Kindest Regards, You Miserable People

LillyPadsJust read your article about Bali..the “Lost Paradise.” 

There is no paradise on earth.  Paradise is a state of mind.

You nitpick every single little thing in this article to the point of sounding like little children who don’t get their spoiled ways.  Too bad you could not enjoy Nyepi, one of the most amazing days of religious significance to the Balinese; a day of total silence with all necessities of life set aside to become introspective.

Apparently, introspection is not part of either of your makeup.  You are spoiled, greedy, egocentric people who will never find happiness as long as you put every small thing under your lopsided microscope.

Kindest regard you miserable people.

Ron

Hi Ron,

Thank you for taking the time to write and to express your opinion. We appreciate it.

We, too, feel badly that we had a difficult experience in Bali. We did not come with a bad attitude. Our plans were to stay 2 months, but we only stayed 2 weeks because of what we encountered. I understand that sometimes travel presents challenges and that’s part of the adventure. Billy and I were disappointed that we were not able to shake out of the negative circumstances that met us in Bali because we pride ourselves in our flexibility.

Do not let Fear make your decisions for you. Risk has a price and so does security.

I do believe that it was just “one of those things.” On the other hand, Bali seems to be dealing with some growing pains and it is our hope that they can come up to meet the demand.

When we came to Bali we did not want to stay in a gated community or resort and be insulated. We wanted to be part of the community and stay closer to the people. We were frustrated to find old cockroaches in the bathroom drains and cobwebs on the furniture in Ubud. The lack of cleanliness in general was also disturbing – and we do a lot of world travel to make a fair comparison.

Perhaps we’ll give Bali another chance and if we do, we hope to find the paradise that so many people speak about. But it could just be that Bali is not for us. We are happy that you and Bali suit each other and that your experience matches your expectations.

Wishing you all the best, and thanks again for taking the time to write.

Regards,

Akaisha and Billy Kaderli

 

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Watching Real Beauty

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 was sitting in a diner, enjoying my solitude and absorbed in thoughts of my father. It was the anniversary of his death and I was missing him.    

From the corner of my eye I noticed a magnificent looking couple in a nearby booth. The woman was incredibly beautiful with large, dark, seductive eyes, thick black hair pulled sleekly into a French knot, and an airbrushed complexion. Her movements were fluid. She was poised and composed and appeared to be detached from her surroundings. I watched as she sipped her coffee and I realized that hers were the looks I’d always wanted.

The man was gorgeous. I stared shamelessly and smiled as I allowed my fantasies to ramble. His skin was tanned, he had rugged features with a strong cleft chin and clear blue eyes. The cut of his expensive three piece suit accentuated his broad chest and shoulders.

He was reading a newspaper. She was drinking coffee. They never spoke.

I heard myself sigh and tried to pull my thoughts back to where they had been before they’d been so pleasantly invaded. It was difficult. I was drawn to the two of them and their robot-like movements — turning his pages, lifting her cup. No speaking. No smiling. No communicating.

Dream, dream, dream

My thoughts were further interrupted when the hostess escorted another couple to a booth diagonally in front of mine. They appeared to be frequent patrons of the diner because they joked familiarly with the waitress, who asked if they wanted their “usual.”

The man was in his mid-sixties. His hair was steel grey and he wore baggy shorts that slung low on his hips, inviting his belly to hang over. He wore a horizontally striped polo shirt and a red billed cap. Black dress shoes and short black socks accentuated his thin, white, bowed legs.

The woman, about fifty five, had short frizzy brown hair with long grey roots. She wore plaid Bermuda shorts, a sleeveless polka dot over-blouse, white sandals with white anklets, and carried a small white patent leather handbag. She had no forearms. Finger-like appendages hung from her elbows.

I tried hard to ignore her deformity but found myself sneaking peeks at her reflection in the window alongside me. Distance made their conversation inaudible to me, but their perpetual dialogue, laughter and playful animation revealed the warmth and the depth of their feelings for each other.

I stalled by reordering cups of tea. I was intrigued by the contrast in the appearance and behavior of the two couples.

The beautiful people slid across their booth seats, stood and prepared to leave. I observed that the woman was tall and willowy. The man appeared to be about 6’5″ and, in my humble opinion, was a perfect specimen of manhood. The woman walked in front of the man, past the cashier and out the door. He paid the check and followed. They never spoke or so much as acknowledged each other’s presence. They were perfectly sculpted pieces of cold marble.

Loosen your grip on routine

I was on my third cup of tea by now and feeling uncomfortable about lingering any longer when the second couple stood and prepared to leave. When he reached the woman’s side of the table, the man leaned over and whispered something into her ear, causing her to visibly blush and giggle. They embraced. I hid behind my menu and softly cried.

They were walking towards the cashier when the man suddenly turned and came back to his booth. He reached across the seat on which he’d been sitting and came up with his red cap.

My eyes were still moist as I managed a smile and said, “Good thing you remembered it now, instead of after you were on the road.”

