Tag Archives: Lifestyle

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Ways To Stay Happy and Healthy In Retirement That Don’t Cost A Penny


Happiness in retirement doesn’t require a huge bank account, but it doesn’t hurt, as the saying goes.  But not everyone has a healthy stash of funds tucked away. Savings in the bank can increase your options, for sure, but it doesn’t make you happy or healthy.  Happiness comes from within yourself and health, well, that comes from choices that you make regarding nutrition, attitude, and life in general.

Focus on good nutrition

iStock_saladSelecting and purchasing quality food that provides good nutrition, without all the harmful chemicals, preservatives and additives will provide your body and mind the vital nutrients to stay healthy and sharp in retirement.  A neighbor in her 80’s, who was an artist living a very simple life once told me that even though she and her husband lived simply, they never scrimped on nutrition. I have always remembered that advice. Forget the pre-packaged and processed foods. There is nothing good about them, except they are easy to prepare. It’s better to eat smaller portions of healthy, nutritious food than to have a plate piled up with no-nutrition boxed, processed “foods”.  Not cooking a lot these days?  Create a lovely salad loaded with veggies, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds. If you like, chop a little egg or chicken and add to the salad.  It’s easy. It’s fresh. And it’s packed with nutrition.  Add to that a freshly made vegetable soup and you have a great meal loaded with vitamins and minerals. You can make enough for several days, so it is just a matter of plating the salad and heating the soup.  Eat well, make good choices for your food, and the rest will follow.

Establish a close circle of friends

As one gets older it is easy to begin to stay at home more where it is comfortable and familiar. However, those who seem happiest in retirement lead full lives, are involved in groups of common interests, join activities, or attend events. They are out and about with friends. Friends are key. They are your support system.  Of course, if you have a partner or spouse, they are as well, but expanding your circle beyond your partner or spouse will provide increased interaction and connection with others with diverse interests and views.  When you are working you have instant friendships, but after retiring, if you don’t have a circle of people to connect with it can become very isolating.

Take the time to establish those connections that are supportive and active. Be selective. Find friends that make you feel good, make you laugh, that are interesting to be around, challenge your thinking, and have a positive outlook on life.  It will make life so much more full.

Get out of that easy chair and move everyday

couplewalklingWho doesn’t love sitting in a big ole lazy boy recliner that has formed to your shape. It’s so comfortable and cozy. Remind yourself that it will still be there at the end of the day when you want to cozy in and watch your favorite TV show, open that book to the dog eared page, or listen to some of your favorite music. Most of us won’t exercise strenuously each day, but we don’t have to. It is movement that is key to staying healthy, mobile, and strong.

Back in my 20’s and 30’s I would pay for a gym membership and several times a week I would go workout, lifting weights, playing racket ball and running on the treadmill. That was then and this is now. I am not interested in paying for a gym membership, let alone lifting weights, but I do love walking and walking provides movement.

There are so many way to fit a walk into your day. Walking in a park, through the woods, on the beach, through your neighborhood, or strolling a few blocks to a local restaurant for dinner with a friend are just a few. Walking doesn’t cost a thing and it is better on your joints than running.  Walk to town, get your groceries, and see what’s happening in the area where you live. Chat with your neighbors and local merchants as you go along.  Get to know your neighborhood and community. You may be in a for a fun surprise when your run across a street performer or see a flyer on a storefront advertising a fun and FREE event.

Most important is to just get up and move, and keep moving.  An object in motion stays in motion…an object not in motion …well, you know the saying.  And it’s amazing what life will send you if you get out into it.

Get involved and give back

Volunteering for a cause that is important to you feeds the soul.  Many spend their whole life working at a job that is just that, a job.  Being retired allows one to provide service to others. Find what you love and are passionate about and look for volunteer opportunities in that area of interest. Love animals? Volunteer at the local shelter? Like to cook? There are opportunities to volunteer at soup kitchens, church events, fairs and festivals for local clubs. Are you good at woodworking?  Maybe you could volunteer to work with teens as the local YMCA or after school program to teach kids this valuable skill.  Have you always loved the arts?  Consider volunteering at a musicial or theatrical venue in your town.  Children at the top of your list?  There are so many opportunities to give back in ways that help children, from hospitals to schools to churches to clubs.  Your heart will feel full when you give back and that is what happiness is made of!

