Paying Bribes In Foreign Countries

My Recommendation Is: Don't Pay...Ever

Sept. 5, 2014, Baltimore, Maryland: What should you do if someone in a foreign country asks you to pay a bribe?

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

One of the presenters at last week's Retire Overseas Conference spoke about bribery and corruption overseas.

I read statistics recently from a relevant study in Ecuador. Something close to 80% of the people surveyed had at some time been asked either directly or indirectly for a bribe when dealing with an Ecuadorean government official. The survey didn't stipulate what kind of official—could have been anything from a police officer to a clerk in a government office or a minister.

The more interesting thing for me was that, according to the study, of the people who were asked for a bribe by a government official but refused to pay, some large percentage still got what they wanted. Further, a not insignificant percentage of people who did pay the bribe when asked did not get what they wanted.

Paying and still not getting what you're after would be frustrating. What recourse would you have? You couldn't go to the guy's boss and complain, saying, in effect, "I paid this guy to do something for me that he shouldn't have done...and he didn't do it."

Most retirees living in a foreign country won't ever encounter a direct request for a bribe. The exception might be a request from a traffic cop about to issue you a citation, for example. Otherwise, unless you are doing business in a country, you are, again, very unlikely to have to grapple with this issue.


9 Top Expat Retirement Communities

Where Have All The Expats Gone?
9 Top Expat Havens

Sept. 4, 2014, Baltimore, Maryland: These nine places are home to the world’s biggest expat retiree communities.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

As we explained to all in attendance at last week's Retire Overseas Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, one of the fundamental issues you should consider early on in your retire-overseas planning is this:

Do you want to live among the locals or in a more private, perhaps gated setting with fellow expats for your neighbors?

If you choose to relocate to an established expatriate community, you'll have no trouble slipping into the local social scene and finding English-speakers who share your interests.

On the other hand, going that route, you might end up with little real experience of the new culture you're adopting.

This important early decision may not have occurred to you. But I encourage you to consider the question directly, for the answer sets you on one track or another, and they lead very different places.

It can be easier, frankly, to seek out a place where your neighbors would be fellow North Americans, where you might hear more English in restaurants and bars than local lingo, and where you'd have like-minded compatriots to commiserate with over the trials and tribulations of daily life in a foreign country.

This can make it a terrific first step for some, a chance to dip your toe in the retire-overseas waters rather than diving in headfirst. You're living overseas and enjoying many of the benefits (great weather, affordable cost of living), but the surroundings and the neighbors are familiar in many ways. You can shop at Wal-Mart or PriceSmart (in some cases), meet up with fellow Americanos for bridge on Thursday evenings, and never have to travel far to find English-language conversation.


22 Top Places For Retirement In 2014

World's Best 22 Places To Retire

Sept. 3, 2014, Baltimore, Maryland: Live and Invest Overseas’ annual Retire Overseas Conference names the 21 best places in the world to retire in 2014.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

At last week's Retire Overseas Conference in Nashville, we introduced those in attendance to the world's top 22 retirement havens right now, including...

The World's Cheapest Places To Retire Well

If you're in the market for a simple but comfortable lifestyle on a modest budget, here's where you should be focusing your attention, the world's eight cheapest places to retire, places where you could retire well on your Social Security income alone (with, indicated in parentheses, our total monthly budget amount in each case):

  • Nha Trang, Vietnam (US$680)
  • Dumaguete, Philippines (US$910)
  • Chiang Mai, Thailand (US$920)
  • Cuenca, Ecuador (US$1,010)
  • Granada, Nicaragua (US$1,040)
  • Istanbul, Turkey (US$1,045)
  • George Town, Malaysia (US$1,070)
  • Samana, Dominican Republic (US$1,155)
Easiest Residency

Eight of the 22 countries featured at last week's event offer user-friendly choices for establishing full-time residency as a foreign retiree, as follows:
  • Belize
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Malaysia
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Philippines
  • Thailand
In Latin America, retiree residency programs are typically referred to as pensionado visas. To qualify, you need to prove a minimum amount of regular monthly income from some defined source. The minimum amount required varies country to country, from a bargain US$600 (in Nicaragua) to US$2,000 (in Belize) per month. Some countries (including Panama and Colombia, for example) stipulate that the income must be pension income (Social Security qualifies); others (such as Belize and Ecuador) are more flexible. You can qualify for Belize's version of a pensionado visa program (called the Qualified Retired Persons program) by showing reliable income of at least US$2,000 per month from any source.


