Articles Related to Waterford

'Tis the season to remember
No we're never far from home
Merry Christmas, everyone

--"Merry Christmas, Alabama" by Jimmy Buffett

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

Our seven Christmases in Ireland, we could never bring ourselves to participate in one of Ireland's quirkiest festive traditions, what the Irish refer to as the "Christmas Day swim."

On Christmas morning, from beaches, piers, and coves around the country, people of all ages gather to immerse themselves in waters of around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (maximum).

"Swim" is a bit of a misnomer. There is no particular distance that you need to cover, nor any agreed-upon duration you must stay in the water. You simply join the crowd of people running toward and then into the water (cheered on by well-wrapped-up spectators), screaming as their bodies hit the ice-cold sea. A quick splash of the arms and legs, then back in to shore to dry off, wrap up, and enjoy a hot drink or a shot of whiskey.

Wetsuits have appeared on the scene in recent years, mostly among the kids, but it remains an unspoken rule among the hardy adults taking part: Traditional bathing suits only...

Our four Christmases in Paris were all about the lights. Each year, starting in November, Boulevard St. Germain, just a few blocks from our apartment in this city, is strung with tiny white lights. The trees, the building facades, they're covered with them. Each morning and again each evening as I'd walk Jackson, aged 4 through 8 at the time, to and from school, we'd linger at the intersection of rue du Bac and Boulevard St. Germain as long as possible, looking up and down, up and down, slowly, working to fix that magical view in our memories. "It's a fairy land," 4-year-old Jack declared it one morning. I see it still.

Twinkling lights and decorated shop windows. This time of year, storefronts throughout Paris are draped with pine garland, and shop windows are decorated with green trees flocked with white and trimmed with red and gold baubles. No one does shop windows like the French do shop windows, and no others compare with the shop windows of Paris at Christmastime.

This year, we're in Baltimore, celebrating the season with my family, remembering all the other parts of the world where we've found ourselves this special time of year in years past, and wondering where the coming New Year will lead us.

On behalf of the entire far-flung staff of Live and Invest Overseas, please accept our warm and heartfelt wishes for a Merry Christmas, wherever you're enjoying it this year, and our sincere hope that 2013 is the year your far-flung dreams of adventure overseas begin to come true.

All the best from our family to yours. We so much appreciate your coming along with us for this ride.

Kathleen Peddicord

 

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It was very early in the morning for them, but even if they'd been long awake, I doubt my news would have elicited a more enthusiastic response. As it was, my pre-dawn Baltimore-time announcement was met with near-silence. They'd met Lief, but only once. And, older now, I can imagine better what they must have been thinking. They were still reeling from the idea that Kaitlin and I were planning a move to another country a thousand miles away. Now I was remarrying, too? I can imagine now what they must have been thinking, but I can't tell you for sure, because they said little, not when I called to share my news and not over the coming few months as Lief and I engineered and then carried out the plans for both the marriage and the move.

Before we moved to Waterford, I'd lived my whole life in and around Baltimore, within a half-hour drive, more or less, of my parents and my sister. I saw them all at least once a week. Kaitlin saw them more often. A single working mom in those final few years before I left Baltimore, I counted heavily on my parents where Kaitlin was concerned. My dad, retired by that time, would race out the door on a moment's notice to collect her from school or dance class or soccer. I always knew he was but a phone call away. And my mom, sister, and I spent many Saturday afternoons poking around antique shops and painting, wall papering, and otherwise improving each other's houses.

My news that Kaitlin and I were not only moving out of town but also out of the country came as a shock, for my mother especially. My father quietly supported the idea, as he'd supported me my entire life to that point. But, to my mom, my relocation to Ireland was nothing more than a plan to separate her from her first grandchild. Kaitlin and I spent our final night in Baltimore at my parents' house. The next morning, Kaitlin lay in bed sobbing while my mother sat alongside her, crying, too. I had to pry Kaitlin out of the bed and carry her to the car. It was an inauspicious beginning for what I kept assuring everyone would be a fun and adventure-filled phase of our lives.