Make a conscious decision to be happy

Positive thinking and being optimistic about life simply makes life better.  Have you ever been around someone who’s glass was always half-empty?  It drains and drags you down.  Simply by approaching life in a positive fashion, looking for best in people and expecting the best out of life, you notice that life seems better, happier and lighter. I just reunited with an a friend that I worked with 24 years ago. Now 90 years old, she is mentally sharp and physically mobile.  She finds humor in life, has plans for the future, dreams are aplenty and she radiates positivity.  Although she has had a rare blood disorder for quite some time, she approaches it as something that is, not something that defines her.  What an inspiration for a happy, long life!

What have you done to create a happy and healthy life?  Share your thoughts below.

Savings Saturday! 20 Simple Ideas To Make Your Money Go The Distance!


Are you trying to increase your nest egg for retirement? Are you already putting money away into savings or a retirement account on a regular basis, but you know you could be doing more?  Or maybe you are living on a tight budget and you just need to find ways to make your money go father. Making simple changes to your lifestyle choices can make it easier to save more.

  1. Volunteer at a theatre. Often they will allow you to go in and watch the performance in-between your volunteer responsibilities. Check with the local theater in your area to see if they have this type of program. This way you provide a service and get to see a show for free!
  2. Reduce the number of times you eat out each month. Homemade food always tastes better than restaurant food, you know the ingredients are fresh and you don’t have to leave a tip!
  3. Party the old fashioned way. Have a potluck! Putting on a full-blown party can add up quickly in the cost department. Ask everyone to bring a dish to share and the beverage of their choice.  Everyone enjoys contributing to the event and feels part of the community. It’s a win-win!
  4. Skip the brand name foods and household products at the grocery store. Private labels products are generally made by the same manufacturers as the well known brands, but cost less.
  5. Save on gas. Combine your trips to run errands with other appointments. If you are close enough to walk to shopping, work or your volunteer activity, well, why not walk and get some exercise at the same time?
  6. Shop around for the best gas prices. Some gas stations offer a discount for paying cash or using a debit card for your purchase rather than using a credit card. Some grocery stores have an associated gas station and using their loyalty card will provide you an additional discount, and some of the big box stores have pumps with good prices right outside in their parking lot. But weigh the distance traveled to get the best price against the amount you would be saving. Check out the phone app, GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas on the go.  The prices shown in the app depend on a community of users updating gas prices, so I am not sure how current the information always is, but it’s worth checking it out.  It’s free!
  7. Go the inexpensive route when cleaning your clothes. Do it yourself vs. using a laundry service, and make it easy on yourself and buy the no-iron shirts.
  8. Shop at the outlet mall. If buying clothing in thrift stores or garage sales (some of my favorite items came from there!) are not for you, then find a local outlet mall near you. They carry brand names with greatly reduced prices.
  9. Get the basic cable package for your television viewing.  Many weekly TV shows can be watched on the computer the day after it airs on TV and some movies can be watched. Netflix can provide you the ability to watch movies with money left in your pocket. Cheaper than going to the movie theatre! If you like the idea of saving a few bucks a month then basic cable may be well worth it to you.
  10. Wait for the latest movies to come on TV, rather than heading to the theatre.  But if you do go to the movies, take a snack in with you.  The prices of food at the movies is out of this world.  OK, so you aren’t supposed to take your own snack in, so if you do get caught, don’t say you got the idea here!
  11. Skip those fast food chains. Although you may think that they save you money in the moment, a cheap meal on the run now can, in the long run, because of the lack of nutritional content and high fat and sugar content, be the cause of an increase to your medical expenses. Be smart. Eat well.
  12. Have snacks with you at all times! This will keep you from running to the fast food restaurant, local coffee chain or convenience store to buy something that won’t satisfy and isn’t good for you. Bring along a travel mug or jar with water, coffee, tea or juice when you head out for the day. A piece of fruit and a bag of chopped veggies, nuts, trail mix or granola will come in handy for those moments when you feel hungry.  Think picnic!
  13. Get a roommate if you live alone and if you have the space. Think of the savings on rent or mortgage payment and utilities and the potential fun! Golden Girls anyone?
  14. Learn what days and at what stores they offer senior discounts. Even the thrift store in my town has a senior discount day. Most shopping discounts for seniors are during the week.
  15. Do it yourself. Using a lawn maintenance service? Start mowing the lawn and weeding yourself. It’s great exercise and you will save a pretty penny.
  16. Sign up for those online sites that send emails of discounted services and activities in your area, such as Groupon, LivingSocial, and Amazon Local, to name a few.
  17. Be careful of the “it’s on sale, so I have to buy it” mentality. If you don’t really need it, then is it really a savings?
  18. Reducing the temperature on your thermostat in the winter just a few degrees can cut down your bill each month. Remember to weatherproof your home by caulking holes and cracks and replacing old weather stripping on the doors, if needed, before the cold weather hits.
  19. Skip the bookstores and head right to the library.  Books are expensive and the library is free.  It’s easy to see that this is a huge savings for rabid readers.
  20. Don’t window shop. It seldom works out well in terms of saving money. Don’t wander around a mall just to kill time.  Head to the mall only when you have something you need and that needed item is on your list. That way temptation doesn’t creep into the saving equation.