How To Choose Where To Retire Overseas

"Kathleen, Here's What I'm Looking For..."

Sept. 2, 2014, Baltimore, Maryland: Live and Invest Overseas’ Retire Overseas Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, helped hundreds of would-be retirees figure out where to reinvent their lives overseas.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

I spent a lot of time in Nashville last week trying to help the 400+ in attendance figure out where, exactly, they might best think about reinventing their lives overseas...

"Kathleen, I'm thinking about Ecuador and Nicaragua...Cuenca and Granada. Here's what I want...

"Well, first, here's what I don't want. I don't want hot, hot or humid. I want a cool climate, and I want a city. I'll be making this move on my own, and I want easy access to things to do...museums and art galleries. Things like that. What do you think of my choices?"

Take Nicaragua off your list. Its climate isn't what you're looking for. Cuenca could be a good choice—cool and comfortable year-round plus an established community of expats to tap into. That would help to make the transition for a woman on her own much easier...


"Kathleen, I'm afraid I've made a big mistake. I've put down a deposit on a house on the beach in Belize..."

Why do you think that might have been a mistake?

"Well, I've ever been to Belize..."


"But I know that Belize is what I want."

OK, let's start there. Why do you believe Belize is the place for you?

"I want the beach. I want to be right on the beach, right on the sand. And I want low-key. I don't like resorts or tourists, or people, really. I'm kind of kidding but not. I like quiet and solitude. And I don't want to learn a new language..."

Great. Yes, based on all that, Belize is a great choice for you. Still, you should go see it. A place can seem ideal on paper but just not feel right once you've put your feet on the ground. When that happens, you want to follow your gut...go with your instinct. So, while, based on your checklist of criteria, Belize seems like the place, before you commit in full, you need to get on a plane.


Closing On The Sale Of Property In Argentina

Stuff The Cash In Your Bra? How To Sell Real Estate Overseas

Sept. 1, 2014
Nashville, Tennessee

Editor’s Note: Kathleen is on her way from Nashville to Baltimore today...traveling from the just-finished and enormously successful Retire Overseas Conference in Music City to meetings in Charm City. She'll be back online tomorrow with a report on last week's biggest retire-overseas event of the year. Meantime, following is an essay from Kathleen from the archives...

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

Around the enormous table sat five adult siblings, three with spouses, two with attorneys, one with a grown son, plus the real estate agent for the seller, his two representatives, our real estate agent, our agent's boss, and my husband and me.

It was the summer of 2003 in Buenos Aires. Over the preceding 12 months, Lief and I had bought three apartments in this city in the wake of Argentina's 2001 currency debacle and subsequent property crash. We arranged our schedules to be able to participate in the closing of the third apartment personally. We were purchasing from the five children of the elderly owner who had not too long before died in the apartment in question.

Argentines traditionally (with good reason) don't trust banks. Following the 2001 collapse, they really didn't trust banks. Real estate closings, therefore, were all-cash transactions that took place in the offices of currency houses, like the one where Lief and I sat that sunny summer morning. Papers went back and forth among siblings and attorneys, attorneys and agents, attorneys and attorneys. Then the agent for the currency house appeared. She had the cash. Lief and I had wired down our funds a couple of days beforehand so that the required cash bundles could be prepared. It was a US$220,000 transaction.

The cash wasn't simply going from buyer (us) to seller. There were multiple sellers, each due a different percentage of the purchase amount. Into the room next, therefore, came the bill counter, the kind of machine drug dealers and casinos might employ. Sister A got US$22,000. Sister B got US$35,000. Big brother who had been living in the house with his mother until she died got more than US$100,000. The agent doing the counting passed him a plastic-wrapped brick of US$100 bills and some "change" in the form of smaller individual packages.


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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Read more here.


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