Category Archives: Coronado Advantages

31 Reasons to check out Coronado Panama

31 Reasons to consider Coronado Panama

  1. In Coronado, you can increase your “standard of living” at about 40% of your present budget in North America or Europe. If your “quality of life” requires frequent visits to the ballet, opera and theater Coronado will not compete with New York City, Toronto, London or Paris.
  2. In Panama, you will forget about freezing cold winters common to much of North America and even Europe. You can live a “vacation lifestyle” all year long with little incentive to travel.
  3.  For example, the ocean temperature, across the street from our house, varies between about 79 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit all year. You can swim in your pool every day of the year in complete comfort.
  4. The so-called “rainy season” in Coronado starts in April lasts until November during which time there is an average of about one hour of heavy rain every three or four days after which the sun usually shines. Every several months you will also have to endure a full day of overcast skies with drizzle.
  5. Coronado has been described as a retiree, offshore tropical paradise for many years minus the hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and floods that plague some other “hot spots”.
  6. In 2013, Coronado Panama was picked as the “best retirement town in the world” by Kathleen Peddicord, who happens to be a well-known expert on this subject. For more than 10 years, International Living and other major international news organizations have rated Panama in the top two or three countries for retirement and living offshore.
  7. Permanent residency possibilities in Panama are many, varied, inexpensive and very easy to comply with. Some recent residency options can lead to full citizenship in 5 years. Panama is desperately short of professionals and the red carpet has been rolled out to citizens of about 50 “friendly” countries. All you need do is maintain a bank account of $5000 and own a business that requires your presence in Panama. The permanent “Pensionado Visa” for retirees only requires a pension income of $1000 per month.
  8. Panama City features one of the largest international banking centers in the world often compared to Switzerland and Singapore. Panama banks remained rock solid during the recent Great Recession in the USA and they still are today. Panama has been removed from the black/grey list as a banking haven by the OECD. Coronado has 8 branch banks.
  9. Panama has become the major hub for airline traffic in Central and South America. There are many direct flights from Canada, the USA and Europe taking 5-7 hours.
  10. In Coronado you can easily start a profitable business or a second career with very low risk (low rental and labor costs) and with excellent upside potential. I have been doing this for the past 8 years and I can see many expats, of all ages, running very successful businesses in a wide range of sectors.
  11. An International School with all classes in English was recently opened in Coronado providing welcome support to expat families with teenage kids.
  12. In Coronado you can significantly reduce your health insurance and medical costs by 60-75% while having easy access to internationally accredited five star hospitals with a full range of services, English speaking doctors and modern equipment. Coronado has a new first class medical clinic operated by San Fernando Hospital. This medical insurance is open to expats and Panamanians of all ages.
  13. My favorite doctor (about 6 miles from my house) charges me $7 for a 15-20 minute “consultation” which could include, if necessary, two or more medical issues. A visit to a specialist here in Coronado or in Panama City costs about $40 after your standard “Jubilado” discount. Try that in New Jersey. You can get an appointment in one or two days in contrast to Canada where you may have to wait up to 6 months.
  14. My wife and I have an excellent health insurance policy with a five star, internationally accredited hospital (San Fernando) for less than $2000 per annum total including a cancer rider but without preconditions after 2 years.. Although there is a 30% co-pay, the costs of a similar “medical procedure” in Panama is about one third or even much less of the cost up north. For example, a bypass operation in a first class Panama hospital might cost $15,000 to $17,000 rather than $150,000 in your average American hospital.
