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An expat ER with clear priorities
Old 08-03-2020, 01:58 PM   #1
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An expat ER with clear priorities

This article came my way via Google News algorithms and I liked it enough to put up with it being on the Seeking Alpha web site, which I generally dislike.

This guy's chosen lifestyle doesn't exactly make me envious but his clarity about priorities and trade-offs and ability to have a good (for him) ER on a far smaller budget than many is certainly admirable. I'll be interested to hear other's thoughts.

https://seekingalpha.com/article/436...edium=referral
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Old 08-03-2020, 04:21 PM   #2
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Living overseas to minimize expenses is OK by me, but the part about seeking an 8% return brought me up short.
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Old 08-03-2020, 04:30 PM   #3
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Interesting, it works. Iíve been to Penang many times for business and extended my stays as itís half way across the world. Southeast Asia wouldnít be on my list as a place to retire. To each their own.
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Old 08-03-2020, 04:35 PM   #4
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Yeah I had the same thought. Good thing the guy can live on much less than that. But itís fascinating to learn a bit about Penang. It sounds like there are several key advantages vs. Thailand with many of the same advantages.

Just the distance from the U.S. is obviously going to rule a place like that out for most prospective expats but the value is certainly there and the quality of health care is far superior to anything available in the Americas.
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Old 08-03-2020, 04:37 PM   #5
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Very intresting article for sure. I've often dreamed of spending some of my retirement abroad.
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Old 08-04-2020, 04:47 PM   #6
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Before I pulled the trigger on ER, I did look briefly into expat life as a back-up. I'm not naturally adventurous and admit to a certain bias toward life in these United States. Having said that, I saw the appeal of much lower prices on many essentials - especially housing. One thing which blunted any enthusiasm for expat life was that prices change - sometimes dramatically in other countries - especially if your stash is denominated in US$.

Read the forums here on expat life and you will see some of this inflation described in more detail. Not saying expat life isn't an option for many. Just saying I'm glad I didn't need to use it as my backup. I actually enjoy reading stories of expat life (sort of living an expat life of my own - with OUT the financial advantages, heh, heh.) As ever, YMMV.
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Old 08-06-2020, 09:53 AM   #7
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We have spent five of the last six winters in SE Asia. Usually based around Thailand but including Malaysia, Vietnam, and Cambodia (to a lesser extent). At least three stays in Penang plus time in Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi, Cameron Highlands, etc.

Thailand is by far our favourite. We cannot wait to return again. But we not would select anywhere in SE Asia that we have been as a retirement location. Nor would we ever consider the US as a retirement location. For different reasons of course. Instead of becoming expats we decided to do two extended land trips a year. Two months each. We are getting the best of both and visiting places on our respective bucket lists.
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Old 08-06-2020, 10:52 AM   #8
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We have spent five of the last six winters in SE Asia. Usually based around Thailand but including Malaysia, Vietnam, and Cambodia (to a lesser extent). At least three stays in Penang plus time in Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi, Cameron Highlands, etc.

Thailand is by far our favourite. We cannot wait to return again. But we not would select anywhere in SE Asia that we have been as a retirement location. Nor would we ever consider the US as a retirement location. For different reasons of course. Instead of becoming expats we decided to do two extended land trips a year. Two months each. We are getting the best of both and visiting places on our respective bucket lists.
Would love to hear more of your observations. When you say you wouldnít consider the US for retirement either do you mean you intend to not have a home base?

DW and I love Thailand too but between the weather, the air pollution during burning season and the xenophobia wouldnít consider it as a year-round home. Mexico was always our fall-back home base option in case the health care and insurance costs in the US became completely unworkable but between the country being overrun with American expats and its disastrous response to COVID 19 and cartel crime itís off our list now with no replacement in sight.
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Old 08-06-2020, 01:00 PM   #9
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We live in Canada. Many of our friends spend winters in Florida, Arizona, etc.
We have traveled extensively in the US. It is not our preferred winter destination even though it is CLOSE...which is a big plus however that in itself does not give us the impetus to head to either spot.

