Stop Telling Me I’m Old

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.

LaverneStanding at Macy’s jewelry counter, I was having difficulty making a purchasing decision. A saleswoman, recognizing the look of confusion on my face, asked if I needed assistance.

“I’d like to buy a gift for a special  friend,” I said, as I surveyed the enticing array of gold bangles, brooches and earring.

“How old is your friend?” asked the perky, size six, twenty-something redhead.

“She’ll be celebrating her sixty third birthday,” I answered.

“Oh,” she frowned, “then perhaps you should consider a comfy flannel nighty or a floral house dress. They love to walk around the house wearing those things.”

They? Around the house? Wearing those things?

I had all I could do to keep from slapping her wrinkle-free face. Where on earth did she get such a distorted concept of older women? I, personally, do not have a single female friend who wears floral house dresses, or hangs out around the house. They’re all vibrant women, involved in life, who actually leave their homes to shop, attend classes, play tennis, and work out at the gym – in spandex.

Life is an adventure. Follow your dreams.

Another recent unsavory memory occurred while I was pushing my cart through the supermarket. I’d just had my hair and nails done and was feeling pretty darn good about myself.  Walking neck and neck with me was a handsome, dark haired man, perhaps in his early forties. He smiled broadly, prompting playful feelings to stir within me, so I fluttered my eye lashes and flashed him a flirtatious grin.

With a twinkling smile he asked, “Excuse me ma’am, do you know where I can find the laundry detergent?”

Ma’am???  Ma’am???

Talk about crashing smack into reality. My fanciful thoughts were instantly dashed.

I was at a wedding, cutting a rug with my man of the hour. There we were, feeling chipper, limber, and dancing to the beat of Donna Sommer’s fast paced disco number, “Hot Stuff.”

At the end of the dance a teen-aged girl sauntered up to us with a huge, condescending smile.

“You two are absolutely adorable,” she said. “I hope I have your energy and spirit when I’m your age.”

Adorable???? Your age???”

Poof! The bubble burst as my date and I stared blankly at each other and were suddenly aware that we were not as young as we felt.

When, exactly, did I become the old person that others perceive me as? One moment I was young, the next I was mature and the very next I was ancient. But I, somehow, missed each transition.

Sure, there are certain occurrences I’ve observed that indicate the passing of time, but only a few. For instance I’ve noticed that authoritative people, such as policemen, teachers and presidents, are being hired and elected at a considerably younger age today than they were years ago. Also, street signs and reading material in general are now written in much smaller print than they use to be, and clothing sizes are no longer accurate; they’re made much skimpier.

In my heart and in my mind I am the very same person who drew chalk marks on the playground macadam in preparation for a game of hopscotch with Mary Lou and Nancy. My wonder and excited anticipation of the unexpected have not diminished one iota since my days of waiting for my prom date to ring my doorbell, or for the impending birth of each of my children.

Why are my exterior signs of time often viewed with disdain, intolerance and indifference? I’m the same person I was when I wore a younger body.

I think it’s only fair to warn you that this spirited senior will never be found wearing comfy flannel nighties, floral house dresses or hanging out around the house. You’ll find her instead, at the playground, playing hopscotch with her grandchildren, while the sunlight bounces off of her large, gold, hooped earrings.

Other posts by this author

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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Buying and Selling Real Estate (Foreign or Domestic) from a Tax Perspective

Guest post by John Ohe, IRS Enrolled Agent and chartered Financial Analyst.

John Ohe 1In this article, we discuss U.S. expats and real estate. The most frequently asked questions on this topic include: (1) what are the tax implications when buying foreign real estate? (2) I still own real estate in the U.S. – what are the key issues to consider?

Buying Foreign Real Estate

From a tax standpoint, buying and selling foreign real estate is not much different than in the U.S. Currently, there are no reporting requirements when purchasing foreign real estate. However, U.S. expats should be aware that if one transfers money to a foreign bank to facilitate a real estate transaction (and the balance exceeds $10,000), then this would trigger a requirement to file an FBAR (FinCen 114).

