The Global Expatriate’s Guide To Investing—Why You Can’t Afford Not To Read It

Guest post by Andrew Hallam, author of The Global Expatriate’s Guide to Investing

If you have a financial advisor, odds are high that he or she has a dirty little secret. Most of your investment costs are hidden. And the more you pay in investment fees, the less you make. In fact, investment fees are a bigger drain on many people’s wealth than income taxes. Getting them under control can mean one of two things:

1. Retiring a heck of a lot sooner
2. Enjoying a lot more money in retirement

I wrote The Global Expatriate’s Guide To Investing to increase your odds of both.

Let me introduce myself. I was financially free at 38. I wrote a bestselling book in 2011 at the age of 41. It’s called Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School. Now my wife and I enjoy an early retirement lifestyle. We’re currently in Lake Chapala, Mexico. That doesn’t mean, however, that we lay around in hammocks drinking margaritas. I enjoy writing, including a finance column for The Globe and Mail.

So let’s get back to that dirty little secret. You probably pay too much money in investment fees. The more you pay, the more your financial advisor earns. Most advisors are keen to boost their salaries and commissions. Their salesmanship, however, gets deducted from your bottom line.

Open up to new possibilities abroad

If you asked Warren Buffett how to invest, he would tell you to invest in low cost index funds. These are cheap products. They put more money in your pockets. But they line your advisor’s pockets with less. Economic Nobel Prize winners William F. Sharpe, Paul Samuelson, Daniel Kahneman, Merton Miller and Robert Merton all agree. Harvard’s endowment fund manager, Jack Meyer, says “The investment business is a giant scam. It deletes billions of dollars every year in transaction costs and fees…You should simply hold index funds.” Yale University’s endowment fund manager, David Swensen, says the U.S. government should stop the mutual fund industry’s exploitation of individual investors.

In the eyes of most financial advisors, these financial wizards are total party poopers. My book shows you how to hire the right kind of financial advisor. This person would build you a portfolio of low cost index funds. It also shows how to build such portfolios on your own.

Let’s assume you’re 40 years old. You invest $10,000 into a low cost index fund. If the markets average 8 percent, your money would grow to roughly $81,573 after 30 years. Investors paying 2 percent more in annual fees would likely earn just $48,268. Those north of 50 may wonder why this matters to them. It does. And it matters a lot. Most 50 year olds, for example, hope to live happy healthy lives into their 80s. If you’re living off your investments, you won’t be spending it all at once. You’ll be selling part of your money each year, while the remainder (you hope!) continues to grow. This is how you can combat the rising costs of living.

I wrote The Global Expatriate’s Guide To Investing for an expatriate audience. But if you’re residing in your home country, you’ll still find it useful. It’s the only book in the world that shows exactly how to invest, regardless of where you live, and regardless of nationality. It’s also the only book showing you how to build low cost portfolios of index funds using three different cutting edge strategies. One of them, you’ll find, has been remarkably stable. It has averaged slightly more than 9 percent a year since 1971. Its worst year was 1981. It dropped just 4.1 percent. During the crash of 2008, it lost less than 1 percent.

Yeah, I’m gushing about this book. But I know you’ll find it helpful.

Best of all, it gets that dirty little secret out.

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Questions on Retirement Facilities Overseas

I was looking at the QA section of your website. I didn’t look at every link. But, at some point do you discuss the inevitable outcome that eventually you won’t be able to travel any more at a certain age. Do you have any plans? Will you return to America permanently? Or will you choose one place overseas? Do you have concerns about having to stay in a retirement facility overseas?

Was there any country you’d label as your “favorite?”

Hi Marsha,

Thanks for taking the time to write. You have a great question!

Billy and I still debate returning to the States full time. Once we turn 65 we will have medicare, but the expenses of long term care are just off the charts. Other countries who serve the expat population are aware of this and are building long term facilities to fill the need. You can read about a couple of them here:

Continuous Care options
Alicia’s Convalescent Complex
Care Facilities in Mexico

Also, it should be noted that general care — whether it’s medical or just care around the home like gardeners and maids, someone to do the shopping and cooking, is far more affordable overseas than it is in the States. So if it gets to the point where one must have assistance in one’s own home, this would be more affordable than in the States as well.

