Article Written By: Wendy Blanks, Chief Editor and Owner of TheSleuthJournal
Is the United States of America really still the best place to find “freedom and prosperity”? US Government control and corruption, intrusions on our civil rights and non-compliance with our constitutional rights, warrantless spying on Americans, the NDAA and the unemployment rate (etc. etc.), it doesn’t seem so.
The current United States is a country that is ruled by fear and war-mongers. It is a place where precious little happens that the government, in some shape or form, is not involved. The government is in our business, schools, churches and bedrooms.
If you receive too many packages in the mail – you go on a watch list. If you have a certain bumper sticker on your car, you are considered a terrorist. If you receive a wire transfers or pay for items with cash, you are on a watch list. Nearly everything you do has the potential to red flag you as a terrorist, of one sort or another. You have no privacy.
The first thing we noticed after 911 was the increased racial profiling. If you were of brown skin and looked “Arab” you could be singled out. People said “That’s ok. If it keeps us safe, then it is a sacrifice worth making.”
“If it keeps us safe” became the mantra of our country. People were willing to give up any and all rights if it “kept us safe”, and our government exploited it to its utmost. First the Patriot Act, then the Patriot Act II, then Bush’s Buddy list, now we have Obama’s best friend, the NDAA. None of the measures that are being taken are keeping us any safer than we were before. Not one bit. We simply allowed the fear-mongers to exploit us and ram these new laws down our throats in the name of propaganda. All an attempt to gain more power and control over American citizens.
The other major problem in the US is the sad treatment of our pensioners. These are people who worked hard all their lives, helped shape the country, bring it to prosperity, left it better than they found it, only to be left trying to figure out if they are going to get their medications or eat each month.
That is why so many seniors have moved to other countries. Their Social Security dollars go much further and they can live quite comfortably on it elsewhere. Others, leave to other countries because they feel so strongly about the political and government situation in the States.
Another thing to think about is the US taxing system. Between Federal, State and local taxes, people are lucky to receive about half of their earnings. The US tax dollars are being wasted in more ways than we can count. I won’t even get into the coming financial collapse and the degradation of the dollar. That’s a whole other story.
How do you escape it all?
Have you ever thought about becoming an expat or moving to another country when the SHTF? If so, it may be a little complicated to learn the best place to retreat, especially if you are not well-travelled. I’ve done some research on the best economies, climate, government stability, cost of living and other factors around the world and my opinion, South America is the place to go.
Of course, there are many places in South America that you do want to avoid! I will sum up the benefits of moving to a few of my favorite picks.
Chile (Santiago and Arica)
Chile is a great place to live, because it’s less expensive than the US and the government is less corrupt and intrusive. The Peso is thriving and the economy is doing very well. Rent is significantly cheaper in Chile than in most places in the U.S. If you live in Santiago, there’s no need for a car. You can literally get almost anywhere in the country by bus. Some things are more expensive or the same, but overall, much is cheaper in Santiago than the US.
If you’d like to live a slower-paced life, with long weekend lunches, lazy Sunday afternoons, and a looser concept of time, then Chile is great. If you’re open minded and willing to learn about a new culture, Chile will welcome you with open arms. It’s different from the U.S., but not so different that everything is 100% foreign. Parts of Santiago look so much like a US city that you could easily forget that you are in a foreign country.
Then again, there are many more parts that are 100% Chilean. Also, as a rule, Chileans have a good attitude towards people from North America and Europe. There’s little anti-U.S. sentiment that you’ll notice in other countries. (On the other side of the coin, Chileans can be very prejudiced against their South American neighbors, especially Bolivians and Peruvians, but that is for another article).
Are you are a small business owner or working person? Access to a large city would probably be essential for earning income that you may be used to, and Santiago is the largest, most populated city in Chile. The best way to describe Santiago is to compare it to San Francisco, the Silicon Valley and Austin.
Santiago is about as dense as San Francisco, so it’s easy to walk to grocery stores, restaurants, bakeries, and other amenities, and there are many examples of stunning architecture in both cities. Santiago underground transportation is efficient and safe and makes it easy to reach the important parts of the city in 20 minutes or less. There is no dense city in the Silicon Valley and the only dense area of Austin is downtown, so people rely on their cars for even the simplest tasks of everyday life and often waste time in traffic jams.
The climate of Santiago is warmer than San Francisco for 9 months of the year. So, if you love the warm climate – this is the place for you. Chile offers a combination of pleasant climate and fewer government burdens than many others. If you’re ready to shed the debt your government has imposed upon you, it is a good destination to consider.
Health care in Chile surpasses most countries because private industry plays a substantial role; there are no long waits in private hospitals and clinics, as in Canada and Britain, and unlike the USA, the government does not artificially reduce the supply of doctors and increase prices by limiting enrollment in medical schools and internships.
