Historically, January has been an important month for me.
Why do we put up with misery? Even if it ends up being good for us?
In a way, misery has shown itself a few times. I’ve made a couple of miserable “nothing to lose” types of decisions or have been in such situations. One such example situation is BATNA or Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. If you start from 0, and a new situation arises then it’s the best that you can do if that new situation does not work out and you are left to your own devices. But the term is usually done in situations that depends on cooperation with at least one other person. BATNA is not necessarily your ideal outcome–unless your ideal outcome is something you can get without the cooperation of the other person. It is the best you can do WITHOUT THEM. I am a big fan of game theory and BATNA has its roots in law. Here’s an example of BATNA in the context of family law.
Therefore, let’s say 0 is unhappiness. Then, you really just cannot go any lower than 0 (or, the baseline unhappiness).
Another one is in learning new skills. At 0 you have no skills in a specialist area. Then, you really just cannot go any lower than 0.
Being at a constant 0
The thing here is that 0 is hard for people. Maybe it will take someone days, weeks, months, or even years until their discomfort passes. A classic example is the first few stages of someone who is an expat. They move overseas and they go through a stage of discomfort, melancholia, anxiety. Eventually, the discomfort passes, and the person goes from being an outside to someone who is more “at home”.
Being at a constant 0 even if you are moving
Over time, the baseline may have moved or changed a bit. But each time, it becomes the new 0. Which is a good recipe of being a perpetually unhappy, unsatisfied person.
In this way, you need to be aware of your BATNA. What is the best that you can do without x?
There is an adage, “all roads lead to Rome” which has its roots in the “roads to Rome” as immortalized in the Milliarium Aureum monument. The monument celebrates that many roads in Europe, about half a million roads, radiates back to the ancient Italian capital. Today the adage talks about a Golden Milestone taken into some sort of Ultimate Business Goal in which despite the number of many roads it will take to reach it, will eventually reach it. There is even a paper written by researchers at a Finnish university that features that idiom:
Business models and business model change have drawn increasing attention from both researchers and practitioners across various disciplines, including the domain of entrepreneurship. However, even though the importance of business model innovation as a driver of firm performance has been widely acknowledged, empirical studies explaining the business model change remain limited. This study contributes to prior research by examining the effects of effectual and causation-based decision-making logics on the degree of business model change in the context of small and medium-sized enterprises in Finland. The findings of hierarchical regression analysis show that both causation and effectuation-based logics have positive effects on business model change, thereby highlighting the need for both strategizing and seizing of opportunities in business model development.
There is also a project featured on IEEE VISAP 2016 which visualizes this mobility statement and takes it even further by visualizing mobility in other countries and transportation systems around the Rome-equivalent.
Anyway, so why write about this…
I think that in our lives, we have at least one of our own personal, gilded Milliarium Aureum. In this same token that Emperor Caesar Augustus erected it so that distances of the Empire are measured against it, we have our own where we measure our own life’s goals, plans and beliefs against it. We have our own Milliarium Aureum which is our core personal beliefs and we build our lives in order to be able to act upon this. Let’s say a core belief is to do no harm unto others, we therefore act upon our lives so that we do this and to varying degrees of intensity – like agreeing not to buy fast fashion from a company that uses child labour, or having spirituality that espouses this.
When I did coaching sessions, the coach would ask me leading questions as to why certain thought processes would come up for me. And I would give an answer, like, “to be more independent“. And then she would try to dig deeper and ask even more questions. It sounds very easy but it’s very difficult to go through and I talk and think about aspects of myself that I otherwise don’t think about. From these sessions, I found that independence is a term that is constantly coming up and I realize that is one of my Milliarium Aureum.
I somehow came across this post, The Privilege of Pursuing Financial Independence. The opening paragraph is:
Mr. Frugalwoods and I have made a lot of amazing financial choices, but the game is rigged. We were put in a position from birth to make these wise decisions and it’s not because we’re naturally brilliant people. Our financial advantages are the products of our socioeconomic status, our education levels, and most of all, the benefits we both had while growing up.
The entire post feels like a complete humblebrag, but at the same time, it’s a dose of reality in knowing that people are not on the same level playing field.
