Tag Archives: Senior

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.

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.

 

Cheap Thrills: 25 Low or No Cost Entertainment Ideas


Do you know anyone who doesn’t love something for free or at a discount?  Retiring on a budget doesn’t have to mean that you can’t go out and have a great time.  It just requires a little creativity and some online research to find activites and entertainment at low or no cost, so you don’t need to spend your entire month’s entertainment budget in one evening.

Lucky for me and a group of friends, a good friend of ours, Karen, takes the initiative to do all the research online and compiles a list of things to do that are free or are quite inexpensive. Every few months she sends an email called, “Cheap Thrills,” inviting friends to come along. The list of cheap thrills ranges from music to festivals to garden shows and community garage sales.  It makes for a fun circle of people joining together to share in a common experience, while being budget conscious.

Go online and type Free Events (Your City) (Month) and you will see sites that post free and low cost activities that won’t bust your budget.

Concerts – Part of the Cheap Thrills list that Karen sends out is a series of musical shows that cost $45 for a series of seven shows. The entertainers are excellent, and are as diverse as the old time do wop of the Diamonds and a traditional Japanese dance troupe. We also have a free summer concert series at the marina in my town weekly throughout the summer.  At the local casino, there is an outdoor amphitheater where some pretty big name musicians come to play.  Many people show up with lawn chairs and sit on the lawn “outside” the venue, enjoy a picnic dinner and listen to the music for free! Check out your marina, city center and local casinos for free concert schedules.

Music – Some of the best music can be found for free or for a small donation or cover charge at small local pubs, taverns,  and coffee shops.  Don’t miss this great opportunity to enjoy unknowns before they are discovered or  end up on American Idol or The Voice.

Theatre in the Park – Keep your eye out for Shakespeare in the Park or other outdoor theatrical productions for an evening of performance under the stars.

Community Theatre – Small play houses can put on some pretty wonderful shows at an affordable price.  I have seen some pretty good shows for $15-20 a ticket.

Outdoor Movies – Many cities have begun offering a free movie night outdoors in the park.  It’s a great way to spend a beautiful summer evening.  Bring a picnic dinner, a bottle of wine and romance abounds.

Summer Festivals – Festivals come in all shapes and sizes, each with their own flavor. They can be cultural, musical or celebrating something specific, such as the lavendar festival and cheese festival in our area, among many others. With festivals come festival food, great people watching, and always a surprise or two.

Farmer’s Market – Head out to your local farmer’s market. Pick up your veggies and flowers for the week and enjoy your community.

Street Fairs – Summer time is the time of the street fair.  Food, art, crafts, music.  Summer fairs provide everything you need to fill a day with fun and entertainment.

Gallery Art Walks and Gallery Openings – Think free wine and hors d’oeuvres while enjoying beautiful and interesting art.

Free Yoga and Tai Chi in the Park – In many locales you can find group tai chi or yoga classes in the park during the summer for free or a nominal charge.

Brewery and Winery Tours – Wine and brewery tours are often free.  The tasting that follows may have a nominal fee, but there is no requirement to purchase wine or beer to take home. So go, learn and enjoy!

Happy Hour – Smaller portion bar menu foods and discounted drinks, sometimes featuring entertainment, can make for a great evening with friends.

Library Presentations – Many libraries offer free classes or book discussions. It’s a great place to connect with others who love reading.

Book Signings – Bookstores bring in authors who are on a promotional tours to help promote their books.  It’s an opportunity to meet the author, possibly hear a reading and get the book signed.

Museums – Some museums allow you to visit certain parts of the museum without paying an entrance fee or they may offer a senior discount.  Call around and see what kind of deals you can find.

Local Community College and University Events –  The local colleges and universities sometimes offer free presentations, discussions, music etc.  At one of these events, we had an opportunity to listen to a Tibetan monk talk about his experience of being imprisoned by the Chinese government, which was both emotional and informative.

Dancing Under the Stars – Summertime is a time to dance under the stars.  Find out if your town or city offers this type of event.

Nurseries – On occasion nurseries and garden centers will host horticultural and gardening demonstrations and talks.

Parades – There are the standard 4th of July parades all over the country, but there are also many traditional cultural celebrations that include parades and performances.  Check with your local international district to see when they will be having a parade.  Think Chinese New Year!

Travel Stores – Some stores will offer free presentations on travel topics or talks by travel authors.  I recently attended a presentation at REI on El Camino in Spain and also one at a small independent book shop presented by a new author.  Both were equally interesting and free!

Senior Center Think bingo! BINGO! The senior center often has other activities besides bingo, including dances, local day trips and other special events.  Stop in and check out their monthly calendar.

Pow Wow – Often at the end of summer and into early fall there will be Pow Wows around the country.  What a great opportunity to join with the Native American community and watch traditional dance while enjoying some flat bread and other traditional foods.  This is an annual Cheap Thrill that I always look forward to.

Free Day at the National Parks – This a day when entrance fees are waived.  So, if you don’t want to buy an annual or day pass, plan to go on the free entry day.  This year it is August 25th, September 27th and November 11th, 2014.

Dining Out – Many restaurants offer discounts for seniors or early bird specials. Before you head out, check the restaurant’s website and do a general search on the internet to see if there is a coupon.  A local Mexican restaurant that a friend and I really enjoy going to has a coupon right there on the website.  As we sat in the restaurant enjoying our meal, we have wondered how many people there did not know they could have gotten one of their dinners for free.

Hikes – Well, this isn’t exactly “entertainment,” but I had to add it in, because nothing tops being out in nature.  Nature calls for you to come outside, get some exercise and enjoy the beauty that is our world.  Bring a picnic to enjoy at your destination, before turning around and heading back.

So, look for the Cheap Thrills in your area.  Make a list, invite your friends and then head out and enjoy!

Help grow this list. What Cheap Thrills have you found where you live?  Please comment below.

 

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