As I say, other countries see the writing on the wall and are offering services to Expats now for these purposes. These facilities and array of services will only grow to cover the increasing needs of the population. Chances are, we will take advantage of these when the time comes.

In terms of do we have any concerns about staying in a facility overseas – no more than having to stay or receive them in the States. There are always areas where one must watch so we aren’t taken advantage of – whether it be cleanliness, good service, or money fraud – but one would need to watch that anywhere they stay. We take the attitude of staying open to having the best options present themselves when the time is needed.

Not sure you can retire? Get answers here

As far as having a favorite country — we do not. Each country has their pros and cons, depending on what one is looking for. Sometimes stunning natural beauty is accompanied by less infrastructure, sometimes an easy-to-get-to-place has more traffic. Weather-wise, we prefer a springtime climate – not too hot, not too cold, not too humid. It’s always a give and take.

I hope this answers your question and do feel free to write again any time.

Wishing you the best,

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Age Requirements for 55+ Active Adult Communities

Hi Billy and Akaisha,

Thank you so much for creating your website Retire Early Lifestyle. It has been such an inspiration to me.

Your travels and adventures encourage me so much in my mission to retire early.

I especially like the way you have structured your travels…with a home base in an active adult community with easy access to an airport and travel adventures overseas.

I would love to do something similar but every active adult community that interests me seems to be 55+. As I am only 47 I don’t know if I would be able to join a community that I like.

Since you two retired early I was wondering how you dealt with this issue.

If you have time to write back that would be wonderful!!! (I wouldn’t want to take away from your travel time though.)

Thanks again so much for your website. I read it every day (and after some of my work days, I really need the pick me up.)


Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.

Hi Pamela,

Thank you for taking the time to write and for all your kind words regarding our website. We are most pleased that you find inspiration and useful information on

Regarding Active Adult Communities — we were grandfathered in to a community when we were in our forties, so that is how we were able to be where we are. However, some communities follow an Equal Housing Opportunity rule which doesn’t allow the community to discriminate residents by age and allows for a certain percentage of residents to be under 55. You might try looking for communities which follow this rule first, then see if there are any housing opportunities there.

Our particular resort park was one of these communities, and there were several younger people living in there. You could probably do some research online, but from what I understand, each community is different.

It’s a great way to live, with lots of amenities. You can check it out here: ‘Worry-Free’ Housing.

The best of luck, and don’t give up on your dream!

Best regards,

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How to Choose the Right Assisted Living Facility for Your Parents

Guest post by Cher Zavala

Assisted Living 1There comes a time in a person’s life when she needs to take responsibility for her aging parents’ care. Assisted living may be the answer — it can offer your parents all the independence they enjoy at home, with less of the responsibility of taking care of a house. Most assisted living facilities offer some help with housekeeping, meals, and transportation, and they also give residents access to a community that can help them stave off the feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression that can occur when seniors become less mobile and less able to participate in their communities. Most of all, there will be someone there if your parents have a medical emergency.

Is assisted living right for your parents? How do you choose a facility? There’s a lot more to it than simply picking the assisted living home with the fanciest amenities. Know what to look for in an assisted living facility, how to evaluate costs, and how to identify red flags.

Is It Time to Move Your Loved One into Assisted Living?

Ideally, the best time to start looking for an assisted living facility for your loved one is six to 12 months before he or she needs to move. That way, you’ll have time to evaluate several facilities and find the one that works for your parent’s needs without the added pressure of needing to find care for a relative who’s being discharged from a hospital or rehab center and needs an immediate living solution.

