot of "rage and hatred" among residents. "The United States has come out of control – the social fabric is shattered," she says, "It is an insanity to continue to stay in the United States," she adds, noting that crime in Panama is small, more rarely do you see guns, and life can be more affordable.
(Panama is actually a Pretty Safe Country: The American happen government puts Panama at a level when it comes to security, the best rating you can get – though it advises Americans not to travel to parts of Mosquito Gulf and the Darien region because of crime. And it is important to note that some types of crime may be more widespread in Panama than the United States, and many countries are even safer.)

In 2018, Mary moved to Panama with her two daughters – and she being set.

"Unless someone dies, I can't imagine going back there," she says. “I've only been back once. I had to go to Miami to do personal banking, I did banking and got back on the plane. " This is what life looks like – including costs, health care, housing and more – in Boquete, Panama.

Photos courtesy of Mary Taft

Cost: "I use about the same [as in the U.S.] but I have a much better lifestyle for the same price," says Mary. While she had one home in Springfield, Panama she has two homes – a three-bedroom beachfront apartment and about 6,000 square feet of house (which includes a main house and a small two-bedroom casita on the property) set up in the mountains. Marys says she bought the house for $ 499,000 and the apartment for $ 219,000, adding that "it's possible to buy beautiful, well-equipped homes that are a little smaller in the $ 200,000 range." (Referring to her daughters and pets, she says, "Each of us has a separate part of the house," she explains, joking that "it would be blood flowing" if they all lived on top of each other.)

Some things is expensive in the area, like eating out, which can cost "$ 40 / person at upscale restaurants, or $ 10 / person at a medium-scale restaurant, or $ 7 / person at a tipico Panamanian restaurant," she says, and adds that she loves the food in the area. (But it can be local Panamanian beer for $ 1, she adds, and you can get a good Chilean wine at the grocery store for $ 5 to $ 7.)

Other things are less expensive : Her electricity bill is only around $ 30 a month because of her solar panels, she says, and her cellphone bill is $ 20 a month "but everyone uses WhatsApp for everything," so she says she "probably overpays." [19659002] The magazine International Living breaks down the cost of living in Boquete, estimates you cow nne live pretty well at about 1,550 to $ 2,600 a month:
– Rent (two bedroom, centrally located apartment): $ 800 to $ 1200 per month
– Electricity: $ 60- $ 150
– Water and Garbage Collection: $ 0- $ 25
– Gas for Cooking, Heating, etc .: $ 0- $ 10
– Supermarket (mix of local and imported food / household items): $ 400- $ 500
– Entertainment for two (movies twice a month with snacks; dinner out four times a month): $ 140 – $ 400
– Phone: $ 13- $ 20
– High Speed ​​Internet: $ 20- $ 45
– Cable or Satellite TV: $ 35- $ 50
– Transportation (taxis or fuel on compact car): $ 75- $ 200
TOTAL: $ 1,553 – $ 2600 a month


Rainbow in Boquete

Pensionado program : "The Pensionado visa is the most popular visa for retirees," said Jackie Lange, an emigrant since 2010 who now runs a Panama relocation program – and it provides retirees throughout Panama with deep discounts on everything from airline tickets to restaurants. A pensioner who collects Social Security can apply for "Panama Pensionado Visa" as long as they have a regular income of at least $ 1,000 a month, or income of at least $ 750 a month, and they buy property for at least $ 100,000. When you qualify, you get a lot of benefits including 50% off entertainment anywhere in the country (movies, concerts, sports); 30% discount on bus, boat and train rates; 25% off airline tickets; between 30-50% discount on hotel stays; 25% off restaurants; 15% off hospital bills; 10% off prescriptions; 20% off medical consultations, 15% off dental and eye exams and more.

Mary loves the program. When she goes shopping and says to get her medicine, the clerk calls me a jubiloso – which means a jubilant person – that's where they get the word to the pensioner, she says. “I have a 10% discount at the pharmacy, I give them my old box of whatever and they give me a new one. In and out in five minutes. Even my dogs and cats get a discount on medication.

Residency: "It's a daunting process," Mary says – adding that she got a lawyer to help her navigate through it. The process takes months, has "many, many steps" and is "impossible for an outsider to navigate." Her advice is that you "follow the lawyer's instructions, give what he / she asks for, and show up in Panama in their direction and do what they say." She says it is also complicated to get a driver's license in Panama. These resources can help Get started.

Health Care: Panama's health care is considered good for the region (especially in Panama City, which has a number of respected hospitals and is about an hour's flight from Boquete), and the country ranks in the top 100 countries in the world in terms of quality and access to health care for its citizens.

Mary has disastrous health insurance from Cigna International, and says she pays about $ 2000 a year for it. In Panama, she pays out of pocket for her occasional doctor's visit (about $ 20); her inhaler (she has asthma) costs $ 20 at the local pharmacy with a pension discount and her sleep medicine costs around $ 10 for a two-month supply, "she says." is well trained and effective, "she says – adding that she communicates with them via WhatsApp if she needs anything.

The Disadvantages of Living in Panama: Although Panama has better roads and infrastructure than many other Central and South American nations, some rural areas are still lacking. And Americans who used to ask customer service can be a little hard-pressed to adapt to the slower pace of life in Panama. Also, you can't always get all the items you do in the US. Mary jokes that the one thing she misses most is "Temptations cat treats … much to the chagrin of cat owners!"

Result: Mary is busy being on the board of an animal rescue nonprofit Salvadores de Animales, and says she loves the food and activities of the country. But it's the friendly Panamanian spirit that really sells Mary on it. Panamanians celebrate many more holidays than in the United States, and there are typically parades with music and horses. It was explained to me that & # 39; Panamans love each other & we like to come together to celebrate our lives & # 39; and that's why there are so many celebrations, "she says," I like to be at a place where people like each other. "

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