Property taxes are deductible on your tax return. So are mortgage interest payments, including home equity loans. The same restrictions apply as in the U.S. (e.g., acquisition debt limited to $1M, home equity debt limited to $100,000). One can deduct mortgage interest on up to two homes. Keep in mind that deductible amounts paid in local currency will need to be converted to USD for tax reporting purposes.

Open up to new possibilities abroad.

When it comes to selling foreign real estate, the tax-related similarities continue. If the home has been one’s primary residence for at least 2 out of the past 5 years, then one can exclude capital gains up to $250,000 ($500,000 if married filing jointly). Similar to the real estate deductions, amounts denominated in local currency will need to be converted to USD.

From a non-tax standpoint, there are a number of issues to consider. Property rights differ by country. Transferring money should be conducted carefully – fees and Foreign Exchange transactions can be costly. It may be wise to seek professional guidance (e.g., a reputable real estate broker).

Holding onto U.S. Real Estate

Many Americans are aware of the $250,000 ($500,000 if married filing jointly) exclusion on the gain from a sale of a home in a qualifying transaction. The following general requirements must be met to qualify for the exclusion:

  1. Person must have owned and occupied the home as a principal residence for at least 2 out of 5 years prior to the sale; and
  2. During the two-year period ending on the date of the sale, the person did not exclude gain from the sale of another home.

What is lesser known is the fact that any portion of the gain attributable to non-qualified use of the property is ineligible for the exclusion. Non-qualified use includes periods during which the property is not used as an individual’s principal residence (including when it is rented out). The maximum exemption amount is reduced on a pro-rated basis

Let’s use a simplified example to illustrate. Jane Smith (a single taxpayer) buys a house for $100,000 on January 1, 2000. She lives in the house for five years, then moves abroad. On January 1, 2012 (seven years later), Jane returns to the U.S., and begins living in her house again. On January 1, 2014, she sells the house for $350,000 (at a gain of $250,000). Jane meets both of the above requirements. However, 7 of the 14 years she has owned the house falls under non-qualified use. Therefore, only half (or $125,000) of the maximum exemption amount applies. Jane will have to pay capital gains tax on $125,000.

There is one important exception to the non-qualified use rule. Non-qualified use does not include any portion of the 5-year period preceding the sale that is after the last date that the property is used as a taxpayer’s principal residence. In plain English, if you own a home and leave the U.S. without selling the property, sell it within 3 years (and don’t move back into the home). That way, you qualify for the 2 years of 5 years requirements, and you will not be subject to a reduction in the maximum exemption amount.

Other articles by this Author

U.S. Expat Taxes – An Introduction

If you would like to submit a tax-related question, please visit us:

All responses are provided by John Ohe (IRS Enrolled Agent and Chartered Financial Analyst).

Hola Expat helps Americans living abroad with their U.S. tax returns. Our professionals are IRS Enrolled Agents with expertise in expatriate tax return matters. Take a look at our fee schedule. We offer the most sensible pricing among our competitors.

Disclaimer: The answers provided in this article are for general information, and should not be construed as personal tax advice. Tax laws and regulations change frequently, and their application can vary widely based on the specific facts and circumstances involved.

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Is Falling in Love Inevitable?

Guest post by Linda DeBlanco. Linda got tired of the grunt and grind of money earning and packed it all up to travel the world. She shows how you can too, in her book, Get Packing: If not now, when? To find out more about Linda or to purchase her book, visit her website.

get packing2Other than getting through a working life affording only one or two week vacations for decades, I hadn’t really traveled in most of my entire lifetime.  Although I used my passport a fair amount and saw lots of places and hotels, I came to realize that vacations don’t count.