Of course, things don’t always work out that way, but you may be able to buy yourself the time you need to shop around for assisted living by keeping your eyes open to the following signs:

• Your loved one isn’t cooking or eating well. Your parent might start losing weight, or you might find that the fridge and pantry are empty, or filled with rotten or expired food.
• Your parent is having mobility problems. He or she may be trying to hide bruises or other injuries.
• Your parent’s house is messy. He or she isn’t able to keep up with the housecleaning anymore.
• Your parent seems forgetful, or has started behaving bizarrely or inappropriately. These are signs he or she could be suffering from dementia.
• Your loved one is neglecting personal hygiene. Your parent could be wearing dirty clothes or avoiding bathing because he or she can no longer manage these tasks.

Assisted Living 2Once you’ve decided your loved one needs to move into assisted living, you may want to consult with a geriatric care manager. Such a professional can evaluate your parent’s condition and let you know whether assisted living is truly appropriate, or whether your parent needs a higher level of care.

What to Look for in an Assisted Living Facility

Some assisted living facilities provide private apartments where your parents can live pretty much as they always have, but with a little more assistance in the areas of housekeeping and maybe cooking. Others offer private or semi-private rooms. Some facilities, like the Sinai Residence for assisted living in Boca Raton, offer positively luxurious accommodations that include multiple dining options, movie theaters, and more. In addition to housecleaning and some form of emergency medical supervision, you may want to look for amenities like transportation, regular activities, game or card rooms, and outdoor space.

While your parents’ comfort is definitely important, it’s not the only priority when it comes to choosing assisted living. Try to evaluate several facilities before you choose one, and plan to visit each multiple times. On your first visit, ask for copies of the contract and residency requirements. These documents will let you know:

• How much the facility costs
• What services are provided and which cost extra
• How medications are handled
• How and when your parents’ medical condition will be reevaluated
• What will happen if your parent must spend time in a hospital
• The conditions under which your parent can be asked to leave, for medical reasons or otherwise

If a facility won’t give you this information on the first visit, rule it out right away — that’s a big red flag. Make sure that if your parent must leave the facility to go to the hospital, they’ll be able to return to the same unit when they come back. When you make subsequent visits, do so unannounced; that way the staff will be less able to hide any unsatisfactory conditions. Visit at mealtimes and talk to staff and residents about the care they give or receive. If there don’t seem to be many residents in a facility, that’s a red flag too — it could mean the facility doesn’t have much money or isn’t very satisfactory.

Evaluate Costs

Assisted living doesn’t come cheap — it costs an average of $3,550 a month and some facilities may add on to that base rate if your parents need additional care. Make sure you know what you’re paying for and what services or amenities will cost extra. Services like medication management or help with the activities of daily living, like bathing, dressing or eating, can cost hundreds more a month.

When it’s time for your parents to move into an assisted living facility, take your time and make sure the facility you choose is the right one. It’s never easy to leave behind your community, but if you can help your parents choose the right assisted living facility, they’ll soon be feeling at home again.

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4 Keys to Better Health Now

Guest post by Cher Zavala

4 keys 1Having a sound mind and body isn’t something anyone should take for granted — especially with health care costs hitting almost $4 trillion annually in the United States. Much more than an assumed birthright anymore, good health can seem increasingly elusive as more and more sedentary lifestyles, compromised air, water, and food quality and ever-mounting stress take their tolls on individuals’ lives, bodies, and psyches. Thankfully, better health is possible for nearly everyone, and the changes necessary to pursue it are easy to put into practice. If you wish you felt better, were more fit and experienced more relaxation, here are four keys to getting healthier that you can start implementing right now.


Exercise may be the most important piece of the overall good health puzzle, but it’s the one most people find especially difficult to tackle and stick with. While it would be nice if exercise were built into daily life like it was for thousands of years, the reality is that most of us have sedentary jobs with long commutes that leave us pinched for time and energy. Apart from quitting your office job and moving to where you can work on a farm, what’s a 21st century American to do to ensure she gets enough exercise?

The CDC recommends that adults get 2 1/2 hours of moderately intense aerobic exercise (e.g. brisk walking) every week, as well as muscle strengthening that works every major muscle group two days a week. Given your hectic schedule, how are you supposed to pull off that feat? For starters, consider taking a half-hour walk after dinner Monday-Friday to aid in digestion and clear your mind. If you find your motivation for walking lags, look into getting a heart rate monitor. Studies show that people who wear heart rate monitors tend to walk more than their peers who don’t. As for muscle strengthening, tackle some yard work or finish up that tile job in the basement. Simple home repairs and gardening undertaken twice a week can provide all the muscle strengthening you need.

