Happier than a Billionair

10 07 2012

I’m in the middle of reading this book called Happier than a Billionair. It’s about a couple that quit their jobs and moved to Costa Rica. It’s extraordinary. If you have your own expatriate dreams, especially if these dreams have anything to do with moving to Costa Rica, you want to read this book.


I’ll post an in-depth review of the book once I’ve completed reading it. So far, it’s fabulous! It is filled with great stories, lots of humor and adventure along with good information…


Location, location, location–AKA–What country to call my new home

8 07 2012

Hyper-post: I’ve had many friends travel the Latin Americas. Here’s what I’ve heard. Mexico is wickedly inexpensive and wildly dangerous. Police are corrupt. Cab drivers are killers. People are wonderful. Art and food are both vibrant and delicious. Panama is fab for retirees, but a little pricey for the younger crowd. Don’t bother looking for a job unless you already have one lined up. You’d better come with cashflow planned. Brazil is all about safety. Absolutely beautiful and wonderful people with a rich culture. Be careful where you locate and always keep eyes in the back of your head. Not a place for people who wander around unaware of their surroundings. Great place to dive into a new world feet first. Costa Rica is the most popular recommendation from my friends in terms of beauty, cost of living, culture and safety. Argentina is a personal obsession, and several people have both recommended it highly as an ex pat destination as well as told me I was nuts to consider it. Belize is expensive but with the right plan, that includes working in the adventure tourism industry, it could easily be a dream come true.

If anyone has additional information, thoughts or ideas, please talk to me in the comments section. I love to interact and would really enjoy hearing from you!

Departure signs are taunting me… those bastards!

13 10 2011

Departure Sign

I picked a friend up from the airport today. Good to see him after all these years. His plane was delayed, though, and I had to wait for him. I usually am annoyingly patient, but something about being so close to escape yet so far away from actually leaving whilst sitting around taunted by departure signs blinking and winking at me, as they do. Well, it all started a bitter, nauseous taste brewing in my mouth.

When my friend finally showed up, I was less than warm, though not icy. He sensed my state of mind, a little on edge. Or maybe it was because I squeezed his hand so hard his eyes popped out of his head as I dragged him swiftly to grab his baggage and leapt to the garage–all within three minutes at TIA, and we sped out into the morning. He could have sensed the bruises I left on his hand when I grabbed him, too. That’s all possible. Either way, he lead me into his hotel where we both gulped up a few extra spicy bloody marys. If I were paying any attention to my actions over the last month since I’ve been fully self-employed, I might notice that my alcohol consumption has increased dramatically. I might notice it. If I were paying attention, you know.

Anyway, as usual, my head cleared as it spun around the room. We did talk about his travels, and with a little fermented concoction running through my veins, now the conversation was inspiring versus feeling the sharp pains of jealousy’s blood streaming from my eyes. If I were less intoxicated, I would have asked my friend for work, as he described several projects that I’d be a strong partner on. Alas! I was not less drunk. Maybe that conversation will come around again when I see him Sunday. Or maybe I’ll again be too distracted by some other level of consciousness that reality seems trite and uninspired.

My bill collectors don’t agree with my take on the artificial nature of time or that on a quantum level we don’t even exist but through our perception, so in fact, nothing is real, it is all imagined. Bill collectors. Strange people. What does shut them up is timely payment, which I’ve been increasingly able to meet since I got rid of that soul-sucking day job I had. Now, I actually have the opportunity to make money for a living, and so far so good. Now, about that conversation with my friend… I would really make an EXCELLENT partner on that project–my presentation design skills are second to none. It might help if I mention that to him some time soon.

How much is enough? AKA: There’s no such thing as security, but drinking helps.

11 10 2011

THE BIG MOVE… How can I decide when it’s time?The truth is, there is no perfect time to move. Slowly, I’m beginning to pull fuzzy rabbits out of my hat again, and for me, this is the definition of success. Money is beginning to be defined as something I can create again versus something that depends upon a job to acquire. What do I mean? Marketability versus traditional security.

