"Economic Refugees" Find Happiness and Security Abroad

Many Americans have found they can lead much more comfortable lifestyles in less developed nations. More than anything, it simply takes the courage to start packing.

Feb 3, 2014 at 4:45PM

We meet them everywhere along our travels.

From Thailand to Mexico and from Guatemala to Ecuador, people known as "economic refugees" are looking for a better lifestyle, lower cost of living, and fewer regulations than what they experience in the United States. Having cashed out of the housing boom, some travel abroad where their dollars will purchase estates with maids and gardeners. Others are living the good life on their Social Security payments, rather than scraping by in their home towns in the U.S.

Either way, they are enjoying near-perfect climates and relaxing lifestyles. All these people have one thing in common: They are not afraid to embrace a new adventure.

The new normal
Having adjusted to the economic "new normal," some Americans have hunkered down out of fear and become less inclined to venture out. Sure, they may have lost a bundle in either the stock market or the collapsed housing market, but now they seem to be once burned, twice shy, and they have let it define them and their futures. Out of fear, they are unable to see their options and are afraid to make the choices required to upgrade their lives outside the States.

There's always a reason
Some flat-out don't believe it can be done. Others cite concerns over health care, the necessity of staying near loved ones, or the comfort of their routine -- well-known restaurants, familiar faces, and habitual activities. Some say it's simply too much hassle to up and leave their stable lives. They fear their new lives will be topsy-turvy and uncertain -- and they are correct to some extent.

These are the people who stay in their neighborhoods and never experience places of more freedom, less regulation, and a bohemian lifestyle of opportunity.

Yes -- opportunity.

For example, the chance to meet new people from other states and countries, the possibility of personal growth, and the ability to live a simpler life without the stress of watching utility bills climb. It's not that living overseas is a panacea; life always has a way of giving us challenges. But those who have made the choice to live outside the States in friendlier climates with manageable costs always say they feel a burden has been lifted off their backs and how, if they had known how pleasant it was to live elsewhere, they would have made the change sooner.

It's not for everyone
Granted, there is no place as comfortable or predictable as the United States. Customs in other countries can become an issue if you let them, and if you are the type that prefers the certain, you might not be a good candidate for a move overseas. But if daily costs seem out of control for you, if you have had it with the weather, or if you just feel that a change is due, moving to a low-cost region such as Thailand, Mexico, Central America, or the Philippines could hold some special appeal.

Many have made this move and paved a path to a satisfied and low-stress lifestyle. What about you?

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A Financial Plan on an Index Card

Keeping it simple.

Aug 7, 2015 at 11:26AM

Two years ago, University of Chicago professor Harold Pollack wrote his entire financial plan on an index card.

It blew up. People loved the idea. Financial advice is often intentionally complicated. Obscurity lets advisors charge higher fees. But the most important parts are painfully simple. Here's how Pollack put it:

The card came out of chat I had regarding what I view as the financial industry's basic dilemma: The best investment advice fits on an index card. A commenter asked for the actual index card. Although I was originally speaking in metaphor, I grabbed a pen and one of my daughter's note cards, scribbled this out in maybe three minutes, snapped a picture with my iPhone, and the rest was history.

More advisors and investors caught onto the idea and started writing their own financial plans on a single index card.

I love the exercise, because it makes you think about what's important and forces you to be succinct.

So, here's my index-card financial plan:


Everything else is details. 

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