  15. In Canada the average wait time for a hip replacement is 18 months but it is “free”. In Panama, with our insurance package, the total cost would be in the $9-10,000 area and my co-pay would be about $3000 but it could happen inside one week.
  16. In Panama your cost of prescription drugs are about 65% of the cost up north. Coronado has 5 excellent drugstores one of which is open 24×7.
  17. In Coronado you could comfortably decide to hire a “private, live-in registered nurse” if or when you need “assisted living” services. The cost would be about $500 per month. Compare that to North America prices for assisted living at $3000-$4000 per month.
  18. There are four, excellent private dental clinics in Coronado where a cleaning costs about $30, a filling about $40, a crown about $350 and a root canal about $400. Go compare.
  19. In Coronado you will dramatically enhance your health with a regular diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, organic meats and fish. It is almost guaranteed that you will lose about 10% of your weight in three months without any special diets or workouts. Your overall level of health and immunity will improve dramatically (such as allergies)  as you spend more time outdoors and breath cleaner air.
  20. You can hire “domestic help” in Coronado for your cleaning chores and gardening for about $20 per day rather than for about $20 per hour up north.
  21. You could purchase a smaller new house or new condominium in Coronado and/or the surrounding area exempt from municipal taxes for 15 years. A larger and more expensive house will feature a five or a ten year exemption.
  22. You can enhance your personal safety and exposure to crime by living in a gated community. Homicide rates are higher in Panama than in North America or Europe however, “crimes against the person” are much lower per 100,000 people. Most homicides occur in “red zones” at night with males aged between 16 and 28 conducting some sort of illegal activity. Large amounts of drugs are moved through Panama (by land and water) from Columbia, Peru and Bolivia to North America.
  23. In Coronado and the immediate area, you can select from more than 40 restaurants and eat out in style several times a week without blowing your budget. Some of these restaurants are very high end.
  24. Your children will probably thank you profusely for finally taking full financial control of your life while protecting and enhancing their inheritance prospects. You can send them a return airfare ticket for vacations with you with your savings.
  25. In one hour from Coronado (50 miles on a 4/6 lane highway) you can be shopping in the Albrook Shopping Mall with about 600 modern air conditioned stores including restaurants and specialized kiosks. It will take you two days just to visit briefly all the stores.
  26. In the alternative, you could shop at the MultiPlaza in Panama City with its 250 extremely high end “Gucci-style” exclusive shops and probably another 50 wonderful chic restaurants. Bring your no-limit credit card.
  27. You can easily acquire a very large network of expat friends by attending the frequent and varied expat gatherings and “happy hours”. When we first arrived (2006), my wife and I participated in about 20-25 such “events” (lunches, parties, dinners etc etc) every month during high season until it literally wore us out. But we still enjoy our outings.
  28. Your stress level will diminish dramatically as you quickly realize that your passive income will probably last even if you live to 100.
  29. You might be blown away by the range and quantity of luxury cars and SUVs whizzing along the highways. Automobile selection and prices are often better here than in North America. Gas prices are just slightly higher than American prices but much lower than those in Canada or Europe. The hourly charge in a good garage to fix your car is about $20 rather than about $90 up north. I recently changed my timing belt on my older Nissan Pathfinder for $110 including the price of all required parts. The same job in California for the same car was $700 about 4 years earlier.
  30. Coronado now features four major shopping centers where you can purchase virtually anything you need. One high end grocery store with an excellent pharmacy is open 24x7x365. In addition there are approximately 200+ smaller businesses that offer virtually every imaginable service or product. New businesses are popping up weekly.
  31. On the housing front, there are probably 1000 new residences under construction at various stages within 5 miles of Coronado although the higher end expensive market remains a bit soft.

