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Living Frugally Overseas

I’ve had the opportunity to talk with quite a large number of expats that have moved from their homes in the UK for distant lands. Most are retired, but some are still working. Nearly all of them are concerned with stretching their money as far as they can. In fact, I don’t think I’ve run across any one that thought they had more than enough money to maintain them in retirement.
From my own experience and gleaning what I can from others, I’ve come across a number of strategies to cut down on expenses and save money. Retirement is not meant to be a time of your life where you worry about finances. You’ve earned your right to relax and enjoy life. That being said, few things are worse than watching your retirement finances drying up.
It’s all about location, location, location
Those that have moved overseas quickly learn where the affordable places to live are located. By far the largest living expense is going to be keeping a roof over your head. Therefore you should be particularly concerned with finding housing within your budget.
Anywhere near a tourist destination is going to drive up the prices of housing, food, and entertainment. Before settling on a permanent place to set up home, consider living in an apartment temporarily and familiarize yourself with the surrounding neighborhoods and communities. After six months or so you will have a good idea of where the most affordable areas are located.
Sure, a nice place on or near the beach is preferable to one several blocks away, but is the price you pay worth it? Maybe, if your entertainment consists solely of sending picture postcards of yourself sitting on your deck watching the sun set at sea. But most would rather have the extra funds for other things and consider the walk from their apartment to the beach a good form of exercise.
If you can manage to forgo purchasing a vehicle, then you will have provided yourself with a substantial amount of money over the long run. Take advantage of the local public transportation, if any exists. If you must have a mode of transport, look into purchasing a scooter or motorbike. The goal is to spend as little on your transportation as you need to get by. Petro and vehicle maintenance are two variables in your budget that can either be eliminated or greatly reduced.
The source of it all
Even retirees that have used the same trusted financial advisor for years make it a point to keep on top of their financial status on a regular basis. This is not to say they worry about their money. No, far from it. Individuals that take the time to educate themselves on their finances and the investment apparatus in general are usually more comfortable with their finances. Their knowledge gives them a sense of control, which is far less stressing than trying to decipher financial statements or wade through the complex terminology that comes up in a conversation with your financial advisor, especially if he is in another country and only accessible over a phone.
Therefore it behooves a retiree to keep up with their investments, rather they are in a QROPS, a 401K or other similar retirement fund. Make it a point to keep up with the tax load you are paying in both your former country and the one you currently reside in. Pay close attention to any legislation that may affect your retirement savings as well. Don’t treat your investment money like you would an ostracized relative, only checking in on it when you absolutely must.

Michael Jones is a freelance writer and blogger who writes on such topics as international affairs, world finance, retirement and investment. His areas of expertise include European, Asian and Latin/South American economic policy and pension transfers to Isle of Man.

Published August 27th, 2013 by Michael Jones
Posted to Expat Blog

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