Get More (Better) Sleep

At least 40 million Americans suffer from some kind of sleep disorder, which is very bad news in the health department. Getting enough quality sleep is an essential part of fending off illness, maintaining a healthy weight, and keeping mental illnesses like depression at bay. If you’re one of millions of Americans who suffers from a lack of quality sleep, there are a handful of measures you can undertake to try and rectify the situation, including:

• Stick to regular times for going to bed and waking up — even on the weekends.
• Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine — especially in the afternoons and evenings.
• Get regular exercise.
• Sleep in a pitch-black room.

Tackle Stress

Americans are arguably more stressed out than they’ve ever been, and it also seems like we’re less able to cope with stress than ever before. While no one enjoys the experience of stress, its impact on overall health is a more worrisome concern than just how it feels on a day-to-day basis. Stress negatively affects your mood, lowers your immune system’s ability to function, shortens your life, and decreases your overall productivity at work and home. Because of these stark realities, managing stress is an essential part of achieving good health. If you feel like your stress is out of control, try getting a weekly massage, writing in a daily journal, meeting with a cognitive behavioral therapist and/or getting more exercise. Each of these coping techniques has been proven to help individuals reduce the stress they experience, which will inevitably lead to greater health.

4 keys 2Eat whole, local foods

Your health is mightily dependent on the nutrition you give — and don’t give — your body. If you’re like most Americans, you probably eat a diet that’s high in preservatives and processed foods, while whole, natural and local foods rarely make it past your pantry. It’s true that cooking for yourself can take a considerable amount of time, and stopping at a fast food restaurant on the way home from work is fast and easy, but without proper nutrition, your health will deteriorate more and more as you age. So, start small. Commit to cooking a locally sourced meal for yourself and your family once a week. What you’ll find is that fresh, whole and local food is full of flavor and nutrients, and what’s more — you’ll also be helping out your local economy and benefiting the environment by eating food that was grown near where you live.

Your good health is up to you. Through regular exercise, better sleep, stress reduction and the experience of eating whole, local foods, your ongoing and concerted effort will result in a happier, healthier, and longer life.

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Giddy Yup

Guest post by Laverne H. Bardy whose humorous, often irreverent, slant on life in general, and aging in particular, draws a large readership. She has been syndicated with Senior Wire News Service since 2004. Her book, How The (Bleep) Did I Get This Old? was released in January, 2012, and is a compilation of the best of her columns.

LaverneI had wanted to take horseback riding lessons for a long while, however well meaning friends cautioned, “You’re in your sixties, for Heaven sake. You could break your bones,” …….as if broken bones would be less convenient or less painful at a younger age.

I’d been on a horse twice: when I was four years old, to have a picture taken, and in the late 80’s with a tour guide along Arizona’s rugged red mountain tails. I loved it, and was advised that if I wanted to know more than how to simply get on, stay on and get off, I’d have to take lessons.

Chip was a leathery old horse trainer who’d been teaching horseback riding for over 32 years. One look at me and he determined that Clementine and I would be a perfect match. Her tired sagging frame had her belly barely missing the ground and her flashing, threatening, eyes dared me to mount her.

My third lesson took place on a scorching day in August. I was doing just fine riding in circles around the sweltering enclosed arena. Then Chip instructed me to squeeze my legs to get Clementine to trot, and to pull the reins back when I wanted her to slow down. So I squeezed my legs gently and suddenly Clementine’s tired old body, fired by resentment for me, managed to muster up the same trajectory as the stone from David’s sling shot.

I let out a shrill, terrified scream, which startled Clementine to a gallop. She was out of control. Frantically, I pulled back on the reins in hopes of getting her to slow down, but I couldn’t help involuntarily squeezing my legs in a desperate effort to keep from falling off. The horse was confused by my mixed commands, but she never stopped to ask questions. Instead, she bolted, and I reacted by squeezing even tighter which, of course, caused her to sprint even faster.

