Panama: Itís not just for retirees anymore

Coley Hudgins & Trey Morrison September 21, 2012

Everyone knows that there is one group taking advantage of Panama’s remarkable opportunities more than anyone else… Retirees.

Baby boomers are retiring to Panama in droves, and they are doing it because like many retirees, they have fewer options at home, and are intrigued by the thought of living affordably in a tropical paradise.

The demographics of baby boomers tell the story: For the next 18 years over 10,000 baby-boomers in the U.S. alone will turn 65 every single day! And because of the devastation to retirees pensions and portfolios caused by the global financial crisis, many retirees will have only three choices: Keep working, retire with a far lower standard of living, or move to a country where retirees can still live large, at a fraction of the cost of living back home and where a $2000 a month retirement income will allow them to live a great life, with great health care, great beaches and mountains, and an ideal climate.

The New York Times reported on this very trend recently, writing that with Panama’s “low housing and living costs, a stable political environment, relatively safe streets and that tropical climate, people in their 50′s and early 60′s are flocking to the Central American nation, rather than working for a few more years to scrape together enough money for a condo on the Florida coast.”

While it’s obvious why so many retirees are choosing to leave, here’s a big secret that very few know:

Panama is no longer just for retirees.

In fact, more and more young people – many with families – are following the lead of baby boomers and immigrating to Panama’s shores as well.

While the reasons vary, the one common denominator seems to be that the instincts of younger people and younger families have convinced them that the best financial, entrepreneurial and life opportunities in the world right now aren’t necessarily in their birth countries, but in emerging economies where opportunities still abound.

Every day we run into more and more young people and families who have moved to Panama looking for a healthier, more enjoyable, and richly rewarding life for themselves and their families.

What they see in Panama is the same thing that has made the country so attractive to retirees… four simple words: “Low cost, high opportunity.”

Compared to many “first world” countries, Panama is still a very low cost, high opportunity country.
  • It welcomes foreigners who are willing to work hard and create their own opportunities.
  • It’s a young country demographically, with a median age of 26.
  • It’s a small country with only 3.5 million people
  • Its GDP grew at a smoking 10.6% clip last year while the U.S. GDP struggled to top 1.5%.
  • It doesn’t have the U.S. baby boomers’ $55 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities and has far less national debt.
  • Its unemployment rate is 4.5%.
  • And its skilled labor force is ranked 127th in the world.  Meaning there is a huge shortage of talented labor.
In fact, skilled labor is in such demand that Panama just changed its residency laws in May of 2012 to make it easier for talented foreigners to move to the country and get a job or start their own business.

And increasingly, it’s ambitious, young expat entrepreneurs who are taking advantage of these opportunities. Every day we meet young expats who are creating wildly successful businesses that cater to Panama’s rapidly developing economy. People like:

  • Owen and his wife from Virginia Beach, VA who opened one of the most successful Mexican restaurants in the country.
  • Joel from Seattle who bought, remodeled and sold several apartment buildings in Panama’s historic Casco Viejo district.
  • Corrin from Canada who operates a hugely successful property management business catering to Panamanian weekenders and foreign vacationers looking for beach home rentals.
  • Flor from Argentina who runs one of most popular surf schools and adventure tourism businesses in Panama from her home.
  • Allison from St. Louis who started her own international private school and already has 40 full time students from countries all over the globe…In her very first year of business.

In short, Panama is a new land of opportunity, not just for retirees, but for younger expats as well.