From Baltimore, Kaitlin and I flew to Chicago to meet up with Lief. Lief and I were married that weekend, and, a week later, we three plus Lief's mother boarded a plane for Istanbul, where we met up with Lief's father. From Turkey (our honeymoon...spent, yes, with my daughter and my new in-laws), I flew to Ireland. Our new little family spent that first Christmas in Baltimore, but, otherwise, we didn't see or, really, hear much from my parents until our next Baltimore visit the following Easter...when I discovered I was pregnant.

Lief and I hadn't planned to have a baby straight of the gate of our marriage. We hadn't planned not to have one either. The truth is, I don't think that the question had occurred to either one of us, in the midst of the rush of the events of the time.

I was very sick when pregnant with Kaitlin. Pregnant with Jackson 10 years later, I was much sicker. I discovered I was expecting in Baltimore then returned to Ireland and to the office, where I was able to continue working for another few weeks. The six months following were spent on the sofa of our rental cottage on the banks of Waterford's River Suir and in and out of Waterford Regional Hospital, where I became a regular patient, well known among the nursing staff of the maternity ward. The trouble was dehydration. I couldn't keep down enough fluids to keep from becoming dehydrated, and I couldn't be allowed to be dehydrated for any length of time for fear of consequences for the baby.

So every other week at least for six months, Lief was picking me up off the bathroom floor, where he found me often, and rushing me back to Waterford Regional, where I'd be hooked up to IV's until the doctors were convinced I was stable enough to return home. Two times that meant stays of longer than a week.

Those were long, lonely days. Lief would come by twice each day, once in the morning and again each evening, with Kaitlin. Otherwise, I had no visitors, as we hadn't been in Waterford long enough at this point to make any real friends. I wasn't up for friendly chats anyway. I'd lie in bed feeling too sick to move and worrying about Kaitlin, now not only far from her father, her grandparents, and her friends, but, I had to face it, for all intents and purposes, motherless, as well.

I'd worry about the business, too. We were barely established in our sublet offices, relying on new local staff with, still, no idea who we were or what we were doing, now all under the direction of Lief. Who else was going to keep the lights on and the magazine going out each month?

By this time, Lief had more or less abandoned his own plans. He'd focused, our first couple of months in Waterford, on pulling together the pieces to purchase Pouldrew House, the property he'd identified for his corporate retreat idea. But the volatile owner kept changing the terms of the sale, including the price (which he increased three times during the course of the negotiations), arbitrarily, and my new husband, I began to see, had little patience for unexpected change, especially in business dealings.

Finally, Lief's discussions with the owner of Pouldrew House's broke off entirely. About this time, coincidentally, we discovered I was pregnant and then, shortly thereafter, I became a regular resident of Waterford Regional Hospital. Suddenly, overnight, with no warning and no way or chance to prepare, Lief found himself the CEO of our emerging publishing operation. He'd ask me questions each time he came by to see me in the hospital, or, when I was back home, we'd review the day's events each evening over dinner, then Lief would return to the office to do his best to follow my instructions. Meantime, again, I was left with too much time to lie alone in bed thinking about everything I wasn't doing and how our lives seemed to have spun out of any orbit.

The public health care system in Ireland today is reputed to be a shambles. Friends in Waterford tell me about months-, even year-long waits to see doctors or to be scheduled for procedures. Emergency rooms are overwhelmed. I can only tell you about my experience, all those years ago, which was nothing like things are reported to be today.

My experience was limited to having a baby in Ireland, which I think may be akin to what it must have been like to have a baby in the United States in the 1950s. Fathers were hardly part of the picture, and I saw few men in the maternity ward other than the doctors. Visitors were mothers, sisters, girlfriends, not husbands. There were few private rooms and no birthing rooms. You had the baby in a delivery room and then were taken either to a private room if you'd reserved one or the open ward. Most of the women, pregnant, nursing, smoked. Everyone in Ireland smoked back then, including both the women in maternity and their visitors.

