Author Archives: rwb13

One of the Best Medical Doctors in the Coronado Area

Dr Riega: One of the Best Doctors in the Greater Coronado Area

Dr Riega has had his medical practice in Panama for more than 30 years. His clinic in Bejuco is about 6-7 miles from “downtown Coronado. He has been my personal “general practitioner” for more than 4 years.

Dr Riega brings a wealth of experience to his practice in addition to patience and understanding. Incidentally, he was also an elected “member of parliament” (if you are Canadian) or Congress (for Americans) or “Tribunal” for Panamanians.

For new “gringos”, in particular, it is very important to remember that in Panama “tropical diseases” and related ailments are often very different than similar medical problems in Canada or the USA. At the first sign of a sore throat see a local doctor.

His Waiting Room was always Packed

To be honest, what first attracted me to Dr Riega’s Clinic was the sheer number of Panamanians packed into his relatively small waiting room and sitting on some outside benches. I figured that these people must know something that I don’t because there are quite a few competitive medical clinics around. I suppose, in similar manner, I am attracted to restaurants that are always full with long lineups outside.

Meticulous Record Keeping

Once I got to know Dr Riega better as a patient (perhaps 2-3 visits per year until recently) I noticed that he always kept meticulous records on every patient. These were hand written records on blank sheets of paper stored in a 8.5″ x 14″ brown manila folder. They were extremely detailed and often included photocopies of, for example, blood test results etc. Many other doctors that I have visited did not appear to keep detailed records on my visits at least I never saw them.

$7 Consultation Fee

Another reason I very much like the Riega Clinic is because I can visit the clinic in the morning, pay my $7 consultation fee, and then come back say 3 or 4 hours later and my name is at the top of the list with no wait. In several other medical facilities waiting around can be a time consuming process.

Oh yes, did I mention the $7 consultation fee. This amount may seem ridiculously low to the average American who probably has to pay up to $150 for a similar medical consultation at a similar “walk-in” clinic. However, there are medical clinics in the Coronado area which actually charge less.

On Site Testing Facility

Dr Riega has an excellent onsite laboratory for testing virtually everything at prices that may bring a slow smile to your face. The cost of a full blood test, after my 20% discount, is about $6.50; urinalysis $2.50; a full “abdominal ultra scan” by a specialist with a comprehensive written report ($40). Many test results are ready in one hour.

Also if you happen to have several medical problems simultaneously Dr Riega will be happy to discuss them all. Try that with your average American doctor.

And finally, and most important he is very effective in his treatments without which the above reasons are useless.

The San Fernando Clinic

I should point out that my wife and I have an excellent medical insurance policy which covers us for doctor visits at the local San Fernando Clinic only 2 miles from our house. The standard cost for a visit is about $20 however after my jubilado discount of 20% and with my insurance “co-pay” of 30% my out of pocket cost is about $5. However about a month later I have to return to the clinic for my “refund check” and wait in line until my number is called.

The San Fernando Clinic in Coronado is a first class, 5 star internationally accredited medical facility. However, it has been designed for treating “gringos” and perhaps rich Panamanians. Not many locals have $20 for a consultation which is a day’s pay for many.

It was definitely not designed to process hundreds of patients per week as does the Riega Clinic. As a result of this volume, Dr Riega quickly learns the full extent and severity of the latest viruses (which is what usually attacks me and in fact most older people) at the earliest possible stage. Incidentally there are typically 4-5 different virus strains that sweep through the country every year depending on weather and other factors. Each year they are somewhat different.

I am running out of space since I am trying to shorten my postings. Actually there is much more information for a second post about Dr Riega in the near future.

“Retirement Mapping” our new On-Line Enterprise

RetirementMapping a new online Enterprise

Thank you so very much for your registrations on our site!

Amazing … So Many New Registrants

Over the past 3-4 months our blogs “PanamaMundo” and “CoronadoPropertyMarket” have received an amazing number of new registrants in spite of my rather limited postings. I never anticipated this level of interest and it has inspired a new business plan.