Email from dad:
Again, the mantra is not how much you earn but how much you save and invest. You need to save, preferably automated one to retirement fund provided by employer invested in low-cost ETF diversified shares. This should come from your pay pre-tax with employer and employee contributions (like Australia’ s superannuation system). Get familiar with Ireland’ s system, check your Canada’s retirement system if you can consolidate them into one fund. Get invested early, and with regular automated pre-tax contribution, your return is magnified with compound re-investment until you have adequate passive income such that employment is not a need.
We started about x years ago with extra contributions to super and full payment to mortgage at great sacrifice of doing high pressure jobs, but the reward is great, we are ready to retire with tax-free passive pension income. You’re equipped with knowledge, so practice it.
I’ve written a few posts in the past on how I dealt with homesickness.
One of my methods was just acceptance. In 2012, I decided not to jump to another WH visa and just head home. I just wanted to relax and just…go home to Australia.
Another method was to take myself out of social media and networking sites a few times. I found that social media has an artificial type way of keeping in touch where it’s all about how active someone is online.
When my sister went on holidays to New York in 2015, I would have budgeted madly to be able to go and luckily I did.
There were times when I could have easily just bought a plane ticket back ‘home’ but those thoughts have subsided. Whenever I have those days, I usually resort to writing or listening to meditation.
Is this even real?
The biggest issue I have is having a ‘is this even real?’ type of moments. I think it’s when I am in a new situation and my mind is still getting used to it. Like, when I walk down a street in London and the sun is setting, I get the “Wow, I am actually in London” type of thought. Or the time when I am not sure if that particular memory of walking down along a brick building was in the Distillery District in Toronto or The Rocks in Sydney since they look so much alike. Things start to meld, I get fleeting moments of homesickness only because I am reminded of some past memory.
This is just a reminder of how short your days, weeks, and years can be. Make the most of it.
I’ve learnt some lessons around trying to do banking, payments and transfers overseas and I just thought to share in this post what those lessons were.
This post is aimed at long-term travelling. I won’t be touching financial products like travellers cheques, and so on.
These points, in my eyes, are more of an introduction which is great for those that are researching, or they are just starting out. It would be great to get to a point when I can give advice after 10 or so years but I haven’t been to that stage myself yet!
Banking – opening an account
Please note that this post does not take into account offshore banking solutions.
The first time someone looks at the requirements banks have to open an account, it’s generally seen as a complete inconvenience. How can you provide an electricity bill to open a personal account if you have only just arrived? Why should you bill a lawyer to write a character reference for you when you open a business account?
My advice – do not worry if you think that you are unable to meet the requirements stated on their official documents and website.
I have found that banking rules for opening personal accounts tend to be liquid. For example one of the banks required a character reference but I haven’t provided one. Another bank will call for a household bill, yet again I haven’t provided one. A tenancy agreement is also requested, but what happens if you are only there for the short-term? A quick call to the bank to explain the situation and they gave me the workaround for this. However, even a phone call was not required when I was able to walk into my Canadian bank with my documents and cash to deposit and was able to open an account that very same morning.
Banking – closing accounts and gaining back long-lost accounts
Now, I’ve thought about closing accounts and even have attempted some account closure only to find out that the bank has not even closed it. This was unbelievable when I found out that an account that I thought was closed actually wasn’t. Luckily, there were no overdraft on that account or nor were there any fees added.
When you close an account make sure it is actually closed! I had to reconfirm my identity with one of their customer representatives in order to gain access to that account. At some point I was asked to go to the branch, but since there were no branches nearby it was done over the phone. They needed to get a manager in at some point.
In the end, I didn’t mind since it turned out that I’d prefer having a bank in that region. Even though I haven’t lived there for a couple of years, I have plans to come back from some time and at least I don’t have the hassle of opening a bank account there.
Banking – The case for having multiple bank accounts
There are quiet a few benefits in terms of having a local bank to where you are living. For example, if you are going to be in the EU for a long time, it makes sense keeping an EU account. I am also constantly making transfers in my home country bank which is why it is being kept despite having to pay account keeping fees.
There are also non-banking reasons to keep multiple accounts. One of those reasons is the concept of maintaining proof of ties back to your resident country. Local bank accounts, beyond the benefits of saving in international transfer fees, are also preferred in some situations.