We patients in the big, open maternity ward, perhaps 12 or 14 of us at a time, were separated by curtains. Early each morning, the nurses would come through, greeting us formally and pulling back each curtain with an efficient swish. Then they'd serve us each a tray of tea and toast. The Irish believe with confidence, and, in fact, had persuaded me, by the time we left the island, to believe as well, that tea and toast can cure whatever ails you, from the stomach flu to a broken heart or a bad day in the office. Certainly, the nurses at Waterford Regional were convinced of the healing powers of their trays of tea and toast, which were served not only at 6 a.m. each day but also on demand around the clock and whenever the nurses felt like a cuppa' (which was shorthand for the tea, the tray, and the toast) was called for.

These nurses were caring but all business. Doctor's orders were followed strictly, working in bed was frowned upon (Lief tried a few times to bring me my laptop or some papers for my review, but the nurses intervened), and little time was wasted discussing how any of us was feeling. The Irish are a hearty lot, including their nurses and their women in the various stages of carrying and delivering babies. The Waterford Regional maternity ward was long on tea but short on sympathy.

This was just as well in my case, as I was feeling sorry enough for myself and, as the weeks passed, more than a little panicked. Finally, after my second hospital admission, I asked Lief to call my parents. We needed help. My mother arrived a week later, just after I'd been re-admitted to the hospital for the third time. She walked into the hospital ward as the nurses were serving lunch. On the menu that afternoon was roasted chicken and mash (as the Irish call mashed potatoes). My mother approached my bed as the nurse approached, as well, holding out my tray of chicken and potatoes.

The smell of the food sent my stomach reeling, as it nearly always did those days. My mother was quicker than the nurse. She grabbed the basin on my bedside side and held it in place for me while pushing the nurse and the offending roasted lunch as far away from my bed as possible. From that moment on, the focus was on managing this new life in Ireland, me, Lief, Kaitlin, and the coming dual-national baby, rather than questioning or resenting it.

My parents were on board...

Kathleen PeddicordContinuing Reading:

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Lief and I arrived with our family and our business, expecting to plug into the kind of infrastructure we were used to back in the States. We thought things like opening a bank account, finding office space, and placing ads for staff would be simple, everyday tasks, to be accomplished in short order.

They weren't...and getting them accomplished at all, we came to realize, depended not only on how you approached things, but also, in great part, on who you knew.

At first, we couldn't even decipher the Property For Rent ads in the local papers. Some places were advertised as having "All Mod Cons." Finally, an estate agent explained, with pride, that houses and apartments with all mod cons were those boasting all modern conveniences...things like central heating.

We were surprised, as well, to find that banks closed for lunch and that the entire city shut down at 5 p.m. We needed to buy a car, but dealerships were open only weekdays and, again, only until 5 p.m. When were we supposed to go car shopping? We had a business to run...

We felt like we were continually banging our heads against a collective Irish wall. Employment contracts had to allow for tea breaks. The plumbers and electricians we hired to help with the renovation of the house we finally purchased would go missing for days at a time then return to continue their work as though nothing unusual had happened. Staff not only got four weeks' vacation each year by law, they took it!

These things were impossible for us hard-charging, Type A Americans to process. How did anyone get anything done in this place, we found ourselves asking ourselves every single day.

Finally, frustrated and confused, we had to admit that we weren't going to change how the Irish lived and did business. We'd have to go along.

And we did. Begrudgingly. We lived in Ireland for nearly seven years. We bought a 200-year-old Georgian farmhouse and restored it. We bought another 200-year-old house in the city and renovated it into office space. We hired dozens of employees. We did, eventually, succeed in opening bank accounts and buying cars. We created our own infrastructure for things like paying bills, shopping for furniture, complying with local tax codes...

I gave birth to our son at Waterford Regional Hospital. He and his sister attended school, made friends, went to birthday parties...

Lief and I made friends, too. Some of our dearest friends today are Waterfordians. They write regularly to keep us in touch with life in this part of the world.

And, as the years pass, I'm finding that the Irish are surprising me again.

