February 3, 2022
Written By: Andrew Hallam
Each morning before sunrise, I ride my bike along an oceanfront path. I pass runners, walkers, and people rollerblading. Cross-legged meditators face the rising sun while sitting on the raised, concrete sea wall.
Panama City: Photo taken by Andrew Hallam
Near the end of this path, I pass a fresh fish market before cycling onto a flat, two-mile-long bridge. Every morning, the city closes two of these wide lanes (one in each direction) to vehicle traffic. Only cyclists are allowed. After crossing the bridge, I hit a narrow stretch known as the Amador. On one side, it parallels the entrance to the 50-mile-long Panama Canal. On the other side, there’s a bay with a view of the glistening modern city.
International Living rates Panama the best place to retire in 2022. They assessed that based on ten criteria: housing, retiree benefits, ease of residency application, entertainment, development, climate, healthcare, governance, opportunity, and the cost of living.
Plenty of expats retire to the Panamanian mountain town of Boquete. Like Mexico’s Lake Chapala, Boquete is filled with American retirees. It’s the sort of place you could live without learning a lick of Spanish.
While that’s a perk for many, learning a new language has its benefits. Doing so could help you make local friends, boost your longevity and help extend your perception of time. If that’s something you’re interested in, and you like city living, Panama City might be worth checking out.
It isn’t easy to find American retirees here unless you join the American Society of Panama. The general absence of Anglophones on Panama’s streets is one reason why the local shopkeepers, taxi drivers, police officers, and (in many cases) servers in restaurants don’t speak English outside tourist zones.
While it’s obvious that learning a new language–or at least some of a new language–would help a retiree meet more people, you might wonder about my claim that it could boost your longevity and your perception of time.
In many ways, the brain is like a muscle. We either use it or we lose it. That’s one theory why those who retire early don’t often live as long as people who work until traditional retirement age. That doesn’t mean you can’t retire at forty or fifty and live until you’re a hundred. But working engages our mind. It gives us a sense of purpose and it often forces us to keep learning.
You don’t, however, need a job to keep your brain active. Learning a new language could have the same effect. While younger minds pick up languages more easily, research suggests one of the reasons older people don’t learn as well has to do with their reluctance. That’s according to Dr. Dayna R. Touron, an associate professor of psychology at UNC Greensboro College of Arts and Sciences.
And because we measure time by alternative experiences, learning a new language can extend our perception of time.
In other words, we might not be able to control how long we live, chronologically, but by continuing to learn, we can expand our perceived length of each day.
So if you have a sense of adventure, and you would like to retire in the safest large city in Central America, you might like Panama City. You can safely drink water from the taps. It’s easy to gain a residency permit.
The city closes roads for people who want to ride their bikes, and the city offers free yoga and other exercise classes every Sunday morning beside the ocean-side path that I cycle each day.
Panama City closes half of Avenue Balboa to traffic every Sunday: Photo taken by Andrew Hallam
In conjunction with a government-sponsored plan, a local bicycle shop loans bicycles to people every Sunday so they can cycle along the road they close to traffic.
Free bicycle loans every Sunday: Photo taken by Andrew Hallam
It costs more to live in Panama than it does to live in other low-cost retirement countries, such as Mexico and Ecuador. But Panama City is one of the few places in the world where real estate and monthly rents are lower today than they were five years ago. For example, you can rent a modern condominium with a spectacular ocean view, including a gym and a rooftop swimming pool for about $1000 a month. I took the photo below from the living room of the condo we’re currently renting.
Ocean and city view from a condo that rents for $1000 a month: Photo taken by Andrew Hallam
The country also offers deep discounts for resident retirees:
50 percent off movies, theaters, concerts and sporting events
50 percent off the closing costs when purchasing a home
50 percent off hotel stays from Monday through Thursday
30 percent off hotel stays from Friday through Sunday
25 percent off airline tickets originating in Panama
25 percent off restaurant meals
15 percent off dental and eye exams
15 percent off hospital bills (if the patient is uninsured)
10 percent off prescriptive medications
Perhaps best of all, for your longevity and your mind, you won’t find English spoken on every street. Panama City won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But the longer I’m here, the more benefits I see.
Andrew Hallam is a Digital Nomad. He’s the author of the bestseller Millionaire Teacher and Millionaire Expat: How To Build Wealth Living Overseas
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