We prefer Mexico, Costa Rica/Panama on this side and Thailand/Australia on the other side. We have flown on to Gold Coast Australia on two of our five winters. We really do like Australia but it is a heck of a hike home for us. Normally we do a Jetstar to Honolulu, relax for two days, and then pick up a flight home. Less expensive than flying one way home from Sydney.
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Old 08-06-2020, 03:14 PM   #10
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Thanks brett! Those are all great choices for winter exploration and I sure wouldn’t give up Canadian citizenship to retire somewhere else unless I were eligible for EU or maybe New Zealand residency.

Hope the pandemic eases enough for air travel to your preferred destinations to be appealing by this winter.
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Old 08-06-2020, 05:34 PM   #11
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We are looking at doing something crazy. Not this winter, but possibly next.

Spend the winter in Africa. Do a safari, travel through Kenya. perhaps Tanzania. Then spend beach time somewhere for a month or more. High on our list at the moment.

So much to see, so little time!
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Old 08-07-2020, 08:17 AM   #12
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We are looking at doing something crazy. Not this winter, but possibly next.

Spend the winter in Africa. Do a safari, travel through Kenya. perhaps Tanzania. Then spend beach time somewhere for a month or more. High on our list at the moment.

So much to see, so little time!
We did a 10-day northern Tanzania safari in 2013, it was amazing. I still call it the trip of a lifetime. JRO>Arusha>Tarangire>Ngorongoro>Serengeti>Lake Manyara>Arusha. Let me know if you would like any details.
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Old 08-07-2020, 09:27 AM   #13
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Thanks, will do. We spent time in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana nine years ago. Ever since we have wanted to return to Africa. This is at the top of our winter travel post covid list at the moment.

When we went to Africa we started to deal with a TA who supposedly specialized in Africa. We were not that happy so we ended up dealing directly with a safari firm in South Africa. Skype (at that time), email, etc. It worked out very well. Got their name from a tripadvisor post.

Did you make you own arrangements or have everything done by a TA? We tend to be very independent travelers but I realize that this part of the world is a different. I have also been looking at some UK TA websites for this trip.
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Old 08-07-2020, 09:54 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Koolau View Post
Before I pulled the trigger on ER, I did look briefly into expat life as a back-up. I'm not naturally adventurous and admit to a certain bias toward life in these United States. Having said that, I saw the appeal of much lower prices on many essentials - especially housing. One thing which blunted any enthusiasm for expat life was that prices change - sometimes dramatically in other countries - especially if your stash is denominated in US$.

Read the forums here on expat life and you will see some of this inflation described in more detail. Not saying expat life isn't an option for many. Just saying I'm glad I didn't need to use it as my backup. I actually enjoy reading stories of expat life (sort of living an expat life of my own - with OUT the financial advantages, heh, heh.) As ever, YMMV.
Seems to me you could just move to the mainland to get the same effects price-wise. You could be an expat in your own country.
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Old 08-07-2020, 10:15 AM   #15
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We did a 10-day northern Tanzania safari in 2013, it was amazing. I still call it the trip of a lifetime. JRO>Arusha>Tarangire>Ngorongoro>Serengeti>Lake Manyara>Arusha. Let me know if you would like any details.
I'll put in a plug here for Ethiopia. My career as a coffee buyer took me there and it's the one place in Africa I really hope to return to, ideally for weeks if not months. Culturally and culinarily it's just incredible, while the natural beauty up in the highlands (source of the Blue Nile, huge flocks of flamingos, lush forests) is equally over-the-top. I'd read some guidebooks and then hire local guides.

Oh - and the best coffee in the world to keep you going.
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Old 08-07-2020, 12:13 PM   #16
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Thanks, will do. We spent time in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana nine years ago. Ever since we have wanted to return to Africa. This is at the top of our winter travel post covid list at the moment.

When we went to Africa we started to deal with a TA who supposedly specialized in Africa. We were not that happy so we ended up dealing directly with a safari firm in South Africa. Skype (at that time), email, etc. It worked out very well. Got their name from a tripadvisor post.

