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Friday, August 22 2014 @ 11:42 AM EDT

Panama Cost of Living Series - Fourth Report Based on Reader Input

Money MattersBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Here's the fourth installment on my series of reports on the "real" cost of living in the Republic of Panama. All of these reports are based on actual input from Panama-Guide.com readers. The goal of these reports is to provide readers to real, no kidding numbers and data - reports of actual living expenses provided by a wide range of people, who live in different parts of the country under varying circumstances. This information should be very valuable to anyone who is thinking about moving to Panama to live here, either full or part time. It should give you an idea of the variables - and if you read enough of this stuff you can sort of "pick and choose" from a menu of options and determine what's best for you.

Fourth Report: This is the fifth article overall of the series, and the fourth report based on reader inputs. Here are links to the earlier articles:

Reinforcing Earlier Conclusions: This report covers six families and a total of eleven people. For this group, the average cost of living worked out to $1,215 per person, per month. This set of data reinforces the lessons learned in the earlier reports, such as; 1. Those who make larger investments up front in cash to buy homes and cars tend to have lower monthly living expenses; and 2. There are big (huge) differences in the way people decide to live their lives - and these seemingly subtle differences and decisions can double or even triple the monthly cost of living, per person. Please continue to provide those inputs, if you have not done so already. I will put out a new article every time I get about six or seven reports from readers. Keep it up guys, this is great stuff... (more)

Here's The Fourth Set of Data And Reports:

  • A Retired Couple on Social Security in Volcan: A retired couple ages 70 and 68 both receive Social Security checks, for a total of $2,394 every month between the two of them. They live near Volcan in Chiriqui, full time in Panama, and have been here for about seven years. They spent $110,000 to buy 1.5 hectares of land in 2006 and to build their own home, so they don't have a mortgage. They own two vehicles, bought and paid for, so no car payment. Insurance on the vehicles is $350 per year (or $29 per month). They budget $50 per month for vehicle maintenance, and spend about $120 per month on fuel. They average about $50 per month to maintain the house. Food and groceries is $400 per month. They seldom eat out at restaurants, spending only about $75 per month there. For utilities, $90 for electricity, $6 for water, $25 for two cell phones, $25 for gas (cooking and heating water), $85 for Internet, $85 for DirecTV. They rarely go to the United States, so they only budget about $600 per year (or $50 per month) for international travel. Health insurance is $140.00 per month. They budget $50 per month for "miscellaneous fees" for things like renewing a driver's licence, getting tags on the car, stuff like that. Their total monthly expenses are $1,280 and they invested $110,000 up front to build their home. So, the bottom line is - A retired couple live on Social Security in Volcan for $640 per person, per month.

  • SS + IRA in PC: A 62 year old man and his 59 year old wife are retired and have been living in Panama City full time for about three years. They have income from Social Security and an IRA. They purchased a new home for $236K by putting down 25% ($59,000) and financed the balance. They have a monthly mortgage payment of $1,084 for the house, plus $277 per month for life insurance, required for the loan. There is also a $100 per month HOA fee, plus $92 per month for maintenance on the house. They have a health insurance policy with a $5,000 deductible that costs them $4,988 per year, or $415 per month. Car insurance cost is $633 per year or $52 per month. They also have a fire insurance policy for $279 per year or $23 per month, and another policy to insure the contents of their home for $748 per year or $62 per month. They report spending $954 per month on groceries which "includes booze" and they entertain at home. They spend $317 per month dining out at restaurants. For utilities, $142 on electricity, $19 for water, $76 for gas to cook and heat water, $44 for cable television, $5 per month on cell phones, $66 for Internet and home phone, $8 for NetFlix, $14 for ClearVPN. Transportation - they paid $15,500 to buy a used vehicle, no car payments. They spent $157 per month on fuel, $67 on the Southern Corridor, and budget $40 per month for vehicle repairs and maintenance. They budget $300 per month for international travel. Mail forwarding is $71 per month. So, according to this report their total monthly expenses are $4,385 for the couple. However this individual accounted for all of their total spending during 2011 - and reported a total of more than $89,800 spent. However this level of spending apparently includes other discretionary items as well, beyond the essentials reported in the list above. They invested a total of $74,500 for the house and car up-front. So, the bottom line is - A retired couple lives in a new house in Panama City for $2,192 per person, per month.

