On consumerism

Ah, the magical Dior hot air balloon hovering over Galleries Lafayette.  It provides an ironic metaphor as to how my pursuit of things continue to weigh me down.

Other than a trip to a town in Germany, I am settling in Berlin for at least a few months with no other travel plans.  I have been seriously considering going to Venice in November for the Biennial and witness the wonders.  It’s still up in the air.  But, we’re not talking about travel plans.  Instead we are talking about things.

Being a shopaholic…

This has been a complete ire of mine.  Despite my best efforts at being frugal and minimal, I just keep on buying and collecting and receiving all sorts of things.  Things that are no more after being used like the mountainous collection of hotel amenities.  Things that are hard to get rid of like a new Chanel bag.  Things that are seriously not necessary business expenses like two expensive room perfumes that I bought from Harrods, each at the cost of designer perfume.  Also, books.  I love printed books as well as the electronic format.  When I left London I spend who-knows-how-much on a small bookshelf worth of books only to give it away, including books I bought from art fairs now sitting in a friend’s parent’s basement.  And my most conundrum of all – make-up.  As someone who travels around and works from home I have ungodly amounts of makeup.  And bandages, I have a lot of bandages.  And let’s not talk about clothes.  I’ve donated a few things yet after doing a mental check, I managed to have with me five coats, two jackets, three cardigans?! Why so many?!  And, even though I work from home and my time outdoors is largely spent in jeans, I have something like ten stockings and multiple dresses that have only been worn once this year.

…and being shopaholic a digital nomad…

This is what happens after accumulating stuff for over three years since my last digital nomad / expat break to pursue a Masters.  I’ve had far more that I’ve had to shed and I still have some more to go.

The reason why I am in this state of mind is that I am looking at what my options are to store some items while I go to Asia / Australia sometime for about half the year next year.  Bringing everything with me is not at all practical – as I would have books, some ‘household’ items (somehow, I feel like I’m going to miss all my efficient German cleaning products), all my bulky winter clothes, all my electronics (somehow I wound up with two printers – I gave away one to my neighbour) and more to stash away.  If I go down the route of a self-storage solution, I would have to consider the costs as well as make a pit-stop to Berlin from wherever I am to where I am going to pick it up. A bit inconvenient but far better than trying to haul everything across the world and back again.

When it comes to buying and owning stuff I am faring better now in Berlin than before.  But I am still failing.

Ok, so I still have purchasing fails*.  Like the Welton London candle, Cochine room perfumer, the three Chanel skin care products, the massive Lancome skin care set, the leather Ecco shoes, the Chanel skirt that doesn’t fit me but I am keeping it anyway, the crappy YSL sweater that I later gave to my sister, the YSL wallet, the Bottega Veneta wallet that I don’t use, the 20? makeup brushes that I own.  Ok, that list of purchasing fails is still completely embarrassing.  But, I guess it was better than last year in 2016 where I bought and bought way too much skin care, makeup, clothes, designer brands.  At some point I must have had 40 or so face masks, bought from TK Maxx because I was so damn bored.  Much of the shopping has been via sheer boredom, escapism, YOLO, caring too much about impressing people, caring too much about what other people thought of me.  I feel that last year, I must have gone through some odd phase in my life where I felt that I needed to buy these designer brands, either to impress others, or for myself, or just because YOLO and I can.

I really wish I could just be minimal, be more frugal, just being able to resist the shopping and the brands.  Once, I went for weeks (or even months) where all I ever did was check online shopping sites and watch make-up YouTube videos.  Now, I just have personal finance blogs open and I’ve just finished an entire gameplay of Wolfenstein: The New Colossus series.  When it comes to spending, I have two triggers.  One, is my online triggers.  I no longer feel like I want to go shopping with the haul and makeup videos that I watch, although I am watching less of these now.  I occupy my time moreso around studies, personal finance blogs, bumming around Netflix and if/when there is a new video game on, binge-watching a lot of walk-throughs.  The next is offline.  A lot of my shopping purchases have happened while I am either out travelling on holiday or when I am about to travel.

Time to double down on my personal finance.

I have my February savings goals written in a piece of paper, right up high on the shelf so that each time I look up, I see the figure. When I am more comfortable about embracing frugality with more aspects of my life, I want the following for myself:

  • Continue to be in LCOL areas, even further push limits of LCOL.
  • Double down on side-income streams.
  • Stay away from anything considered the ‘L’ word.
  • Go through and sell off my things both accumulated from the few years that I’ve been overseas and the things stashed away at home in Australia.
  • Inject more money into my investments.
  • Clean up some leftover paperwork back in Australia.

So yes, I’m still cozying it up in Berlin and withstand the German winter, then will be heading back to Australia for a short while before I head back to Europe again.

Checking one’s privilege. And where the biggest privilege is to f…

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.

Continue reading Checking one’s privilege. And where the biggest privilege is to f…

Long Term Travel and Personal Finance – Introduction to Cash, Banking, Payments and more – Part 1

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.

End of year finance check

Moving expenses from Toronto to Dublin

Moving countries usually rock the boat when it comes to personal finance. Dealing with all sorts of fees, making sure services like mobile contracts are all paid for and cancelled, buying new items, visa fees and other related costs, cost of flights and luggage, the list just go on and on.

