Too Good To Be True

I can’t tell you how many emails I have received, over the lifetime of Chiriqui Chatter, from victims of investment and development schemes. Many have been from people that came to Panama and chose to live in some new development and made large down payments only to have the developer go bankrupt or leave the country with many people’s money.

Many have told me that they purchased land and when they were getting ready to build found out that the title was not good or that the land was titled to multiple people.

For some reason, the majority of the emails I have received were related to development or investments that were under the development of foreigners, i.e not Panamanians. I am not saying that all Panamanians are good and foreigners are bad. I am only saying that there are a lot of carpetbaggers that come from outside Panama to take advantage of people trying to escape from the North.

There is currently a thread running on Boquete Ning and that has been written up on Boquete Guide that have many people worried. I have received a few emails as to what I know.

I know nothing about the credit union in question. At one time I had money in Panama in Banistmo and even received my social security check here. When Banistmo was bought by HSBC, I moved my social security deposit back to the U.S. I now have no holdings in Panama. I worry less that way.

I have met several so called investment experts here, that are peddling “good investments”. The ones I have met are from the U.S or Canada. To this point, I have not met a single one that I would give a dime. If they were really such hot shot investment brokers, why have they chosen to live in Panama. My opinion is that they ran out of gullible clients in the U.S. or Canada. If you are considering one of these investments, do Internet searches on the principals involved as well as the ones brokering the deals. If there are too many red flags, that should tell you something.

I will tell you that if you are planing on making any real investment in Panama that you need to consider it carefully. If it seems too good to be true, it most likely is. Panama has many flaws that will not be seen on a two week visit.

You would not buy a pair of shoes without trying them on. The same should be true when considering moving to Panama. See for your self if Panama is right for you. Live here for six months before you put money down on anything. Talk to everyone you can that has made the investment decision you are considering.

If you think it is stressful in the U.S., just come down here and lose your life savings and see what real stress is. There are many good things about Panama, but for many Panama will turn into a living hell.

I love it here. I can’t think think of living any other place. However, that wasn’t the case when I moved here. I have learned to live with less and feel like I have more. I can more easily detect true friends and those that are only interested in money.

Due diligence is required for Panama to be right for you. Some come and stay and some say, “What was I thinking”.

If you come and try it out and like it and decide to buy, then you are going to need a good lawyer. That is sometimes easier said than done. I have used several and have only one that I trust.

17 thoughts on “Too Good To Be True

  1. We moved to Panama and have been duped by an Attorney and 2 accountants. We are not “rich gringos” and they put a dent in our $$ as we are just trying to live on Soc. Sec. and small retirement.

  2. I’ve been coming to Panama for 8 years and living here for full-time for 3 years. There are dozens of people here that I have grown to trust, mostly Panameños. Like the author, I love it here and can’t imagine living anywhere else. But there is no shortage of good people in this world; Panama is full of them!

  3. Don, everything you posted is true.

    We’ve lived here since 2005 and like most, we could write a book! My husband and I are very happy here and we cannot imagine ourselves anywhere else!

    We can offer some advice but it sounds much like what you see in Dons post. Such as, before you spend one dime, you must do your homework and be patient! I repeat, be patient!

    If you are “faint of heart”, you’d better stay right where you are. If however, you like adventure, a daily challenge (one sort or another), if you like nature, beauty, and the idea of getting to know a new COUNTRY appeals to you, then come try it out.

    Rent! Do not buy a thing till you have lived here at least six months! You will be happy you paid attention to that one piece of advice. Trust us, many of us paid to learn that lesson, one way or another. Word of mouth (from more than just one person), is your best resource. Trust your instincts! All that glitters is NOT gold!

    Thanks again Don, this was an excellent and much needed post!

  4. The Panama Checklist

    If you are thinking of moving to Panama or just arrived here is the Panama 101 Survival Check List brought to you by the general consensus of those who have come before you, long before you.

