Tag Archives: Expenses

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blame it on the Tiramisu


It has been a while since I have written anything in this blog.  I think writing is mostly inspired by our unresolved emotions, fears that haunt us in the quiet hours of the night, the stories of our past that create our now and future realities undefined. When I first started writing this blog, I started in a flurry. I was in a constant state of internal turmoil, circling my future life, the life that would be my retirement and, as a result, the words fell on the page in rapid fire. It was a time of questioning whether I would be able to live a good life when I retired. What would it look like and where would it be? I have to credit this blog and what could be called a public journaling experience to calm my soul and take me to a place of now. It’s good to be home again, in my mind, in my heart and in my soul.

A number of readers of this blog have asked me over the past few months why I had stopped blogging. The truth is that I never really stopped. I simply paused. I paused because of one cappuccino in a small café.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESIt was a few months ago that my blog postings paused.  And, coincidentally, it was also a few months ago that I traveled to Cuenca, Ecuador, a city high in the Andes that has been touted as the number one place in the world for US retirees to relocate. I had been planning to travel there 6 months later with a friend, but those travel plans were moved up so that I could get a taste of my possibilities, sooner rather than later.  I needed to know.  I needed to quell my uncertainties, satiate my curiosity and affirm that one of the many options racing through my mind was viable. Waiting 6 months to find out if it was an option was not reasonable for me, unless I wanted to waste 6 months racked with unknowns.

So, I hopped on a plane to find out if one of my potential retirement options was something that I could hold onto as an option or something that I needed to walk away from forever.

It was during my eight days exploring Cuenca, Ecuador that a shift in consciousness took place and for the first time since the market crashed and the shell of my nest egg cracked, that I felt at peace.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAfter wandering the city for several days, meeting welcoming expats and locals alike, I found a little dessert café off Parque Calderon, at the other end of the block from where the cathedral stands. I settled in by the window to enjoy a tall Italian cappuccino and tiramisu. I sat with my thoughts and gazed out the window, watching life in Cuenca pass by. The cappuccino was tall, rich and beautifully layered. The tiramisu the best I had had. For the first time in a long time I felt at peace. I was present. I was in the moment. I was not searching for a solution to my future. I was living it. The cost of the cappuccino and tiramisu barely touched my wallet. I knew that I could afford to live here. I could be happy here. I liked the city. I liked the expats. I liked the culture and the locals. And, well, truth be told, I loved the tiramisu. Retirement would be just fine.

It was in that moment, sipping on that cappuccino, that I realized that not only did I have one good retirement option, but I had a world of options. I recognized that retirement can be anything I want it to be. It can be nomadic, moving from country to country experiencing this wonderful, culturally diverse world. It can be on a beach or in the mountains in a far away land. It can be in a small RV traveling around the US or in a park model nuzzled in with a community of other retirees. My options are unlimited.

I will be returning to Ecuador in the near future. There is so much more of that beautiful country that I would like to see, the smaller cities and villages, the hot springs, live volcanoes and waterfalls.

Truth be told, my reasons for returning are mixed. I guess on some level I want more of that delicious cappuccino and tiramisu in that little café just across from the park…or maybe, just maybe, what I really want is another dose of the peace that came with it.

7 Ways To Slash, Shave and Cut Your Monthly Expenses


Anyone can become a savings sleuth and cut, shave or slash their monthly expenses.  All you need to do is look around, the savings are there. Are you interested in cutting your monthly expenses? Then put on your detective’s hat and do some super sleuthing.  Searching for bargains can be really fun and satisfying when you know that you are going to cut costs and save some money. Together all those savings can really add up!

Find those hidden discounts

Always be friendly to clerks in the checkout line and ask if there is an unadvertised discount available. Often there are discounts that they can give you on your purchase that you might not have known about or weren’t advertised. I have successfully done this on more than one occasion. A few months back, I was at a craft store buying an set of artist’s colored pencils in a nice metal box. Anything with the word “artist” on it is way overpriced, and as I stood at the register cringing at the price I was about to pay, I asked, “Any coupons or discounts today?”  The young woman at the register said, “Well, there is a 50% off the first item. Do you have an smart phone?”  In all my excitement, I struggled to find the coupon online. After some time, she tired of watching me, opened the drawer below the register, pulled out a barcoded paper and wha-lah, the discount was applied to purchase.  I saved a lot of money that day with just a smile and a question!

