Category Archives: Considerations

5 Considerations When Taking the Expat Plunge


Are you considering moving outside of the country and becoming an expat after you retire? You may be dreaming of new adventures, the excitement of living in and experiencing a new culture. Or maybe you are looking to find a place where you get more bang for your buck.  Whatever your reason, the world awaits. It is a big world and making the decision as to where to land is difficult at best.  You may decide to move to where every other expat is moving these days – the “latest” location touted by those expat retirement blogs – or you may do a personal search to find the location that works best for you.

In my search for the “right” location I have found a few cities that would offer me much of what I look for. I fell in love with Antigua, Guatemala years and hoped to live there someday. Then there is Cuenca, a beautiful, colonial city high in the Andes of Ecuador, that captured my heart as I wandered through el Centro on my very first visit. They are both viable options, but I am not yet convinced where I will hang my hat and I plan to continue my search… Guatemala, Chile, Spain, France, Sicily, Greece, Malaysia, Thailand…the list goes on and on.  So many locations to consider!

If you are thinking about becoming an expat here are five things to consider, besides location, before making your move:

Dig deep and ask the tough questions.

Why are you thinking about doing this? What is important to you? What do you need vs. what do you want?  Can you be happy with only the needs being fulfilled?  Are you willing to accept they way they do things in your new country or will  you expect they do it the way to which you are accustomed? Can you live without that red licorice or your favorite barbeque sauce?

Friends and family. How will you keep in touch? Will you be happy not seeing them in person on a weekly or monthly basis? Can you be such a long way from your grandkids?

Is this a forever move or will you only be going for a few years and returning or moving on?

All these questions and more need to honestly answered.  A trip to explore your potential expat city will help to answer some of these questions.  Digging deep and reflecting on your values, adaptability and flexibility will help clarify your reasons, expectations and likelihood of success.

Do your research.

Blogs abound about moving to and living other countries. The bloggers share their experiences and offer a myriad of suggestions for you to chew on.  Then there are sites like numbeo.com that provide costs and living expense comparisons, a very useful tool in seeing how far your resources will stretch.

Facebook has many groups for expats living in different locations around the world.  It’s a great place to interact with and ask questions of people who have already made their move. You will find those who have adapted well, some who are less than happy for numerous reasons, and still others who after a couple of years are heading back to their home country.  These pages generally give a pretty balanced perspective on living in that city or country and honest answers abound to any question you may ask.

Think about visas, residency requirement, and citizenship, if you are interested in going that route.

Healthcare. What are the options? Is there a government program with an option to purchase private insurance instead? What will it cost out of pocket and would that be within your budget?  Will you keep supplemental insurance for when you go back home to visit? Or will you just have travel insurance?

Then there is your best bud. Are you able to bring your beloved pet? What are the requirements to make that happen? Are there vets available and what does their practice look like? What is the culture of pets in the community?

Is the expat community active and welcoming? Starting by making some expat contacts and broadening your community to include the locals as well will only enhance your experience.

Make a plan.

A solid plan will take before, during and after the move into consideration.

Long before ever packing your bags, make a plan. How will all the “at home” requirements be handled? Will everything be handled by electronic mail?  Banking, credit cards, taxes, financial planning all need to be considered. How will those be handled? When will you move?  Do you need to sell a home before you leave? Or will you rent it…just in case?  What will your move look like? Will you only take a couple of suitcases and start fresh?  Or will you pack up your entire household and all your belongings and arrange for them to be shipped?  How will you stay in touch with family and friends?  Will emails and Facebook suffice or will you want to have more personal contact through Skype?

There is so much to consider and a written, detailed plan will only make things go so much smoother. The logistics related to the move need to be considered and fully understood. Stress mixed with excitement and anticipation will be high, so having all your ducks in a row before you hop on the plane will be critical to a smooth transition.

Set a few routines.

Set a few routines when you arrive to get you out into the community so you can begin to make connections with expats and locals alike.  Each morning after breakfast while living in Peru I would enjoy a leisurely cup off coffee in the house courtyard, and mid-morning I would stroll across town to the open air market to get exercise, enjoy the sights and sounds of the city and inevitably I would run into someone I was acquainted with.

While living in Guatemala City I had a routine on the weekends. Having taught school all week, I liked to take the bus to a nearby town, Antiqua, for the day and occasionally overnight on the weekends.  It became a favorite place to go to unwind, and I became familiar with the town and it with me.

