If you’re a regular follower of my blog, you know we’re moving to Panama in 2020 – Boquete, Panama to be specific.
I’ll be quitting my job at the end of 2019 and then getting everything prepared and ready to go while my daughter finishes her fourth-grade year of school.
To say we’re excited would be an understatement. In the blink of an eye, everything’s changing. We’ll have vast new territory to explore and no 9-5 jobs getting in the way of making it happen.
I have that perfect vision in my head about us all having breakfast together in the morning before my daughter heads off to school. Then my wife and I spend some time taking a nice walk around town.
We go back to the house and work in the garden for a little bit. Then I spend a few hours working on my blog or other projects I want to do.
That means that after school, I can be there 100% for my daughter for as much as she wants.
With no formal job during the daytime, I can get all the rest of the less important stuff out of the way during that time (paying bills, side hustles, hobbies, etc.). The stress of trying to balance those tasks with family time during the evenings and weekends will now be gone.
When she’s not in school, we’ll be able to go to the beach, do some nature hikes, explore the country, and go on a cruise or two a year.
I’m also looking forward to trying a lot of the Panamanian restaurants there. All the places we tried when we were there were fantastic and at a fraction of the cost that you’d find here.
Sounds great, right?
Nevertheless, that’s all a fantasy. I do think we’ll be able to make a good portion of my dreams a reality. Like I said, though, this is a lot of change happening to us at the same time.
Think about that.
Suddenly, I’ll be quitting a job that I’ll have worked at for 20 years. Then shortly thereafter, we’ll be uprooting and moving to a country we’ve only spent a short amount of time visiting.
Our daughter will be starting at a school not just in a new city, but a completely different country – at an age where change can be hard for a kid.
Small changes at one time can make it easier to predict an outcome, but it’s a little more difficult when everything’s changing.
So what if our new life turns out not to be everything we expected? What if ends badly?
What if moving to Panama just plain sucks?
Maybe the problems are big such as just missing our family and friends much more than we expect. Or perhaps we simply hate the slow-moving pace of Panama too much. Or the schools aren’t good for our daughter for whatever reason.
It’s also possible that there’s just a bunch of small problems that drive us nuts. Maybe the water pressure sucks there and makes every shower horrible. Or dealing with mold in the house becomes a nightmare due to the high humidity that Panama presents.
We’ll never know until we’re actually living there. So what can we do to prepare for this possibility?
The fallback plan
Obviously, there’ll be a number of things in Panama that are going to be different from our expectations. However, if it just turns out not to be a good fit for us, we want to be prepared to move.
Although we’re expecting the cost to be almost half of what it is here in Ohio (which already boggles my mind!), we’re not going to use that as our cost basis.
First off, we don’t know the area 100%, which also means I don’t know exactly what expenses will be for our personal cost of living.
Yes, we read a lot and see what the numbers should be like. I broke down some of these numbers in my “The Cost of Living in Panama… Geoarbitrage at Work!” post. We also know that if we live like an American while there it’s going to cost us a lot more than if we live like locals.
But in all actuality, we’ll never really know how much it’s going to cost us until we make moving to Panama a reality.
And second, what if we decide not to stay for whatever reason that might be? If we’ve only planned on having extremely low expenses, we might be fine while living in Panama. However, we’ll have trapped ourselves with needing to get jobs if we come back due to the higher cost of living.
The solution’s actually simple…
We’re padding what we think our expenses will be. In fact, we’re planning on our numbers being very similar to what they would be if we retired here.
Therefore, if our costs are higher than expected, we’ll have some breathing room. And if not, boy, this will be a nice bonus and give us a little more breathing room for some fun!
And, of course, if we decide to move back, we’ll be more prepared.
The good news is that this isn’t really costing us more time for saving up than it would have otherwise. One of the screw-ups I made in my past few years of saving was pouring everything we had into our pre-tax accounts. The crazy match I get from my 401(k) makes pushing to the federal max a no-brainer and the same goes for our HSA.
Unfortunately, that meant that I haven’t built up our taxable dollars to where they need to be yet. So that’s been our focus and will continue to be until I quit my job at the end of 2019 and it would have been regardless of if we stay or go.
So what if moving to Panama ends badly?
If moving to Panama doesn’t go the way we expect it to, so be it. We’re planning on living there forever – or least a really long time – but you just don’t know.
There’s no way to foresee every detail on what to expect before we get there. Some things are going to go the way we want and some things won’t.
All we can do is prepare for the possibility that we might need to move back if it ever comes to down to that. Then, if needed, we won’t be stuck in a bad position on trying to figure out what to do.
I don’t think moving to Panama will end with us coming back, but better safe than sorry!
What do you think – does that makes sense?
Thanks for reading!!