There I was, bouncing up and down, up and down, and Clementine was going down and up, down and up. We were totally out of sync. But, she was not the only one out of control, for every time we collided, I peed, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop it from happening. We collided. I peed. We collided. I peed.

Finally my instructor, who had been racing to catch up with us, caught hold of Clementine’s reins and got her to stop. I was now faced with a new crisis… to dismount without Chip seeing what I’d done to his beautiful leather saddle. I was mortified, so I simply slid out of the saddle and said with great aplomb, “I’m so hot. I can not believe how much I sweated.”

One look at the saddle and he had to know what really happened, and that I was lying, but what could I do? So, I silently thanked God that I’d worn black slacks that hadn’t revealed my alleged secret. My aching legs and my humiliation directed me towards my car, and the glory and wonder of riding something with an accelerator and brakes.

Needless to say, I never returned to see Chip and Clementine – a fact for which I’m certain they were both grateful.

Other posts by this author

Stop Telling Me I’m Old

Growing Up Dangerously

Watching Real Beauty

Hell, Not on the Map, but I Was There

Cellulite: A Rite of Passage

Camping: Not for Sissies

Don’t Count Me Out

Aging, Not All Fun and Games

Challenging My Legacy

Behind Closed Doors

Battle of the Bulge

How the Home Shopping Network Turned Me into a Zebra

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Safe and Effective Senior Driving

Guest blog post by Jenny Richards. Jenny  works as a trainer at motor driving school. She has a lot of experience in this field and provides necessary and safety tips on driving and specially on senior driving

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs people get older, driving can become more challenging for them. Senior drivers need to prioritize their safety and renew their driving skills. The physical changes that occur as a result of the natural aging process may interfere with a person’s alertness and reflexes.

Regular Physical Activity

Improvement in senior driving is possible by engaging in regular physical activity. This has the benefit of boosting your ability to move with ease. As an older driver, you face the risk of being unable to respond quickly enough to situations fast enough if you are not flexible or strong enough.

Consult a Doctor

• You may notice that some of your senses are not what they used to be as you continue to get older. It is advisable to have a physical examination by a doctor who can establish how good your sight and hearing are because these senses are vital while driving.
• Senior driving can be safe as long as you remain aware of any physical and mental changes that may inhibit your driving capabilities. It is important to understand the impact that the aging process makes on driving.
• If you have aches and pains, you will find it increasingly difficult to turn from side to side, move your feet and even steer the vehicle.

image 2Get the Right Car

Many older individuals still want to exercise their independence by driving and being able to move around on their own. You can achieve this by driving a car that you are comfortable with and making sure that it is in good condition.

Remain Alert

• Both senior and younger drivers should avoid distractions while driving. Resist the temptation to answer calls or change the dial on the radio as you drive. If you must take a call, pulling over is essential to keep you and other people on the road safe.
• Being aware of what your limits are on the road will make it easier for you to know what situations you are most comfortable with. If driving at night is difficult because you are unable to see clearly, limit yourself to driving during the day.
Address your Health Issues
• Any health issues you may have needs consideration in terms of how they affect your ability to drive. If you are on medication, always look at the labels to establish whether they affect concentration or cause drowsiness.
• You should address problems with vision as well as diminished hearing.
• Everyone is susceptible to memory loss but if you frequently find yourself forgetting information and situations that occurred, a medical evaluation is a recommended option.

You might be unwilling to admit that your driving skills are not what they used to be but taking the time to update them can save you from dangerous and costly situations.

Gradually Adjust

Even if you have an exemplary track record in regards to driving, you need to be aware of the changes that cause reduction to your flexibility, strength and ability to coordinate.

Making the necessary adjustments to your physical changes will enable you to drive safely.
Auto insurance is essential for the provision of financial protection from damage and injuries that occur after a road accident. This type of insurance is essential for peace of mind for people who want to drive their vehicles regularly.