If a weekend getaway isn’t an option, consider a Saturday morning walk along the river, ending with coffee and pastry at that quiet little bakery on the other side of town. Or maybe you will join a group with like interests, volunteer to read to children at the local school or help out at an animal shelter.

Setting a few routines at first to get out and about in a normal ‘I live in this town’ kind of way, not ‘I am here as a tourist’ kind of way can normalize your new life. It will provide you opportunity to meet people in those shops, restaurants, schools, clubs and overtime relationships will evolve and friendships will grow.

Create community.

For some this will be easy.  For others who may be a little more introverted or reserved this may feel like a daunting task.

Most cities where expats reside have welcome lunches or gatherings that are held weekly or monthly. Go to the expat hangouts to start the interaction.

Get to know the locals in your neighborhood. Understand that some cultures, though very friendly, may not invite you to their home for a long time. I lived in Peru for two years and I never made it past the parlor in friends homes where guests were welcomed to visit.

Walk softly, observe and learn. Local friendships will evolve naturally over time and more often than not, expats will welcome you with open arms.

Moving to another country can be a real adventure.  Having a well thought out plan and having fully considered your reasons for moving and expectations of the experience can make this new adventure fun and exciting.

What have you done or what are you doing to make your expat move smooth and successful?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 Ideas to Help Reduce the Worry Around Retiring


Feeling a little insecure about being ready for retirement?  You are not alone. Insecurity about having enough money to retire is high and most people are retiring later because of it.

A recent Gallup poll found that 59% of Americans are worried that they won’t have enough money to retire.  Worries of having adequate savings to retire isn’t just for those in their 50s and 60s, it also includes those in their 3’s and up.  The older, pre-retirement population has more immediate concerns regarding the ability to fund their retirement years, including having sufficient savings to cover basic living and medical expenses, and long term, wondering if they will be able to make the money last.  On the other hand, those in their 30’s worry about Social Security being around when they reach retirement age.

Due to these concerns and insufficient funds in their retirement accounts, the average non-retired person expects to retire at age 67, whereas in 2004 people were retiring at age 60.  Times have certainly changed.

I started this blog because I am one of those people who expected to retire at age 62, then it moved to  65; a more recent consideration was 67, but ultimately I landed on 70 as my age of retirement, in order to get the maximum from my Social Security benefits.  I circle around my options and what I can do to increase my retirement savings before retirement and consider a wide range of options for affordable living and making my funds last.

Here are 8 things to consider that can help reduce that worry:

Work a little longer and retire a little later

Of course, I don’t think this is the preferred solution for any soon-to-be retiree, but holding out longer to retire is one way to maximum your social security benefit, while increasing the size of your nest egg.  The extra few years can make a considerable difference.

Maximize your funds

Those readying to retire or those who already have need to look at all their potential options for maximizing their funds. Talk with a financial planner to ensure that your funds are reaching their growth potential.

Consider living where your money goes further

Move to an area of the country where the cost of living is less, in retirement communities where housing is more affordable, or stretch your income and savings by living outside of the country. There are a number of very popular international retirement destinations for expats where a couple can live very well on $1500 a month.

Downsize

You may want to consider cutting costs by moving from your present location to something smaller and less expensive before you retire, so you can put the savings from decreased mortage or rent payment into your retirement account. When you are ready to retire downsizing may mean a smaller home or apartment, a park model in a 55+ retirement community, a “tiny house,” or a house on wheels.

Refinance your home

Interest rates are still low, so if you haven’t refinanced, now might be the time to consider finding a lower interest rate.

Supplement your income

Find a means of making money to supplement your monthly fixed income.  Think about what you enjoy and find a means of increasing your income by doing what you love.  Do you have a hobby that could be turned into a business part-time?  Maybe you have a skill or expertise that is marketable.  Even a few hours a week working in a business that interests you, or is enjoyable, is something to consider. Identify what you love, your skills and interests and then create an income-generating activity that provides you social engagement, while paying you a wage.

Reduce your monthly living expense

If you are pre-retirement, you can increase your nest egg, which will open up your options down the road.  For those who have already retired it will increase the ability to travel, enjoy activities you love, or put money away for future emergent needs.

Share living space

Some retirees are turning to living with others in intentional communities, retirement communities, or living with family or friends.  Many retired people are living with their children and watching the grandkids while the parents work. People are turning to each other. Through rough times comes increased community.  The light in all of this is that people are returning to family and joining together with friends.