 

Uruguay as a Retirement Destination

The Future of Uruguay as a Retirement Destination

The ink had barely dried on one of my recent postings comparing Coronado Panama rather favorably to Atlantida Uruguay when suddenly everything changed. A reassessment was called for.

Argentina happens to be Uruguay’s most important neighbor in terms of trade and tourism. However, Argentina has once again managed to totally screw up its economy manifested by a major devaluation of its currency. The short to medium term prospects do not look good and this development will create a significant drag on Uruguay as it did at the turn of the century.

Exactly why this has happened in Argentina is another story for another day. Based on recent experience, Argentina will probably take a decade to resolve its problems. Remember that Argentina was once among the ten richest countries in the world.

What happens in Argentina does not stay in Argentina. It would not be very difficult to predict that the recent very robust growth in Uruguay will come to a screeching stop. I would expect that many economic indicators in Uruguay will reverse dramatically over the next several years with an impact of quality of life.

There are also serious economic slowdowns brewing in Brazil and in Chile; Uruguay’s other most important trading neighbors.

The bright side to all of these impacts for a North American “retiree” in Uruguay is that your American (or Canadian) dollar will go a lot further. The price of houses in Uruguay should also decline significantly after a rather rapid run-up since 2011. On the negative side, general unemployment will rise, tourism will decline and inflation may well become an important political issue.

Coronado by comparison

In comparison, Panama and Coronado continue to chug along at mind boggling economic rate (higher than China) with major new residential and commercial projects, starting up every week or so. I am still not sure where all the customers are coming from.

The new Rio Hato airport (20 minutes from Coronado) is finally up and running with several flights having actually arrived. Rio Hato will become a much busier airport by the end of 2014 as most charter flights are being moved out of the main Tocumen Airport in Panama City to allow room for expansion. In anticipation of these charter flights direct to the Pacific Coast, large numbers of resort hotels are breaking ground in the greater Coronado area.

Although Uruguay still has many pluses, some clouds are gathering that are beyond its control. Uruguay unfortunately does not live in an economic vacuum. The lesson learned is that change can happen very quickly and rather unpredictably.

The Expanded Multiplaza in Panama City … Just Incredible!

The Expanded Multiplaza in Panama City … Just Incredible!

Yesterday was my first opportunity to visit the new and vastly expanded Multi Plaza in Punta Pacifico near the Trump Towers in downtown Panama City.

To be honest, I was overwhelmed. The extent of the expansion and renovations was mind boggling. It felt like I was strolling along some of the ritzy side streets in Rome near the “Spanish Steps”.

No End to Exclusive Shops

Just for starters, you can “shop ‘til you drop” at more than 280 high-end, exclusive shops including Chanel, Cartier, Lacoste, Louis Vuitton, Emporio Armani, Faconnable, Hermes, Tiffany, Fendi, Dolce and Gabbana, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bellagio, Mont Blanc, Valentino, Rolex, Versace, the Gap, Forever 21, and the Banana Republic. It would not be remotely possible to check out even half of these shops in a single day. Then there is the integrated cinema complex with about 10 theaters showing the latest of Hollywood usually in English with sub-titles.

By all means bring your Platinum Card. The displays of finery in every “shop” are to die for yet so laid back and enticing.

The Architecture

The architecture is also marvelous with a kind of “see-through” theme for this three story emporium of pleasure. Everything is so light and airy; so polished and slick. The structure itself must exceed one million square feet.

When we lived in Central New Jersey, my wife and I used to visit occasionally the “Far Hills” Shopping Mall near Summit which is billed as a shopping mall for millionaires. In my opinion, the Far Hills would be like comparing a nice Lexus to a flashy Lamborghini with the Multiplaza being the latter.

Integrated High End Dining

But the most significant and exciting change was the extremely clever integration of shopping and dining and not just any dining.

Before the recent expansion, the Multiplaza featured a large “standard food court” which was extremely normal and boring. Today, however, well known, private brand restaurants, exclusive “coffee shoppes” and gelarti ice cream parlors are sprinkled everywhere throughout the complex again much like in Rome around the Spanish Steps.

Each dining facility has its own space, its own menu, its own environment, and its own waiters. This is not a “food court” strategy. Today there are many private restaurants (perhaps 40-50) and many people now visit just for the food experience plus of course some window shopping. For a Sunday mid-afternoon, there were lineups everywhere for the specialty restaurants. I had an excellent meal at “Wingz”. There was an impressively huge “Ruby Tuesday’s” about to open. There were specialty bagel shops, sushi eateries, soft pretzel outlets, Mexican fare … you name it!