New Website: RetirementMapping.com

To consolidate activities and appeal to a wider audience, I have just published our new site “RetirementMapping” today.  It is still in the very early stages and definitely a “work in progress” but it will take shape very quickly. I have decided to significantly expand the number of weekly postings and related online offerings such as eBooks, webinars, white papers, an email newsletter and related digital products such as online courses where appropriate. If you signed up for PanamaMundo or CoronadoPropertyMarket you will probably be interested in this new consolidation web site RetirementMapping.

I have created a rather ambitious five year plan for “RetirementMapping” focused on the 5 or 6 most worrisome concerns people have in planning/living their retirement options including offshore living. This is the option that I and my wife Lise have chosen for the past 6 years in Coronado Panama and it has worked out brilliantly. The broad subject area of “retirement” was a relatively simple decision to make.

Many of my offerings will be free to members although eBooks will be offered for sale on Amazon, Kobo among other marketers.

Never Retiring

One theme that you may encounter in my musings is that retirement is not for everyone. There are many people, myself included, who never wish to retire if that means buying a hammock/rocking chair , playing golf every day or watching old action movies. I will try to interweave some highly inspirational stories about people such as Mandela, Warren Buffet and Picasso who continue(d) to make significant contributions very late in their lives to the benefit of many without any regrets or downside.

Main Categories for Focus

My email newsletter and in-depth eBooks will explore subjects such as offshore living, financial planning and related investment strategies, developing a “retirement” personality, social networking, learning a new language issues (for most people living offshore), the advantages/savings from medical tourism, longevity risks, optimal exercise and diet, assisted living issues, early planning for hobbies and other enjoyable retirement activities, charitable work opportunities, and even second careers including starting an online business!

Our Technological “Platform”

In addition to selecting an interesting subject area in which I could be considered relative authorities, I had to spend considerable time constructing a solid technological platform for the online enterprise with the appropriate software. This was particularly difficult and time-consuming because it meant integrating and learning about 25 different software packages and “plugins”.

These software tools ranged from the chosen web design package “WordPress” with about 10 critical “plugins” (out of the more than 2500 available), to “Scrivener” (an absolutely  first class writing tool for creative authors), Adobe PhotoShop for designing and producing book covers, a professional email “autoresponder” such as arpReach to handle  email lists of more than 100,000 members, Dragon Naturally Speaking (12) permits me to dictate while it types every word into Scrivener, DropBox for cloud backup and sharing, social networking platforms such as Twitter, FaceBook and Digg etc. and translation software since we intend to go international. There are more …..

Of course new versions and updates for these basic software programs keep coming out at blinding speed with new features, functionality and user manuals.

Getting Ready to Launch

I feel confident about today’s launch and consider that I have a solid and realistic long term business plan and strategy in place. The new web site “RetirementMapping” is available as of today today and will be rolling out a lot of new stuff in the next few days and weeks.

We will be looking for your feedback.

Thanks again

 

Coronado vs Atlantida Uruguay

Coronado Panama vs Atlantida Uruguay

For more than 40 years, my wife Lise and I have continuously searched for a better quality of life wherever it might take us in the world and the search goes on today. If you take the time to read my free eBook you will better understand our saga. Incidentally I will be publishing a new eBook this month focused exclusively on Coronado.

There will always be some disadvantages wherever you choose to live. It might be too expensive, too cold, too boring or unsophisticated, too threatened by “ObamaCare” or any number of related economic, political and social drawbacks. Clearly, everything is relative to your personal priorities and no place is perfect for everyone.

With this in mind we visited Uruguay 2 years ago on a fact finding mission to see how well Panama stacks up. Both countries have a population of about 3.5 million people. We prefer countries with smaller populations.

The bottom line was that we came to the conclusion that we actually could live happily in Uruguay and particularly in Atlantida, a small “ocean front” town on the Rio Plata about 25 miles from Montevideo somewhat similar to Coronado but without the security gates.