They're making me homesick. E-mails and letters from those in Ireland with whom we were fortunate enough to forge long-lasting relationships are helping me to see life in this country anew.

Lief and I arrived in Waterford with a clear agenda. We were there to do business. And, in this regard, we sometimes found the Irish as maddening as, over the years, we have also sometimes found the Nicaraguans, the Belizeans, the Ecuadorians...

Now, with age and time, my perspective is shifting.

One day, after we'd been living in Waterford for maybe three years, a couple of readers stopped by the office. They were Indians, in the country to investigate the possibilities for relocating their software company from India to Ireland. Did I have any advice for them, they wanted to know...

This was the contradiction of the day. The Celtic Tiger was roaring loud, attracting investors (like us) from far and wide, entrepreneurs and businesspeople looking for opportunity.

But we were all misguided. Ireland was holding out great opportunity, but not of the kind we were in the market for at the time.

That young Indian couple was confused when I warned them away.

"Don't come to Ireland to run an efficient business," I told them. "You'll be driven crazy."

I'd stand by that advice today. But I'd add something.

If your agenda is business, you have much better options. But if your agenda is something else, you might want to take a close look at this little emerald isle.

We lived here during the apex of the Celtic Tiger, which generated great amounts of wealth, more money than this island had ever known. I'd say that, as a result, the Irish then, like us, were distracted from was right in front of them.

They were busy covering their ancient green land with suburban track homes, shopping malls, and fast-food franchises. We watched as pubs were replaced by nightclubs and as, yes, eventually, car dealerships kept Saturday business hours and banks remained open through lunch.

Ireland wanted so badly to compete on the global business stage. I'd say that, in this regard, it failed completely.

But, today, when I receive an e-mail from one of our friends in Waterford, the things that come to mind have nothing to do with business.

Today, when I think of our time in Ireland, I think of the owner of the corner shop across the street from our office. How he and his wife sent us a small gift when Jack was born and how they inquired after both Jack and his older sister Kaitlin every time we saw them...

I remember the cabinet-maker who helped to restore our big old Georgian house to its original glories, shutter by shutter, wood plank by wood plank...

I think of the castles and the gardens we explored on weekends with Kaitlin and Jack. I think of the few times we braved the beaches at Tramore, sitting on the sand in sweaters, shivering and shaking our heads, while, out in the cold Irish Sea, the Irish swam and surfed...

I think of cows in the roads and sheep in the fields. Of Kaitlin learning to ride a horse in our front paddock and of Jack learning to walk in our forever muddy back garden...

I think of these things more often as time passes, remember them and appreciate them.

And, as a result, appreciate Ireland more, too, the Ireland beyond the fabled Celtic Tiger and the current economic calamity.

The Ireland that right now is more affordable to own than it has been in a decade and that, if our local friends' predictions are on target, may become as affordable again as it was when we arrived on the scene more than 13 years ago.

As property prices continue down, my renewed interest continues to expand...

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. What else this week?

  • Our editors are busy updating budgets for the cost of living in the world's top overseas retirement havens. I want to share some of their cipherings with you today.

First, though, I want to add the usual caveats and disclaimers that I offer every time I take up this country budgets discussion.

How much will it cost you to live in Overseas Retirement Haven XYZ?

The only honest answer is, I have no idea. And neither does anyone else. The only one who can answer that question is you...

  • "Not ready to retire overseas just yet," asks Overseas Retirement Letter Editor-in-Chief Lynn Mulvihill in this month's issue, "but fancy a foreign foothold?

"Then look no further than these top investment markets for 2011.

"Each of the following cities is a location we expect to continue to perform well in terms of rental yields (all receive solid numbers of visitors every year). Investing in any one of them would be a chance for you to diversify your investment portfolio while testing the waters in a new location that might just turn out to be the overseas retirement haven with your name on it..."

  • The following questions, which we receive every day, are often preceded by, "I feel a little foolish asking, but I'm just not sure..."

Don't be shy. It doesn't hurt to clarify. For example...

  • One of the many reasons we say Panama is the #1 place in the world right now to retire overseas is because of the many and diverse lifestyle options it offers.