  • A Retired Couple in Chiriqui: A retired couple, both 65, have been living in Chiriqui since 2008. Their total income is about $2,800 per month. They paid $148,000 for a house on an acre lot, spent another $30,000 to fix up the house and another $20,000 to build a workshop behind the main house. The house and property is in a Foundation which costs them $450 yer year or $37 per month. Property taxes are $160 per month. Utilities are $40 for electricity, $4 for water, $3 for garbage pickup, Cable and Internet $20. They spend $600 for food and groceries, plus they have eight dogs, and they make the food for the dogs which is included in this cost. They rarely eat out. Transportation - They bought a car for $10,000 new cash upon arrival, so no car payments. They spent $60 per month on gas, $25 per month on insurance, $5 per month for tags and registration. They budget about $100 per month on international travel. Up front cash investment was $208,000 for the house, upgrades, and the car. Their total monthly living expenses are $1,054. So, the bottom line is - A retired couple lives in a house in Chiriqui for $527 per person, per month.

  • Built A Home in Altos del Maria: Barry & Janice are 64 and 67 years old. They built their own house in Altos del Maria and have been living here full time for two years. They spent a total of $320,000 up front to buy the land and to have their house built, so no monthly mortgage payment. There is a $125 per month common area maintenance fee and they budget $170 per month for home maintenance. They spend $800 per month on food and groceries ("includes booze"), and they spend $150 per month on restaurants and dining out. Utilities are $120 for electricity, $10 for water, $55 for cable television, $55 for Internet, $10 for cell phone, $40 gas for cooking and heating water. Transportation - They bought a car in cash for $15,000. They spend $240 per month on gas, $55 per month on insurance, and they budget $100 per month for maintenance and repairs. They "travel a lot" and budget $1,000 per month for international travel, about half of which is airfare. Other expenses - $250 per month on golf, and they report spending a total of $630 per month for maids, gardeners, and maintenance personnel. They also budget $250 per month for medical expenses. Their total up-front cash investment was $335,000 for the house and car. Their total monthly reported cost of living expense was $4,060 - about half of which goes to pay for golf, a lot for travel, and domestic employees. So, the bottom line is - A retired couple lives in a house in Altos del Maria for $2,030 per person, per month.

  • A New Condo in Downtown Panama City: A 51 year old man and his 48 year old wife are retired and they live in downtown Panama City. They bought a new condo for $170,000 cash. Monthly maintenance fees are $175. Utilities are $150 for electricity, $30 for insurance, $100 for cable TV (water and gas is included with the condo fee), and $60 for cell phone. Transportation - They bought a car for $12,000 cash. They spend $60 a month for gas, $15 per month on insurance (liability only). They spend $250 per month for health insurance, $88 per month on maid service, and $530 per month on food and groceries. They also report $500 per month for "miscellaneous expenses" which they reported as "everything else" such as "cleaning supplies, medicines, buying some clothes or shoes, personal care items, taxi or bus, something for the house, etc." So, I'm going to add it in. Total up-front cash investment was $182,000 for the apartment and the car. Their total reported monthly living expenses are $1,958. So, the bottom line is - A retired couple lives in an apartment in downtown Panama City for $979 per person, per month.

  • A Part Timer in Cerro Azul: A 46 year old single guy lives in Los Altos de Cerro Azul about four months out of the year. He spent $160,000 cash to buy the house. There's a $35 per month HOA fee. He spent $5,000 to buy a car. Insurance for the car is $17 per month, fuel is $150 per month. Utilities are $45 for electricity, $12 for water, $28 for Internet and telephone line, $20 for cell phone. He reports $400 per month for "food and drink" which is apparently a combination of groceries and dining out. He also reports $20 per month for "lawn car" and another $200 per month for "various, household items, car parts, etc." His up-front cash investment was $165,000 for the house and car. This total reported monthly expenses are $927. So, the bottom line is - A single man lives part of the year in a house in Cerro Azul for $927 per person, per month.

Edging Back Up A Little: Sooner or later I'm going to have to do a sort of wrap-up or overall summary. The bottom line on this report was an average of $1,215 per person, per month. Interestingly, that's about twice what the last report showed, and it's closer to the $1.025 or so number of the second report. Hey, that's what averages are for, and by now it's clear live style choices and decisions can really have a dramatic impact on the bottom line. Once again, keep those reports coming.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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