Our Time at Live & Invest Overseas Conference

photo of man speaking in front of a screen at a conference
Lief Simon (above) did a great job orchestrating the conference

Betsy and I were invited to speak at the Live and Invest Overseas (LIOS) Conference in Panama City on February 15-17, 2017.  

It was satisfying to be invited to speak by Live and Invest Overseas (LIOS).  

For one thing, the invitation indicated to us that our website is attracting attention.

The InterAmericana Trip

photo of highway with white truck and windmills
We enjoyed our trip to Panama City on the InterAmericana (pictured)

It was a fun trip for us and the kids. We drove to Panama City.

We don’t drive much, but with the improvements to the InterAmericana Highway, it was a pleasure.  Especially given that the section between Santiago and David, which used to be horrible, or under construction, it is now a very smooth trip. Although there is still some construction underway.

We enjoyed the chance to spend time together in the car, singing songs and playing 21 questions.

We stopped in Santiago to eat lunch at Subway and have a gelato at the adjacent shop.  The little shopping center we stopped at looked remarkably like one in David. Most likely the same company developed it and solicited many of the same stores to locate there.  I wonder if we will start seeing clone-like shopping malls in other populous locations on the InterAmericana.

The Conference

As you can imagine, the conference attendees consisted entirely of 45-70 year-old retirees, or those planning ahead to retirement. The lectures and slide shows took place in one of the Marriot’s several big conference halls.

The conference was at the Marriot Hotel in the banking district of downtown Panama City. It was comfortable and elegant.  Something that was especially appealing to our younger daughter Blaise, who really appreciates “fancy”.  The hotel was a good choice for the event.  It was comfortable and had enough amenities for the 80ish conference attendees, staff, and speaker without feeling cramped. An asset since there were lectures and “meet and greet” opportunities from morning until night for almost 3 full days.

Conference Staff

Probably the most outstanding points that I observed were: First of all, Lief Simon is a very comfortable, easy conference facilitator and a very strong public speaker. Although he appeared at all events in a suit and tie, he is not at all stiff, nor artificial when you speak with him. I thoroughly enjoyed his manner and the way that he seamlessly introduced topics and speakers throughout the conference.

Lief is also a very easy guy to chat with in the times between the various events. It was clear that he had a lot of “balls up in the air” during the conference. Yet, he never seemed hurried or stressed, even if there was a momentary hitch in activities. Lief’s style is that of absolute professionalism.

The conference manager was a young French woman named Valentine, who also performed her role flawlessly. We needed to communicate with Valentine on several occasions, and she helped us solve problems, get information, etc…Valentine and her staff were excellent. Lief’s wife Kathleen Pedichord was away in France, I believe. However their daughter Cat was helping to facilitate, and also spoke at the conference. I give five stars to the entire “cast” of the show.

photo of a room with information displayed and food table
There were many opportunities to talk with speakers and attendees

The Attendees

The second fact that I thought most noteworthy was just how serious the attention of the conference attendees was. The atmosphere in the conference room was like a university lecture hall. The students (I mean attendees) had their laptops and notebooks out and there was silence in the room. Except for the voice of the speaker over the PA and the scratching of pens on paper, there was not a sound. I had not anticipated this, but once I got used to it, it only stands to reason.

The attendees of a LIOS Conference, or any other retirement conference represent a section of the overseas retiree population that might be referred to as “the good students”.  As opposed to those who just pack an overnight bag, pick a cheap plane fare, and wind up living somewhere for the rest of their lives (or perhaps discovering that they have made a huge mistake).

They were there at the conference ready to listen and to learn. Several people I spoke with had been to other retirement conferences in other countries. A few had been to other LIOS and International Living conferences. The attendees were doing a very thorough job of trying to get as much information as they could about retirement in Panama, before making the big move. This seems like a wise investment in time and money to me.

