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  Stretch the dollar of limited income

Lifestyle and Fixed Amount of Dollars

   May 04

Lifestyle and Fixed Amount of Dollars

Years ago, traveling in many countries of the world for business I observed that a dollar bought much more in some countries than back home. Typical American explanation was that these are poor countries with low living standard and lifestyle. From closer interaction with locals that assertion appeared true for some countries, but not at all for others. I also saw that in Euro land and England the dollar bought much less than home. If the assertion would be true then Germans, French Italians, Spaniards and Brits must have much higher living standard than us. In my observation it is exactly the contrary. Their living standard is noticeably lower from America’s. Hence the value of dollar is not proportional to the living standard, it alone does not define your lifestyle. It is a very interesting, but different discussion why a can of beer costs $0.50 in many countries of the world, but you are hard pressed to find $1.00 beer worth drinking in US? Why you can have a delicious tasty and filling dinner with drinks for $5 in many places, but the equivalent in US costs you at least $50, probably more. For this topic we accept the value of the dollar as it is. After all it is not in our sphere of influence to change it anyway. Important is to realize that the lifestyle you can afford is not defined by the amount of dollars you have, but by the goods and services you can buy for this money.

Luckily I came to this understanding some years ago. At that time living on fixed budget of limited social security income was not even an option I considered seriously … or so I thought. It was an interesting research topic for my idle time to find out how little I could live on elsewhere and what would I have to give up in return. Over time I scratched off most countries in the long list of “best places to retire” of and other sources I found. The reasons for dropping where:

1.overpriced real-estate – Malta, Italy
1.too far from family in US – Malaysia, New Zealand
2.political – I do not trust communists – Nicaragua,Venezuela Ecuador … – Mexico
Evaluating potential places to live for next 20+ years or so one can not rely on current conditions. The climate changes slowly, but living conditions change even in “advanced societies” (like US, Greece, …) sometimes very rapidly. It is impossible to forecast the situation in any country with certainty for 20 year horizon. All one can do is reduce the likelihood of dramatic deterioration.
Living away from family is a tough decision, but not having a prospect of seeing my kids and grand kids at all is not acceptable for me. Air travel is growing less convenient daily due to meaningless reaction of bureaucrats to the terrorist attempts and there is no end to this on horizon. Among others it makes the distance from family and alternative ways to travel an important consideration.
For those of us with family in the USA. Central America is an obvious choice as it can be reached by car and boat as well. Caribbean countries are the other choice, although boat is the only alternative to airplane. With these choices the language, host country stability and cultural issues arise. One size does not fit everyone, but the economic reality that USA has priced itself out of reach for many retired Americans remains. Weigh your options then decide.

Terrorists are not stupid, no-one has used shoes since the first time to carry explosives on board. As evident by last December event, terrorists will find other places to hide their stuff. Nevertheless, all the hundreds of millions of passengers must take off their shoes anyway. Soon we will have to take off our pants, then underwear and put it on the belt for checking. Imagine if an innovative terrorist will use various body cavities to carry deadly material on board. The TSA employees will start sniffing everyone’s butt before boarding

If proximity to family is important and you’d like alternatives to ever growing humiliation at the airports then there are only two realistic choices: Costa Rica or Panama.

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