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How to Invest Pension Money

Guest post by Adam Barney

One key way of ensuring you can retire comfortably – and possibly early – is by investing your pension money wisely. Most of us save for the majority of our working lives to set up a nest egg for our leisurely years, so we want to know our pensions are looked after in worthwhile investments which will enable us to make the most out of our money.

In the past, this would have been looked after for us, usually through buying an annuity. However there are many more options available to those out there with a pension, which may prove to be better for you as an individual than annuity. Here are just some of the things you can do with your pension:


Currently the most common form of pension payout, annuities may not return the most money but they do provide security in the form of a return guaranteed not to run out before someone passes away. The annual return is only about 5-6% and certainly pales in comparison to other investments. However inflation could prove good for annuity policies which are index-linked, which is the main draw for most people.

Retail Bonds

Retail bonds are basically loans that individuals can make as investments in companies. A lot of major companies take part in this, such as RBS and Tesco, which can provide some sort of reassurance to investors. As can be shown by the banking crash and subsequent nationalisation of RBS, this might not always provide a positive payout. There is essentially more risk than with an annuity, but there is also a certain level of control. These bonds have a fixed maturity date, so you know when they’ll pay out and roughly how much. You can get a similar payout from this type of investment than as with an annuity, with the certainty that you’ll get all your capital back at one time, which could more of an advantage. If all goes well you can again expect a return of 5-6% but this is not guaranteed, as some investors learned over the last decade.

Low Risk Bonds and Shares

The appeal of this type of investment is in the name; it’s low risk. This usually breaks down into 60% of your invested cash going to popular bonds, with the remaining 40% ending up invested in equity funds. Having a higher percentage of bonds, especially low risk bonds, is a positive way to combat inflation as it stops your pension fund dramatically losing value. The return is only 4% annually, however low risk bonds and shares are considered more secure than retail bonds.

Invest in Gold

Although a lot of pension savings are usually tied up in stocks or investments until they are withdrawn, a much less risky option would be to invest your cash in gold. Unlike the stock market or currencies, the value of gold has not seen as many crashes, and in most instances its value has increased far higher (and therefore promising a higher return) than other investment options. If you don’t know how to spot good gold IRA company, then there are plenty of IRA gold comparison websites you can track down on Google, helping to trace the perfect investment for you.

There are of course many other investment options for your pension fund, with many high risk options available to you should you feel daring enough to make the investment. However the above is a selection of some of the most common ways you can invest your pension and hopefully make a gain from it.

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Laundry Service

Laundry cleaned, folded and delivered!

Laundry cleaned, folded and delivered!

One of the services we receive from Compass Living’s all inclusive stay is laundry service. It’s just so great to be able to put our used clothing in a bag and fill out a form that lists our items. Two pairs of socks 3 pairs of shorts, our pajamas… I then give it to housekeeping when they come in to the residence in the morning. They count our items and weigh the amount of clothing and then a couple of days later it comes back all clean and folded.

I don’t even have to drop it off and pick it up! How easy could it get?

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Banana Sheets

Lady making banana sheets on the sidewalk

Lady making banana sheets on the sidewalk

We are staying at the Compass Parkview in Saigon, Vietnam. As part of my Pampered Package I receive weekly massages, manicures and pedicures.

One week, as a surprise, my manicurist brought me some tasty banana sheets. What are these? You might ask. A vendor slices bananas lengthwise into narrow strips and places them on a grill to heat. Because of the sugar in the banana strips, they begin to adhere together and eventually form a flattened grilled “sheet” of crispy bananas. They are surprisingly delicious!

We liked them so much that when our gift package ran out, we began the search to purchase more. For the next several days, we went from store to store but we couldn’t locate this tasty treat.

Then one day when we walked outside our residence, we saw a vendor cooking up waffles and banana sheets! What luck!

Since I don’t speak Vietnamese, sign language had to suffice and I found out that a package of these yummy delights cost 24,000VND or just over a dollar. I bought two! And now I’m all set to enjoy a local delicacy at my leisure.

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