    – Learn as much Spanish as possible.
    – Understand the Immigration Laws.
    – Dress appropriately (with Health and safety in mind).
    – Wash your hands often and then some.
    – Avoid establishment where locals consume alcohol.
    – Do Not emulate the Local Drivers.
    – Do not expect to take the cheap it will cost you more in the end.
    – Do be polite at every opportunity (conduct should resemble Ambassadors of Good Will)
    – Avoid buying into the Tourist Magazine hype wait to get here before you formulate an opinion about retiring here.
    – Listen to the experience of those who understand Panama rather that those who want you to believe they understand.
    – Conduct exhaustive research on Residence Visa requirements including 2-way communications with the Panamanian Consulate.
    – Establish a network of reliable individuals who can help answer your questions.
    – Consult the US State Departments Overseas Travel Advisory Web Page.
    – Call your credit card companies and advise them of your travel plans.
    – Set spending limits on all of your plastic cards in case you lose them to thieves.
    – Place a copy of your Passport in each piece of checked bag.
    – Register with the US Embassy if you plan on a prolonged stay in Panama.
    – Understand the rapidly changing climates in Panama, rain, heat, cool moist air.
    – Never leave anything of value in a hotel room in Latin America, use the safety deposit boxes available to guests of most reputable hotels.
    – Safeguard your American Passport, American Passports are highly sought after by thieves.
    – Prepare to be disappointed with every day norms you may be accustom to, Panama operates on a different set of norms.
    – Relax, slow down take in the essence of this enchanting land.
    – Prepare to discover a whole new way of living in a Latin American Country that many describe as living back in the 1950’s.
    – Avoid large tips at public eateries, Panama is not New York City. Tips should be proportional to the relatively low costs of dining.
    – Do Not travel at night on Panamas roads excluding the local townships were you stay, Panama roads are poorly maintained and often not eliminated among the many hazards.
    – Do not expect Panama to evolve to suet your needs or desires, you will have to adapt to the unique contours that make up the Panamanian culture.
    – Build in an abundance of flexibility into your plans, you will need it.
    – Never forget you are a guest in a foreign country, your conduct affects every one even after you are long gone.
    – Read the instructional pages in your Passport, they will keep you out of trouble.
    – Provide family back home a detailed description of your travel plans in case you vanish.
    – Make arrangements back home for twice the amount of time you plan on being gone just in case of delays.
    – Familiarize yourself with local customs and courtesies before you arrive.
    – Call upon the experiences of those who have come before you, they know how to negotiate all the obstacles.
    – Leave Panama better than you found it.
    – Don’t come here looking for resolutions to your problems Panama will create new ones for you.
    – Plan to contribute to your newly adopted community and a departure from a self serving life style, overseas living is a different concept requiring communal collaboration.
    – Plan on—-
    – Adopting a simplistic life style void many modern conveniences.
    – Being taken advantage of without knowing it.
    – Being perceived as a lucrative target for robbery.
    – Losing a lot of time dealing with every day issues that will challenge your inner strength and patience.
    – Spending way more money that you hoped to.
    – Overwhelming joy and amazement with the high quality of life available in Panama (with meticulous planning and precise execution).
    – A noticeable improvement in your overall health with the real possibility of a reduction in every day normal health deterioration associated with natural ageing, in short virtually reversing the aging process.
    – Be ready to—
    – Deal with unexpected situations.
    – Be treated like royalty from the local Inhabitants.
    – Indulge in the tradition of Panamanian diets.

  5. Very well written and very sound advise. Why is it Panama seems like a magnet for carpetbaggers and shysters? I ran into the Grandaddy of all shysters, he was trying to sell $10,000.00 “chances” to buy a lot. If you were the winner in his drawing you got 1st opportunity to purchase a lot. I come from a very cynical occupation, that has helped beyond all expectations. Sorry, the cup is half empty and if you are not careful the cup will be completely empty !!!!

  6. My dad used to say, “if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then don’t let anyone try to convince you it is a puppy”.

  7. Morning, all very true. I would trust a Panamanian before any “mochila” (backpack) as they are called by the locals. We looked at several properties the last couple of days, all from mostly poor locals who are hoping to sell land they don´t farm or graze to have some income. Many of them have almost nothing but everyone offered us a drink or snack.
    Anyone who saw the Florida land boom in the 50´s has seen this all before.
    jim and nena

  8. We are planning to visit Panama for a few weeks this summer. We thank all of you for the great advice based on your experiences and observations. I printed out Greg’s Panama Checklist and hope to follow the advice provided. I will start by reading the instructional pages in our passports, which I wasn’t even aware existed in the passports!

  9. having read many self help web sites while traveling too and from Panama, this site appears to be the best out there, no axe to grind, no insults to throw at anyone, just an honest to good web site made up of helpful caring people, i congratulate you on a job well done,’wish i’d found it sooner, rather than now’.lol

  10. I’ve lived on 4 continents and I grew up in NY NY…. Nuff said !

    If you just use common sense your way ahead of anything that breaths air in Latin America ! More people get ripped off in the US or have the identity stolen by a very big long shot !

    If I need to read an live off a list like that it’s cheper to poing and pull the trigger !

    Panama has really only one claim to fame.It’s banking system and with Colombia and Venezuela as neighbors they’ve learned alot….. US banks fail every day and if you have big money you get coupons ! If it’s too good to be true !? dahhhhhh

    But, In Panama an 8% yield and a 5% interest on the balance in the account at a local credit union is readily available at Coacess. If you think that is not enough your a piggy ! And, they will credit the interest into most all local banks for ease of use.

    If you think the US is better,than,I know a Govenor who has a bridge to somwhere for you ! Crime is my only issue as a non Panamanian and I can tell you that my Tica wife feels it’s better here then Costa Rica..I do know crime is worldwide,so, I deal with it !

    Pura vida, Sampson

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