The Old Rules of the Game No Longer Apply
By Nick GiambrunoMoney represents your energy and your time: the days, the weeks, the months, the years it takes you to earn it, and all the things you hope to do with it.
In short, money is like stored life.
Taxation, inflation, and artificially low interest rates are therefore similar to an IV needle tapped directly into your vein, sucking the life right out of you.
Sure, you can diversify your investments and take actions to minimize your taxes, but that alone is insufficient if the after-tax returns on your portfolio don’t keep up with the real rate of inflation—which is always higher than the cooked “official” numbers—let alone your investment goals.
The problem will only be compounded as politicians the world over look for more ways to tax or otherwise extract stored purchasing power. Investment income and retirement savings will be a juicy target. Just look at how capital gains and dividend tax rates have increased in recent years.
And don’t expect it to stop at just raising existing taxes. Expect new taxes and for them to fiddle with the rules for retirement accounts.
This is what we should prudently to expect as long as the US government needs to finance its astronomical spending, fueled by welfare and warfare policies.
As long as the government spends money, it will find some way to make you pay for it—either through direct taxation, inflation, or debt (which represents deferred taxation/inflation).
It’s as simple as that.
What this all means is that you shouldn’t be surprised that the government will extract an ever-growing amount of money (life) out of you, and that it’s going to result in a proportionally lower standard of living.
This is a particularly unpleasant reality for retirees, who are rightly worried as they observe that increasing taxation and inflation, as well as artificially low interest rates erode the value of their retirement savings—literally a lifetime’s worth of work.
As my colleague Dan Steinhart recently pointed out, back in the year 2000 a five-year CD would pay out about 6%. If you had a million dollars, you could generate $60,000 per year with very little risk.
Fast forward to today. The average CD now pays 1.5%, which means you would now need $4,000,000 in retirement savings to generate that same $60,000 in annual income—four times as much as would have been needed 14 years ago.
This extended period of artificially low interest rates has obviously eroded the quality of life of savers and retirees. These policies are, in effect, a wealth transfer from savers to borrowers—the government’s perverse attempt to “stimulate” the economy by making it relatively more attractive to borrow and spend.
It’s no longer a safe bet to build your retirement plans on assumptions of historical rates of return and interest rates. If you do, you’ll likely find yourself needing to take on more risk to generate the same level of returns, or needing to reduce your quality of life to make ends meet.
It’s much better to come to terms with the fact that the old rules of the game no longer apply when it comes to financial and retirement planning.
While the picture is admittedly bleak in the US and most of Europe, there is a huge silver lining—namely, there is a proven way to increase your quality of life and decrease your cost of living by looking at opportunities abroad.
By finding the right location, anyone can pay just a fraction of their common living expenses (without sacrificing, and in many cases increasing quality) than what they are used to in their home country—like housing costs, medical care costs, food costs, transportation costs, and taxes of all sorts.
This is exactly what Doug Casey and David Galland have done by moving to La Estancia de Cafayate in Argentina. Here is what David told me about how the move affected his quality of life:
“The quality of life is tremendous. This is not just the case for Americans or people who are non-peso based; it’s pretty much for everyone. Food in a place like Cafayate, where we live, is so cheap it’s almost free. You can walk out of a store with a huge bag of fresh produce, and it’s going to set you back only a few bucks. A kilo of fine tenderloin will cost you maybe $5. Back here in the US a couple of days ago I paid $22 for less than a pound of steak. Then there’s the cost of labor. In Argentina, we have an extremely competent maid who comes in for five hours a day, five days a week and does all the cleaning and laundry—drudge work that people in the Western world have learned to view as an unavoidable part of life—and the cost is all of about $40 a week.”
It’s really difficult to overstate the importance of this topic, which has led me to search for the most authoritative resource. I believe I have found it.
I am pleased to share with International Man readers this comprehensive, A-to-Z guide on retiring abroad.
My friends over at International Living have put together a new book, which I have recently read. It’s called The International Living Guide to Retiring Overseas on a Budget.
It’s a detailed look—yet easy and fun to read—at the steps involved in successfully retiring abroad. A step-by-step guide from beginning your research to getting organized and making the move.
Of course the issues and information in this book are relevant not just for those near the age of retirement. Young people, families with children, business entrepreneurs, investors, and many others are finding better opportunities, lower startup costs, less regulation, improved medical care, greater freedom, and drastically lower costs of living abroad. You can as well.
The real meat of the book is the detailed chapters on the most affordable (and desirable) countries on earth to retire and how to find out which one is best for you. Some, but not all, of countries covered include: Ecuador, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, Spain, and Belize.
In these countries, you can find out how to dramatically reduce the cost of retirement, in most cases by 30-50% of that in the US or Canada. The book also includes how you can structure an all-in budget of $2,000/month or less without sacrificing on quality.
Going global isn’t for everyone. You have to be able to step out of your comfort zone and have an appetite for adventure, like Doug Casey and David Galland did in Argentina.
But given the decreasing standard of living, driven largely by the Fed stealing from savers and retirees via artificially low interest rates, it behooves you to look at all of your options to preserve, or increase, your quality of life.
If you’re anywhere near the age of retirement in these uncertain economic times,
The International Living Guide to Retiring Overseas on a Budget is a must read.