Banking – The case for not having multiple bank accounts
Should I close my bank account when I move overseas?
If you maintain a bank account, it may be considered a secondary proof of tie in determining residency status for activities like accounting. This is the case especially in determining the tax withdrawal rate of pensions.
Another case for closing a bank account is peace of mind – you are not worried about potential fees or issues surrounding your old bank account such as fraud.
Banking – you will most likely have at least two
I think the verdict is that most people who have moved overseas generally have at least two banks – one in the new country, and the second in their home country.
Banking – keep them up to date with your movements
It is very important that your bank is kept up to date with your movements, and that they have the most relevant contact information available.
When I first moved to Ireland, I only withdrew a small amount which turned out to be enough to last about a very frugal 3 months and by that time I had started building my savings into my EU account. Therefore, I made budget-conscious decisions to limit my spend to this pot of cash that I had withdrawn.
I ended up using an international card to make a large purchase – which was my resident visa. Ideally, I would have put all my expenses under the initial cash I withdrew but there was a time limit to get this visa and I ended up spending some of the budget on various doctor appointments having gotten sick in Ireland.
You may want to mirror my approach – which is to withdraw enough to last until you get your first payment or income into the local bank account. This usually involves doing some forward planning, forward budgeting… and optimism!
I believe in maintaining a sizeable liquid base as an emergency fund. So right now, I want to still keep to my initial cash withdrawal – yep, 3 months later I still have some money left! – and not touch anything until I have what I would deem an acceptable local emergency savings fund.
With PayPal you are required to have separate accounts for each bank account.
Due to vulnerabilities and attacks in the past, especially around social engineering, PayPal has various authentication requirements for logging in. This means that you may have issues going through their secondary authentication page, such as identity confirmation via SMS, if somehow you trigger a suspicious login from a different location. If your mobile/landline number is constantly changing then this is going to be an issue.
I’ve found that logging in using a localized VPN can help. For example if you are usually logging in from Montreal, it makes sense having a VPN that can configure to a Montreal IP. Connect to this VPN before going into PayPal.ca and it can help not triggering any suspicious activity warnings. This happened a few times, but it seems as it’s not 100% foolproof. When my attempt to log in failed, I decided to remote into one of my computers that’s in that local IP but still I couldn’t log in.
If you don’t have a localized VPN or you are still not let through, the next step would be to contact support. I’ve found that their email support is not helpful and that the other way is via their call centre.
Before I call, it’s useful to have as much details as you can. They will ask you for various details to confirm your identity. I’ve talked to a few representatives. One, I think, seemed to have training against suspicious calls and was asking me for more and more details. One person was somewhat helpful in that once I send through additional details to confirm identity, she mentioned about being able to ‘loosen restrictions’ around account login. So, it seems that they can’t guarantee 100% you will have access to that account after the call but can ‘loosen restrictions’. I remember being able to log in the day after. The third person that I have talked to was completely hopeless. She went as far as telling me that it’s not possible to log in from overseas and that I had to give whoever is in that country access to my account (ie password!) which goes against privacy. The phone call was ridiculous so I hanged up and tried again later.
PayPal verdict – only as a last resort
PayPal is more of a last resort, simply because it’s too difficult going around their various geographical barriers, their fees, lack of consistency with customer support and so on.
Unfortunately I haven’t been on the cryptocurrency boat and I wish I should have back in 2012 when I set up my first Bitcoin wallet. However I can see how this is useful when you are travelling around the place to have access and use something like cryptocurrency.
I lived in Toronto from 2015 to 2016, so here are a few snaps during my time there!
Despite living in three countries since 2012, my total spend with travel insurance has been less than usual typical insurance that would cost about $1000 per year (well, based on the criteria that I have added). How was I able to keep my costs down? Below are some tips that I have to keep the costs down. Please note that these tips may not apply to your situation since it’s completely dependent on factors like your situation or circumstance, your nationality, your employer, your current country of residence, and your travel plans.
Another thing to note is that the requirements of someone on a holiday or short-term travel is going to be different to my own requirements.