When I was 49 I got a small pile of extra sales commission money.  Rather than buy more dinnerware and/or shoes, I got a wild idea to take a year off from the grunt and grind of money earning and did some serious exploring outside of the USA.  What an eye opener!  But duty called and I didn’t know any other way, so the grunt and grind continued after that glorious year of escape and adventure.  Fifteen years later, at the age when people normally retire, I did the “normal” thing and waved goodbye to my cubicle.  With plenty of time and very little money I did more exploring of the planet and came to a conclusion.

Travel should be a REQUIRED activity for everybody before they get too old to heft a backpack!

Open up to new possibilities abroad.

How can we really understand what it means to live on planet earth if we don’t get some tasty glimpses of a much broader view of it than we do in a typical lifetime as working stiffs?

Realizing how fearful so many of my friends were about leaving home (the USA) for exotic lands, I decided I had no choice but to shout to the world how important it is to seize every opportunity to get out there and travel WHILE WE STILL CAN!

get packingOne wonderful spring day, while sitting by Lake Atitlan in the beautiful highlands of Guatemala, I realized I’d better pen a book to offer encouragement to anybody and everybody who might miss out on seeing the world while there’s still time.  I just felt it was my duty.  I always was pretty hooked on “duty.”  But more on some good reading material a bit later.

First I must admit that it’s not really fair to say this epiphany happened on a spring day because at Lake Atitlan it’s ALWAYS a spring day – even when it’s raining.  In truth this moment of epiphany was in January and was the dead of winter in many places, including the California Sequoias where my car had gotten snowed in.  The poor old Buick sat in front of my daughter’s cabin on a road that is NEVER plowed.  I was only with her for a short visit when she informed me on December 15th that I could get my car out from where it sat in the spring!!!  I’m not a cold weather, rustic living person.  So all I could think was ESCAPE!  I could get myself and a couple of suitcases past the wall of snow created by my daughter’s four wheel drive truck.  But the car was pretty much stuck for the next several months and how does one function in California without a car?  I had no choice but to head south for the winter, which is how I ended up at Lake Atitlan in the first place.

And it’s only fair to report that Lake Atitlan is where I’ve finally decided to spend the rest of my days!!!  It took a few years but by now I am truly in love with Lake Atitlan and I don’t believe in falling in love at first sight.

So, about falling in love.  While we wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes without trying on a few styles, I wasn’t about to settle on a final “living” place without even more exploration.  While falling in love and settling down at some point in life may become a necessity since we aren’t getting any younger.  But wouldn’t you just hate to do that in the wrong place?   To solve that problem it’s my suggestion that we get packing.  Get out of our comfort zone and go see the world and find that place that we can fall in love with.  And, further, that we do this exploration as soon as possible.  Because if not now, when will we get around to that very important global exploration so we can make that extremely important decision on where to live out our golden years.

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Grape Vendor

grapes on the streetIn Vietnam there are many vendors selling all sorts of food. Sometimes they will cook you a waffle on a grill or they will sell you fresh coconuts with the cold juice inside the nut. You will see vendors sitting on the sidewalk cooking snails and duck eggs over hot coals.

This vendor was selling the most beautiful grapes ever. Look at them, aren’t they magnificent?

We wanted to take a photo of the vendor with her wares, but she did not like this idea so I had to settle for a quick shot of the grapes only. But by looking at the result of this photo, I’d say it was enough.

For more stories and photos of Vietnam, click here.

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French Baguettes

french baguettesFrance and Vietnam have had a relationship since the 17th century when missionaries first arrived. While the relationship has been at times complex and difficult, one of the best things France has left behind is the influence of their cuisine.

Here you see some very delicious fresh baguettes made in the French style, and you see them everywhere here in Vietnam. In Asia the use of wheat flour is not very common and neither are sandwiches, but in Vietnam we see both.

The other day we had a pate sandwich with some Gouda cheese on a fresh baguette. All that was missing was a bottle of wine!

For more stories and photos of Vietnam, click here.

