First off, I want to thank everyone for all the feedback regarding my recent post about expat finances and my subsequent follow up that explained why perhaps finances weren’t something I should include in future posts. Understanding my readers a little better now, most feedback was positive and I learned that many folks regard the financial posts as positive input while they contemplate their own experimental expat early retirement. Others felt the blog should only be about travel adventures and that nobody cares about the world’s current political situation and its effect on expat life or our own personal finances. So here’s my take on where the blog goes from here.
As I’ve alluded to many times, the blog isn’t a travel blog about wanderlust or all how early retirement is all about fulfilling our travel fantasies. With thousands of travel blogs, some good, some bad, I’m not here to compete with those folks. Nor is early retirement just about travel, at least not for people like us that joined the ranks of the non-working with much less than we’d need to be globetrotters. Having been laid off about five years before I would’ve preferred, traveling is an added benefit but needs to be carefully planned and isn’t the main focus of why we chose early retirement. Granted we’ve had some great adventures and those are often what folks want to read about most but every day isn’t vacation nor is retirement always great so I like to also discuss the ironic, comical and often cynical parts that convey a more realistic idea of what you might expect should you take the plunge. Usually receiving comments that I “tell it like it is”, I think sugar-coated stories of a fantasy retirement are a dime a dozen.
And despite working in the financial services industry for 30 years, I reiterate that you don’t need to be a licensed professional to practice good financial habits and create your own self directed fully diversified investment portfolio. But I’d never attempt to craft a personal finance blog because that’s probably the second most popular topic behind travel. As an amateur, I’m happy to share bits and pieces of what’s worked for us and even some specific recommendations and I try to use easy to understand but useful links from actual professionals to help explain what I’m discussing. Given that most comments and feedback were positive, it seems there is enough interest to write part two and discuss how we intend to stay retired given our current resources and future income streams. So thank you to those who encouraged me and look for my follow up after our short jaunt to Malaysia that starts today.
And finally, I want to address my take on the political commentary. While I’ve tried hard not to make the blog about politics, anyone living on planet Earth knows the degradation that’s occurred in American society since Trump became president. Contrary to some folks thinking, geopolitical events are often one of the most important things that affect overseas expat life. Living here in Chiang Mai, we’ve encountered way too many non-American Trump-loving morons that hate Americans. While America doesn’t literally rule the planet, they do control the world’s financial markets with the only reserve currency and possess the world’s biggest military. Combine that with a narcissistic moron with no comprehensive understanding of history, diplomacy or the Constitution he swore to uphold and I’d say you’ve got a potential recipe for disaster brewing. So yes, I strongly feel that Trump’s antics play a large part in anyone’s overseas early retirement despite the “inconvenient truth” aspect.
Awhile back I wrote a post called Why it matters to Expats and tried to convey why I felt it was so important to keep Trump out of power. Perhaps more than other nations, Americans my age were all raised with a strong sense of pride and nationalism. Once a manufacturing leader and shining star at the forefront of science, education, and leadership, America’s social deterioration disheartens many from my generation. And the racism, intolerance and sexual abuse that’s fully endorsed by Trump and enabled by a cowardly Republican party that enables him and allows America to slip into a one-party totalitarian state is disgraceful and needs to be stopped for everyone’s sake.
Because if and when the world’s only superpower becomes a whites-only Western Russia, your comfortably cushy expat overseas life will most certainly be affected. So as long as l still have my first amendment right to voice an opinion and refuse to be silenced by hatred like the Germans were in the 1940s, expect me to continue including anti-Trump sentiment as a small part of a blog about an experimental early retirement. Fully understanding that there are millions of hateful, ignorant intolerant people that deny science and climate change, ignore facts and think Muslims, Mexicans and immigration are the main reason they’ve been left behind, I don’t expect or want those people as readers anyway. And that’s enough of that.
So now it’s onto Malaysia where we’ll spend tomorrow morning sitting around the MM2H Centre Ministry of Tourism Malaysia in Putrajaya to terminate our participation in the MM2H Program. Remembering how unbelievably inefficient Malaysia is compared to the tedious and chaotic yet strangely effective immigration process in Thailand, this will be the last time in Malaysia for us. While I can’t recommend or endorse Penang or Malaysia as an expat destination for us, it’s still probably the best long term retirement visa program in Southeast Asia except for the application, approval and sadly, termination. Exchanging over 10 emails with our highly effective but quite “detail-oriented” agent in Kuala Lumpur, it’ll cost us 900 Ringgit for her services.
And my advice is to plan ahead by two to three months should you ever wish to terminate your participation. Having made several mistakes on the official termination letter and continuously telling the agent to “check back later when the bosses sign off”, Malaysia makes getting out of the program almost as hard as getting in. Needing the original Fixed Deposit letters, copies of entry stamps into Malaysia, our expired and new passports and a special letter that allows the bank to release our funds, we’ll be converting 150,000 Ringgit plus accrued interest on the spot and using our bank’s global online transfer system to send it all back to the comfort of our American high yield savings account. So we’ll take lots of pictures, eat some great laksa and Hokkien Mee and create a post or two when we come back on Friday. And then all references to the MM2H Retirement Program in the lives of The Experimental Expats will be relegated to the “Looking for something?” tab.
One last thing about the program in case you’re unsure what I’m talking about with the money. Unlike most retirement visa programs, there’s no requirement to live in Malaysia once you’ve been approved as long as you leave two fixed deposits totaling 150,000 Ringgit in a Malaysian bank. Choosing to get our money later when we moved to Thailand in 2017, we’ve had our funds on deposit earning 3.5% which was much higher than the savings or fixed deposit rates in our US bank at the time. So hypothetically, we should come out ahead. Unfortunately, currency risk killed us and having bought our fixed deposits at a rate of 3.7613 Ringgit per dollar, it cost us $39,879. At a 3.5% interest rate, that makes almost $5,000 in interest since 2015. But the US dollar’s been rising for years and even King Shitbrain can’t get it lower despite the “flight to zero interest rates; part two”. At today’s rate of almost 4.20, even with four years accrued interest, we’ll barely take back $40,000. And that’s a topic I’ll cover more on my next financial post.
Ending the Malaysian chapter in our lives, we’ll be bidding a farewell to our first overseas adventure and next year, it’s goodbye to Southeast Asia after five years.