Social Security Refugees…



I read in a post by a fellow blogger that Panamanians refer to the not-so-well-off American retirees that move to Panama as “Social Security Refugees.”

Thats’s sad and funny at the same time.


More food for thought:image

8 thoughts on “Social Security Refugees…

  1. Hola Wendy,
    I LOVE blog posts that cause me to think and drive me to research. There is a website for baby boomer women!

    For the record, I have NEVER heard a Panamanian use the term social security refugee. Doesn’t sound like anything a Panamanian would say.

    The 30% of women 65+ on only SS does not surprise me; that generation was probably the last one to have stay-at-home moms as a majority of families. The next generation was both parents as wage earners and the kiddos in daycare. Today there seems to be a rise in home schooling and working from home with the connectivity provided by the web. I run a group that helps with embroidery machine repairs, and lots of the members are selling on ebay or running their own websites while raising/schooling the kids at home. It seems one can live anywhere provided web access is good enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hola Jim,
      Thank you! (I’ll look I to that website in a bit).
      Well, someone who had retired in Panama has encountered the term Social Security refugees – and I’m not sure it was meant in a derogatory sense – to the contrary it’s possibly tongue in cheek comedy.

      And the same blogger writes about her experiences of being constantly charged for goods and services at the “gringo rate” regardless of her (and her husband) being seriously financially challenged. They are somewhat past the baby boomer age. A recent post described their rather horrific experiences while attempting to get their old car repaired. The car is still not running as it should, the owner of the repair shop (a Panamanian) was murdered and his body was found chopped up in bits, the mechanic who did the work didn’t receive the money they’d paid the owner for the work…well, a nightmare for all concerned, and a brutal ending for the repair shop owner.

      As an aside though, that same story could well have played itself out here in the US.

      The couple have lived in three ‘houses’ in three years since moving to Panama, but seem to be finally settled in comfortably in residence number three, while stoically enduring their seemingly endless series of hardships, and putting a brave face on by counting their blessings. Reliable internet access is apparently not one of them. Yet they love Panama. I’m guessing they wouldn’t be able to survive in the US on their Social Security income.

      As to the other statistic – the 35% of women 65+ living on SS alone – it’s easy enough for statisticians to crunch numbers and come up with tidy results, and for the rest of us to apply generational demographics to explain away the results – but what we do not account for are the individuals who fall outside the norm and do not fit in the boxes provided for us. (Note the use of the first person plural there – yes I would count myself among them, when I turn 65 in the not too distant future).

      In closing, I must say that you are to be commended for the work you’re doing running the group running embroidery machine repairs, making it possible for many of its members to work from home while raising and homeschooling their children – im constantly cheered up by the depth and range of your knowledge and experiences every time I read one of your comments.

      – Wendy


  2. I’ve never heard social security refugees either. I think Panamanians see gringos as well off, with good reason because here we are, even us social security refugees 😀 But, I also have never felt judged here for what I may or many not have, which I appreciate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well Kris, I guess we now have a new term to bandy about in reference to Americans who move to Panama to retire because they can’t see the possibility – for whatever reason – of living in the US on their Social Security income alone.

      “Social Security Refugees” has a nice ring to it, if one has a certain sense of humor. And again, as I wrote in my response to Jim’s comment above, I’m not sure the term – if indeed used by Panamaniana – is meant to be derogatory – or judgmental. Here’s a thought: perhaps the term is used by those Panamanians higher up on the economic and social ladder than the average Panamanian – who of course do see Americans/gringos as well off in comparison to themselves. Just a thought.

      And I have read – in several articles – that Panamanians are by and large one of the happiest people in the world, even the poorest of them.


      1. I doubt any term used by Panamanians is derogatory or judgmental. They don’t view political correctness in the same way, but they value kindness and respect very highly and hate to speak badly of anyone. A gringo, or a chino, a negro, etc. just descriptive terms with no judgement meant or implied.

        Yes, on the happiness studies Panama always ends up very high on the list, often at the top. It sure makes you think we have been fed a pile of BS – work hard, get the job, the house, the handsome man, the stuff, and then you will be happy. Here you see people living with little but very happy, but here is all about family, friends, community, relationships. The happiness is contagious which makes living here a real pleasure.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Maybe we could start a new category: SoSecRefs? haha Sounds like a government department already.

      As for the connection between happy and rich, that never seems to work. My brother travels to Africa almost yearly working with a group to install clean water wells in villages and provide basic medical care to areas with no functioning hospitals or clinics. After decades of doing this, he is always amazed at the happiness of some of the poorest people on the planet. They live in a harsh climate, have little in the way of possessions, and have nearly no hope of improving their condition; yet they are happy and welcoming to any strangers and will share whatever they have. Material wealth ain’t the answer to happy. That is for certain.

      As for labels on people, the Panamanians are visibly surprised to hear me refer to myself as “gringo”. It is not a term they use openly. You will hear “norteamericano” often but not gringo. Regardless of what we think, to a Panamanian “gringo” is not a polite term. Since I speak Panamanian and not Spanish, I get to discuss things that most gringos would never hear from a Panamanian. And the biggest plus of all: jokes in 2 languages using wordplay in both. Love it! jim

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Gringo? Really? I didn’t know that. I am jokingly referred to as the gringa loca by some of my friends here but I started it, not them. I hear extrañeros also, referring to the expats. You are a great resource! You can explain some of the nuances that I don’t get. Thanks 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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