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How Would You Structure My Portfolio?

Dear Billy and Akaisha,

Heartfelt thanks to you for your inspiration and helpful guidance for those of us who are not sure if we’ll be able to retire.  I’m writing to ask for your help and expertise about my situation regarding possible retirement.

Briefly, I’ve been a low wage earner most of my life and was late getting into investing.  However, the last twenty three years I’ve made every effort to put together enough for some kind of retirement.  I’m 73 at present and hope that at 75 I’ll be able to begin the last phase of my life in retirement. At this point I have almost $300,000 in investments.  By the age of 75 I’m pretty sure I’ll have that amount and, perhaps, a little more.

 My question for you is, how would you structure that money that it would last 25 years ?  I will have 17,000 a year from S.S. and a miniscule pension.  I live a fairly frugal life, I’m fluent in Spanish (Peace Corp-Colombia 65-67) and plan to spend a few months in Latin America every year of so.  I have some ideas of how I would structure my portfolio, but I would really like your input.

Thank you, again, for all that you have shared.  I enjoy all your stories and the other information you include on your site.

Best wishes and good luck,


Reduce your cost of living. Pay less for medical care. Find better weather. Create a healthier way of life.

Hi John,

Thanks for your interest in our site.

Although I cannot give out specific investment advice, I can talk in generalities.

Your 300K divided by the 25 years you want it to last will give you 12K per year. This amount, plus your 17K from SS will equal 29K per year or $2400 per month. You can easily live on that in Mexico or other parts of Latin America as well as Asia. These numbers are using the 300K with it not being invested. If you invest the money your returns could be better either by stretching the money out longer or leaving it intact. With your investment, you just have to average 4% of your 300K to make 12K a year, and then you will be leaving your original investment intact. Some combination of bonds and stocks funds should be able to produce that 4%.

I hope this helps.




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Specialty Papers

Specialty PapersWalking around Saigon, Vietnam, Billy and I see many of these simple displays of colorful papers. The rolls are slim and for the longest time, we never saw anyone purchase these papers. We wondered what they were for?

So Billy took a photo and when we went back to the Compass Parkview, we showed the front desk and asked the concierge what in the world these things were used for!

To our surprise, we were told that one chooses the colored paper they like, and then this paper is placed over the back of your cell phone, on a motorbike part, or you can give your computer a colorful facelift.

Once we found out how this paper was used, we started noticing people stopping by and having their digital gadgets cosmetically renovated. Today we saw a man applying this type of contact paper (sticky on one side) to a motorbike helmet.

Carefully and painstakingly, the man removed the paper from its backing and attached it to the round helmet. I am thinking “How is he going to avoid the wrinkles when he puts a flat paper on a round object?”


To stretch, shrink and form the paper to an odd shape, the vendor takes out his cigarette lighter and heats the paper. Ever-so-quickly, he then pushes the paper into the form and it makes for a tight seamless, wrinkle-free fit.

Depending on the vendor, there were papers of every color and design. So simple! So affordable! A new stylish look is at your fingertips!

For more stories and photos of Vietnam, click here.

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Flower Man

flower manBet you don’t see THIS every day!

Billy and I were out walking again the other day and low and behold, we see this moving flower show on a bicycle! Finally, when the angle was right we could see that the flower show was being man-propelled and we were able to catch a photo of him.

When was the last time you saw so many flowers in one place?


You never know what to expect here in Saigon, Vietnam.

For more stories and photos of Vietnam, click here.

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Evening Barbeque

Evening BarbequeThe food in Vietnam is wondrous.

The other night we went to Ben Thanh night barbeque and ordered up greens, elephant ear fish, mussels and shrimp.

The shrimp were very fresh and were displayed around a fresh coconut with the heads turned out. Paraffin wax was placed around the coconut and set on fire, blazing the shrimp. When the wax died out, our waiter came by, and one-by-one removed the shrimp, peeled it and then placed it inside the coconut with its fresh coconut water. More paraffin was placed around the coconut and lit on fire so that the heat would cook the shrimp in the coconut juice. When the fire died out, the shrimp were done and ready to eat.