My Mini Bottles on a Plane

I have several talents/skills that can generate income for me: 1) writing; 2) singing; 3) cooking; 4) acting; 5) communications and business development; 6) public speaking… these are marketable anywhere. The trick is to make sure each of these talents/skills are polished and at the ready to be marketed and delivered with exceptional quality. This level of marketability is far more secure than a job. I can’t get fired, I can mold the skills to fit within any changing market, and I take it with me wherever I go.

For me, I find that consuming moderate amounts of alcohol at strategic periods of time helps hone these skills. You know–focus.

Where to move? Look I only speak American English. So I’m honestly not concerned about the language barrier–I’m an alien anywhere. Argentina and Brazil look very promising, but I’m not ruling out Costa Rica or Panama. Belize has some fine attributes also.

When to move…? Again that pesky question. I think I’ll get drunk (or even high for the first time in my life) wind up on a plane, and there I will be.

More to come…

Advice on starting a freelance writing biz while working fulltime

10 10 2010

[Dedicated to Russel–thanks for the comment and question.]

I began my education and career as a classical vocal performer (yes, I sang opera, oratorio and all that). I had the opportunity to speak to the famed operatic soprano Beverly Sills once, who said when asked what it takes to be a professional opera singer, “First you must determine if you have any talent. Then the work begins.” The same advice applies to writing and most anything else you may choose to do. Talent is very important, and some may confidently argue that it can be a learned trait. Regardless, countless hours of work follow for you to achieve mastery of anything. The rest of this post will assume you are a master writer, and so here is my advice on beginning a freelance writing biz while working fulltime:

  1. Compile a diverse body of work for your portfolio, assuming you don’t already have one. Make certain it highlights the exact type of freelance writing you would like to focus upon and also have accents of other types of writing you would like to showcase to potential clients. Have this printed and bound, in color if appropriate.
  2. While still working fulltime, realistically determine how much time (per day, week, month) you can dedicate to your new business. This includes actual billable hours, marketing, business development and organization, accounting, etc. At the start, while things are slow, this won’t account for much, but please plan for success. Unplanned success sinks many new small businesses.
  3. Work. Develop copy. Even if you don’t have a lineup of paying customers, get to work. Start a blog to show off your skills and get Twitter, StumbleUpon, Digg and other social networking site participants to pay attention to you growing body of work.
  4. Offer introductory discounts, but be careful here. Make sure your clients know that you are offering an introductory rate. If you would normally charge $30, 40, 60, 70+ per hour, and you are providing a, for example, 30% introductory discount for a new client, make certain to show the math in your bid and invoice for them. The need to see the actual value they are receiving as you build your relationship with them. Also, when you raise your prices, they need to know why and what to expect. Don’t be afraid to volunteer a bit if you need to build your portfolio. Approach local nonprofits/charities that you care about, and offer to do a little pro bono work for them. Let them know why–that you care about their cause and that you’re starting a freelance biz. If all goes well, ask if they’ll give you a praise statement or general letter of recommendation  to include in your portfolio.
  5. Accounting: open up a business account, and you’ll probably want to invest in a little accounting software. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to hire an accountant who works with small businesses, and consult with them for an hour. Do a little research first so that you have great questions to bring to them to get the conversation started. You’ll want to know about taxes, best ways to keep track of profit and loss, what to track, etc.
  6. All about business. Get a business license and apply for an EIN through the IRS. I always recommend that individuals begin as a sole proprietorship, and if they want to get incorporates, calculate all of the costs associated and wait until the company’s revenue can afford to incorporate. Usually, my rule of thumb is that the business needs to pay for all expansions, advertising, etc., or it just isn’t time. There are exceptions to this rule, such as you just landed a huge corporate client, and you won’t see cashflow for at least a month, etc. and you need to take out a loan to handle the upfront costs until you start getting paid–that’s perfectly understandable and a not-so-bad problem to have. Remember–plan for success.
  7. A word on marketing–brand yourself. Develop a solid on-line and community-wide presence/brand. I recommend the book “Crush It” for those not familiar with developing an on-line personal brand. As for community-wide, if you’re at all comfortable with public speaking, get some presentations developed on your subject. Let people know why they need your services–not just what you offer, but what problems exist and what solutions you will bring forward. Be a spokesman for your industry not just a walking advertisement for yourself.
  8. Give a generous gift. Develop something for free to give to people. Something specific–a model communications plan, winning press release formula, etc. Be a little selective in who you give your gifts to, and make certain you are not asking for something in return.
  9. Collaborate and partner. Graphic design artists, web developers, accountants, thought and industry leaders–these are our friends. Collaborate on projects together, invite them to join a dream team for a large client project, refer and accept referrals, etc. We all need friends and having the ability to share resources and expertise will boost your value and offer value-added services to your clients.
  10. Have fun! This is a lot of hard work. It’s only worth it if you enjoy the process as well as the results. Don’t forget to schedule time for yourself and other things you enjoy, and prioritize spending time with family and friends. They, and you, come first always.