Worry is born out of fear and fear is the result of the unknown.  Researching the different options and sharing those ideas with friends and family can release some of the worry that builds up and can generate new ideas and options.  I have found this blog to be helpful for me in thinking “out loud” about what my options are, how I can cut costs, and how I can create a retirement of my dreams, while living on a limited budget.

What are your dreams for retirement?  What ideas have found to help you reach that dream?  Please leave your comments and thoughts below.

 

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Keep in Touch By Meeting Grandkids Where They Live


Are you living a distance from your grandchildren and communication is less than optimal? Do you call your teenage grandchildren and it takes them forever to call you back, if they call back all?  It can be frustrating and disappointing to say the least.  You remember when they were little.  They would run up to you filled with glee every time you walked into the room. And now that you aren’t living close to them it makes seeing each other difficult. You wonder what they are doing. Are they happy? You miss that connection. Keeping connected with grandchildren can be a challenge, especially if you don’t live close enough so that you can see them once in a while. So, what are you to do?

Consider The Trends

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest are the main social network sites that teenagers and young adults are using today to keep in touch, communicate and share information. Many seniors use social networks as a means of capturing snippets of the lives of family and friends and staying in touch with old classmates and past co-workers. According to a Forbes report, “For Facebook, the trend was clear: User growth is fastest in the oldest cohort. Among survey takers 65 and older, 45% identified themselves as Facebook users in the new survey. That’s up from 35% a year ago.” It is clear that social networks are one of the preferred means of communication for the younger generations, while the older population is jumping on the band wagon and catching up.

With the onset of smart phones, communication has become more technologically based and from looking at the younger population you can see they are almost always attached to their phones, communicating constantly through social networking and texts.

Recognizing A Cultural Shift

I am so fortunate to have a lot of younger adults in my life that I interact with on a daily basis.  They keep me young, informed and fill me with joy and laughter.  There is one curiosity though.  Frequently, I have shared a meal with them, only to find that when there was a pause in conversation, or when that buzz or vibration calls out to them in urgency, their phones are immediately lifted from the table where they had been safely kept within reach, and what follows is an abrupt end to conversation.  It reminds me of the 1960 movie, The Time Machine, where the alarm goes off and all the young beautiful people in a trance are drawn into the open doors of the sphinx.  Maybe that movie was a prediction of things to come.

During those meals, I noted that once one person broke from the face-to-face conversation into the world of technology, others quickly followed suit, until all, except myself, were face-to-phone, mesmerized by the latest post or tweet or text. I find this behavior so curious. I use to find it rude and annoying, and I guess on some level I still do, but then I began to think about cultural shifts that take place from generation to generation, be it in fashion,  music, language, or communication style. And in that moment, it occurred to me that what I was observing was a cultural shift of this new generation.  I didn’t want to place judgment on this shift that I was observing,  so I just made a mental note of it. The question I asked myself was, did I find benefit from participating and meeting them where they live, deep in their world of technology?

The simple recognition of this cultural shift may be the beginning of a solution to the communication challenge.

One in three teens sends more than 100 text messages in one day, or 3000 texts a month. 

 

~ Pew Research Center

According to Pew Research Center, “text messaging explodes as teens embrace it as the centerpiece of their communication strategies with friends.” The frequency with which they text has now overtaken the frequency of every other common form of interaction with their friends, including face-to-face conversation, calling on the cell phone, social network, instant message and email.  Statistics say that 58% of teens contact their friends through text on a daily basis vs. 38 percent who call on the cell phone.  Texting wins overall.

So, if you having trouble connecting with your grandkids, and the phone or social networks don’t work, try texting.  It appears that is where they live.

What other solutions have you found that increase communication with the teenagers and young adults in your life?

 

3 Easy Steps To Saving An Additional $20K In Less Than 10 Years


Are you closing in on retirement and your nest egg could use a little boost?  Mine too, so I came up with a plan to increase my savings by just making a couple of small changes in my life.

Step 1. Take an honest look at your spending habits.

Most everyone I have talked with has lost a considerable about of their retirement nest egg over the past decade, or two, due to economic shifts. I know that I am right there with a lot of other hard working and hard saving people who got caught in the crossfire. The challenge for me was that without a huge increase in salary, or moving into a hut in the woods until I retire to cut down on housing expenses, I wasn’t sure how in the world I was going to increase my retirement savings.  What a dilemma, it seemed.  That’s where I took control of my future, taking an honest and detailed look at my spending habits.  What an eye opening exercise that was!  Yikes.  My money was slipping away like water through a sieve.  The next logical question was, what can I do about it?

So, this is what I did and it is going to result in a pretty nice payoff.