He grinned  broadly and walked over to me. “See this here pin?” he asked with great pride as he pointed to a small brass heart stuck in his cap. “My wife gave it to me over 40 years ago and I’m never without it.”

I smiled approvingly and he returned to the cashier where he paid his check and walked out with his arm over his woman’s shoulders.

As my eyes followed them to the parking lot, memories of my father trickled back into my mind and I was struck with thoughts of something he had told me when I was a youngster working beside him in his roadside fruit and vegetable stand. “The sweetest fruits are often the ones with blemishes and imperfections.”

I was warmed by thoughts of my father’s words and realized that while the beautiful people had caught my eye, it was the second couple who captured my heart.

Other posts by this author

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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Should I Move My Retirement Funds to Mexico?

Do you know where to look into moving retirement funds to Mexico upon having citizenship??

Daniel

Dream, dream, dream

Hi Daniel,

It is our opinion that moving all of your retirement funds to a Mexican bank would be putting you at a currency risk. We would suggest that you keep your money in the US and access it through ATMs. Having a working bank account in Mexico with some of your holdings there would prove to be practical but putting all of your money in Mexico could expose you to risk that you would not need.

I would suggest becoming familiar with some Expat forums and see what others do in your circumstances. You can find this information on our Newsletters and Forums Page. Forums are free to join.

Good luck!

Best,

Akaisha

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Are You Afraid to Retire?

Thank you for your web site, at 53 I have 25 times what I need in retirement income. I really think that that is enough, at a 4 percent withdrawal rate. I am having trouble with severing the ties and just doing it, actually retiring. I seem to be so institutionalized to work that the fear of retirement is real.

Looking at your web site gives me a peek through the retirement door that freedom can offer.

How can I deal with the fear of stepping over the retirement fence?

Brant

Hi Brant,

Thank you for your kind words about our site and for taking the time to write.

Congratulations on your (possible) upcoming retirement!

What you are feeling is perfectly natural. You are considering making a huge lifestyle change, and of course, you don’t know what the future will bring. But at some point, you must take the training wheels off the bicycle and ride on your own.

While you might have enough money to retire, there is an emotional component of retirement that is seldom addressed. This is where you are finding yourself.

That being said, you might try semi-retirement by getting a part time job or  volunteering for pay. This could ease yourself into having more free time and will give you a schedule for your days.

Life is an adventure, follow your dreams.

You could make a list of all the things you want to do with your time, all the things you want to learn, places you want to see, and have the excitement of this list pull you forward.

One thing that will surely help you is if you track your spending. In this way you will know in real time how much of your net worth you are consuming. Tracking spending is a great way to bring one confidence in their retirement plan because you always know where you are financially.

Have you already decided what sort of retirement you are seeking? Do you want to keep your home? house sit? exchange your home with another couple and travel? move to a less costly location? Do you have hobbies you want to pursue?

The more you think about what sort of retirement you want and what will fill your days, the easier it is to move forward into your dream.

I hope you will find these suggestions useful. Please keep in touch and let us know how you are doing.

Wishing you every good thing,

Akaisha and Billy

Posted in All Things Financial, Book Store, Housing, Q & A From our Readers, Travel Tips and Insight, Volunteering | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Teaching Abroad, could it be your ticket to permanent life of travel?

Guest post by Suzanne O’Rourke from Itchy Nomads

I have to admit, I had a huge advantage in life, spending much of my youth growing up in foreign countries.  I had no hand in making this happen.  I just have to be grateful that my parents took the leap. I did seize the opportunity for personal growth that led to an awareness of different ways to live. The possibilities are endless if only we allow ourselves to be open to things that are different and unfamiliar.

Having grown up in both the International School System and the American School system in Asia I had wanted to try my hand at teaching in this foreign school system as an adult. My experience in these schools had been fantastic.  Learning was challenging, immersive and invigorating.  It was also academically strenuous, setting a standard for lifelong learning for which I will forever be grateful.

Recently we had the joy of reconnecting with old friends and colleagues, Caz and Alan Mussell in Oro Valley, Arizona.  We had met during a year in which John and I lived and taught at Colegio Americano in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. 

We had long admired this couple because they are a shining example of two Itchy Nomads that set off on individual paths, not knowing the outcome or really the destination, and met and built a life teaching in more than 8 countries between them.  During their tenure they raised two children to become happy and very interesting adults while nurturing and changing the lives of endless children and their families in a ripple effect globally that is immeasurable.

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

While we enjoyed a delicious meal of Thai Curry and brown rice Alan said, “Our lifestyle is the best kept secret there is.”  He was speaking about a career built around teaching in the International Schools.

What did he mean by “the Best Kept Secret?” Well we want to share it with you.  Do with it what you will but John and I have experienced it first hand and numerous friends of ours continue to live it. Those who have lived this lifestyle but have gone on to do other things, look back and comment that their years of Teaching Abroad were some of their happiest and most vibrant years of their lives.

That is the Secret; go teach in a foreign country. 