Economics, Politics, Education and Crime

Uruguay has one of the highest per capita incomes of Central and Latin America (just behind Chile and ahead of Panama). The economic growth rate in Uruguay has been extremely strong with very low unemployment levels. These trends have been increasing during the past two years with housing prices rising sharply. The government is very stable. Education levels are very high with free university tuition up to and including the doctorate level. Crime rates per 100,000 were very low in most categories. Warren Buffet has been buying Uruguayan agricultural land.

The weather in Atlantida is virtually identical to the weather in San Diego California or the Algarve in Portugal with “winter” temperatures dipping to perhaps 40 degrees at night. The “high season” is packed in Atlantida as the population swells from about 5000 to 20,000 for three months.  Ocean swimming or even wading except for the brave at heart is perhaps 4 months whereas in Coronado the ocean temperature is always at about 80 degrees. But sometimes Coronado becomes too hot and humid for some people and they have to seek shelter indoors or in the pool under a shade bohio.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Uruguay was higher than Panama by perhaps 15% with certain categories of expenses being substantially higher such as purchasing a new automobile (about double) and buying gasoline (about double). Electronic stuff is readily available but about 10% higher than in Panama.

Medical care in Uruguay is rated better than Panama by the World Health Organization. The best part however, is that once you formally declare your intent to become a permanent resident of Uruguay, you are immediately eligible for their state health care and you can also sign up for a “mutualista” health care policy from a specific hospital which is better than the state care program. The monthly cost for a hospital plan is in the $75 to $150 per month range per person depending on age.

Ability to Work and Citizenship

Another major advantage for Uruguay is that the same day you declare your intent to become a permanent resident you can accept a job or start a small business. If married, your decision to reside in Uruguay can lead to full citizenship within three years. As a single person there is a 5 year wait for citizenship.

In Panama, a new program for a “professional or investor visa” was approved more than a year ago with relatively similar advantages but this is not quite as universal as the Uruguayan situation. This professional visa can result in Panamanian citizenship in 5 years but the standard “pensionado visa” for Panama does not permit employment and does not lead to citizenship. You remain a “glorified tourist”.

No Taxes on Global Income

Neither Uruguay nor Panama will tax you on money earned offshore meaning that  you are NOT taxed on your global income. So your carefully planned million dollar a year internet income would be safe in both countries.

Banking secrecy in both countries is virtually identical with a strong and conservative banking sector in both countries. Panama actually has a more robust international banking sector with frequent comparisons made to Switzerland and/or Singapore.

Housing

The housing stock in Atlantida is certainly acceptable with prices of land close to the beach considerably less than in Coronado. One significant disadvantage in Atlantida is that many of the existing houses lack central heating. They were designed primarily for use during the “high season” from November until March. In contrast, Coronado houses, of course, do not require central heating and it is much easier and cheaper to retrofit/install an AC system than a central heating system.  Moving to Atlantida would probably mean building a custom home from scratch with radiant floor heating and probably a solar system because the cost of electricity is very high.

Restaurants

The off-season selection of good restaurants in Atlantida is very limited. Don Vito’s is the best in town by far but in the off-season this establishment also suffers from a lack of central heating with inside temperatures in the 65 range (too cool for me without a heavy coat).  There are perhaps five other restaurants within easy access.

In contrast, Coronado has about 35 restaurants (within 15 minutes of our house) open all year ranging from very expensive to very, very cheap.  Last night for example we ordered vegetarian lasagna for two with sodas at “Leonardo’s Steak House” and paid $8.25 total. We could have eaten a huge portion of chicken and rice next door for two for about $6 or upstairs in the same commercial complex for about $50.

Shopping

Coronado is also better for shopping if that happens to be your thing. There is one quite acceptable shopping center in Coronado with about 2 acres of inside shopping on three floors. There are also three major shopping centers easily available within a one hour drive. The largest has more than 400 modern stores (Albrook) selling every imaginable item. Westland is only about 40 minutes from Coronado and you could shop all day and still not visit every store. It is very new and still expanding rapidly. Then there is the Multi Plaza in downtown Panama City for people with a Platinum Credit Card ….. Rolex, Gucci, etc.

