In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age
of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this
financially independent lifestyle, they invite you
to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.
with Jackie Lange
From Panama Relocation
On our visit to Boquete,
Panama, we met up with Jackie Lange of
Panama Relocation Tours. Jackie was
generous with both her time and her knowledge of Panama and we knew instantly
that we wanted to do an interview with her to share her view of Panama with our
Readers. If you ever thought of moving to Panama, you will enjoy this
Jackie in the garden of her home outside
you tell us a little about yourself?
Prior to moving to
Panama, I was a successful real estate investor for 20 years. I also do online
training for real estate investors and Iíve written several books about real
estate investing. In Panama, quite by accident, I started a relocation tour
company. I live just outside of Boquete, Panama on a small organic coffee
farm. I like to stay busy (and diversified), so I dabble in a few other
When did you move
to Boquete, and why?
I moved to Boquete 5
years ago because I was fed up with the heat and cold in Texas -- and high
utility bills that go with Texas weather. I was looking for a place where I
would never need an air conditioner or heater again. The fresh air is amazing
in Boquete. And it is a breath of fresh air to get away from all the political
tension in the US. I moved to Panama with 2 suitcases and a cat.
Jackie's tour bus and a sample tour group
We understand that
you do Panama Relocation Tours, the name of your company. What do you focus on
with your clients? What makes your tours different than others?
After my first visit
to Panama, I knew this was where I wanted to move. I told my real estate
investor friends that I was moving to Panama, and within a few weeks I had 8 people
who said they wanted to come to Panama with me the next time I came so they
could check it out too. So, I arranged for a bus and a driver and planned a
7-day tour of Panama. A few weeks after that tour, I started getting calls or
emails from others who wanted to take my Panama tour. Little did I know that
that first tour with friends would turn in to
Panama Relocation Tours company
which does monthly tours for those who are considering retiring in Panama.
Tours focuses on educating people about how to make the transition to an expat
lifestyle with ease. During the tour, we travel to 10-12 towns where I discuss
the pros and cons of each area. We also meet with expats who live in each
location. We visit grocery stores, hospitals, pharmacies, check out furniture
stores, PriceSmart (like a Costco), and see rental properties. I educate
people about how to get a visa, driverís license, how to bring household goods and pets
in to the country, buy a car, find rentals, and much more. Panama is a
small country but it has a lot of diversity so it is important to see more than
just one area before picking a place to move.
Most tours of Panama
are focused on selling real estate. I do not do that. In fact, I encourage all
my tour clients to rent for at least a year before they even think about
buying. For most retirees, it makes no sense to buy anything. You have much
more flexibility to travel if you do not own a house. It can be very
liberating to downsize and not own a house.
Panoramic view of Boquete nestled in the
Why move to
Panama? Boquete? What benefits or options does Panama offer that one cannot get
in another foreign country?
I actually spent
almost two years researching and visiting other countries before I picked
Panama. Panama has a stable government and economy which was especially
appealing considering whatís going on in the United States. Panama has very
little debt and no military. Panama has many different income sources so they
do not tax residents on a lot of things. The Panamanian people are the nicest
I have met in any country.
Some other major
benefits to living in Panama are that it is close to the United States so my
friends and family can fly to Panama in about 3-4 hours.
Panama offers the
best retiree benefits of any country. Some examples are 25% off airfare, even
internationally. 20% off meals at a restaurant, 15% off meals at a fast food
restaurant, 50% off entertainment like movies, 10% off prescriptions, etc. There is even a special line at the bank for retirees.
Guide to Early Retirement, 3rd Edition
Even without the
retiree discounts, most things are much more affordable in Panama. My electric
bill is about $25 a month. My water bill is $60 a yearÖ yes year and
that includes trash collection! My house insurance is only $147 a year. Tuna
caught this morning is only $3.50 a pound. The list of savings goes on and on.
If you do buy a house
or condo, most come with 15-20 year property tax exemption. No taxes!