You can teach English as Second Language or you can teach other subjects in one of the many International Schools.  The benefits are monetary, experiential and emotional.

We will let them share their experience directly through this interview.

We are proud to introduce you to Caz and Alan Mussel.  Alan is originally from Oregon in the U.S. and Caz is from North Eastern England.

01Alan-&-studentSUZANNE:  Did either of you think when you started this career that it would last so long and take you to so many countries? 

ALAN: Not really.  I just found that I liked teaching.

CAZ:  My family still wonders where the “travel bug” came from.  From the age of about 15 I wanted to travel the world but I realized that I would have to work overseas to be able to do that.  In those days it seemed that for women, there were two occupations which would allow me to fulfill my dreams. Those occupations were Nursing and Teaching.  I hated the sight of blood and my Uncle, whom I admired, was a Teacher so it was easy for me to choose.

SUZANNE:  What drew you to teaching abroad and were your expectations realistic? 

ALAN:  My Peace Corps experience was so important in those formative years that I re-enrolled for another term in Kenya, with similar positive results.

CAZ: I went overseas to teach with an open mind, no expectations and with excitement to what I may experience.

SUZANNE:  What did you both teach? 

ALAN: I was first trained as a teacher under the US Peace Corps program and was sent to the Ivory Coast to teach science and mathematics in French. I have also taught Music on the side at different times. I had two years of college French, but the Peace Corp tested me for language competency and put me through an intensive French language program before I left.

CAZ:  I taught Math and Sciences at the Middle School and High School Level. I also taught Computer Studies in the Computer Labs.

SUZANNE:  What countries have you taught in and for how long?

Allen-North-PakistanALAN: I have taught in Ivory Coast (2 years), Kenya (10 years), Turkey (2 years), California (1 year), Oregon (5 years), Pakistan (3 years), Philippines (3 years) and Mexico (2 years).

CAZ:  Jamaica (2 years), Kenya (8 1/2 years), Pakistan (3 years), The Philippines (3 years) and Mexico (5 years).

SUZANNE: Did you have a favorite country? 

ALAN: I found something of value in each country I taught.

CAZ: No. I did not realize that I would stay away from England that long.  But I loved moving to a new country, starting a new job.  I was always eager to meet new people, explore the country and the culture. I enjoyed every country in which I taught because there were so many different things to experience. The most interesting was Pakistan because their culture was totally different with little of the western world influence. Also, the Pakistani students were special.

SUZANNE:  Was it hard to get these teaching jobs?  What credentials or skills did you have or need?

ALAN: I was first trained by the Peace Corps, got my credential, and then earned my Masters in Education.

CAZ:  One needed a teaching certificate and degree plus 2 years teaching experience.  Not difficult to find a job if you were prepared to go anywhere. 

SUZANNE:  Just a comment here from my experience, I only had an Emergency Credential which I got by substitute teaching in California.  To earn this I had to first have a College Degree, and pass a State Test called the CBEST. This was adequate to get me a Teaching position with the understanding that I would continue on with my credential process. Others we have met have only a TOEFL or ESL Certification for Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

SUZANNE: Did you need to know a foreign language?

Cathie-Vidal-teaching-in-PuALAN:  I needed French in the Ivory Coast and was trained to speak Swahili for Kenya, which I used subsequently. In Mexico, I taught myself Spanish… I love languages and have found them invaluable in understanding the culture wherever I am. I learned bits of Turkish and Urdu also.

CAZ: The local schools in which I taught in Jamaica and Kenya, the language of instruction was English. In the International schools the classes were all in English except the language classes.

Suzanne:  When I taught in Mexico, I team taught with a Mexican teacher. We taught 3rd and 4th grades. Half the day I taught the 3rd graders Geography, World History, Science and English Language in English. Meanwhile my Mexican counterpart taught Math, Spanish, Mexican History and Cultural Studies in Spanish.  In the afternoon we flipped the grades and I taught subjects in English to the 4th graders.  I learned a lot of Spanish that year, but it was not a requirement of my employment. It was more of a benefit to me.

SUZANNE: What Skills were most in demand? 

ALAN: Desire to communicate with students and their families.

SUZANNE:  Math, Sciences, Foreign Language like French, and Computer Skills.  John taught Computer Graphics and Physics in Summer School while I taught High School Earth Science.

SUZANNE:  What challenges did you have to overcome to make this lifestyle work?

ALAN:  It seemed to come naturally. There were illnesses, but no more than would have been expected in the US.

CAZ:  I had to adjust to being away from family. I had to discover the cultural differences especially those which may have been offensive to the local people. New people generally are euphoric when they first arrive but then a slump can occur after about 3 months when they realize the differences between their old and new life. Some find it hard to adjust. At each school one has to adjust to the way it is run while coping with unpacking, adapting to new environment and having no friends for support at first.

SUZANNE:  Using your 20×20 vision, was raising your children in this manner a positive experience for you and them? 

ALAN: They considered their years abroad immensely valuable.