Distance

We found that Uruguay was a bit “far away” for our tastes given that we like to travel to Canada and Europe although the price differential for airplane tickets was that much more than from Panama.

We liked Atlantida for many reasons but we remain in Coronado still looking for the perfect place.

Living to 100!

What is your Longevity Factor?

What if you were to live until 100?

Impossible you might say? Not really and in fact living to 100 is becoming an increasingly likely outcome for many people. Check out the number of centenarians (persons over 100) in Okinawa Japan or the USA for that matter.

There exists an exceptionally well researched web site namely www.livingto100.com that you would be well advised to sign up for as soon as possible. Better yet it is completely FREE. Do it today and learn something very important about your life.

www.livingto100.com

I had highlighted this excellent web site in my original eBook on Panama written 7 years ago. It is still going strong and the questions seem to have been simplified. By answering a bunch of personal questions about everything you might imagine it will make a prediction concerning  your probable longevity …. short of getting hit by a truck.

I just did mine and it predicted 101 years. Seven years ago my score was only 97 years but then I weighed considerably more and lived in New Jersey (polluted air, extra stress etc.). Now the trick is to complete the test twice. The first time you should be completely and absolutely honest. The second time around make some small adjustments to your answers that you know would not be very difficult to achieve. Exercise a bit more, drink a bit less, eat less red meat, lose a bit of weight to get your body mass index down, try to be a bit more sociable etc. You may be very surprised to see that these minimum improvements may add 6 or 7 years to your longevity.

You Should Live So Long!

You might be of the camp that says it is not worth it. You expect that by your mid 80’s, if you should live so long, you will be suffering from one or other form of dementia making life a hell for your partner and children, spending excess money on medical care and generally living much like a vegetable. Wrong! Dementia is actually a rapidly declining threat for old age even well into your 90s. If you maintain a positive attitude and a healthy body there is no reason that you will not be painting masterpieces like Picasso at age 94 when he enjoyed an untimely death.

Three Months Every Year

Longevity is a critical factor in retirement planning and just about every other aspect of life and death. Many people are still planning to die at age 72 or 75 at the latest just like perhaps one of their parents. Their retirement financial planning horizon is also, not surprisingly, 75 giving them a very false feeling of confidence.

As you may have heard, 95 is today the new 75. Believe it! Every year for the past decade, the average longevity of the average North American has increased by about 3 months. 30 extra months in just 10 short years. Amazing! Actually, if you do the numbers for the past 160 years you will find that longevity increased by about 40 years in this period or about 3 months per year (same same as they say in Thailand) at least for some nations such as Sweden.

Beware of Boredom

A greatly extended longevity, however, is not only about having an adequate cash flow. More importantly, for many reasons, it is about “what am I going to do with all of this extra time”? There is only so much time you can spend watching football games and soap operas. It is a well-known fact that one of the biggest killers in retirement is “boredom” plain and simple. That is a condition reached when you believe you can finally turn off your mind. Because you are doing very little or perhaps nothing you first become rather bored by yourself and then, for stage two, you become boring with everyone else and in stage three you fade off quietly into the night.

However, now that you realize that you have a reasonable chance to become a super-centenarian (110 or over) plan on it. Develop a daily routine with goals and activities that have a very, very long time horizon. Your life will be much the richer for it.

Cheers

The World is Collapsing?


The World is Collapsing

I’m continuously surprised by the number of people I meet in Coronado, often American expats, who are convinced that the USA and the world is going to hell in a hand basket. To be fair, there are some Europeans and Canadians in this mix. This is often the reason these same people decided to move to Panama in the first place …. where the economy is based squarely on the American dollar.

When I question these people a bit further, the typical explanation is that the massive spending/stimulation programs of the past five years will soon result in runaway inflation causing the American dollar to plummet. The current wisdom is that “you can’t just print money”; the United States is living far beyond its means and ObamaCare is clearly the last straw that will break the camel’s back.

