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Panama is the No.1 retirement destination in 2022 by Internationalliving.com

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Panama takes the top spot in InternationalLiving.com’s 2022 Annual Global Retirement Index. It topped the Opportunity, Visa and Residency, and Benefits and Discounts categories while also scoring well in the Fitting In and Healthcare categories.

According to International Living’s just-released 31st Annual Global Retirement Index, Panama takes the top spot as the world’s #1 destination for 2022. The Index—created through a combination of statistic crunching and on-the-ground input from in-country correspondents—ranks and rates the world’s top 25 retirement locales across 10 categories, including cost of living, retiree benefits, climate, healthcare, and more.

Panama takes the top spot in InternationalLiving.com’s 2022 Annual Global Retirement Index. It topped the Opportunity, Visa and Residency, and Benefits and Discounts categories while also scoring well in the Fitting In and Healthcare categories.

For a small country, it packs a real punch— it’s the 11th time Panama takes pole position in IL’s Annual Global Retirement Index... and with good reason.

Today, Panama is one of the easiest retirement destinations you can travel to from the U.S. or Canada. Panama’s cosmopolitan capital, Panama City, is the only true First World city in Central America. There are direct flights to Panama from all over the U.S., as well as several cities in Canada and Europe. This modern, welcoming country is only three hours from Miami and five hours from New York. And it uses the US dollar as its currency.

As a single woman I feel safe and free to live my life here, whether I’m going out to dinner and Ubering home late at night or driving cross-country to visit friends,” says Jessica Ramesch, International Living Panama Editor. “Perhaps that’s because this is truly a land of opportunity, home to thousands of hard-working, upwardly mobile locals and immigrants.

My favorite spot right now is Coronado, a happening beach town just an hour’s drive from the capital. In fact, I like it so much I bought an apartment there, and am packing up to move. Coronado is home to one of Panama’s most active and welcoming expat communities. I’m not even there yet, and I’m already getting invites to potlucks and happy hours.”

No matter where expats live in Panama, Ramesch says, they’re likely to be no more than an hour away from excellent hospitals. In Coronado there’s access to the San Fernando facility. It’s a satellite of the San Fernando in Panama City—a JCI-accredited hospital affiliated with the Miami Children’s Hospital, Baptist Health International of Miami, and Tulane University Health Services Center and Hospital Clinic.

“Panamanian doctors make patients feel truly cared for,” says Ramesch. “They don’t rush through appointments, and they’ll often give you their cell phone number so you have direct access to them while you’re going through treatment or recovery.

In fact, I’d say Panamanians in general are the best part of living in Panama. I have made so many wonderful friends here. People who are welcoming and fun and have a wide range of interests, so the conversation is always engaging.”

But, according to International Living, what makes Panama really special from the expat retiree’s point of view is its Pensionado program.

The Pensionado program is, hands down, the best retirement visa program in the world,” says Ramesch. “It’s a big reason Panama has taken the number one spot on International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index so many times.”

In part that’s because of the discounts retirees with this visa can take advantage of. And, the program makes it so easy—and inexpensive—to become a permanent legal resident.

In fact, in Panama all legal residents are entitled to 20% off prescription medications if they’re of “pensioner” age. And the threshold is low—just 55 for women, 60 for men.

But the Pensionado benefits extend to discounts on more than just necessities like dental care and transportation. Things like entertainment and hotel stays are discounted as well.

An applicant with a pension of at least $1,000 a month can qualify for the Pensionado program, which makes the bar to entry relatively low.  And once you’re approved, you’ll get to enjoy all the discounts—no matter what your age.

If you’d like to apply with your spouse, you can qualify with less than $1,000 each. You can even include dependents if you need to,” says Ramesch. “You just need a pension of at least $1,000 plus $250 for each additional person on your application.

The $1,000 pension requirement reflects the low cost of living here in Panama. While it’s true that most of the North Americans who’ve chosen to retire here spend upwards of $2,000 a month, there are expats living here on far less."

In Panama today, there are still lovely towns where it’s possible to rent for $300 to $500 a month, which can leave retirees with money left over for outings and healthcare.

For potential expats not yet ready to retire, Panama has additional options that can allow for easy legal residency.

The country has just unveiled a new extended-stay visa for digital-nomad types: The Temporary Telework Visa,” Ramesch says. “It allows you to come down and stay here—not for three months or even six, but for nine months. And you can extend for an additional nine months. That’s a generous total of 18 months, and the main requirements are simple: you must have medical insurance and an external source of income (at least $3,000 a month).”

In addition, Panama’s “Foreign Professionals” Visa has been around for over eight years and allows foreign nationals to work in Panama. The main requirements are simple: applicants need a university education and to have arranged for a job in Panama.

While Panama wins the top spot in this year’s Annual Global Retirement Index, it’s just one of 25 countries examined in 10 categories, including: Housing, Benefits and Discounts, Visas and Residence, Cost of Living, Fitting In/Entertainment, Healthcare, Development, Climate, Opportunity, and Governance. 

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