Panama has a 365 day
growing season so there are always fresh fruits and vegetables and fresh fish
from two Oceans. Panama is much more affordable than living in Texas.
Boquete is at 3500
feet where the weather is much cooler than the coast. Thousands of expats live
in the Boquete District. There are a many social activities including live
music 3-4 nights a week. Boquete is in a valley surrounded by mountains. The
scenery is just spectacular. Many people tell me Boquete reminds them of Aspen
without the snow.
Can one obtain a
Panama passport and still retain their U.S. Citizenship? And what are the
qualifications to apply?
Yes, you can obtain a
Panama passport and to qualify for a
Panama passport, you must have a Permanent Resident Visa for at least 5 years. This can be a Pensionado visa, Friendly Nations Visa or any of the other Visaís
offered by Panama. Once you meet the 5 year test, you fill out an application
to apply for citizenship and a passport. You will need to take a test about
I know many expats who have proudly obtained their Panama passport and
Panama does not
require that you give up other passports once you obtain a Panama passport.
What are the
benefits of having a second passport?
When you have a
second passport, you can use it to travel to other countries. You can also
renounce your US citizenship so you donít have to report your worldwide income
or report offshore bank accounts to the US government.
One of the many gardens at a restaurant in
What is the
medical care like in Boquete? In the rest of Panama?
In Boquete, we have
some excellent doctors who charge $10 for a routine doctor visit. There is also
a small hospital. You can walk in to any laboratory to order your own blood
tests without a doctorís prescription.
There are many
specialist and large hospitals in David which is about 30 minutes South of
Boquete. For major medical problems, most people go to Panama City where the
Johns Hopkins affiliate hospital Punta Pacifica is located. Iíve had two eye
surgeries in Panama and was very pleased with the quality of the hospital and
the doctor. Luckily, my international health insurance paid for the surgeries.
Dental care is also
excellent in Panama. The dentist does the cleaning, not an assistant. It is
$25 to $40 to get your teeth cleaned, and the work is very thorough. The
equipment is top of the line and their offices are spotless.
Panama doctors spend
time getting to know their patients. There is more of a personal touch.
Being a US
resident living out of the country, the Affordable Care Act creates some issues.
What do you do about health insurance?
There are many health
insurance options in Panama. Some insurance only covers you in Panama. You can
also get international health insurance which covers you at any hospital or
doctor in the world. I have international health insurance. I pay $2100 a year
and have a $1000 deductible for any services done outside of Panama. In Panama,
I have no deductible. My insurance is through United Healthcare. To qualify
for international health insurance, you must live outside of your home country
at least 6 months of the year.
Retired or disabled
Veterans from the US military get free medical care in Panama and free
We understand that
there is no door-to-door mail service in Panama. How does one receive their
mail? What about Amazon deliveries?
It is true that there
is no door-to-door mail delivery service in Panama, but there is a post office
in every town with post office boxes. You can have mail sent ďgeneral deliveryĒ
to any of the post offices. Or, you can use a mail forwarding company who will
give you a mailing address in Florida. All Amazon orders or other mail is
shipped to Florida then flown to Panama. When my mail arrives, I get an email
to pick up at the mail forwarder office. The great benefit of no door-to-door
mail delivery is no junk mail.
Adventurer's Guide to the Possible Dream
For in-country mail,
there are several private courier services. I can mail a letter to my attorney
in Panama City for 50 cents, and it will be there the next day. She has to go to
the courierís office to pick it up.
Can a person be
car-free in Boquete, or must one own a car to live there?
If you live close to
a city, you can easily be car free. A taxi or bus is readily available and
affordable. A bus from Boquete to David, about 30 minutes south, is only
$1.75. An 8 hour bus ride from far western Panama to Panama City is only $15. In Panama City, Uber.com is also available or you can take the subway.