My first response is typically the following question. With high and persistent unemployment in the USA and Europe and huge amounts of global overcapacity in virtually every industry sector what exactly will drive this runaway inflation? To date, after 5 years of considerable stimulation, inflation and interest rates remain extremely low. Some countries in Europe which applied much less “stimulation” than the USA actually remain mired in recession with excessive rates of unemployment sometimes in the 20 to 30% range especially for some of the peripheral countries. Even Japan, a basket case of deflation for 20 years, recently decided to stimulate its way out of its problem and so far this strategy seems to be working.

The next point commonly made is that foreigners holding American dollar Bonds and Treasuries will start cashing in their chips. Oh My God, China will start selling! This argument has been around for longer than I can remember but China continues to add to its reserve of US Treasuries. Why? Because China sells most of its production to the USA. The last thing China wants is for the American dollar to plummet. Where else can China store its reserves? Gold?

How about gold? Is this not the ultimate “safe haven” when the world is crumbling. Gold has had a great run until recently precisely because everyone was certain that massive inflation was imminent. The number of “serious articles” in the past 5 years predicting gold at $5000 was mind boggling. In contrast, today some of the largest American investment houses are predicting that gold will drop to $1000. I happen to side with them.

Then there is always the point that the American dollar will lose its privileged status as the “world currency”. Of course this is the reason why the USA can “print money” to a much greater extent than would be permitted by the domestic economy alone. This is why every nation in the world wants to and must hold ample reserves of American dollars and why most global commodities (such as oil and gold) are priced in American dollars. Try to buy a house in Uruguay (a very strong economy) and you will see it priced in American dollars and not in Uruguayan pesos . What are the options to using the American dollar as a global currency? Gold? The Euro? Bartering? The Chinese currency? A basket of global currencies controlled by some international body? Probably not in my life time.

Then of course there is ObamaCare. With the present standoff in Congress this is clearly the major stumbling block. Whereas every other developed country in the world (and many developing countries) has a health program covering every citizen, many Americans believe that such a program dramatically curtails personal freedoms and will be the ruin of the country. The richest country in the world cannot afford such a program! Just look at how badly the insurance exchanges operated in their first week. Clearly a stupid program! Politically speaking, if the Republicans are so convinced that ObamaCare will be such a huge failure then the smart thing to do would be to let it roll out and fail miserably. They can always repeal it in 2016 when they control the House, the Senate and the White House because of this ObamaCare fiasco.

An Optimistic Global Outlook

So what does the other side, the bright side look like?

Is there an optimistic global outlook? In fact, yes I think there is ….. as follows:

  • The American economy has actually come “back from the brink” of the worst financial crisis since 1929.
  • The housing market in some American cities is attracting multiple bids on properties well in excess of the asking price and in excess of 2008 prices.
  • The USA is today on the brink of self-sufficiency in energy. Amazing … remember the OPEC embargo on oil in the 1970’s.
  • The European economy has “adjusted” significantly with large numbers of important structural changes and considerable austerity. It is finally bottoming out of 4 years of recession.
  • Japan is on the rise with the major stock exchange up about 65% in the past 12 months.
  • The UK has a very hot property market among other signs of renewed overall growth. It also has a great new Governor of the Bank of England …. a Canadian!
  • Canada and Australia remain in pretty good shape and never really suffered a housing bust and a major recession as did the USA and Europe.
  • China has also adjusted significantly and is returning slowly to a higher growth rate.
  • Gold is today in a serious “bear market” and the belief that gold is the perfect “safe haven” has been tarnished. A bit of diversification OK but as a major investment objective I doubt it.
  • The internet has continued to expand at blinding speed through smart phones, tablets and iPads. Billions of people exchanging information has been a transformational global phenomenon. Today anyone can earn a Harvard or MIT degree for “free” using the internet and live anywhere in the world. What a concept!  In the end it’s what you know.
  • The new Panama Canal opens in about 18 months (early 2015) and the prices of many commodities will drop dramatically as world trade takes on a new meaning.
  • Longevity for the average human on the planet is changing at the blinding speed of almost 3 months every year. Now that is truly incredible. What will this mean for productivity?
  • The global “middle class” is also growing at blinding speed meaning a rapidly increasing market for high end goods and services. Check out the number of millionaires in China.
  • The world is much less “at war” today than it was 10 years ago. Most countries have lost their appetite for new engagements. The Arab Spring was a very good thing globally albeit many adjustments remain.