Suzanne-with-her-masked-kidSUZANNE:  The International and American Schools I attended had some wonderful travel programs and foreign exchange opportunities that were amazing.  With my 20 x 20 vision, growing up in these schools provided an intimacy with the expat community, my local instructors and the school as a whole that I’ve never experienced in domestic schools. It spoiled me for less involved community lifestyle.

SUZANNE:  What did you like most about the lifestyle?

ALAN: Immersion in a foreign culture.

CAZ:  Just experiencing another way of life, new food, new places, dress and having one’s life enriched by all of this. Being in a certain part of the world allows you to visit other countries nearby.

SUZANNE: How did you find the teaching jobs in each country, and did you have your pick, or was it difficult to get the ones you wanted?

ALAN: After the Peace Corps years, I attended some of the many hiring conferences, but because of my fields, found no difficulty in getting jobs.

CAZ: The first 2 jobs, Kenya and Jamaica were found in the “Times Educational Supplement” which advertises jobs overseas. I chose to apply for these jobs.

Later the positions in the “International Schools” were found through attending Recruiting Fairs which are held all over the World. Attendees interview with many schools of their choice and then choose the one they want from the offers they are given. One did not always get the school which was top of their list. I found these jobs through International Schools Services (ISS) and Quality Schools International organizations.

SUZANNE:  Was it a benefit that they could hire both of you as a couple? 

ALAN: Definitely.

 CAZ: It is a definite advantage to be a teaching couple. The school is getting 2 for the price of 1 nearly as they would have to pay fares, provide accommodation, medical etc. for families whether one or both are teaching.  Some schools like Pakistan, Karachi American School will only hire teaching couples. For Alan and me, we had a little disadvantage as we both taught High School Math’s. In those days it was the male who was offered AP and IB classes.

SUZANNE: What was the hardest part of this lifestyle?

ALAN:  Nothing.

CAZ: I never felt there was any hardship. The Schools always had a support system in place to help if one needed it.

SUZANNE: Can you please tell us about the Benefits you typically received and the type of employment packages you could expect to be offered? 

ALAN: Usually accommodation, sometimes a vehicle, often a paid round-trip yearly to home, tax-free income, and medical.

Suzanne: Typically a housing allowance, summers off with the ability to travel extensively, round trip airfare back home at least every other year. A real bonus is the ability to earn about $97,000 US tax free per person and often a low cost of living depending on the country you are in. If you re-sign for another year there is a typically a sign in bonus. If you have children they usually get the benefit of this free private school education. Round trip airfare is included as long as you stay for the length of your contract.

SUZANNE:  What resources would you recommend someone tap into if they are interested teaching abroad?

CAZ:  I would recommend going to the Recruiting Conferences in the States or Abroad as then you can interview with many schools at one time. Also you can meet people from these schools.

ALAN: Check out the job fairs, ISS catalogue, etc. and see what schools require of their teachers.

SUZANNE: If you know anyone that has taught at an International School and you have the credentials to teach, ask for an introduction and letter of referral.  Administrators love to hire people who are referred by others with whom they have worked before.

SUZANNE:  Many of our readers may think that a career like this is for those just getting started, but my experience has been that this is not the case.  What are your thoughts about who should consider teaching abroad?  Is it just for young teachers, or veteran teachers or can it include being a 2nd act for semi-retired individuals or even retirees? 

ALAN: Many schools prefer younger married candidates as the health risks would be less, but we met teachers abroad of all ages, often with families.

CAZ: Most schools want you to have 2 years teaching experience but after that age does not matter.  Some schools will end your contracts when you reach the age of 64. Two that I know of are the International Schools in Tokyo and Jakarta.

SUZANNE: THANK YOU SO MUCH Caz and Alan for sharing your insights and expertise about this career direction. I can only wonder how many lives you have both influenced through the years and how those students have gone on to make a positive difference in their countries and global community. You should be congratulated for the countless contributions you’ve made to your students’ lives.

 In Summary:

The schools can vary widely in their facilities and amenities.  Alan taught in a rural Peace Corp school that was rustic and dangerous, and he loved it.  In contrast some schools are like elaborate country clubs with swimming pools, beautiful libraries, sports fields and amazing programs. The Alumni associations of the better schools offer Reunions around the world so graduates can stay connected.

Also, if you get hired in-country you will typically earn the Local Wage, as was the case when we were hired in Puerto Vallarta.  Make sure you get hired outside of the country you plan to teach in.  The benefits difference is very significant.

Itchy Nomads, if this lifestyle is of interest, look for a job fair and go get information and possibly do some interviews.  Teaching English as a Second Language can be an easier path to getting a job, but does not typically have the financial benefits that teaching in an International School offers.  

For more information on teaching abroad and jobs in retirement, see our Retirement Jobs page.

Posted in All Things Financial, Guest Blog Posts, Heart Song, Is It Work or Is It Passion?, Travel Tips and Insight | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Hey Billy & Akaisha – Are You Retired or Not?

