Speaking by text yesterday with a childhood friend I haven’t seen in 16 years, I laughed at his reaction to my Facebook post about inexpensive and efficient healthcare here in Penang. Jokingly asking how much it costs in Southeast Asia for braces, he implied he’d use that as an excuse to come visit and take care of his teenage son’s dental needs. Responding by asking when he’s retiring, he laughed and told me he’ll be working forever because he loves his Silicon Valley tech job. While admirable, I’ll never understand anyone that thinks working until you’re way too old to experience all the great things life has to offer ranks higher than early retirement. In his defense, he’s only 53 and probably has a lot more accomplishments left in his career. Conversely, I spent 31 years in and out of cubicles working as a support specialist for more investment advisers, banks and brokers than I care to remember. Other than learning how to be a self-directed investor able to amass a portfolio big enough for a shot at early retirement after my unexpected layoff, my working years garnered zero in the way of fulfillment or career satisfaction and always served as a means to an end.
Having read countless articles about people more successful than me choosing early retirement to attempt other personal goals, I set out with good intentions when we started our early retirement exactly two years ago this week. Unlike many others, exploring my inner skill set isn’t so easy. Uninterested in starting a business (the most common reason cited), I can’t see working 100 times harder than I did in the office and risking any capital when we have no income. Possibly the world’s least handy person, all things related to building, crafting or creating things are out and learning other languages sounds about as fun as a root canal. Highly fond of wildlife, we both talk about volunteer projects involving animals and our American friend (a working expat) who engages in 20 different things even gave us an opportunity to work with monkeys for a week. But we’d just returned from a three-week trip to Myanmar and the job demanded too much of an immediate commitment of our own money and resources so we tabled that retirement goal for now.
Which leaves me with the blog. Starting 2 1/2 years ago and not knowing anything about WordPress, the number of followers isn’t what I’d hoped nor is the level of interaction but having just passed 100,000 page views and now averaging over 100 per day, my no-nonsense blend of sarcastic realism obviously appeals to someone. Fascinated that over 38,000 people in 168 different nations spent some time reading my commentaries, this is probably as good as it gets for me when it comes to utilizing modern technology. So I’ve decided to accept this milestone as a my first small accomplishment since retiring and although writing comes easy and I enjoy sharing stories, I guess it’s a skill and it may wind up being my best and only creative endeavor. Pondering what to write to commemorate the event, I decided share five of My Own Personal Favorites that haven’t received as much traffic as The Reader’s Favorites. Thank you to everyone that’s ever spent some time supporting me.
Topping the financial headlines this week were stories about a new round of “stress tests” for the “too big to fail” banks in the United States. Unlike the CEO’s of America’s behemoth financial institutions, Diane and I have more to lose if something goes awry. Having endured the last few weeks of vendors poking, prodding, cleaning, inspecting, painting and washing, the process finally came to a rather uneventful end yesterday with the staging of our house. Looking more like a show home than an occupied residence, the house was professionally photographed and is ready to be officially listed for sale.
As you may recall, it all began on November 1st, 2013 with my unexpected layoff. Enduring almost 17 months of life as a House Husband, it’s been a long and rather boring road except perhaps for an incident where I totaled my car but somehow escaped injury. Because of unfavorable financial ramifications for MM2H applicants not yet 50 years of age, Diane and I decided that waiting it out on one salary for an extended period made the most sense. Having endured 2014 as a “semi-retiree” with not much to do in this quiet suburban enclave, preparing the house for sale began a few months ago with a landscaping project. Fully engulfed with selling our possessions, greeting and paying vendors, and careful budgeting, I think working would have been less stressful. Discovering the semantics of our monthly bank statements today, we also learned that we’ll be able to send the MM2H Visa application package on April 15th and begin our experimental overseas early retirement in Penang, Malaysia soon after that.
Looking back, it’s hard to imagine but they say “time flies when you’re having fun” and today marks the one year anniversary of my unexpected layoff. Recognizing that the odds of unemployed workers in late career successfully re-entering the workforce are slim, the life-changing event was the final straw in our decision to push up early retirement and become overseas expatriates.
Choosing Malaysia over Thailand despite large financial requirements for the MM2H visa, a social entry visit pass allowing unlimited entry to the country, I developed a new sense of the expression “patience is a virtue” as we began the long 18 month wait to my 50th birthday. Reaching that milestone allows an individual and their dependents the right to file paperwork under a status that demands a mere $150,000 MYR fixed deposit. Owing a large debt of gratitude to my former employer for getting me out the rate race, I’d like to personally thank H*** M*** Capital Management for their horribly stupid decision that left them devoid of the best operations and support person they ever had. An example of the thanks you get for breaking your ass include the useless brochure seen here ⇐
But I do love walking. On any given day I walk anywhere from five to eight miles, depending on what level of activity I’ve done earlier in the day. It’s my quiet time when I do all my thinking, planning and mental relaxing. The mileage is correct when taken from the day of my layoff until present day.
Aside from the health benefits, walking is the most fundamental activity that humans can do. Our bodies are designed for upright mobility. Unfortunately, most of our time is often spent at white-collar jobs buried in cubicles. One of the first things my fitness class instructor said when I began my exercise regiment was “30 years in an office, right?”. They can always tell because of poor posture. Continue reading →
Many people say they would love to retire but have trouble occupying themselves when faced with excessive free time. Diane used to work shifts in her nursing career. When faced with a stretch of more than a few days off she’d go stir crazy.
I am not one of those people.
Having faced an enormous amount of involuntary down time between jobs during my first expat experience in Canada, I was very familiar with this situation. But searching for work due to limited opportunities in your field is very different from ending your career. Continue reading →
1:30 P.M. Walnut Creek, California. Although I was laid off at 9:00 AM, it’s already late due to the crappy mid-day service provided by BART, America’s most antiquated commuter train system.
Still reeling with the initial shock of being laid off, the first thing I did when I got home that day was sit down at the computer. I wasn’t sure exactly why. It just seemed like the right thing to do. Continue reading →
The day started off as drab and tedious as any other. Then:
“Can I see you in the empty office, please? Right Now?
When the company’s Chief Operating Officer utters those words without looking you square in the eye, it’s not usually a good sign; more so when his office is on another floor, he shows his face three times a year and usually only gets involved in the daily lives of the grunt staff when there’s bad news. Continue reading →