It is not all gloom and doom as some scaremongers would have you believe. Cheers ….

 

Crazy Season in Coronado


Crazy Season in Coronado

It is always the same!

Starting in August/September and rapidly gaining speed thereafter, new projects and businesses rush to complete construction before the “big tourist rush” in December.

This year, with the new Rio Hato International Airport expected to be functioning by December, there is an even greater urgency and sense of expectation than average.  As a result there are many more and much larger projects/businesses currently in the final countdown stages.

In the relatively small town of Coronado, more than 1000 employees (most of whom are construction workers) pass through the security gates every day. Many of them work a six day week which is rather par for the course in Panama. The “Boulevard” in Coronado has become the latest area for new residential projects. Meanwhile new businesses keep popping up at a furious rate at the Coronado entrance and along the InterAmerican highway nearby.

Punta Paraiso

One significant residential project inside Coronado on the Boulevard that has fascinated me (because of size and speed of development) is Punta Paraiso. Phase One of this relatively large project (for Coronado) has just been completed with about 100 townhouses all pre-sold. There are no “for sale” signs at the entrance.

Phase Two (a slightly larger phase than Phase One) has just completed a very significant leveling, drainage and roadway infrastructure phase. As of last week, house building started in earnest with rough plumbing sprouting up from perhaps 20 adjacent sites.

DSCN0983

Interestingly, this project has decided to use a “poured wall” construction approach which is not yet very common in the Coronado area. This approach is optimal when a developer is constructing a large number of relatively similar or even identical units. It would appear that once everything is running smoothly (and the weather is cooperating which has not been the case recently) the complete walls for one house can be poured every single day.  The following day the steel forms are stripped off and erected at the next site. The poured walls contain a heavy gauge steel mesh making these walls extremely sturdy. Of course all window openings and doorways are preset for perfect sizing and “squareness”. The poured wall approach solves most of the smoothing or parging problems associated with standard cement block construction (inside and outside).  This is a production line approach of the first order ensuring increased quality control in my opinion although it required very good coordination. At this rate of production the last house should be poured sometime in early january with the roofing only a few days behind. (I will post additional information as this project develops.

DSCN0986

There are many other new projects on the Boulevard including “Coronado Escapes”, Palmaras, and about 5 or 6 smaller projects including many new private residences.  An interesting recent development is that several new “Coronado” projects (including Punta Paraiso) are actually building on Gorgona land outside the original Coronado boundaries. Access is still controlled through the Coronado security gates.

 

Retiring in France


Living in France

Recently, International Living hosted an interesting “membership contest” to determine whether their readers thought France or Italy was the better country for permanent living/retirement. Apparently Italy won by a nose but France was a very close follow-up.

The more interesting question, in my opinion, is “how difficult or risky is it to move/live permanently to/in either France or Italy”?

Lise and I have frequently considered retiring in France (before we moved to Panama) since we both love France and speak French fluently. I have also worked in France as a consultant for several pharmaceutical companies.

Our background qualifications would theoretically be ideal as we are both Canadian citizens. Lise grew up in Quebec (a former French colony) and has a university degree in Fine Arts. I have a university degree in International Economics. We receive adequate pensions from the Canadian and American governments and our cash assets would be sufficient for entry from everything I have read.

But that is apparently the easy part.

Long Term Health Insurance

The main stumbling block at our age is adequate long term health insurance. The only sensible way to ensure adequate health insurance in France is to obtain French citizenship. Putting yourself in the hands of a private insurer after age 65 is a recipe for disaster. I know, because I have been there and done that. They will promise to keep on insuring you but you will go broke on the premiums charged many years before you die. Of course without proper health insurance you cannot stay in France (or Italy presumably).