Bonus: When to quit the day job? I’m fighting that one as we speak. Make certain you have accumulated money in savings to last you through the hard times. If you get sick and can’t work, you’ll have a loss of billable hours. This may seem obvious, but many people forget to plan for this. There’s no PTO when you’re self-employed. Unless you have some passive income on the side, if you don’t work, you don’t make money. Also, plan for vacations and costs associated. You not only have to save for the vacation but also the missed billable hours for your income. Don’t forget about other benefits you may be used to such as life, medical, dental and eye insurance, 401K, etc. remember, you won’t have an employer, so make certain this is really the life you want to lead–with all responsibilities resting on your shoulders. Personally, I can hardly wait!!!!

The big advantage I have is that I have spent years as a professional writer, employed as such. This not only gives me a large portfolio to present to potential clients, as well as the opportunity to cut my chops on various writing styles (grants, reports, technical, plans, copywriting, article writing, etc.)… having been employed as a writer gives me additional credibility from my employer and former employers. Resumes matter, but trust me, they only matter to a degree. Your body of work and the reputation you have and the one you will build are what will make or break you. There is plenty of work to sustain freelance writers. As the economy remains shaky, this business will be steady, but the competition is high. Many staff writers are being laid off and are turning to freelance work as their source of income. The jobs that laid them off still need writers, but they have learned that they can get more bang for their buck paying higher fees for jobs without being stuck with fulltime salaries and benefits to cover.

Happy trails  –Daphne

More about retiring in the Republic of Panama

9 10 2010

So… interesting development on the homefront. My mother has recently become acquainted with the President of Costa Rica. Here’s the skinny: even the President of Costa Rica (unofficially and unconfirmed, of course) thinks that an American’s best value is in retiring in Panama. Believe it or not… your choice. Most of my mother’s personal connections are in Costa Rica, and still the best value she has found for herself is in Panama (plus there’s an added bonus that Costa Rica is very close by). This is official and confirmed.

Republic of Panama Beach

Here are some reasons why[Source: MSN Money]:

  • low cost of living,
  • near-perfect weather and
  • one of the world’s best discount programs for retirees 
  • up to 50% off everything from public transport to movies, mortgage rates, doctor’s visits, electricity, restaurants and airfares
  • newcomers who buy or build a new house won’t owe any property taxes for 20 years
  • residents pay no taxes on foreign-earned income
  • the U.S. dollar is legal tender in Panama, which insulates its economy from global shocks. During the Asian monetary crisis of 1998, Panama became one of the healthiest economies in Latin America.

Source: MSN Money. Link: http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/RetirementandWills/RetireInStyle/PanamaIsParadiseForRetirees.aspx

Live the story of your life: what do you risk by not following your dreams?