Did you make you own arrangements or have everything done by a TA? We tend to be very independent travelers but I realize that this part of the world is a different. I have also been looking at some UK TA websites for this trip.
We used Good Earth Tours; my in-laws traveled a LOT, and they had used them a couple of times and had exceptional experiences. Since we had four people, we had our own guide and jeep, so they let us customize the trip. It was based off of one of their package tours, but we added days and upgraded lodging in a couple of places. I think they are based in Tanzania, but have basically sales offices in the US and Canada. We were there around this time of year, the dry season, actually landed in JRO 7 years ago today.
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Old 08-07-2020, 12:21 PM   #17
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I'm fortunate that both my parents are from Penang and I spent many summers as a kid there (in addition to visiting half a dozen times since as an adult) so I'm very comfortable with the culture and environment in Penang and Malaysia in general. In the past 5-10 years as Penang began to appear on top 10 retirement lists it slowly hit me that my "quaint" little second hometown might actually be a cool and attractive place to the broader international community with no ties to the region.

We are lean-FI, mid-30s with young kids, and we have very seriously considered moving to Penang. At the moment we are about 90% set on Taipei instead, but Penang has been a very legitimate possibility for awhile and still is a backup alternative.

This guy's budget and details are pretty spot on. $1700 is essentially the top of the rental market and his place reflects that. I would budget approx $1250 for similar luxury/quality but smaller (3 bedroom) and that's for a short term rental which includes utilities and allows flexibility month-to-month.

Healthcare is excellent. English, particularly in the major cities, is very widely spoken. He didn't specifically mention this but local food is amazing (of course this is highly subjective) and very cheap. I am obviously biased, but I love all kinds of food and Malaysian cuisine is my favorite. That said, it isn't easy or cheap to get other cuisines so it could get tiring after awhile.

The major negatives are the climate (hot and humid + lots of bugs) and the slower lifestyle/fewer variety of amenities. Obviously this is a personal thing... depending on where you're from and what you prefer, the climate and the slower pace may be perfect for you.

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Yeah I had the same thought. Good thing the guy can live on much less than that. But it’s fascinating to learn a bit about Penang. It sounds like there are several key advantages vs. Thailand with many of the same advantages.

Just the distance from the U.S. is obviously going to rule a place like that out for most prospective expats but the value is certainly there and the quality of health care is far superior to anything available in the Americas.
Imo Thailand is more exotic than Malaysia and more exciting. As a city, Bangkok is my favorite between the two countries. OTOH, I am ethnically Chinese and Malaysia offers a far more seamless transition (simmering racial oppression notwithstanding) especially as a Westerner as well. Note that Bangkok is not a good comparison for Penang...Penang would be more like a coastal Chiang Mai or perhaps Phuket. Kuala Lumpur compares closer to Bangkok, while Langkawi would be the most renowned island/beach/resort destination in Malaysia.

I think you'd find English communication a bit smoother in Malaysia, at least in the big cities, first of all because it seems to be more common at a younger age (not long ago English was the language of instruction for STEM subjects in school) but also because the official language, Malay, is written using the Latin alphabet (there is an Arabic script but it isn't used in Malaysia) while Thailand predominantly uses its Thai script.

Malaysia's retirement visa (MM2H) is also better and more straightforward, although it has been taking a beating the past year and in fact was recently ended (presumably on pause). Many observers believe it will return in a new and perhaps improved format once the covid crisis passes. The author did not address the visa in his article, but I see in the comments he mentions that they are using the MM2H and that the program is currently under review.

Distance to the US certainly makes Latin America a bit more popular for American Expats. You'll find a much larger share of UK and Australian expats in Penang and Malaysia as a whole.
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Old 08-07-2020, 02:37 PM   #18
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Great info and perspectives projectmaximus! Thank you.
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Old 08-07-2020, 03:22 PM   #19
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As gay men, my husband and I would not be very welcome in Malaysia where the official religion is Islam and homosexuality is illegal. So we have no desire to visit let alone live there.
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Old 08-07-2020, 03:54 PM   #20
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As gay men, my husband and I would not be very welcome in Malaysia where the official religion is Islam and homosexuality is illegal. So we have no desire to visit let alone live there.
Yes this is unfortunately the case. I cannot even say that I envision any progress on the horizon. There are certainly more groups now than ever before fighting for LGBTQ rights, but the pushback from the majority conservative Islamic demographic has been fierce.

Years ago there was a gay American blogger I stumbled across (truly stumbled cause he had minimal readership) who chronicled his expat years in Penang where he even met his Malaysian partner, but that's certainly not any indication of the circumstances in Malaysia. He did share some insights into this aspect of life and being an expat there (he eventually moved back to the states with his partner)
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