Wide expanse of beach, Santa Cruz, Califoria

Wide expanse of beach, Santa Cruz, Califoria

Hey guys,

Enjoy your newsletter and you’ve both been an inspiration for a few years now as my wife and I plan our early retirement. My concern as the years have passed is that it has become clear that in some ways you aren’t retired now as you must be receiving a good amount of income from your books and web-site (I could be wrong, but it does appear that way). I applaud you for this and think its great that its worked out for you.

What I think would be fair to the rest of us is that you mention this and without giving out details you would rather remain personal at least give some sort of estimate as to how much of your income is now from what I would call your “retirement business”.

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

I think for the rest of us who will be trying this with no other income but what we have invested, that it would help as we access our own situation. I do understand that this was not your original intention and that you started out with just your investments, but since that isn’t the situation now, it would be helpful to the rest of us.

Billy with hill tribe kids, Thailand

Billy with hill tribe kids, Thailand

If I am way off base with this, I apologize as I am simply assuming based on your success post retirement that it’s fueled a good income and I could be totally off base. If I am, then that information would actually be even more helpful and encouraging. Either way, I think the information would be helpful.

Thanks so much,

Darin G.

Hi Darin,

Thank you for taking the time to write.

We want you to know that we appreciate your question and we address this issue in a piece we recently posted on our website: Is it Work or Is it Passion?

The most important thing is to be able to live off one’s investments which we did for 15 years before we wrote any books. In planning for your own retirement, you must be able to live from the income that your investments generate, and if something else comes up after your retirement years, then it is simply “extra cash.” As we mention in our article, once you are retired, opportunities come up and you can take advantage of them as you like – or not. If you do an exchange with a neighbor or join the Peace Corps and receive a modest payment for your volunteer work, are you no longer “retired”? Will you feel inclined to move yourself from the ranks of being retired to the semi-retired column and then back again when circumstances change?

Akaisha riding in a Jak Ka Ran, Vietnam

Akaisha riding in a Jak Ka Ran, Vietnam

This is one of the reasons we prefer the term of Financial Independence. One either is or they aren’t.

If we no longer pursued our website and the writing of books (which is a passion) it would not affect our ability to be Financially Independent. We do the website and books as our volunteer time because we are passionate about educating people on financial independence, world travel and medical tourism. We aren’t caught up in whether or not someone puts a label of “semi-retired” on us or whether or not someone feels we have “tarnished” the label of being fully retired.

Billy and I are productive people and we didn’t want to sit around “doing nothing” all day. If we weren’t writing for our blog, we would be doing something else that is productive (like building tennis courts or teaching massage or anything else of our choosing).

I hope this explanation puts your questions to rest and that it answers this matter for you personally. When you retire, – or become Financially Independent – what you do with your time is up to you. If an opportunity fell into your lap or if you want to do an exchange with a neighbor or friend I certainly hope that you would not allow someone else’s tendency to label you “only” semi-retired keep you from living a satisfying life of your choosing.

Thank you so much for writing and we wish you and yours the very best on your road to financial freedom. Please feel free to write any time.

Best,

Akaisha

Posted in About us, All Things Financial, Heart Song, Is It Work or Is It Passion?, Q & A From our Readers, Volunteering | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Early Years

Garret Mathews is retired from writing the metro column for the Evansville, Ind., Courier & Press. He penned more than 6,500 columns in a career that began in 1972. Mathews lives in Carmel, Ind., and happily babysits his new grandson four days a week. 

When I recall my early years in the newspaper business at the Bluefield, West Virginia, Daily Telegraph, I think of pounding out stories on an ancient Royal typewriter that could have been used as a hand weight at a World War II boot camp.

And mailroom guys growing marijuana in the dirt between the cracks of the wood floor on the third floor.

C.W., their boss, was cool with it and even helped with the harvest.

“Makes ‘em work better,” he told me.

And never completely trusting the contents of the pizza on my desk because pieces of the Depression-era ceiling were always falling down. One night, a staffer thought he was biting into an anchovy and ended up needing dental work.

Simplify, simplify, simplify

I worked with a narc, a woman who went to jail for Social Security fraud, a guy who went to jail for assault, assorted alcoholics, assorted drug users and a desk man who tried to burn the newspaper building down.

The attempted mass homicide didn’t amount to much. The gothic structure had lived through 80 years of storms, pigeons, angry readers and poor reporters. It could survive a quart of lighter fluid and a boat-load of matches.

But what I remember the most are the nicknames that were given out like lollipops at the bank.

The big three were “slick,” “ace” and “stud.”

As in:

“Gimme six grafs on that bus wreck, slick, so we can make deadline and go drink beer at King Tut’s Drive-In before Stu tries to set the place on fire again.”

And:

“Hang up on your girlfriend, stud. Need that headline on the Sewage Board meeting some time today. We ain’t a monthly.”

And:

“Better not be going up to the mailroom, ace. The cops are up there handing out indictments.”

And:

“I know there’s no chair, slick. Company policy. There’s three for every five employees. Either come in early or learn to squat.”