2 10 2010

Complacency. There’s something to be said for the sense of security and calm the familiar and everydayness of life brings to our minds. The comfort of your own bed, the warmth of a smile from an old friend, hearing your favorite song from years ago and sitting down to your favorite meal at your favorite restaurant–these are strong elements tying you to your “comfort zone.” Beware–there’s also great danger here! What if you never added anything new and exciting to your treasured memories and experiences? To live the inevitable end-life of an old man or woman continuously regurgitating stories from when you were in your twenties, being a bystander in your own life’s tale, nothing unique to contribute and no new perspectives to offer. Complacency can destroy opportunities, little worm-holes of chance that pop up once in a while, saying “live!” while you smile at the temptation and determine these chances are meant for someone else, and return to sofa watching some crime drama rerun. The American Dream? 

Ahhhhh, the good old USA. The melting pot–land of diversity, opportunity and solace for “huddled masses” from far away lands seeking a better life, the pursuit of happiness where there is “liberty and justice for all.” Not to dispel a well-believed myth nor to completely knock the land of my birth, but things may not be completely as originally described. Go ahead and travel to every corner of the “lower 48” (The United States minus Alaska and Hawaii, because they DO have vastly different cultures–congrats!), and you will find similar scenes: somewhere, not far away there’s a suburban sprawl complete with strip malls, casual dining eateries and concrete block houses containing families (meaning individuals who barely know or like one another), electronic devices (televisions, computers, video games)that capture the majority of brain activity that is left after 10-15 hours of work or school per day, including homework. Exceptions exist for those involved with sports: football, basketball, baseball, soccer, swimming, tennis, gymnastics, etc.

In short, Americans keep ourselves so busy with work/school, technology and recreational activities–not to mention the insurmountable time spent keeping track of complicated finances, personal debt, complex taxes and insurances and emergency situations–that pursuing happiness or even paying attention to our own surroundings is sorrowfully uncommon. Uncommon, too, is being an active participant in developing the story of our own lives. So, this must be the basis of our values, right?

What do we truly value–many would commonly argue that what we value is a simple equation of how we spend our time. If we spend most of our time at work, then work is what we value most. If we spend most of our time taking care of our family, then family is what we value most. If current time-values calculations are correct, then what most Americans value today is fear. Fear? A value? seriously, this is a grave miscalculation. For if this were true, then why are so many Americans resentful of their long work hours or feeling suffocated by domestic duties or are swallowing anti-anxiety meds at epidemic proportions?

No–this is all wrong! Look to American history, even recent history. Americans are an aggressive, resilient, determined and adventurous breed. For the most part, all Americans come from a stock of people who got pissed off and left wherever they came from, facing grave danger in the most extreme situations or at the least, great inconveniences and fears, in hopes of a new start, freedom and opportunities. Those of Native American and African-American descent pass on  their own brand of resiliency and strength, born of a strong spirit enduring centuries-long attempts at genocide and slavery, stories of overcoming relentless oppression and victimization.

Many foreigners are not welcomed to this new land with open arms, and they fight and struggle, determined to succeed against all odds, because they believe in the dream. They believe in their dream like a fire burning in the pit of their soul, and are unaware of any other outcome. They pool resources with friends, family and community and build their dreams. They work and save from their beginnings as an immigrant store clerk or sales associate to owning their own companies, homes, cars and providing a college education for their children. They actively create their own stories, and their dreams come alive, because these dreams were the only realities they allowed to exist in their hearts and minds.

For those of us white-bread, fear-infused, spoiled, complacent multi-generational Americans–we are dysfunctioning in our own creation. We have, for the most part, become voyeurs, spying on the stories of others’ lives or fictitious lives through television, movies, computers, magazines, books and games. But, if we dared to break free–if we dared to take the chance to actively author our own stories to travel, truly develop a career that makes us happy and live out loud authentically, what would happen?

Most of us already live in fear, so there’s no need to worry about adding to fear–it’s here. Many of us already consider our lives failures, so there’s no need to worry about failing–it’s already here. If fear did not exist, what would you want your life’s story to be? What steps would you need to make that happen? What’s stopping you from starting now? What’s the risk of you not starting now? I bet that’s worse.

Do something extreme, and life will greet you with a big hello, saying, “Hey, where’ve you been? We’ve been waiting for you. Kinda worried about you. Anyway, glad you finally made it. Welcome! Now, let’s get started…”