Cut the frequency of service 

Depending on the amount of garbage you have every week, you may be able to get once a month service. I compost and recycle, and buy very little that is pre-packaged. The result is very little garbage. So, I called the waste management company and asked if they had less expensive options.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were other service options, and I was able to reduce my collection service from weekly to once a month, saving a considerable amount on my monthly bill.

Shave down some of your utility bills 

Contact your water, sewage, electric and waste management companies to see what discounts they offer.  Some utilities offer discounts based on age, income, or both.  A friend of mine has reduced her city bill, for water and sewage, by a whopping 50%! You may also be able to pay reduced real estate taxes. Contact your county to find out what programs they have available.  It may be as simple as filling out a form. There is something to be said for becoming a senior, discounts abound!

phonesSearch for promotions

Think about your phone, cable and internet services. New promotions for these services are constant. I switched to a phone service provider that doesn’t require a contract. It is a monthly prepay option and costs about half of what I was paying before. Now, included in my service, I have unlimited data and texting included in the price that I didn’t have before. So not only am I saving on the monthly service fee, but I am getting more bang for my buck! Being without a phone service contract allows you to shift to another provider easily, when a better deal avails itself.  Plus, if you are a part-time expat you can stop your service while you are out of the country and start it up again when you return.

Find the “code”

Do your research before buying something online. After you find the best price and before you click to complete the sale, if there is a place to put a promotion code, use it. Often times, there is a discount for the item you are purchasing, or free shipping, if you put in a promo code. Search online. Put in the store name, promo code, month, and year in the search engine. There will a number of sites to choose from. You may find a code, or you may not, but it is worth the savings to take a moment and try.

Slash your bill in half

Going out to eat? Check the restaurant’s website before you go to see if there is a coupon, or call around and find restaurants that offer a senior discount or early bird special. If you don’t ask, you will never know.  A friend and I go to a favorite Mexican restaurant in town and the first thing we do before heading to the restaurant is go to the computer and download the restaurant’s coupon. Second entrée free! Can’t beat that!

Purple sofa - CopyDig for a bargain

Garage sales, thrift stores and community and church rummage sales are a perfect way to pick up something you really do need, at a great price. New items once purchased, become “used” once it comes through your door. Nothing is new forever. So, if you buy a gently used and in good condition item, then you are saving a lot of money compared to a new item that becomes “used” the first time you use it, sit on it, or wear it. When you are heading out the door, know exactly what you are looking for, otherwise you risk coming home with a carload of stuff that you don’t need and really don’t want. I like to keep a watchful eye for community garage sales in the higher end communities where you can find great bargains at a fraction of the cost.  I found a great purple sofa – yes, purple – at a garage sale that was recently reupholstered. They even delivered it for me, brought it up the stairs and set it in place.  My little dog, Maggie Mae, claimed it as her own immediately!

How have you cut your monthly expenses?  Share your thoughts below.

 

Using the “B” Word to Create Your Retirement Dream


The question at hand – Are you ready to use the “B” word?

Dreams

What is your biggest consideration when planning for your retirement?  What questions are you asking yourself? Where you will live?  Will you move to the land of the sun, be a snowbird or stay near the grandkids, family and friends? Will you travel the United States or venture out to the far corners of the globe?  Is your health good or can you get those health challenges in control, in order to open up your options?

Certainly, all of those questions need to be addressed at some point, but before answering them there is one key aspect that needs to be looked at, and that is money.  Maybe you are one of those lucky people whose retirement fund has grown exponentially or has remained stable throughout the economic fluctuations of the past decade or two. However, if you are like most Baby Boomers, your future retirement has been greatly impacted by the economic shifts and you need to reassess and reconsider what your future holds.

