How I Built a New Income in an Overseas Paradise

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Posted by The Savvy Retiree on January 21, 2020 in Make Money

I don’t know if you ever actually retire. I think what happens, and it was certainly the case for me, is that your priorities change, both personally and professionally, and at some stage you think that less work, or no work, would be preferable to what you do now.

Although my wife and I moved to Penang, Malaysia with a view to “retire”—you know, a better standard of living at a lower cost (good investment strategies)—my gray matter was still firing and I knew that I would have to do something to fill the day aside from exploring this paradise. The conundrum, however, was what to do?

The answer I believe is to follow your passion, and do something that not only engages you mentally, but something that you’re good at. More importantly, do something that makes you want to get up in the morning. If that in turn then provides an income for you—or at the very least doesn’t cost you money, but could make you money down the road—you’re on to a winning strategy.

Although my background was in finance, my love and hobby was books. I love reading them, I collected them, and I still like the way they feel and smell, so I decided to combine my passions for history and publishing, and start writing books.

I was determined, and I’ve always believed that anything is possible. With that belief and easygoing attitude, I managed to get a publisher and quickly realized that distribution was an issue in Malaysia. My books were taking weeks to get from Kuala Lumpur to Penang, a mere four-hour drive, so I started a publishing company. This allowed me to distribute my own products and more importantly guarantee 24-hour delivery to the book shops in Malaysia and Singapore.

My retirement hobby suddenly became a bona fide business, and within a year of starting our business, my wife and I were getting approached by new and signed authors to look at their new work, or to distribute their books.

Another example of retiring but not really retiring is Tom Gardiner. Tom moved to Penang from New York just over three years ago with his family. He now lives in a 6,000-square-foot house, with a 500-foot pool right off his back patio, all for $2,000 per month. His millionaire lifestyle costs him a fifth of what he was spending in New York, and he manages to work remotely from home, earning in dollars.

“I figured I could work remotely from home in the U.S., but then I started looking at Asia and realized that I could up the ante by moving there with my family and still work from home,” says Tom. “The internet in Malaysia is super-fast. The other plus here is that we can now afford a maid and a driver. We couldn’t afford that at home.”

Tom’s lightbulb moment came when he discovered that he could earn the same salary that he was earning in the U.S., working remotely from home in a country that not only welcomed him, but where he could reduce his costs considerably and have a higher standard of living.

Southeast Asia—and its best destinations like Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia—is not as far away as it used to be. No, these countries haven’t physically moved closer, but with bigger, faster airplanes, most places are less than a day’s travel away. And all of the countries mentioned above have modern international airports servicing both North America and Europe on a daily basis.

Vincent Hadden is also from New York and loves pizza; in fact, at one stage he ran his own pizzeria in Manhattan. He moved to Phnom Penh, Cambodia just over eight years ago, and soon realized that there were no pizza shops there. Seeing that there was a large expat population, both retired and working, he turned his passion for food into a full-fledged business.

Jenny Sabarige, a native of England, had always made sausages for her family and friends. She retired to Penang with her husband five years ago and immediately started researching where to buy the best ingredients, the choicest meats, and the best skins for her sausages. She then set her kitchen up and went to work. She quickly gained a reputation for making some of the best sausages in Penang, and orders were coming in from all over the community. Jenny had turned her passion into a nice little boutique business.

I think that’s the key. Being passionate about something. The problem though, especially if you are working full-time and thinking about retiring, is that you sometimes can’t see the wood for the trees.

One of the most common questions that I get asked is, “What will I do when I get there?” Opportunities are not always immediately identifiable from home. You need to do the research, get some advice, and ultimately take the risk and make the move. It’s only when you have made your move to your chosen place of retirement that opportunities present themselves.

I believe the old adage, “Do what you love doing and the money will come to you.” However, if I were allowed to change it ever so slightly I would add, “Do what you love doing, in a place where you love living, and the money will come to you.”

Written by Keith Hockton