A Tale of Two Famous City Regions

What a Stupid Comparison!

How and why would anyone ever try to compare Ottawa, the capital of Canada, with perhaps 1.5 million residents living within a circle of say 60 miles with Coronado with an approximately equal population living within a similar 60 mile diameter (including metropolitan Panama City)?
To be totally fair, living in Coronado about a one hour drive to Panama City should be compared to living in some of the peripheral towns such as Kanata or Orleans in the Ottawa Region from which it is frequently a one hour drive to the downtown area.

Some will quickly conclude that this has to be the classic “apples and oranges” comparison that we all learned so well in kindergarten is impossible to make. But bear with me and keep an open mind.

The Rationale for this Comparison

The basis for this comparison is as follows:

  • Coronado Panama has been selected by many “offshore experts” and internationally acclaimed publications as one of the best places in the world to live and retire for “expats”.
  • Ottawa is typically selected by many important international organizations as having the highest “quality of life” for any city in the world (although Vancouver is often rated equal or higher).
  • The majority of expats moving/visiting Coronado just happens to be Canadian although Canada has only one tenth the population of either the USA or Europe. These “Canadian expats” could have more easily selected Ottawa as their best place to live/retire rather than Coronado.
  • My wife and I have been living permanently in Coronado since 2005 and could be considered reasonable experts in understanding this area.
  • My wife and I have also lived/worked on a permanent basis in the Greater Ottawa Region for about 20 years and could also claim a certain expertise concerning the “quality of life” in Canada’s capital.

This will be my first planned “serial posting” which will become a “free eBook” for members and later a full book for sale on Amazon. I have selected approximately 50 points of comparison (and/or difference) between these two “regions” and each serial posting will review a number of comparison points.

The Major Consideration

This first posting will review the major consideration for moving from the Ottawa Region with the undisputed highest “quality of life” to Coronado

  • The cost of living

Cost of Living

The cost of living for a similar lifestyle in Coronado has remained at approximately 40% of our budget in the Ottawa Region for at least the last 8 years. In fact, when living at the 40% level, I would have to say that our “quality of life” in Coronado is substantially better than in Ottawa.

We live directly across the street from a beautiful Pacific beach (Playa Serena) where both toddlers and surfers enjoy the 80 degree water and waves all year. Our private swimming pool (which cost $5000 in 2006 to construct under my supervision) is equally available day and night for 365 days a year.

In the Ottawa Region we lived on beautiful Lake MacGregor with perhaps 75 days for swimming if you were very determined and could endure the black flies and mosquitoes. In Coronado, I get a mosquito bite perhaps once every 6 months although we occasionally spray our property.

Domestic Help

In Coronado, we can easily afford a maid and gardener whenever we wish at about $20-$25 per day (not per hour). A plumber or electrician might cost $40 to $50 for a full day of work rather than $60 to $75 per hour. In Ottawa, I do not recall that we every hired a maid or a gardener. I understand that in Ottawa a maid will charge about $20 per hour.

Municipal Taxes

Municipal taxes in Coronado are very low. Less expensive new houses or condos in Coronado are fully exempt from taxes for up to 15 years. I remember that 20 years ago the taxes on our modest Britannia three bedroom house in Ottawa were higher than our current taxes in Coronado and I would guess that we have at least five times the property here in Coronado.

Dining Out

A good lunch or dinner for two in Ottawa can easily run $75 to $100 area whereas last night we went to one of our favorite restaurants in Coronado (El Chef Rincon) and paid about $20 total for a delicious salmon steak and a wonderful filet of chicken breast with full vegetables and two beers. The tip was extra at 10% and I have to confess that we received a 15% discount because of “pensioner” status in Panama.

Earlier this week I was invited to lunch by some good friends from Calgary. We went to Leonardo’s Steak House (about 2 miles from our house) and ordered two steak dinners with all the trimmings plus a full sea bass (about 14”) again with all the trimmings and three sodas (we were both driving). The total cost was $25. Try that in Ottawa. This was a clean, well-appointed new restaurant with air con although we had to fetch our dinners at the counter which was not a great inconvenience.

The Cost of Booze

Some Canadian friends quickly comment that the price of all alcoholic beverages in Coronado are a mere fraction of what one would pay in Ottawa. And just to make it very easy, Coronado has a 24×7 first class grocery store that sells everything from Grey Goose vodka to the best imported wines at any time the spirit moves you (so to speak).

A good Chilean wine sells in the $6 to $8 range. A liter (not a quart) of almost any alcohol sells for about $10 to $12. A case of 24 Balboa beers (very similar to many of the better Canadian beers) sells for about $12 net after you return the bottles.
In a local Panamanian bar expect to pay 75 cents for a 12 ounce Balboa beer (although the music volume can be a bit overwhelming at times) in contrast to your average about $7 beer in a similar Ottawa “establishment”. This of course would right next to the place where I can get my SUV car washed inside and out by hand for $5.

There is even a very inexpensive but acceptable Chilean, dry table wine that sells for $3.15 per liter (“Clos”). It is surprisingly good and attracts a rather unusually large Canadian following after the usual eyebrow raising.

Health Care and Medical Attention

It is rather difficult to compare health costs since in Canada virtually everything is included in your annual tax bill.

Here in Coronado my wife and I pay less than $2000 per year for very good health care insurance at a five star internationally accredited hospital (San Fernando Clinic and Hospital) located less than 2 miles from our house. If I were to require a hip or knee replacement it would probably be scheduled within a week rather than in 18 months as is often (but not always) the case in Canada and my cost, out of pocket, would be about $3000. The same time period would typically be required to schedule a heart bypass and my out of pocket cost would be about $5000.

I recall that my mother in Canada usually had to wait 6 months for an appointment with her various medical specialists whereas in Panama my “wait time” for a specialist is typically less than one week and often only 2 or 3 days. Your out of pocket cost to see such a specialist would be about $12 with insurance or about $40 to $50 if you choose to “self-insure” yourself. The specialist is English speaking, typically trained in the USA or Europe, and examines you in clean, modern facilities. Sometimes, but not always, these specialists are available in Coronado.

Prescription drugs in Panama are about 30% less expensive than in Canada and we have a pharmacy open 24×7 within 2 miles of our house. I even get a discount on vitamins. This last week I had a rather standard blood test which verified about 20 key indicators. My cost (after a 20% discount) was $6.80 and it took exactly one hour to get the results. This was a full cost cash payment without any assistance from my insurance plan otherwise my cost would have been about $2.00.

There are three high quality, modern Dental Clinics in Coronado. A crown or root canal will cost about $350 to $400. A filling about $40. A cleaning about $30.

There is much more … but you get the idea.

One thought on “A Tale of Two Famous City Regions

  1. Paul Lambert

    Hi Richard and Lise
    I just finished reading your first book. I am not an economist, but the numbers made sense to me!
    I hear that you and Andre are building deck chairs, please post a picture.
    We came back to the cold and snow, but things are warming up, today was 0 deg cel……
    Looking forward to reading more.
    PS: I am telling everyone I know to check our your website.
    Take care.
    Paul and Wanda

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