For France, one must apply for a “long term visa” (outside of France) before one can apply for a “residency permit” of which there are several types. You must be a permanent resident of France for five full years before it is possible to apply for French citizenship which often takes another 2+ years.

To apply for a “long term visa” one MUST obtain adequate private health insurance to prove that you will not become a burden on the French Social Security system. The only problem is that after age 65 it is virtually impossible to obtain adequate health insurance coverage without a huge “co-pay” and after age 70 you might just as well forget about it unless money is no problem.

Once you have proof of adequate health insurance you can obtain a long term visa given that the other requirements are met (financial resources, criminal record etc.). With your long term visa you can apply for a resident visa when you arrive in France.

Micro Enterprise

Once you have your residency permit you can even apply to set up for example a “micro enterprise” (if qualified by 3 years of experience) that will allow you to make monthly payments to the social security system (about $300/month) giving you full access to the French health care system. This step would allow you to cancel your more expensive private health care insurance as it would be redundant.

This all sounds great, again in theory but there still remain some serious obstacles if you are on the road to French citizenship. One option is to operate your “micro-enterprise” until you die so that your health insurance is never an issue then a French passport is not important. If you don’t continue your micro enterprise you cannot pay into the social security system and you will not be legally able to stay in France unless you switch to a private health insurance which will not be available due to age restrictions.

Primary Income must be French Based

To obtain French citizenship, the way I understand it, is that you must live permanently in France for 5 years and that additionally YOUR PRIMARY SOURCE OF INCOME FOR THIS PERIOD OF TIME MUST BE BASED IN FRANCE!

A pension received from Canada or the USA is clearly NOT French based. This requirement would appear to mean that your “micro enterprise” must generate more after tax income for your five year period of residency than your pension plan. And/or you could make an additional investment in say French real estate that together with your income from your micro-enterprise would exceed your net revenues from your pension (and any other non-French based income) for the five year period.

At no time during the five year period of “residency” can you permit your health insurance coverage to fall below the norm established by the French social security system or you will be penalized for this lapse and that time will not count towards the 5 year residency. There are other considerations in terms of total days per year that you must reside in France not to mention that legally speaking you may be required to converse in French at a level equal to that of a 15 year old French teenager.

The path to long term residency in France compared to Panama is definitely not a “welcome mat”. It can be accomplished but the risks/costs are very high. Remember that the cost of living in France is about 65% more expensive than in Panama (see www.numbeo.com).

Comparison with Panama

Just for the record, if Lise and I were to apply for a similar status in Panama today (under the professional or business person law) with a five year wait for full Panamanian citizenship our cost in legal fees would be about $3000 and we would only have to maintain a local bank account balance of $5000 at all times. Our new business (or job) would have to be Panama based. The processing time would probably be 2-3 months. We could obtain relatively similar health insurance (as in France) at a cost of less than $2000 per year total with no age limits on signing up and no precondition exemptions after two years.

Your Asset Category and Offshore Retirement Options


Your Asset Category and Offshore Retirement Options

At the most simplistic level, there are three categories of people based primarily on assets. The focus is on baby boomers living in developed countries such as North America, Europe etc.

The division line between each category is not scientific or that precise but most people can quickly identify their category. Each category has its own unique issues/problems for retirement and living in general. The question this posting considers is “how, and to what extent is it possible to change your current asset category?”

Category “A”

Category “A” couples/people are considered to be in the top 5 percentile based on total assets and net worth. Such couples have an absolute minimum of $1,000,000 in highly “liquid assets” plus considerable additional equity and assets in their personal residence(s), businesses and other investments.

Such people, clearly, have few if any difficulties enjoying their desired lifestyle virtually anywhere in the world. What has been somewhat surprising to me is the very large number of such people who have chosen Panama at the end of their careers.

Wealthy people move offshore for a wide variety of reasons. They are always looking for “best value for dollar” wherever it might exist including asset protection. Major corporations have been doing the same thing for generations to enhance profits and pay lower taxes. It would appear that Panama offers many of these advantages for such people.