I decided to sit down one night and keep track of all incomings and outgoings during the ‘approximate’ time of moving.

Continue reading End of year finance check

Why Live Paycheck to Paycheck

Last week, I sold a couple of items.  More like half-sold.  They were only able to pay for one item, then decided to wait for the next paycheck to pay for the second.  I gave them the second item anyway because I trust them.

It baffles me that if one wanted to purchase two items but had suddenly, the following day, run into financial restraint that they suddenly cannot pay for the second item…

More than half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.  And yes, it sounds like this guy is on that half.

I have several months living expenses from Canada.   In Australia, I also have savings and I even have an extra surplus on my credit card.

I have both an RRSP (Canada) and superannuation (Australia) pension fund set up.

I have no further assets directly to my name though (maybe that is normal if you are in your 20s and have been travelling around since your early 20s..).  Which is a bit worrying (nonetheless!).  So right now, most of what I have is liquid.  I am working on building the assets part.  Once I am able to, I will continue to allocate as much as I can from my savings into some sort of investment account.  And I also want to allocate a portion of this into charity or a good cause (ie Joy of Tech).

Not having to live paycheck to paycheck gives one a lot of freedom. And, with a bit of work and discipline, you can get yourself out of this cycle.


Toronto MoneyShow 2016 – Canadian ETF market, Canadian Roboadvisors, Gold as Plan B and Dark Pool prints

On Friday September 16, I attended the Toronto MoneyShow which seemed to be aimed at various levels of investor experienced and attended to by retail investors, day traders, investment advisors and accredited investors.

This was my first finance related expo and it was very relevant to me.  I know of fintech-type of events more geared towards technologists and entrepreneurs but I was looking for something more towards the investor side.

State of the Canadian ETF market

The first main speaker that I saw was on the current state of the ETF market and the types of ETFs available in Canada.  Very interesting topic as I have not had much exposure with these types of tax efficient, Canadian-focused vehicles deemed to be the modern to the mutual fund.  However, the Canadian ETF is now $100 billion and growing.

The speaker, Jaime Purvis, introduced the notion of a strategic beta ETF.  This is any passively managed index strategy that uses a different methodology from cap-weighing to determine security weight.  Morningstar has a guide on strategic beta.  There were also other weighing strategies that he introduced such as equal weighting, FAFI or fundamental indexing and low volatility.  The best takeaway that I had obtained from the expo was how far ETFs had grown since they were first introduced as an investment vehicle.

Personal finance emails to The Globe and Mail

The next speaker was from The Globe and Mail, a Canadian news media outlet, who recounted about 17,000 emails that he had received as a personal finance writer over 18 years.  I didn’t take away that much from him, however it would be interesting if there was a way to automate the findings in those emails to determine any patterns from it.  For example, is there a linguistic pattern arising that could measure overall sentiment of a particular event?  I know that in social media, there are data mining SaaS that automates and measures sentiment based on tweets.

Gold / GDX

Definitely an interesting panel introducing this precious metal as an investment.

State of GDX in 2016 – Data as of 23:32 EDT September 24 2016

The overall sentiment, I found, was that they were bullish on gold investments overall with gold being seen as ‘chaos insurance’ especially in the threat of quantitative failure.

If you want to read more about gold, The Bull and Bear has a digital edition out dedicated to gold which you can read here.

Eight years after our near meltdown in 2008, trust in our politicians, central banks and the intelligentsia have eroded…As such investors are more concerned about the return of their money, rather than the return. Investors beware, better to come up with a Plan B. Gold is everyone’s Plan B.

Active Investment Management 

One of the dedicated sessions that I sat in was on high probability swinging strategies as a swing trader capitalizing on oscillations on the market, analysing price behaviour, a bit about risk management and candle stick charts.  This was a really great panel and spiked my interest, especially when trying to make sense of the world through finding out what is ‘normal’, pattern recognition.  The risk management portion really struck out to me.  I think that there is surely a correlation between expats/nomads and day traders when it comes to risk management.


Having been aware of roboadvisors since early last year, I was very interested to see what the panel can bring.  I am personally not a big fan of the term but it really is about technological innovations in current investment vehicles and in wealth management.  It’s about digital going to the future.

One could determine that roboadvisory services are simply services that utilizes technology to make things more efficient.  The mechanisms could be in algorithm but there is still a component involving human interaction.   While traditionally these types of services have high human touch points, robo advisories could bundle up high human touch with lower human touch for certain areas, or it could even do away with human touch in portfolio management depending on the segment.  I appreciate the ability to innovate bundling offers and I can easily sense a writeup regarding the potentials roboadvisors have with expats.

Roboadvisors enhance the digital experience of how you interact with portfolio management

One of the panel speakers made an interesting note about the difference between the US model (which can be fully digital) and the Canadian model (more correlation with portfolio managers).

Profiting and trading from dark pool prints

This was by far the most interesting part of the day for me at the Toronto MoneyShow.  The presentation was by The Stock Whisperer or Stefanie Kammerman.  LightSpeed Trader has a recorded webinar on how to profit off the dark pool which you can view which has some points from this talk.  I subscribe to her Whisper of the Day which lands in my inbox each morning also.

Please note that these do not count as investment advice whatsoever.  View the LinkedIn post here.

Follow up blog post: Session with a professional coach formulating a personal investment education plan.