Humpty Dumpty

A number of years back, I moved to Peru with a dream of starting a non-profit. At that time, I considered myself pretty set for retirement.  I had worked for over a decade for a large corporation that had an excellent 401K matching program, and as a result, I had stashed away a considerable amount of money. With continued growth of that account, even after leaving the company, those funds would over time have created a very nice retirement nest egg.  Security for the future!  So, off to Peru I went, and during the time that I was in Peru – CRASH! – the market dropped dramatically, and I saw my nest egg go from ostrich to hummingbird in the blink of an eye. To make matters worse, the big bad wolf had snuck in the coup while I was gone, leaving nothing but a tiny shattered shell.

Over time, I worked to rebuild that nest egg, but without an amazing matching program and a financial market that just won’t bounce back, it became increasingly apparent that that Humpty Dumpty had fallen and even all the King’s men weren’t going to be able to put him back together again.  All that I had left was a little shattered egg, laying there in little broken pieces, unable to grow.   Time for a financial funeral, some grieving and then, as healing begins – move on.

Before the big bad wolf had its hay day with my savings, my dream for retirement was to take a trip around the world and see all the places that I hadn’t been to yet.  I wanted to have a nice, modest home and live as I always had, enjoying time with family and friends, attending a wide array of entertainment of my choosing, traveling, adventuring, just living a comfortable life.

Looking for Some Answers

It was time to begin “re-saving”, if that’s a word, and start some major problem solving! With my retirement looming only 100 months away, I started concerning myself with retirement income.  One Saturday morning I got up, made myself some coffee and turned on the computer to start figuring it out.  What were my options? I looked and searched, and looked and searched some more, until finally, with a zillion ideas circling my head, I said to myself – How can I decide what to do in the future without all the information I need? It was then I realized that I couldn’t come up with the answer until I had asked and answered all the right questions.

The “B” Word

So, I started with the basics, a budget.  Yes. There, I said it – the “B” word. Budget. I began looking with a critical eye at my day-to-day spending, down to the penny.  I use my debit card for all my daily spending, checks for some of my living expenses, and credit card only for large purchases or expenses that were emergent. Fortunately, I only had 3 accounts to look at. With a hot cup of coffee, my laptop, and Maggie Mae, my forever companion by my side, I created a spreadsheet that showed me exactly what my monthly living expenses were for the past 12 months.  Included were those expense items that fluctuated, such as gas, groceries, medical expenses etc., as well as those that were the extras, things like travel expenses, entertainment, lunches out, and coffee.  Yes, coffee.  Living in the Northwest corner of the U.S., there is a coffee culture and it sucks the money right out of your bank account.  What an eye-opening exercise this had been!  So long major Seattle coffee chain!  It has been good knowing you!

All of this information went into a spreadsheet for future reference, saved onto the computer and printed out.  Now, I have the information I need to make an informed decision!

Boone’s Farm Wine

As I looked at what my monthly resources will be in retirement, and after detailing out my present budget, and estimating my retirement income, I realized that I could stay in my house after retirement if  A) I never go anywhere, B) I never do anything, and C) I sit in the dark in the evening with a candle for light and warmth, sipping a glass of Boone’s Farm Strawberry wine.  It’s not exactly what dreams are made of. So, after a “feel sorry for myself” moment, I decided to take the bull by the horns and find a way to make it work.  As a result, I have come up with a number of exciting options and I feel optimistic for the future!

Tips

My recommendations to those readying for retirement is to first bite the bullet, sit down and looked at your budget with a fine tooth comb.  Asking the right questions and having the necessary information at your fingertips, will allow you to make informed decisions.

  • Know your current monthly expense. Create a budget based on the real numbers. Make it detailed.
  • Identify your monthly retirement income. Include the guaranteed monthly retirement income from your employer’s plan, social security income, monthly annuity payments.
  • Ask yourself – Does my projected retirement income cover my present expenses?
  • If your anticipated retirement income doesn’t meet your present expenses, then recognize that some creative thinking and problem solving is in order. How much is the gap? If you make some minor changes in lifestyle and spending, can you make it work? If not, then it’s time to regroup and look at options.  Oh, and remember to add inflation into the mix.
  • Take a deep breath and visualize a great retirement. You deserve it. Know that there are a myriad of amazing options out there for you to choose or create, regardless of your retirement income!  It’s like plucking apples off of the tree!

Have you taken the time to look at your present budget and projected retirement income?  What are some ideas that you are doing now that can help close that gap?  Share your thoughts and ideas below.