Topics Covered

The conference covered such predictable topics as: Visas, health care, health insurance, home & auto insurance, cost of living, safety and security, shipping your belongings, transporting your pets, banking, and investing. As well as few you wouldn’t think about like Lifecare medical devices, organic agriculture, and trusts. There was a real estate agent and a couple of developers that promoted projects. This included Lief and Kathleen’s beautiful Los Islotes development on the Azuero Pennisula.

Some of the speakers represented their own businesses. There was a man talking about various investment vehicles, including stocks and bonds. There were a couple of guys who had developed cyber security system for email which had some outstanding capabilities. We spoke at length with them during one of the coffee breaks. They were very eager to talk about their product (RPost Communication). Most of this tech talk was over my head. However, Betsy appreciated it.

Hype?

While there was some promoting during some of the talks, it was to a market that wanted to hear what they had to sell. Those who weren’t interested usually decided not to attend those sessions. Both Betsy and I had been a little wary that the event would have a lot of hype. That is, it would give the good side of Panama without mentioning the bad. At times, there were some issues that were glossed over, but not in a heavy handed way. Overall, we found that the presenters tried to give a realistic picture of Panama.

Expats Speak

Betsy and I were among 4 expat speakers who presented. We were the only family with children who spoke. There was a couple from a tiny village of Palo Seco on the western part of the Azuero Peninsula, and a couple from Chitre, a gentleman from Panama City, and Betsy and I from Puerto Armuelles.  The task of the expat speakers was to give our views of life in Panama, based upon actually having lived in Panama for a significant number of years.

Our Talk

So, it was our “job” to give a bone fide description of “What it’s actually like to live in Puerto Armuelles, Panama.”  Obviously, we didn’t claim to be unbiased in our views. We chose to live in Puerto Armuelles, because we think it’s a great beach town. We also chose Puerto, because we see it as an undervalued investment with a significant potential for growth.

By the time we were finished speaking, everyone knew a little bit about Puerto Armuelles, and about our family’s experience living here for the past ten years. This is good, since before we spoke, most of the folks in the room had never heard of Puerto Armuelles.  We tried hard to give a realistic view of our experiences.  We talked about everything from moving down, to remodeling, to what we do for fun, and a few things in between.  We strived to give an unglossy picture of our life.

Chatting With Attendees

Our presentation was on the morning of the first day and lasted for just thirty minutes. However, for the rest of the three day conference, folks came up to speak with us. They wanted to get information and advise from us as Panama experts.  When people came up to talk with us during coffee breaks, in the restaurant, or just in the hallway in passing, they seemed very focused on learning more about what information we had to share.

It was fun to elaborate more about what we like, and also what we don’t like, about life in Panama. One comment that we consistently received from attendees was that they felt that our talk was very even-handed in our praise and criticism of life in Panama in general, and Puerto Armuelles, in particular. They said that they felt that they were getting an honest opinion, and not a “glossy, perfect” version of “life in Paradise”.  So it seems like we were successful in our goal of giving a realistic picture of life in Panama.

Our final word in the talk was that life in Panama and in Puerto Armuelles is not for everyone. It is important to do your homework. Above all, if you think that just by moving to Panama, you are going to suddenly become a better, happier person, think again. Positive change is an inside job.

photo of man drinking coffee at Starbucks in Panama City
We felt at home at the Starbucks in Panama City. We are from Seattle after all.

Conclusion

Overall, Betsy and I both thought that the LIOS conference was a great education for the expat attendees. We also learned a few things about life in Panama from the perspectives of other attendees. Also there was a Starbucks kitty-corner from the hotel, so we were able to enjoy sometime drinking coffee and relaxing.

We met some nice folks, mostly from the US and Canada.   Some of the attendees were compelled enough by our presentation that they ended up coming to visit us in Puerto Armuelles. One man we met at the conference has decided to rent in Puerto Armuelles, while he gets to know the area.


Interested in Living in Panama?

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