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Old 03-30-2010, 09:01 AM   #21
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Right. Not keeping all one's retirement eggs in one basket so to speak. Panama is unusually stable for a small country and has a sound financial system. It's location helps. Other central american countries suffer as the US deports criminals and gang-members.
though I agree that Panama appears to be the best of the bunch, from the stories and complaints I heard on the Americans in Panama forum, I would not consider Panama to be a "basket".

Enjoy the weather, the culture, the low cost of living...but keep your head down and don't get pulled into any dealings or business affairs of any kind.

In the event of encountering any crime or fraud in spite of best efforts, walk away.

They say there are two kinds of ex-pats in Panama...those that are on comfortable retirements with pensions or investments, and a second group who do not have external incomes who are trying to scroung rent and food money each month...the latter group needs to be kept at a distance

this reminds me of something someone once said on the forum regarding risk management...live in one country, have your citizenship in another, and your money in a third country.

following these rules would have saved a lot of family fortunes in times past.

of course, if the Canadian northwest passage opens up due to global warming, the canal will be toast and Panama will experience a crisis. One more reason for buying Canadian dollars.
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Old 03-30-2010, 10:48 AM   #22
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Right. Not keeping all one's retirement eggs in one basket so to speak. Panama is unusually stable for a small country and has a sound financial system. It's location helps. Other central american countries suffer as the US deports criminals and gang-members.
MichaelB: I am not challenging your statement that the US is deporting criminals and gang-members as it would not surprise me anything the government does, but are they deporting American criminals and gang-members or are they just sending same back to where they came from? I'm really curious as I have never heard of this happening before. You know so much does happen here that we never hear about. Let me rephrase that one: we will hear about what the government did years and years after they are thru doing it often.

Panama might be safe, but the Bank of Nova Scotia in Panama was where George Jung lost $100Million (per the story, "Blow," made into a movie). Gather it's more stable now?
You folks have an awful lot of good information to impart to those of us who are interested, so please expound all you want (in my opinion) on what it's like to live in any of the countries you know about. I'm listening and surely others are, also.
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Old 03-30-2010, 11:34 AM   #23
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MichaelB: I am not challenging your statement that the US is deporting criminals and gang-members as it would not surprise me anything the government does, but are they deporting American criminals and gang-members or are they just sending same back to where they came from? I'm really curious as I have never heard of this happening before. You know so much does happen here that we never hear about. Let me rephrase that one: we will hear about what the government did years and years after they are thru doing it often.
Sorry for the confusion. This is the return deportation of central american criminal gang members - legal and illegal immigrants but all non-citizens. I would expect this to not only continue but increase as states look for ways to lower prison populations. They are really nasty types and may have reached critical mass in places like San Salvador, challenging the local authorities.

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Panama might be safe, but the Bank of Nova Scotia in Panama was where George Jung lost $100Million (per the story, "Blow," made into a movie). Gather it's more stable now?
Safety, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. Safe for some may be unacceptable for others.

I think retiring abroad is a wonderful alternative for folks that want some adventure and like being off the beaten path. Those looking for a less expensive alternative might be better off in SW US.
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Old 03-30-2010, 12:35 PM   #24
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Cheaper than SW US are States like Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana and so forth. Those fly-over States are the best deals I've found myself.
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Old 04-03-2010, 06:31 PM   #25
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We used to live in the Southwest and are currently living full-time in the Lake Chapala area of Mexico. I've also spent a lot of time traveling in Central America.

This area of Mexico is thoroughly discovered and on par with similar areas in Costa Rica and Panama in expenses. The climate is better than either Costa Rica or Panama (unless you love heavy and incessant rain) and the food is incomparably superior to any in Central America (to many people's surprise, once you get south of Mexico chiles disappear and food in general is as bland as an Omaha diner's, tropical fruits excepted).

Compared to small-town southern Colorado or New Mexico I would say rental costs are as high or higher here than there, but there's fresh food all year round of vastly superior quality at less than 1/3rd the price, utilities are less than half as much, due largely to no heating or air conditioning and - the clincher - health insurance and health care costs are about 10% of what we were paying NOB, for better care.

I agree wholeheartedly with Michael B though: you've got to have a Plan B. In Mexico's case the economy is wedded to the U.S. Mexico is reeling from the effects of high unemployment and reduced consumer demand in the U.S. plus relentless U.S. demand for drugs and the tanking of oil prices. I would never own property here or anywhere else in Latin America and would always have a clear Plan B to return to the U.S. should crime and instability or government policy shifts make life down here untenable.