Last year, we thin-sliced Panama and named its El Valle de Anton as the world's top retirement haven. This mountain town about two-and-a-half hours outside Panama City boasts a pleasant climate and beautiful, lush landscapes. Plus, it's a half-hour from the beach and, again, within easy access of the capital.

When we revisited this question this year to try to name our world's top retirement haven for 2011, we were reminded what a challenge it is to identify a single best place to settle in retirement.

In fact, it's not possible. What's best to me might be intolerable for you. As we remind you regularly, it's a question of priorities and preferences.

Therefore, this year, we name not one top retirement choice in Panama, the most retirement-friendly place on earth right now, but five, from the city to the coast, from beachfront to cooler mountain climes, with top picks for retirees on strict budgets as well as those whose retirement resources stretch a little further...

Also This Week...from resident global real estate investing expert Lief Simon:

What about this new 30% withholding on funds sent via an international wire that flows from or through the U.S. banking system?

First, it originates in the recently passed HIRE Act, the so-called Jobs Bill. No, it doesn't have anything to do with employment...but there you go. Politics.

Second, it isn't yet in effect but is scheduled to take effect starting Jan. 1, 2013.

Third, no one right now knows exactly how this will all shake out. Many believe, and it seems likely, that banks will err on the side of caution and simply withhold the 30% on nearly every international wire transfer made using the U.S. banking system. Excluded it seems will be transfers to yourself (that is, when the sending bank account and the receiving bank account are titled in the same name), as well as (critically) transfers to countries that have signed exchange of information treaties with the United States (this is the leverage being brought to bear).

When buying real estate overseas, you typically transfer the required funds to the seller, your attorney, or to an escrow account. In other words, the transfer isn't typically made to your own account in the country. You probably wouldn't have one (perhaps you wouldn't be able to open one, depending on the country and the circumstances) before making the real estate purchase. This means that it's likely 30% of your transfer would be withheld. The seller probably isn't going to go along with the suggestion that he wait to get the remaining 30% of his purchase price until after you've gotten it refunded by the U.S. government. Meaning you'll have to inflate the amount of money you wire for the purchase by enough to cover the withholding.

This could be expensive. In fact, you'd have to wire US$142,857 to net US$100,000 on the receiving end.

We've been reporting on this issue in recent weeks, and readers have been getting in touch with questions as well as to suggest possible solutions.

One alternative offered by a reader was to FedEx a cashier's check. While this could work for U.S. dollar transactions, the timing would likely get complicated. Foreign banks typically don't release funds for a cashier's check any sooner than they do for a regular check. In Panama, it takes three weeks for funds to clear when you deposit a check from the United States. Building this delay into your purchase timeline could be fine...or it could create a problem for you.

Additionally, sending a U.S. dollar check for a non-dollar purchase means you have a currency risk during the time it takes for the check to arrive and clear. If the exchange rate goes against you in the intervening days or weeks, you could find yourself short on the amount due to close.

Moving large amounts of cash across international borders legally requires a lot of paperwork and planning, and I don't recommend that you attempt it less than legally.

So what's an international investor to do? Start moving your investment funds outside of the United States now. Diversify your assets among different jurisdictions, different accounts, and different currencies before Jan. 1, 2013.

I believe this will be the real, though unintended, effect of this new law. More money will move out of the United States more quickly than it would have otherwise because of concern over how this potential 30% withholding is going to affect even average, every-day, law-abiding, tax-paying Americans trying to manage their own assets and plan their own financial futures.

While the withholding isn't a tax, as you'll be able to claim it back on your tax return, it is a nuisance and a cash flow issue. It puts the burden on you (as the American who wants to stay IRS compliant) to file for the refund and to be able to show to the IRS's satisfaction that no tax was due in the first place.

Our offshore and tax attorneys will keep us updated as the international banking community continues to process the implications of the new tax laws buried in the HIRE Act.

Meanwhile, diversification is, as always, the best way to keep yourself from being at their mercy, however they play out.

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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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