The Chilean government taxes private enterprise less than the USA and Europe. The government consumes 19% of the economy, compared to 45% in the US and 50% in Germany. The Chilean peso is a stronger currency than the Dollar and Euro. The national debt is 6% of GDP, compared to 59% in the USA, 76% in the UK, 63% in Spain, and 50% in Argentina (Source: CIA World Factbook). Santiago is growing while other countries stagnate. The IPSA index of Chilean stocks has quintupled in the last 10 years.
Chile ranks higher than any Latin American country in economic freedom (ranked 7th, ahead of the US-ranked 10th) and competitiveness (ranked 30th, ahead of Spain- ranked 36th), according to the Heritage Foundation and the United Nations Global Competitiveness Report.
If you would like to consider Arica, Chile, as far as climate is concerned-it’s quite different. Erica has year-round warmth with little variation in the temperature from season-to-season and little rain. The daytime temperatures, year-round, are mid 70’s to 80’s and night time, lows from mid-60’s to low 70’s. No heaters and no air conditioners required. Also, there has been no recorded rain in Arica. Ever. It is, after all, simply an oasis in the Atacama Desert.
Now, to the cost of living in Arica. The first thing you should know is that the bulk of your living expense will be housing. If you want to live in a home that resembles American standard, you can expect to pay between $100 to $700, depending on neighborhood and amenities. You can find a house with 4 bedrooms, 2 full baths, huge living and dining rooms, and a reasonably sized kitchen, front and rear patios, and within short walking distance (5 minute casual stroll) to the beach for about $200.00 per month.
If you want to live (rent) in a really snazzy neighborhood in Arica with ocean front housing, come in March or April, where the luxury homes are emptying out due to the end of tourist season. You can rent for about $200 per month as in a little neighborhood, but during the season, October to February, the prices will be about $1600.00 per month for the same places.
If you love fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood and chicken, then you will be in heaven here. As one person estimated her food bill to be about $1.50 per day – no, that was not a typo. Just one dollar and fifty cents each day, for very good meals. At this price her breakfast consists of coffee or tea, cheese- such as gouda, fontanel or gruyere, and fresh fruit. Lunch, her biggest meal of the day, is usually some sort of fish or seafood, large salad, rice or pasta dish, cooked vegetables and fruit. Then, there is onces (pronounced ownsays) which takes place around 6 or 7pm in the evening and consists of coffee or tea with small sandwiches or cake. Finally, there is her dinner, which is usually very light, such as soup, salad, sandwiches or bread and cheese. So, as you can see, you can have very nice meals for very little money in Arica.
You will never meet people who are more warm, friendly and genuinely caring than you will here in Chile, but Arica is not for everyone. It is the desert, after all.
If you prefer city life, then perhaps Santiago would be to your liking. Santiago, being a big city has more expensive pricing, but jobs are more abundant and easier to find. If you want four seasons, then try the central lakes region, which is absolutely breathtaking. The choices are as vast and varied as this country is so, make your lists of priorities and do some research.
Many people are dismayed with the decline of the United States and are seeking alternatives. Many consider the best country to move to is Chile, but Panama is a close contender. Both have strong economies, natural beauty and a large exciting city, but have different attractions and annoyances.
Panama City is interesting to walk around, dense with a spectacular skyline and rivaled only by Buenos Aires in Latin America.
Panama competes seriously in the banking industry, but is heavily influenced by the US, uses dollars and so may suffer high inflation in the coming years.
There are few or no bike lanes in Panama City as in Chile, so locals hop a bus 30 miles away to the Amador Causeway. You can see buses with 50 bikes strapped to the roof. Amador is a great recreational area with the Flamenco Island Marina, many restaurants, and views of the city skyline, boats staging for passage through the canal, and the Bridge of the Americas.
Panama’s reputation for quality health care, low costs and proximity to the states are attracting people from all over the world as a retirement haven. The country offers much more than the just vibrant Panama City. Panama is abundant with ocean properties on both coasts, mountainous area in glorious tropical forest and farms in the foothills. International Living magazine has consistently ranked Panama as one of the world’s best destinations for expatriates and second-home buyers.
Temperatures in Panama have little variation. Overnight lows are reliably in the 70’s and daytime highs reach into the upper 80’s, rarely peaking above 90 degrees. Most of Panama’s rain falls during the rainy season, which typically runs from April to December. While thunder and rain can be commonplace, Panama lies outside of the Caribbean’s hurricane belt, so violent storms are of no concern.
Panama’s people have an especially diverse heritage, due in part to its ongoing position in global commerce. Art forms place back to Spanish origins, but today it’s a fusion of US, European, African and other ethnic influences.
Schooling is compulsory in Panama for children up to 15 years old, but the education system has matured tremendously in recent decades. The literacy rate exceeds 90%. Higher learning is thriving in Panama. Nearly 90 colleges and universities are available to allow the people to pursue a globally-competitive education.
Panama has one of the strongest economies in Latin America and the Panama Canal is only one of the many factors leading to its success. Its position is anchored by a healthy services industry, including strong banking, insurance, healthcare, tourism and the second largest free-trade zone in the world. Panama’s recent significant economic boom and rapid annual growth rate has Panama Keeping pace with Brazil’s economy. The US dollar is an official form of currency, alongside the Panamanian Balboa.