International Living magazine exists to sell real estate and is notoriously unreliable. In the expat community it's quite well-known that the opportunistic RE money moved from Mexico to Costa Rica long ago, "developed" Costa Rica into gridlock, moved on to Panama, then from there headed to the hot new locales of Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and, lately, Ecuador. No question you can live well in Ecuador for less than half of what we spend here (which in turn is at least 35% than the cheapest parts of the American Southwest), but you need fluent Spanish and willingness to do without familiar foods and products and be a long plane ride from home. Friends of ours here did an excellent blog about their trip to Ecuador (but, tellingly, decided to stay here at Lake Chapala despite Ecuador's many advantages):

KatieJack | Katie & Jack in Ecuador | Travel Blog
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Old 04-03-2010, 07:30 PM   #26
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Panama is the one place we’ve considered. The canal has created a hybrid small but urban and worldly quality we like, and the tax-free status means availability of most things found elsewhere.
I hear incredible things about the birding in Panama. I look forward to visiting one of these days, and if the birding is really that good (which it must be), I expect we'll visit often.

Crossed through the panama canal west to east twice as a pre-teen - but that's all I remember of Panama.

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Old 04-03-2010, 07:54 PM   #27
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Thanks, MichaelB and kevink. kevink, the KatieJack travel blog was very interesting as were your follow-up comments. I rather favour Chapala myself.
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Old 04-03-2010, 11:36 PM   #28
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We used to live in the Southwest and are currently living full-time in the Lake Chapala area of Mexico. I've also spent a lot of time traveling in Central America.
kevink, I always appreciate your first-hand reports. I hope to make it to the Chapala area one day. I hope to be passing along my impressions of Ecuador when I go later this month.
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Old 04-04-2010, 11:24 AM   #29
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kevink, I always appreciate your first-hand reports. I hope to make it to the Chapala area one day. I hope to be passing along my impressions of Ecuador when I go later this month.
Onward, we eagerly await your report.
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Old 04-04-2010, 11:38 AM   #30
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It's reports like these that keep me on this board...fantastic information! Keep it coming, please, for those of us that are interested.
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Old 04-04-2010, 12:40 PM   #31
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We used to live in the Southwest and are currently living full-time in the Lake Chapala area of Mexico.
KatieJack | Katie & Jack in Ecuador | Travel Blog
I would love to read your Travel Blog about your current location, Lake Chapala. Could you share that link?

Sam

BTW, I totally agree with your assessment on International Living Magazine. I subscribed to it a couple years ago for 12 months. What a waste of money.
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Old 04-04-2010, 11:17 PM   #32
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That's two complaints about International Living. I read the website and was thinking of subscribing. Maybe not....
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Old 04-05-2010, 07:33 AM   #33
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Onward, make that three. They are touts. I subscribed for a year, too. Sometimes there is interesting stuff, but it is basically escapist writing about foreign real estate. The last thing a serious expat should think about is buying real estate.
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Old 04-05-2010, 10:13 AM   #34
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Sometimes there is interesting stuff, but it is basically escapist writing about foreign real estate.
And not a good job at that either. Mostly anecdotal. There is no or very little research done to provide a balanced view. Most if not all articles qualify as blogs.
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Old 04-05-2010, 12:33 PM   #35
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Most of the writers in travel pieces are just travelers like us who choose to write about it.
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Old 04-05-2010, 12:38 PM   #36
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Here are a couple of forums for those interested in Mexico living:
chapala.com Web Board

The Puerto Vallarta Scene Forum • View new posts
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Old 04-05-2010, 12:59 PM   #37
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Compared to small-town southern Colorado or New Mexico I would say rental costs are as high or higher here than there, but there's fresh food all year round of vastly superior quality at less than 1/3rd the price, utilities are less than half as much, due largely to no heating or air conditioning and - the clincher - health insurance and health care costs are about 10% of what we were paying NOB, for better care.
What would you expect to pay for a mid-range 2 to 3 bedroom house, condo or apartment on a long term rental in Chapala? Just curious how expensive it is there.
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Old 04-05-2010, 01:16 PM   #38
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What would you expect to pay for a mid-range 2 to 3 bedroom house, condo or apartment on a long term rental in Chapala? Just curious how expensive it is there.
I photo or two would be most welcome also.
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Old 04-05-2010, 01:28 PM   #39
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What would you expect to pay for a mid-range 2 to 3 bedroom house, condo or apartment on a long term rental in Chapala? Just curious how expensive it is there.
Coldwell Banker Chapala Realty "Rentals"

gives you a pretty good idea of the rental rate for the area. It's definitely cheaper than the already low-cost Houston.
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Old 04-05-2010, 01:31 PM   #40
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Most of the writers in travel pieces are just travelers like us who choose to write about it.
But we (at least I) let others read it for free ;-)
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