Research reciprocal health care agreements
On my first move (the UK), I didn’t purchase travel insurance knowing that as an Australian, I am under the reciprocal health care agreement. I was living in the UK under the Tier 5 Youth Mobility, so I would be under this agreement throughout the duration of my visa.
Australians are covered under these reciprocal health care agreements for Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man, Channel Islands). More details are found here.
Now, the details in the reciprocal health care agreements will vary. For example, in Belgium you are covered for medical treatment by GPs and specialists but you’ll need to pay between 25% to 40% of the cost. However, in Ireland your visits to the GP are not covered. Since I’ve been to visits to the GP here in Ireland, I am able to make a claim to my travel insurance for those visits.
Are you covered by your employer?
Employer benefits can include health, medical, dental and even travel insurance. Make sure to read the fine print – for example, one of the benefits included travel insurance but it was only relevant to permanent residents and citizens. Therefore when I travel outside of the country, I purchase travel insurance issuing my residence as my new country.
Are you considered a resident and eligible for health care covered by the province / state / county / country?
If you have a home base to travel from, this means that you usually stay in a particular province, state, county or country for a longer period of time. You may be considered a resident and thus you are eligible for certain benefits. For example, if you are a resident in a province or territory for x months, you are then eligible for certain health care benefits.
Be very careful of potential crossovers with your insurance due to these health care agreements (and any other reasons that an insurance provider will deny a claim!)
As I mentioned above, as an Australian I have the reciprocal health agreement. I am able to make a claim for GP visits in Ireland, however if those visits to the GP were in Belgium my claim may be affected.
Take into consideration any change of circumstance and do research up front
For about three months, I had triple coverage – I was covered under my 1) employer’s medical/health benefits, 2) covered under travel insurance and by that time I had stayed in a province long enough to be a resident eligible for 3) provincial health cover.
Of course, I can’t have known this in advance – I’ve had a change in travel plans which opened up new opportunities.
When it was time to renew, I decided not to renew.
If you think your circumstance is going to be like the above, you are better off purchasing insurance in smaller lots
Since I am covered under various other agreements, when I travel to a country or region that is not covered, I only purchase travel insurance in the duration the duration of the trip.
With all the avenues that you have, should you even look into travel insurance?
The thing here is that I am probably biased. I haven’t had major issues that have ended up with me touting the benefits of travel insurance.
In additional, travel insurance should not be confused with international medical or health care insurance.
Conduct price comparisons of insurance plans
There can easily be differences in the price you pay depending on where you’re travelling to, who you are (your nationality), what you’re planning to do and what else you need insured. In the end, there is no standard insurance that’s going to apply for everyone. Don’t rely on someone’s recommendation of a provider or a plan – take the time to read and understand the plan before committing to the insurance package.
And last but not least, before doing a final purchase, check to see what the limitations are for the travel insurance provider.
Now let’s look at other options of minimizing your budget in travel insurance…
Build liquid reserves
Start focusing on developing a liquid safety net. A highly liquid (ie cash in savings) is a good net to focus on. For example, even if I am covered under various reciprocal health care agreements, the coverage still involves paying for public hospital care (in Ireland), or purchasing in advance and being reimbursed later. Even if your passport was stolen (and even then there are conditions to be met) you still need the cash to cover accommodation and travel disruptions.
Focus on prevention
It is better to be taking preventative steps and build better situational awareness. Similar to health and wellness, being proactive in prevention is better than dealing with a health or medical fallout. Wear your seat belts and don’t drink and drive/swim. Eat better, exercise, go out in the sunshine. Don’t walk into large demonstrations. Don’t flash expensive stuff. Whenever I change locations (ie hotel to taxi) I do The Check which is to check that I have my phone, wallet and passport on me.
Know that travel insurance providers only have the typical traveller in mind
If you are an expat, doing long-term (ie 10+) travel or anything like that then you are not the typical traveller they have in mind.
It is also dependent on travel preferences. Someone going on a $8000 cruise will definitely want comprehensive travel insurance.
Ultimately…insurance also depends on you.
Right now, the way that I have set up has provided me ‘just enough’ piece of mind while maintaining my current budget. However, my life circumstance and situation may completely change. I’ll see how things go for the time being!