DEAR MR. MYERS: My wife and I are about to retire from our jobs. We were thinking about using the profits from the sale of our house to move to Mexico because it's cheaper to live down there, but now we hear that Panama is an even better place for retirees. What makes that nation so attractive? Also, how is the medical care there?ANSWER: Panama is attracting a growing number of retirees, thanks largely to its relatively low home prices, close proximity to the United States, a good health system -- and lots of tax breaks.
The nation of 3.4 million people is less than a three-hour plane ride from Miami, which makes it easy for most ex-pats to visit relatives here in the states, and vice versa. Its medical system is also considered top-notch (in part because many of its doctors were trained at American universities), and prices for everything from pharmaceuticals to surgery are generally much lower than they are in the U.S.
Equally important, "Panama offers what is probably the best package of financial benefits for seniors on the planet," according to a recent report by Smart Money Magazine, which is published by The Wall Street Journal. Among the perks: no property taxes on real estate purchases for up to 15 years, no duty taxes on imported cars or on household goods, and no income taxes on foreign-generated income.
Seniors also get 50 percent off on virtually all entertainment, as well as a 30 percent discount to use public transportation and 25 percent off restaurant and utility bills.
Several Internet sites can give you more information about living abroad, whether you're thinking of moving to Panama or somewhere else. The best sites include EscapeArtist.com and InternationalLiving.com, both of which provide details about home prices in other nations as well as the benefits and drawbacks of moving to each country that interests you.