For more stories and photos of Vietnam, click here.

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What to Look For When Choosing a Retirement Home

A guest blog post created by Harold H Rigby, a lifestyle writer with a passion for making those years of retirement happy and healthy.

It’s the place where you’ll be spending the rest of your golden years, so it’s crucial to get it right when choosing a retirement home for you or a loved one. But recognizing the distinctions between the qualities of each potential home can be difficult, and often they don’t immediately meet the eye. How do you know, for example, which home will give you the care and attention if you happened to fall ill? What makes a retirement home an enjoyable place to spend your days?

Here is some advice and guidance to help you know what to look for when choosing a retirement home.

First Impressions

They say that first impressions count, and to be honest there is a lot to be said for the initial judgments that you make upon entering a care home. Use your senses to get a feel for the place, from the overall look of the place to the smells. Try to work out what you like and don’t like in the first few minutes during your visit of each home, and compare the positives and negatives of each. Try to visit each prospective home at a similar time to give a like-for-like comparison. You’ll get a completely different impression of a Saturday night, for example, compared to a Sunday morning.

Want to retire? Not sure you can? Your Retirement Dream IS Possible! For more information, click here

Clean and Tidy

After getting a first impression of the home, keep your eyes open during your tour to assess how clean and tidy the place is. Inspect surfaces and mobility aids, under tables and chairs, and importantly the bathrooms when looking around, for signs that cleaning is thorough and not just surface deep. A clean environment is essential in a care home to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria. There shouldn’t be any off-putting smells such as that of urine, and don’t be afraid to ask the staff about their cleaning routine during your visit if you want any clarification.

Photo source Flickr

Photo source Flickr

Person-Centered Care

When moving into a retirement home, you want to be sure that during your stay you’ll receive the utmost care and attention. A quality retirement home goes above and beyond bringing you meals, attending to your needs, dealing with any problems that you might have and has the equipment to help with reduced mobility. To be treated like an individual is a basic right for any resident of a home, and person-centered care achieves this. The tour should give you an idea about the nature of the staff, however it should be remembered that they are trying to sell a place in their home.

To dig deeper into the quality of the care, take the time to talk to the existing residents or any family members that you encounter. They should provide a more honest and personal account of their experiences that will be a good guide to the true nature of the care home and its staff. Ask the tour guide about their approach to certain scenarios such as illness or special requests, and find out what activities bring the home to life on a daily basis.

The Atmosphere

The place where you are to spend the rest of your days, you want to feel comfortable, happy and at home with the place that you choose. During your visit, get a feel for the atmosphere. After all, these will be the people that you’ll be getting to know if you do choose the retirement home. Does it feel relaxed or chaotic, upbeat or depressing, fun or boring? These might seem like rather basic judgments, but you want to make sure that the retirement home is in-keeping with the atmosphere that you’d feel comfortable in. Whether you want a quiet home with appealing views and gardens, or a place where you can socialize and enjoy lots of activity, choosing a retirement home is a very personal decision.

Narrow down your options to a few favorites and take a second visit – the atmosphere of a place can differ greatly from day to day. If they offer trial stays then be sure to take them up on the offer to get an accurate impression of living there.

Go With Your Instincts

It might be clean, tidy, friendly and organized, but if your gut instinct isn’t telling you that this is the right choice then listen to it. You want to be sure that you’ll be truly content at your retirement home, and nobody wants the upheaval of starting the search all over again in a few months if you don’t feel comfortable. Trust your instincts with the help of the deciding factors above to reach an informed decision.

These are just a few of the things to take into consideration when choosing a retirement home. Of course special requirements, personal taste and other factors come into play, but if you trust your instincts and thoroughly assess the retirement home you should be able to come to the right decision.

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