Panama is a representative democracy and it continues to build on successful return to free and fair elections that took root in the 90’s. Recent Presidents have advanced efforts to grow the ecomony, expand the canal, reform healthcare and oppose corruption. You can be confident in a sense of safety and protection, without an overbearing government.
The secret to affordably living in Panama is to imitate the locals. Buy local foods, products and select fresh foods – you’ll find yourself living quite comfortably. You can patronize small cafes and indulge in local fare for just a few dollars per meal. Some of what you depend on would be comparable to what someone would pay in the US, maybe a little less.
Panama also has very low unemployment rates, such as the US.
Cuenca, Ecuador & Granada, Nicaragua
Since Cuenca, Ecuador and Granada, Nicaragua are so similar, I will sum them up together. When considering some of the world’s best options for where move if you may have a very limited budget, these two cities jump out immediately.
Both Cuenca and Granada are beautiful and authentic Spanish colonial cities, founded in the 1500s. In both cases the cost of living is about as low as you’ll find anywhere. You can get by frugally on much less than $1,200 per month. In fact, it’s possible to live in both of these interesting cities on a budget of as little as $800 or $900, per month. For a more comfortable lifestyle by North American standards, you should estimate around $1,500 a month or so.
Real estate in both cities is well under the magic $1,000 per square meter mark, putting both these cities in “bargain basement” territory if you’re interested in purchasing your own residence. Real estate transaction costs in both places are low, as well.
Both cities are in third world countries, meaning a lifestyle with all the attendant institutional inefficiencies, corruption, and less-than-perfect infrastructure. On the other hand, living in either Nicaragua or Ecuador, you’d also enjoy low levels of government intrusion, low taxes and few rules and regulations.
Both Cuenca and Granada are home to sizeable, thriving expat communities of North Americans. The expat-retiree community is bigger in Cuenca than in smaller Granada, but the ratio of expats to locals is about the same in both cities, while the residency is easy to establish in both countries, with low income and investment requirements.
Access to the U.S. is relatively easy from both places, and both cities offer good connections to U.S. hubs. Cuenca has an international airport conveniently located right in town, but virtually all flights to the U.S. connect through Quito or Guayaquil, making the total flight time to Miami about four hours. Granada is served by the Managua airport, about one hour away. Flight time from Managua to Miami is about two hours.
However, in some ways, these affordable retirement locales are also very different. Cuenca, a big city of more than 400,000 people, has more than four times the population of Granada. Cuenca has the edge for big city amenities including theater, nightlife and restaurants. It also has a new, upscale shopping mall and many options for modern health care facilities.
Granada, by comparison, is more of a small town. The community here, including the expat community, is close-knit. Everyone seems to know everyone.
Cuenca is located high in the Andes, at 8,200 feet above sea level (2,500 meters). Thanks to its elevation, it offers spring-like weather year-round, with highs rarely above the mid-70s and little seasonal variation. Granada, on the other hand, is at sea level, meaning it’s warm all the time, with highs in the 80s to low 90s year-round.
Granada is on the shores of one of the world’s largest lakes, with swimming and boating opportunities close at hand. It’s even possible to purchase your own private lake island. Nicaragua’s beautiful Pacific beaches are less than two hours away. In Cuenca, the nearest beaches are almost three hours away, in Machala, and the nearest nice beach is more than four hours away, in Playas or Salinas.
Shopping for real estate in both of these cities is a straightforward process and even a pleasure. There’s lots of interesting and appealing inventory available at reasonable prices. Granada, however, is the better choice if you’re interested in acquiring a traditional Spanish colonial-style home. A great number of these are available for low and negotiable prices in the wake of the downturn this country’s property market has experienced over the past few years. Granada’s Spanish colonial houses feature center courtyards that are typically open-air and often contain swimming pools. These houses also tend to be fairly small, making them ideal for a couple or a small family.
Cuenca has colonials, too, but they tend to be larger and expensive. Many are old homes built for large families, 700 square meters or larger and more than the typical retired couple needs or wants. On the other hand, Cuenca offers a much greater selection of new-construction properties. This city boasts a huge selection of modern condos at reasonable prices. Bugging-out here, you could enjoy the old world character of the historic center, but live in a modern house or condo in first world comfort as near as a few blocks away, without the intrusive government control, spying, corruption and outrageous spending of your taxes.
All-in-all, there are many beautiful, inexpensive places to live in South America. If you are seriously planning on getting out of the US, do research on some possible destinations. You will need to learn about the culture, climate, government, economy, healthcare system, schooling and other variables.
About the Author: Wendy Blanks is the Owner and Editor in Chief for TheSleuthJournal.com. She has done research in multiple fields and has a passion for spreading true news, whether it be health, government, technology, business or any other important topic that plagues our society. She is also Co-Founder & COO for Succor Consulting Group, Inc., a Health IT Firm. Prior to these endeavors, Wendy Blanks was the President & Chief Executive Officer of a National Durable Medical Equipment company & diabetic center.