And:

“Wouldn’t park out front if I was you, ace. Get a little wind and bricks start flying off the roof. Usually land where your hood ornament is.”

Sadly, you don’t hear those wonderful nouns around the newspaper office any more.

We have this ridiculous, politically correct notion that folks should be called by their real names.

Can’t call somebody “slick” because it means “pile of bile” to natives of Qatar.

Can’t call somebody “ace” because it reminds the news editor he isn’t one.

Newsrooms are alleged to be too sophisticated to dabble in such verbiage these days. We have carpet now. And coffee makers. And ceilings that can be counted on to stand their ground.

I take this opportunity to break from the mold.

MEMO:

To: Those who address me in the future:

From: The ex-columnist in cubicle 12

Let it be known that henceforth I will no longer answer to Garret. Or GM. Or “Whatsit.” Or “Hey, you.”

I want my appellation to touch on the rich history of the newspaper business.

I also want it to reflect my strength, power, well-being and, yes, virility.

My greeting of choice is “stud.”

As in:

“Hey, stud, the company car is stuck in a ditch. Wanna lift it out for us?

And:

“Hey, stud, our new hire was parking his car and got hit with a brick. Can we borrow some of your scar tissue?”

And:

“Hey, stud, there’s a gas leak at King Tut’s. Can you suck up the fumes until the HAZ-MAT crews get here? And hurry. There are three slicks and two aces in there.”

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Why Your House Is a Terrible Investment

Jim Collins writes about his passion for travel and the investing strategies that support it.  His Blog is best known for describing the importance of accumulating F-you Money and the Stock Series posts on investing for it.

My pal James Altucher calls home ownership a part of The American Religion, so I know I’m treading dangerous ground here. But before you get out the tar and feathers, let’s do a little thought experiment together.

House3Imagine over a cup or coffee or a glass of wine we get to talking about investments. Then maybe one of us, let’s say you, says:

“Hey I’ve got an idea. We’re always talking about good investments. What if we came up with the worst possible investment we can construct? What might that look like?”

Well, let’s see now (pulling out our lined yellow pad), let’s make a list. To be really terrible:

  • It should be not just an initial, but if we do it right, a relentlessly ongoing drain on the cash reserves of the owner.
  • It should be illiquid. We’ll make it something that takes weeks, no – wait – even better, months of time and effort to buy or sell.
  • It should be expensive to buy and sell. We’ll add very high transaction costs. Let’s say 5% commissions on the deal, coming and going.

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  • It should be complex to buy or sell. That way we can ladle on lots of extra fees and reports and documents we can charge for.
  • It should generate low returns. Certainly no more than the inflation rate. Maybe a bit less.
  • It should be leveraged! Oh, oh this one is great! This is how we’ll get people to swallow those low returns. If the price goes up a little bit, leverage will magnify this and people will convince themselves it’s actually a good investment! Nah, don’t worry about it. Most will never even consider that leverage is also very high risk and could just as easily wipe them out.
  • It should be mortgaged! Another beauty of leverage. We can charge interest on the loans. Yep, and with just a little more effort we should easily be able to persuade people who buy this thing to borrow money against it more than once.
  • It should be unproductive. While we’re talking about interest, let’s be sure this investment we are creating never pays any. No dividends either, of course.
  • It should be immobile. If we can fix it to one geographical spot we can be sure at any given time only a tiny group of potential buyers for it will exist. Sometimes and in some places, none at all.
  • It should be subject to the fortunes of one country, one state, one city, one town…No! One neighborhood! Imagine if our investment could somehow tie its owner to the fate of one narrow location. The risk could be enormous! A plant closes. A street gang moves in. A government goes crazy with taxes. An environmental disaster happens nearby. We could have an investment that not only crushes it’s owner’s net worth, but does so even as they are losing their job and income.
  • It should be something that locks its owner in one geographical area. That’ll limit their options and keep ’em docile for their employers!
  • It should be expensive. Ideally we’ll make it so expensive that it will represent a disproportionate percentage of a person’s net worth. Nothing like squeezing out diversification to increase risk.
  • It should be expensive to own, too. Let’s make sure this investment requires an endless parade of repairs and maintenance without which it will crumble into dust.
  • It should be fragile and easily damaged by weather, fire, vandalism and the like. Now we can add-on expensive insurance to cover these risks.  Making sure, of course, that the bad things that are most likely to happen aren’t actually covered. Don’t worry, we’ll bury that in the fine print or maybe just charge extra for it.
  • It should be heavily taxed, too. Let’s get the Feds in on this. If it should go up in value, we’ll go ahead and tax that gain. If it goes down in value should we offer a balancing tax deduction on the loss like with other investments? Nah.
  • It should be taxed even more! Let’s not forget our state and local governments. Why wait till this investment is sold? Unlike other investments, let’s tax it each and every year. Oh, and let’s raise those taxes anytime it goes up in value. Lower them when it goes down? Don’t be silly.
  • It should be something you can never really own. Since we are going to give the government the power to tax this investment every year, “owning” it will be just like sharecropping. We’ll let them work it, maintain it, pay all the cost associated with it and, as long as they pay their annual rent (oops, I mean taxes) we’ll let ’em stay in it. Unless we decide we want it.
  • For that, we’ll make it subject to eminent domain. You know, in case we decide that instead of getting our rent (damn! I mean taxes) we’d rather just take it away from them.