Category “B” People

Category “B” people are probably in the 60th to 94th percentile of net worth/assets. They are typically well educated and have generally spent their careers working in the public sector with a generous pension plan or for a large corporation with a “defined” pension plan. Such pension plans will provide them with a substantial extra income on retirement and are additional to the normal government social security and/or old age plans available to citizens of most developed countries.

Including home equity, the average Category “B” couple as of 2013 might have accumulated liquid assets, beyond home equity, in the $100,000 to $400,000 range. Since 2007, home equity for the average American and European has typically declined significantly and remains about 20-25% less as of today. Canadians were a bit more lucky in terms of housing values.

Such couples can expect to retire in reasonable comfort with relatively few long-term lifestyle concerns primarily because of their enhanced pension plans. However, for most, there will always remain a certain caution in terms of cash flow and a reluctance to splurge.

Of the approximate 100 million baby boomers and “post boomers” just in North America, probably 35% are Category “B” types. They tend to be well-traveled and well-informed. These individuals are prime candidates for the “offshore solution” because it potentially offers them an instant doubling or even trebling of their quality of lifestyle while stretching their relatively limited savings following the “Great Recession”.

Category “C” People

The Category “C” couple/person has the least interesting retirement options once the last paycheck is cashed which for the USA is about age 59. Category “C” people occupy the bottom 60th percentile based on net worth and liquid assets. With only a modest Social Security check on retirement and other minimal income supplements they understand that they could be looking at a steady decline in lifestyle and possibly even a “relapse” unless, of course, they keep on working which is what many have decided to do.

This category of person/couple typically pays higher than average medical costs because of long term minimal health maintenance, particularly in the USA where so many have been under-insured for so long. This person is probably aware that her retirement years may be subject to financial and health care risks beyond her control.

Most books on financial and retirement planning never even mention this category because Financial Planners cannot afford to spend time with anyone having liquid assets of less than say $250,000. Often $1,000,000 of liquid assets is the minimal trigger point for receiving serious consultation services from these professionals.

It seems like a bad dream, but there are always options ….

Why not just Change Your Category?

A well-planned move offshore for many people has the potential to instantly and permanently change their “category” …. for all intents and purposes. “C” category people can easily become “B” types. “B” types can easily convert to an “A” category. Even “A” types can double or triple their quality of life and still put money in the bank.  What a concept!

Your “category” was never set in concrete except if you decide it is so. A dramatic category “makeover” can be accomplished in as little as three months although one year or more is the typical planning/doing time .

I have personally witnessed many such changes for a number of North American couples since writing my eBook entitled “Panama Your Best Value for Offshore Living” Ebook1018 (click for a free copy).  This caterpillar to butterfly makeover was NEVER accomplished using tedious frugality or brilliant investment strategy … at least not of the normal sort.

Offshore Investment Paying 300% Annually


An Offshore Investment that pays 300% Annually

What if you were offered the opportunity to put your hard earned retirement nest egg into a tax free, mutual fund that paid you 300% per year every year guaranteed? Would you stop and consider such an offer? Can you imagine how such a deviously clever investment could change your life and probably make you insufferable around your old friends?

In reality the “offshore solution” such as moving to Panama does represent such an investment. Many millions of expats of all ages and ethnic backgrounds are currently enjoying these 300% returns compared to their cost of living back home while still maintaining a similar lifestyle. Continue reading

Frugal Living in the Coronado Area

Frugal Living in the Coronado Area

(This is an abridged version of my answer to a recent email question as to whether it would be possible to live in Panama on $600 per month including rent) Hi Kathy, good to hear from you and please say hello to our common friend. Your question about whether one could live/retire in Panama as a single person for $600 per month (or 25% of your North American budget) is intriguing so I have decided to check it out a bit more closely.

Things have changed dramatically in the Coronado area since publishing my original 2006 eBook “Panama Your Best Value for Offshore Living” although this book still serves as an interesting reference and comparative study as to why living in Panama makes a lot of sense. Incidentally, I now have an updated version published in 2007 which you can download here.Ebook1018

I would say that prices have moved up a bit Continue reading