And for the kids (which were swarming around in large numbers many on roller shoes) there is even a huge Chuck E Cheeze’s packed to the rafters with the latest video games and whatever other “toys & games” kids like today.

It was fun. I am not a great shopper but I love to watch other people shopping or doing whatever. This is now the place to do it. A village within a city. The only danger being all the wonderful merchandise being offered for sale. I might just break down and actually buy something one of these days.

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.

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.

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

Coronado Supermarkets


Coronado Supermarkets

Coronado now has 4 large supermarkets offering a full line of food products with the largest one offering electronics, clothing, furniture, major appliances and sports equipment among other things.

Machetazo

Machetazo is currently my favorite super market. You can find everything there at a good price with a reasonable selection of all food types, meats, fish & seafood, wines, cheeses, freshly baked  breads,  cereals, spaghetti sauces etc.

It is open from 8:00 AM until 8:00 PM during the week and until 9:30 or 10:00 on the weekend. This is very large store with three levels each level approaching one acre in size. Continue reading

A Car Problem in Coronado


Car Problem in Coronado

Today was a bad car day!
At 8 AM, I started my Nissan X-trail, drove about 25 feet to the front gate when a distinct odor of gasoline was apparent inside the car. When I exited the car, I could see gasoline spurting from somewhere in the motor area much like a severed artery on your favorite CSI TV show. Not wishing to incinerate myself in a massive explosion I immediately turned off the motor and started to weigh my limited options. Although I suspected a broken gas line, it was not certain that this was the precise problem … and I am NOT a mechanic.

I was incredibly lucky that the gas leak did not occur when the engine was hot and I was driving merrily along the main highway.

Clearly, I could not drive my car to a local garage. I also knew that my favorite mechanic Julio (one mile from Coronado) was extremely busy with other clients; I had just spoken with him concerning a strange motor noise several days earlier. But Julio happens to have several hydraulic lifts, a diagnostic computer and an excellent knowledge of automobiles which is what I needed. In spite of his backup with other clients, I decided to visit Julio in person at his garage. In Panama, a face to face discussion is always much better than a telephone call.

I caught a bus at the front gate of our house to the Inter Americano Highway and caught another one to Julio’s garage (65 cents and 20 minutes). Julio kindly agreed to check out my car and repair it ASAP given that the required parts were available. He said he would probably need to use the hoist so the car had to be towed to his garage. Two buses, 20 minutes and 65 cents later I was back at my house where my car was waiting for attention.

I called my insurance broker and he passed me to an English speaking agent to ensure minimal difficulties. I am sure that I could have explained everything in Spanish. They took all the information and made the arrangements. With a standard car policy in Panama, incidentally, you get three, free tow truck events per year.

By 9:30 AM the tow truck was at my door. By 10:00 A.M. the car was at the garage although Julio was still busy with other clients. In very short order, Julio and his mechanic assistant check out the problem and discovered immediately a faulty gasoline hose connection. If a new part would have been needed I would have had to visit the Nissan dealership in Chorrera by bus (45 minutes) and bring it back for installation.

A Ridiculous Price

The total charge for mechanic services rendered was exactly “zero”. This being a totally ridiculous price, I purchased several very large bottles of soda for their drinking pleasure as a thank you.

As I have mentioned in earlier posts and comments, a surprisingly large number of problems are resolved more quickly and considerably less expensively here in Panama than in North America. I would be shocked if my local mechanic in New Jersey would have accepted several liters of soda for his work or that the total turnaround time would have been 3 hours including a tow truck.

Contact Info for Julio

Incidentally, I owe Julio a plug so here is his contact information. Julio Bethancourt (6596-5129) or 6548-0846). His Garage is called J&M. It is located on the left side of the Inter Americano highway about one mile from the McDonald’s in Coronado as you travel towards Bejuco which means you have to go past it (about another mile) and take the first exit or “retourno” at the entrance of Cabuya and then head on back.