Move to Puerto Rico?

I am 54. I am a gringo. I am single. I am retired by the USAF. I have a decent income for my age. I write books full time, no success with that - I am self published now, more books to come. I speak Spanish OK, I read it fluently. I was looking at Panama... but in Puerto Rico my healthcare will be covered 100% by the VA from what I have seen on here and elsewhere. I would rent. I do not drive a car, so city living is probably what I would need...

Welcome to the forum,
The issue of driving will give you some grief, but there are taxis, busses and now UBER in the metro area.
Spanish will come handy specially when looking for a rental.

Thanks, Rey. I figure I have to go to a big city. Like San Juan. I have the VA for healthcare. It is a headache getting around the town I'm in now in the USA without driving. My income is quite high for most retirees, and I'm only 54. I am not wealthy, but I'm doing OK. I was stationed in the Philippines, so I know living overseas is quite different, and Puerto Rico is part of the States.

Welcome! Have you been here before? You should come and check it out if not. We love it here.

I like both countries. Each has advantages and disadvantages and PR may be the overriding choice for you based on healthcare and ease of relocating.  These are advantages to PR for sure and might be the deciding factors to you. 

But, since you mention urban living, on that factor Panama City presents significant advantages over San Juan (IMO), namely, vast choice of housing (including many  modern high-rise apartment buildings) in many safe neighborhoods at rents far more affordable than San Juan and extensive mass transit including new and expanding subway system within the city.  Depending on your budget, I'd look at the following neighborhoods in Panama City (each offering many options):

- El Congrejo (urban neighborhood with tons of bars, restaurants and shops in walking distance)
- San Franciso (huge mix of housing from towers to smaller units, views of Panama bay (Pacific) but less walkability in my opinion)
- Balboa Avenue (fronts the ocean and near modern mall and restaurants and bars)
- Bella Vista/Obarrio (central city location, financial district, lots of housing options, very walkable, including to Hooter's and London Pub - my favorites)
- Clayton (more suburban and not walkable; home to U.S. embassy)
- Higher priced neighborhoods of the city include Punta Pacifica, Punta Paitilla and Balboa Avenue (all of which abut the Pacific)

Similarities (as I see them):

- U.S. Dollar-based economies (no currency risks - ask Canadians in Panama what that means when the CAD falls 25% to the USD and they're on a budget)
- Other than locally sourced food (and beer), food and household supplies are higher than the U.S.
- Both offer remote, off-the-grid type living if that is of interest.
- Both cultures will give you mind-numbing frustration trying to deal with government services.
- Locals do not wear shorts except in the most casual settings (e.g., the beach!!)
- Locals are not particulary impressed with mainlanders from the U.S.; they appreciate respect and usually treat you the way you treat them!
- Need to have a working knowledge of Spanish
- Both have areas that need a good scrubbing and better habits toward discarding trash (maybe Panama is worse here)

Differences (as I see them):

- Panama's economy has cooled but has grown at double-digit rates for a decade and there is full employment for Panamanians.  Laws largely prohibit U.S. residents from working, but then again the wages are quite low anyway (which is what makes the cost of living lower); meanwhile, although employment is possible in PR, there are few jobs available anyway and we all know how PR's economy has been declining for a decade or more and probably has not yet hit bottom.
- Panama (at least the city) probably has a better and more reliable utilities infrastructure, but not U.S. standards for sure.
- Quality and affordable healthcare is available in Panama City, but not "free."  Then again, what you pay for and receive in Panama City is probably better than the VA.  (Panama City has a Johns Hopkins affiliated hospital in the Punta Pacifica neighborhood, for example). 
- While both countries have beaches, there is no beach in Panama City, although nearby islands accessible by ferry or beach areas west of the city (e.g., Coronado) are about 45 minutes to an hour away.

Thanks for the information. I have heard San Juan is very expensive. My income is good for a retiree. I am leaning towards Puerto Rico now. The VA is OK, and free. I earn more than the maximum SS amount, as an example. While I am nowhere near wealthy, to 80 or 90% of retirees in the USA, my income is enviable at age 54 - and I am single. I may wish to 'work' too if the books I am writing and have written get a publishing deal.

glennrussellm :

I earn more than the maximum SS amount, as an example. While I am nowhere near wealthy, to 80 or 90% of retirees in the USA, my income is enviable at age 54 - and I am single.

We got that message loud and clear from the previous three times you told us!  :|

Panama City has some incredibly wealthy families controlling most of the real estate, banking and construction firms in the country and the businesses located in the Colon Free Trade Zone.

Thanks for understanding. I am not on a 1K a month budget.  It is possible to live in these countries with a 2K a month budget as I have been told by others. I knew some extremely wealthy people in my past... from living in California. I see how Panama might be a good bet, but Puerto Rico is part of the USA, so there are advantages for me there. People have told me those in Central America are a bit friendlier. Puedo hablar bastante espanol, yo veo el television en espanol - y que manera, yo puedo aprender mas del idioma. Yo puedo leer espanol mejor que yo hablo lo.

I have not been to Panama or Puerto Rico yet. I lived in the Philippines in the early 1980s when I was stationed at Clark Air Base. I would return there, but there is the danger of terrorism in the Philippines to worry about in the future, I think American expats there might be a target years from now, especially in the Philippines. I took Spanish in high school for four years and kept it up... I can converse OK.

If you can afford 900-1500 a month for a place, there are plenty of places in the metro area that you can live in. You can find lower but may be a not too great area.

You should look at old San Juan, look for a 1 bedroom, maybe a studio there. Lots of bars, restaurants, history, forts, plenty of both locals and tourists. A little noicy so writting may get affected, grab a pad of paper sit at a rock or under a palm tree and write. Beach 5 minutes away by taxi.

If you can afford 2k to 4k there are plenty of beach front condos in Condado which is about 7 minutes from old san juan by taxi.

I dont normaly recomend old san juan, but from what impresion I am getting, it sounds perfect for you. Get a flight, stay at an airbnb property in Old San Juan and get the feel of the place, you will probably love it.

My income is 4K a month retirement now. I can afford around 1K to $1200. Over that and then I start affecting spending I noticed. I own a condo in western Mass. now - so I may stay here some time, it costs only about $1300 a month average or so and it is brand new, the mortgage is 1K. And so moving to San Juan will not save me any money, but perhaps moving there might be an option down the road. My condo is a huge townhouse here. I would like to live in Hawaii, (I lived there 1980s) but the rents are easily 3K a month. I am in a good position, as literally everyone I know is stuck in their retirement where they are no matter what. Foreigners have the false notion all Americans are wealthy, when half the public has literally zero savings - and the majority no decent retirement. If my writing career takes off I can go - there is other money that may come my way years from now too - to just move to PR. First thing is a trip down there - perhaps in a year or two. I have three cats I inherited that will go with me. My dog is 16, and I don't think she will live past 18 years of age. She is healthy now, but I noticed her age is catching up with her. Thanks so much for the information. I'm watching CNN Espanol daily to become more fluent in Spanish. I am only 54, so I am in a good position. Noise doesn't affect me with writing, I write all the time with music on. Thanks again.  Glenn

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