House 1Here are two more offered by readers…

  • Mr. Risky Start-up: It should increase stress, lead to more divorces, but then be impossible to divide.
  • DMDave: You only need one motivated (read: desperate) seller to set the price for the whole neighborhood. Imagine your so-called “investment” suddenly get scuttled when your neighbor decided to sell his particle-board mansion at 20% below assessment.

Boy howdy! That’s quite a list! Any investment that ugly would make my skin crawl. In fact, I’m not sure you could rightly call anything with those characteristics an investment at all.

Then, too, the challenge would be to get anybody to buy this turkey. But we can. In fact, I bet we can get them not only to buy but to believe doing so is the fulfillment of a dream, indeed a national birthright.

House2A few weeks back I was at an awards banquet and sitting at our table was a woman I know. She began talking about how she was encouraging her young son to buy a house. You know. Stop throwing away money on rent and start building equity.

I suggested that, since her son was single, living alone and without children maybe he didn’t actually need a house. That if he didn’t need one, maybe he should consider some alternatives instead. Or at least run the numbers first.

This didn’t sit well and it was a short conversation. It ended when she said, “Well, he’d be better off buying a house than a clapped-out Camaro!”

Well, yeah. Maybe so. If this is the only alternative.

Other posts by this Author

Esperando un Camino – Waiting for a Road

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Hell: Not on the Map, But I Was There

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 have no idea how I injured my back, but the results landed me flat out in knife-twisting agony for nearly three weeks. I’ve had back problems before but nothing compared to this torture – not even back in 1985 when the medics came, hoisted me off of my bedroom floor and carried me to the ER, where the doctor instructed me to sit up and when I said I couldn’t he said, with great annoyance, “Of course you can; you just don’t want the pain.” 

The man was brilliant.

So here I was, writhing in agony, hurting too much to read, write, watch TV, or eat;  unable to do anything but look up at the ceiling, moan, and wipe an occasional tear from my cheek. Experimenting with new positions took on a whole new meaning.

My doctor promised relief.

“I haf a proceedchure,” assured Dr. Mengele. “You vill be my last patient Vendesday  (so no one vill hear your screams).

Do not let Fear make your decisions for you. Risk has a price and so does security.

My friend, Joanne, drove and then listened to my cries and labored breathing as Dr. Mengele  pummeled and kneaded. And when it was over, with sweat pouring down my face, I threatened, “You’d better be able to show me a baby.” 

I was given a prescription for a muscle relaxant. Instructions on the bottle warned not to drink alcohol, because it might intensify the effect of the drug. I thought, “…….and the bad part of  that would be…………….????”

About a week into this ordeal, in a drug induced state, and still on my back, I began to discover little activities that held my interest. I examined my hands with the curiosity and wonder of an infant who’s just discovered his feet. I noticed that the lifeline on my right hand is longer than that on my left and wondered if that meant it would live longer. I spent an entire day pushing my cuticles back so far, they currently reside under each first knuckle. I counted the age spots on my hands and arms which took me through days nine, ten and eleven. I watched the cobwebs on my ceiling fan circle around and around and, incredibly, never drop off. I braided my chin hairs.

I discovered that I can’t drink water lying on my back, and no matter how careful I am, it’s impossible to peel a hard boiled egg on my chest without having the shells slide off onto the sheets. In addition, I came to understand why nobody has ever approved the manufacturing of a Chest Top Computer.

My pain was more severe than usual one morning, when I discovered I’d been sleeping on a Kentucky Fried chicken wing my daughter had loving attempted to feed me the evening before.

My cousin Phyllis prescribed her own home remedy. “Buy a car like mine, with heated seats,” she suggested. “When I had back pain problems I spent the better part of most days driving in my car. I only came home to eat,” she continued.

 I liked her idea a lot, but my HMO wouldn’t approve it.

The only plus to being out of commission was a weight loss of seven pounds, but I gained it all back  the first day I was able to make the trek down the hall to my refrigerator.

I’m presently up and around. I still have pain but it’s really bizarre how everything is relative. What I’m now experiencing is an incessant nagging, aching, stiffness that infringes on the quality of my every waking moment. But hey, compared to what I had before, it’s Nirvana.   

Other posts by this author:

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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Esperando un Camino – Waiting for a Road

Jim Collins writes about his passion for travel and the investing strategies that support it.  His Blog is best known for describing the importance of accumulating F-you Money and the Stock Series posts on investing for it.