Step 2. Replace unnecessary spending with less expensive options. 

When looking at your monthly expenditures, find a daily expenditure of about $5, one that can be eliminated or decreased substantially.  I decided to say good-bye to coffee shop coffee and hello to coffee at home.

I started by cutting out the $5 cup of coffee, one day a week to start.  Overtime, I eliminated the number of trips I made to the local coffee shop during the week, and made my daily order of a grande, soy, extra hot, no whip mocha a special treat on the weekend.  Goodbye baristas!  Hello retirement savings!  I decided to replace those $5 daily trips to the coffee shop with a more cost effective morning coffee tradition.   Now, I make a nice cup of coffee in the morning at home.  It took me a while to find the perfect coffee combination that felt just as special as the one that my favorite barista would make for me, but I did!   I take my freshly brewed cup of joe, pour it into my favorite feel good ceramic mug, and top it with a splash of delicious hazelnut coconut creamer.  I get up just a little bit earlier in the morning,  and after preparing my new favorite coffee drink, I settle into my cozy recliner by the front window where I can watch the sky shift color as the day begins. It has become a lovely tradition and I wouldn’t trade it for waiting in line at a noisy coffee shop for anything!   At work, I switched to tea, just regular tea.  I got used to it.  It’s my new “habit.”  And, that new habit, plus my new morning coffee tradition, is saving me a lot of money.

Making My Morning Coffee At Home: 

Savings per week = $25.

 

Savings per year = $1300.

 

 

Amount saved by the time I retire in 8.2 years?  $10,660!!!

Next, find a $10 expense that you have on a daily, or almost daily basis. Maybe it’s buying bottled water and pop during the day and making a run to the vending machine for an afternoon pick-me-up snack.  For me, the next savings opportunity was not going out for lunch.

Let’s see what the savings amount to with this change.

I easily fell into the “Where do you want to go for lunch?” mode at work.  It is a social time for me, a time when I can sit and enjoy some good conversation and laughs with my co-workers.  The restaurants we go to are middle of the road with lunches running somewhere between $8-10. Usually, we go for Thai or Vietnamese, so the food is healthy, and that was part of my justification for eating out.  Healthy food!  Eating lunch out became a regular pattern for me, as not only was it a time to nourish my body, but also my social soul.  As I looked at my bank statement closely, I noticed just how many times I was going out for lunch each month.  It hits hard when you see the numbers in print!  So, I decided that I would started bringing my lunch, a good healthy, fill-me-up, well balanced lunch and only go out for lunch one day a week.

Making My Own Lunch:

 

Savings per week = $40.

 

Savings per year = $2080.

 

Now, for the grand total, the increase to my nest egg over the next 8.2 years?  Are you ready for this?

 

A whopping $17,056!!!!

Step 3. Redirect that money to an untouchable savings account.

Increased savings, the result of cutting down on coffee and lunches out over the next 8.2 years until my retirement begins, totals $27,716!!!  Woah!  That’s a nice chunk of change with just a couple of small lifestyle changes!

After identifying what expenses I could reduce or eliminate and putting those changes into action, the critical last step was to put that money away somewhere where I couldn’t easily access it.  Under the mattress or in a jar in the kitchen cupboard came to mind, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep myself from just “borrowing” a little of it and, well, you know, promising to put it back.  I had to chuckle to myself that I had even considered that might be an option!

It seemed to me that the best way to keep my hands off that money was to put it in a place where I couldn’t just open the jar and borrow a little of it.  So, I decided to have my payroll deductions adjusted to the amount I was now able to save, as a result of these small changes, and have that amount automatically deposited into my retirement account.  I was already spending it, now I am just redirecting it!

The end result of this redirection of funds gives me an increase of over $25,000 dollars in my retirement savings account when I retire.  The long term results make me smile, as I sit here in my cozy chair watching the sunrise, with my little dog, Maggie Mae and a delicious cup of coffee.

Redirected to Retirement Savings:

 

Coffee shop annual savings = $10,660!!!

 

Eating lunch out annual savings = $17,056!!!!

 

Money redirected to my retirement account in time for my retirement in 8.2 years = $27,716!!!

Have you taken a close look at how you spend your money? Maybe for you it is dinners out, getting snacks at the movies, daily visits to the vending machine, drinking sodas, bottled water or those expensive energy drinks.

What is your money sieve?  With a couple of small changes to your lifestyle, how much more money will you be able to contribute to your retirement savings?  Share your ideas and thoughts in the comment section below.

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