If you live 5 miles
outside of town, like I do, then you really need a car. A used car will cost
about the same in Panama as the United States. Car insurance is very
affordable. I pay $245 a year for car insurance.
The Caldera River runs through Boquete
What would a comfortable, 1200 sq. ft.
house for two cost?
I highly recommend
that people rent for at least a year before they even consider buying
property. There are many different microclimates in Panama so you need to make
sure you like living in Panama and the weather in a particular location before making a purchase.
You may want to try one place in Panama for 3-6 months then try a different
location for a while. Renting will give you the flexibility to move.
I paid $127,000 for
my 1100sf house on about an acre just outside of Boquete. A friend recently
purchased a 1200sf house on a residential lot closer to Boquete for $65,000. In the Coronado or Panama City area, youíll pay two to three times that price.
In other areas, the prices would be much cheaper.
The prices vary
greatly depending on where you live in Panama.
Is Panama a stable
place to relocate? Is crime an issue?
It is impossible to
move somewhere that has no crime. There is crime in Panama but mostly in Panama
City, Colon or David, the 3 largest cities. Much of the crime that happens in
other areas would be considered petty crime or crime of opportunity. If you
leave your purse in the front seat of your car with the window rolled down, then
go in to a restaurant to pick up a to-go order, the chances are that your purse
will not be there when you return.
Occasionally a house is broken in to and valuables are stolen. This is usually
traced back to a new maid who saw pretty things while working in your house. You
need to put cameras, jewelry and other valuables away when a maid is in your
house. And always get a lot of recommendations for maids before hiring one.
Could someone live
in Panama on their Social Security payments of about $1200 per person?
Yes, many people live
in Panama on $1200 a month Social Security. The minimum requirement to get a Pensionado visa is $1000 a month for one person and $1250 for two people. A
lady from my January tour moved to Boquete in February. Her Social Security
check is only $1200 a month. She is renting a very nice 1 bedroom house in a
gated community for $425. She walks or takes a taxi instead of owning a car. She buys her produce at the farmerís market where she can get 2 large bags of
fresh vegetables for about $5. She even has money left over at the end of the
month. She lives a very good life in Panama on less than $1200 per month.
Do you have
connections with respectable lawyers and accountants in Boquete in case new
residents need them?
There are good
lawyers in Boquete but I really recommend working with an attorney in Panama
City because most everything has to go to a government office in Panama City
anyway. The Boquete attorney will charge extra for the trip to Panama City. There are excellent accountants in Boquete, David and Panama City. I have
reliable connections for lawyers and accountants.
What type of
person would you say is the best fit to relocate to Panama or Boquete?
If someone wants
Panama to be just like the United States, Canada or Europe, then they will be
sorely disappointed. The person who adjusts best to an expat lifestyle in
Panama is someone who is willing to accept Panama for what it is and who can
embrace change by experiencing a new culture and new environment. Be willing
to ask questions. Get involved in local activities and charities so you can
meet people and feel like part of the community. Be an adventurer. Explore.
The person who will
not make it in Panama is the person who stays home glued to TV with news from
back home. You need to be able to leave that all behind you. You canít do
anything about it anyway.
If someone wants
to contact you for a tour or to ask you questions, how would they get a hold of
you? Do you have a website or email address?
My tour company web
Panama Relocation Tours. You can email me directly at
Thanks for the
opportunity to do the interview. I really enjoyed meeting you while you were in Boquete.
at Retire Early Lifestyle would like to thank Jackie for taking her time to
share her expertise about Panama with our Readers. We encourage you to contact
Jackie if you have any questions about Panama or if you are interested in
relocating to this country for your retirement destination.
Thank you Jackie!
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About the Authors
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are
recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on
topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of
information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com,
they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since
1991. They wrote the popular books, The
Adventurerís Guide to Early Retirement and Your
Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website
Early Lifestyle appeals to a different
kind of person Ė the person who prizes their
independence, values their time, and who doesnít
want to mindlessly follow the crowd.