Our Retirement Strategy – With or Without Social Security


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An eternal optimist, Liu-Yue built two social enterprises to help make the world a better place. Liu-Yue co-founded Oxstones Investment Club a searchable content platform and business tools for knowledge sharing and financial education. Oxstones.com also provides investors with direct access to U.S. commercial real estate opportunities and other alternative investments. In addition, Liu-Yue also co-founded Cute Brands a cause-oriented character brand management and brand licensing company that creates social awareness on global issues and societal challenges through character creations. Prior to his entrepreneurial endeavors, Liu-Yue worked as an Executive Associate at M&T Bank in the Structured Real Estate Finance Group where he worked with senior management on multiple bank-wide risk management projects. He also had a dual role as a commercial banker advising UHNWIs and family offices on investments, credit, and banking needs while focused on residential CRE, infrastructure development, and affordable housing projects. Prior to M&T, he held a number of positions in Latin American equities and bonds investment groups at SBC Warburg Dillon Read (Swiss Bank), OFFITBANK (the wealth management division of Wachovia Bank), and in small cap equities at Steinberg Priest Capital Management (family office). Liu-Yue has an MBA specializing in investment management and strategy from Georgetown University and a Bachelor of Science in Finance and Marketing from Stern School of Business at NYU. He also completed graduate studies in international management at the University of Oxford, Trinity College.

By Suzan Haskins, International Living,

For the second year in a row, American retirees won’t see a cost-of-living increase in their Social Security benefits.

As a snapshot indicator of the state of the U.S. economy, this is not a good thing.

Just how bad is it? This is the first time in three and a half decades that the U.S. has gone two consecutive years without a Social Security cost-of-living raise. In other words, the government has no faith the economy will rebound in the coming year.

While my husband and I are more than a few years shy of being eligible to collect Social Security retirement benefits, this latest news doesn’t make us happy—mostly because of the effect it has on friends of ours who do depend on it.

It does, though, reinforce the fact that we made the right decision when—in mid-life and at the height of our earning potential—we decided to turn our lives upside down and move overseas.

We had a modest amount of savings. But even more, we had a desire to do something fun and exciting. We didn’t want to eventually arrive at the end of the road with any regrets.

We were new subscribers to International Living. We’d read the electronic postcards, poured over the magazine articles, special reports, and more. The message just made sense: you can live a better life for less money overseas.

So we sold our house, cars, and furniture, and moved to Ecuador. We did, indeed, find life to be far less expensive there. And the fun and adventure was well worth anything we may have given up.

In fact, after a decade living in Latin America, we no longer see much difference between the “First World” and what is perceived as the “Third World.” Modern supermarkets, high-tech malls, high-speed Internet, complete cell phone coverage, and excellent doctors and healthcare facilities…we have all that in Latin America, of course.

In those early yeas of living overseas, we did what International Living has always recommended: we rented ($600/month for a four-bedroom/two-bath house in Quito with a garden and separate guest casita.) Only after we were really sure that we were cut out for the expat lifestyle did we buy our first overseas property.

Today we have a home in Merida, Mexico and a condo in Cotacachi, Ecuador. We pay about $140 for our annual property taxes in Mexico and less than $30 in Ecuador. We have a comprehensive private health insurance plan that costs us one-fourth what a similar policy back home would cost. Our homeowner’s association fees in Ecuador are less than $100/month. We spend $5 at the local farmer’s market each weekend for produce to last a week or more.

Because our daily living costs are so low, we can afford to splurge on someone to clean our house—$20 for our larger home in Mexico and $10 for our small condo in Ecuador. These are good, fair wages.

So, can you, like International Living says, live a good life on your Social Security income when you live overseas? Yes. We know people who are doing it. And while no one is happy about the latest turn of events…and I’m not at all sure Social Security will still be around when I turn 62…frankly we’re not worried.

Our retirement strategy has always been to do just what we’re doing now. Live better for less overseas. Now that’s security!

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