This is just a starter list.  Take some time to look at your lifestyle, your monthly expenditures, shopping habits and entertainment choices.  Ask yourself, is it important that I have more in my retirement account or savings as I move into retirement or now that I am living on a limited budget?  If you deem it important, then make the choice, make the change, and save some money!

What have you done to reduce your monthly expenditures?  Was it hard to make those changes?  What made it easier?  What other things have you done to cut costs?   Please share in comments below.

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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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Countdown to Retirement


How Much Longer?

A few years back, I lost my retirement nest egg, not unlike many others, due to the stock market crash, banking debacle and housing market bust. Closing in on retirement age, I started to wonder what retirement would look like for me. Most everything that I had saved was severely diminished by those events – Poof! Nada! Gone! Well, not completely gone, just reduced to a laughable amount. And now, at the age of … well, closing in on 62, rebuilding that nest egg seems like a daunting task. How in the world am I going to make this work? Will I ever really be able to retire? Will I have to work the rest of my days?

One day I realized just how many of my friends were retired. Lots! I would hear of their plans and how they spend their days. They are having a ton of fun! Living the life! Having worked from the age of 13, I am more than ready to move into a life of NOT getting up before the crack of dawn to ready myself for a long commute in the dark, a high paced day of work, and a long exhausted commute home. How long until I can retire, I would think to myself, how much longer? I started obsessively thinking about how to rebuild my nest egg in time for retirement and how long until I can make that shift. Age 65 was no longer an option. Neither was 67. So, 70 it is, I decided! I can do this! I can!

The Countdown

About 30 years ago I remember a high level manager who worked for a large corporation who was getting ready to retire. He would walk through the factory every day of that last year prior to his retirement and yell out to the workers…365! 364! 363! Each day the number would decrease, until it was 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1! And retirement began! What a brilliant idea!

It was a few years ago when my retirement fretting began. Looking back, it started just a year or two before my 60th birthday. I wonder if that is the time when retirement creeps into the thoughts of most people. Anyway, I decided that having a countdown would help. How could I start my count down, I wondered? A little over 11 years seemed like forever! I thought of counting down in hours, but that seemed a little excessive. Days? Way too many! I tried working the numbers in a variety of ways, until I finally arrived at months! I decided that counting months seemed to allow for a more rapid countdown, and once I broke the great 100 mark, it would be smooth sailing from there. I first started my countdown at 136 months. As of this post, I am at 100 months and counting. I see the future ahead. I have my destination date. Now, I just need a plan.

Birth of a Blog

And so, this blog was born…out of fear, anxiety, trepidation of the future unknown, as well as a lot of excitement, anticipation and dreams for the years to come. I focus on the anticipation and excitement, in order to overcome the less than productive emotions of fear and anxiety. Positivity and problem solving are my friends!

On this page, I will take you on my journey to and into retirement on a budget. I will share ideas – the pros and cons – the traditional, as well as the out of the box ideas that arrive without thought, in both my night time dreams and my waking hours. Join me on this journey and please feel free to share your ideas in the comment section below!

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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
~ Mark Twain