The Early Years Centre Saturday 11 March 2017, 8.00am -12.00pm th email@example.com www.isp.edu.my +603 6280 8880
Jo Parfitt has accompanied her oily husband to six countries over 29 years. Now empty-nesters, she hopes KL is not their last posting I write this as Chinese New Year dawns and I get the chance to enjoy a fish-topped yee sang once more. Fish are a symbol of prosperity and remind us that we dream not just of having enough, but of having a little left over too. As a serial expat, there is just one place I have lived that has not allowed me to consider myself to be a big fish in a small pond. More on that later. Being a big fish has much to do with the expat bubble, the third culture many of us tend to inhabit overseas. It’s an environment amongst other people like us and where we are considered normal; normal despite our Third Culture Kids, our love of durian and the way we always remove our shoes when entering a house.
There is something soothing about living and working in a small community. Like when we look back at old school photos and can still name everyone in our year thirty years later. Like living in a village where everyone knows everyone.
When we live away from immediate family, familiar faces from our home town and our support network are no longer a few minutes’ drive away. We expats need to create new support groups, albeit transient, short-term ones. And we do. We do it fast from necessity. Newcomers have questions to ask and get plugged into the community faster than ever, thanks to the internet.
Where would we be without the KL Expats Buy and Sell group on Facebook? Without magazines like Expatriate Lifestyle so we can find out what’s on, where to go and what matters? Where would we women be without clubs like the Association of British Women in Malaysia or Ibufamily, the resource for young families? It does not take long, in an expat community, to start bumping into people you know in the supermarket or in the parks. Soon you start to feel at home and to belong.
Being a big fish in a small pond has huge advantages for people like me who maintain a portable career. I was living in Dubai when I was a brand new journalist. With no experience I approached the local What’s On magazine with a piece based on a weekend in Hong Kong I’d just enjoyed. They accepted on the spot. Had I been back home in England, I’d have been one of hundreds of writing hopefuls chasing job opportunities.
Over the years I have taught word processing, writing and entrepreneurship from my home to other expatriate women. Filling places has been so much easier in the expat community because word of mouth is more powerful than it ever was in England.
But it hasn’t always been plain sailing. After ten years in the Middle East where, as a blonde with pale skin, I stood out from the locals and many people knew my name and recognised me, when we moved to Norway it was a different story. There, I looked the same as everyone else and people assumed I was Norwegian. Cashiers almost made me cry when they tried to talk to me in supermarkets and few people knew or noticed me. I felt invisible – just another lonesome pine in the forest.
I’d rather look different and get noticed, but then I am an extrovert with a freelance career and a need to lead. After more than 20 years abroad, being a big fish has become my normal. I am increasingly scared by the thought of going ‘home’ to the UK and blending into the background as I watch my identity slowly start to disappear. EL
Tom Henson is a senior consultant with Infinity Financial Solutions and one of KL’S most sought after financial planners. Married with a young son, Tom enjoys family life and is an ace on the golf course I can’t claim the words of wisdom in the title as my own. They come from the financial commentator, businessman, author and investor, Robert Kiyosaki, whose worth is valued at $80m, a fact which probably makes him worth listening to when it comes to financial advice. The full quote is actually ‘It’s not how much money you make, but how much money you keep, how hard it works for you, and how many generations you keep it for.’ While the words are not mine I wholeheartedly agree with them.
Let me take you on a journey to meet your future self. You’re 60 or 65 years old and on the cusp of retirement. You’re looking back on a successful career, a tidy final salary and a working life during which you have bought and done pretty much what you want when you want. That’s all well and good but will you also be congratulating yourself on the size of the pension pot you have been able to accumulate with your generous earnings over the course of your career, or will you be wondering just how to sustain that lifestyle for the next few decades because you have spent all you earned?
Because living luxuriously and acquiring everything your heart desires is all well and good but it doesn’t guarantee your future financial security. To do that you need to live on less than you make and commit to investing the rest.
This is a message that is difficult to get across to the young. The benefits of saving are hard to see when you are fit and healthy and retirement is decades away but it is precisely the young who can benefit the most from the magic that is compounding. Compounding is a highly dependable way to make your savings work for you. Here’s a very simple example to show how.
You get a bonus of $15,000 and decide to invest it in a savings plan. It earns an average 5% annual return. At the end of year one your $15,000 has earned interest of $750. You reinvest this so that by the end of year two, with interest remaining at 5%, you have not only earned $750 on the initial investment but an additional $37.50 on the interest from year one. That’s essentially free money. While this figure is not in itself life-changing, over a forty year period your $15,000 will grow to just shy of $106,000. Now that is impressive – you’ve made $91,000 with no effort on your part, bar resisting the temptation to spend your accumulating pot of cash!
Of course your pot will grow far more if each month you accumulate additional savings. Even a relatively modest addition of $200 each month will bump your pot to over $400,000 after 40 years. And that is exactly why Albert Einstein called compounding the eighth wonder of the world and why starting to save early is a no brainer.
Many clients claim that they can’t afford to save but you don’t need to start big and there are always small ways that you can cut back on spending in order to be able to save even a little. Cut the gym membership and do exercise that doesn’t cost you anything, have friends for dinner once a month instead of going out, take a packed lunch to work instead of shelling out for a Starbucks sandwich and coffee every day, limit alcohol to the weekends. It’s all about getting into habits which become second nature. Start saving a little each month and build up the amount as your salary increases. Once you start to see your pot accumulating and the benefits of the sacrifices you are making, you will want to save more.
And you can be sure that your future about-to-retire self will thank you for the lovely comfortable retirement that they have to look forward to, not to mention the gratitude from your future generations that Robert Kiyosaki talks about! EL