In my office there is a bronze sculpture we acquired in Madrid, Spain some 25 years ago.  It is about a foot tall and depicts a young woman.  She is barefoot and has long flowing hair.  Dressed in a peasant blouse and long skirt, she stands with her hands on her hips looking down.  At her feet is an open bag with a bedroll and a book sticking up out of it.  There is a small satchel leaning against it.  The title is “Esperando un Camino.”  The artist is Joseph Bofill.

I don’t know where she’s going but I’ve always wanted to come along.

Indeed, I’ve had the good fortune to see a fair bit of the planet:  Mexico, Canada, Ireland, Wales, England, Germany, Greece, Crete, Puerto Rico, Tahiti, Venezuela, Curacao, Scotland, Italy, Germany, Spain, Paris, India, Kashmir, Goa, Nepal, Zanzibar, Tanzania, Eleuthera, St. Thomas, St. Martin, Barbados, Antigua, Martinique, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Guatemala and most states across the USA.  Pretty much in that order although I’ve visited some more than once.  And I may have forgotten one or two.

I’ve traveled to and around those places by plane, train, bus, subway, taxi, hired car, motorcycle, bicycle, rickshaw, hitch-hiking, foot, horse, donkey and elephant.  Not only traveled by elephant, but herded rhinoceros by elephant back in Nepal.  I love saying that!

Many people, of course, don’t care much for traveling.  It is a highly personal choice.  However, I can’t help but think part of the problem is the way the Travel Industry approaches the whole business.  Mainly:  avoid the locals and their culture whilst cramming as much into as little time as possible so people can check off their list and say “Yep, I’ve been there, done that!”

But that doesn’t appeal or your experiences have been disappointing, maybe the way we do it might be of interest.

Let go of the American Expectation Syndrome. Open up to new possibilities abroad.

Travel slowly

For our honeymoon we spent three weeks in Scotland.  The most common comment was, “Three weeks in Scotland?  What can you do for three weeks in Scotland?”

Followed closely by, “I’ve been to Europe and saw it all during my two week tour.”  Ah, OK.

Rushing from place to place ticking off sights means you’ll spend most of your time in transit. Not fun, and a three hour layover in the Frankfurt airport doesn’t mean you’ve been to Germany.

Relax.  Find a local cafe and waste an afternoon over a cup of coffee.  Watch the locals drift by.  Maybe even talk to a few.

A bench in Jackson Square, maybe mine.

A bench in Jackson Square, maybe mine.

Avoid the sights   

Maybe not all of them, but choose just a few that really appeal to you.  Learn to be comfortable leaving some stones unturned.  Be sure that what you see you take the time to see well. 

Linger in cafes and parks.    Absorb the feel of the place.  Breathe it in.  Last year in New Orleans I found an isolated bench in Jackson Square.  I sat for an hour with my eyes closed and just listened.  Quiet your mind and let it it flow.

The locals might not be as scary as you think

The locals might not be as scary as you think

Talk to the locals   

Lots of travelers complain that the people in such and such a place are unfriendly.  Well, if you are flying past in a rush to your next sight you are not, candidly, a very attractive opportunity for them.

In Quito we stumbled on a little chocolate shop.  Because we were leisurely poking around Ruth, the owner, took the time to chat.  Before long she was insisting that we stay to try her special hot chocolate.

By the time we left we had met several of her friends, were guests in her home and her husband, a naturalist on the Galapagos, had invited us for a “behind the scenes” visit.

Of course, we didn’t see every church and museum in town.

Settle in

Settle in

Settle in

If you can, spend some time.  Even if you’ve only a week, pick a spot and focus on what’s there.

A few years back we took an apartment in Quito for the summer.  By the time we left we knew all the local shop owners.  One day we went to the little shop where we bought our eggs and milk.  It was closed.  On the walk back to the apartment we ran into the owner.  We exchanged pleasantries and asked when he would reopen.  He insisted on walking the two blocks back to his shop, opening it and selling us what we needed before closing again and going on his way.

We’ll remember that long after we’ve forgotten the museums.

Kilimanjaro Crater

Kilimanjaro Crater

Leave your camera at home  

Too many people waste their time trying to record the trip rather than living it.  Indeed, I’m convinced many see everything they see only thru the lens.  Give it a rest.  If you follow the advice above you’ll meet locals.  They’ll have cameras and they’ll send you the pictures they took to remember your visit.  As for scenery, use Google.  You’ll find better shots of the Taj Mahal or Kilimanjaro there than you are likely to take yourself.  

Taj Mahal Been here, didn't take the pic

Taj Mahal Been here, didn’t take the pic

Do it now

Sad to say, the world is becoming a more crowded place.  Back in the early 1970s I visited Arches National Park in Utah.  Simply stunning and I had the entire place all to myself all day.  Find the undiscovered and go now.

Do it while you are young

There is no question that travel involves some discomfort.  Sitting in cramped airline seats for hours on end.  Bouncing over rutted roads in antique local buses.  “Delhi Belly.”  Or…

As I feel the years build the time is coming where the hassle will outweigh the joy.  But, thankfully, not yet.  If you are going to do it, now is the time.

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