A Money Coach in Canada

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Hello my name is Taylor Moore and I am a filmmaker, photographer and game developer.
I am a Digital Nomad.
When I turned 50, I wanted everything to be different. I wanted to radically simplify my life, and get rid of all of the crap that I was dragging around. I wanted to travel, and pursue work that was global and to live the life of a lifestyle entrepreneur.

In the Beginning
So to start things off, I got my personal belongings down to 50 things(excluding my professional gear). It actually was much easier than I thought it would be. Doing this purge has been one of the most liberating things I have ever done. It is comforting to know where everything is, and not to worry about “stuff” anymore. It has made me very conscious of what I will bring into my life next. I don’t know if I will always conform to this lifestyle but it has been a great personal experiment and experience.

Office Away
The next thing was to be anywhere but in an office. In the last year I have worked out of coffee shops, book stores, libraries and beaches. This has been a tremendous boon to my creativity and approach to work and projects.

Bye Bye TV
One of the greatest events has been getting rid of the TV. Now I only watch what I really want, when I want. So many people live there augmented life through TV. With the relatively short time we have here, to spend it being spoon fed information is not my idea of living life.

Regrets, I have some

  • This is not an easy path at times, and I depend on Skype and email to retain my close friendships.
  • Having a romantic relationship in this type of lifestyle is very hard, but the new friendships forged makes it all worthwhile.
  • Loneliness is not something that visits me very often, but it can be lonely. Getting out and exploring my surrounding breaks it.

What can I not live without

  • Digital Camera with which I shoot stills, HD video and time lapse
  • Macbook Pro with which I edit my stills and video with.
  • iphone Keeps me connected to friends, family and twitter.
  • 2 TB backup Drive (Shit happen’s be ready for it)
  • Swimming trunks…ya never know when you will find a good place to swim!

Benefits

  • Having the freedom to pursue projects I believe in – such as being asked to film a Strawbale House-Raising for a family in Tennessee who lost everything in a Tornado.
  • Learning and speaking another language, which makes me think differently and grow.
  • Helping build a school in Mexico and what that does for the children, community and my karma.
  • Realizing that no matter where we are people want to help. And that gives me hope and faith in humanity.

Money tips I’ve learned

  • Always travel with two bank cards
  • Find out which local bank is closest to you (some places are pretty remote.  I once had to travel 20 miles to the nearest bank!)
  • Find out which day is payday for the local folks because the line-ups can be around the block on those days
  • Get used to military men with machine guns standing in front of the banks
  • Withdrawing cash internationally has fees attached.  Use a bank ATM though;  white-label machines have even higher fees
  • Paypal is your friend.  I typically get paid in the local currency via paypal which then converts to Canadian and is deposited in my Canadian bank account.

Taylor Moore is a filmmaker, photographer and game developer. In 2011 he has lived in Chacala Mexico, Guanajuato Mexico, Summerland BC, Tonasket, WA and Yellowknife, NWT. He can be reached at www.pixelbuz.com or on twitter @pixeltrek

Mentors:

Everett Bogue
The guy who made me look at all of the things I don’t need.
Ashley Ambirge
One of the greatest new writers, and my secret agent muse.
Seth Godin
One of the greatest marketing writers ever. Linchpin has been a personal best read for me.
Tim Ferris
Four Hour Work Week Author and Fitness Guru.
Karol Gajda
He’s the guy who got me started on this path…damn you Karol. Walks the talk.
Tyler Tervooren
He is the master of Riskology. No messing with his success.

July’s posts have been chock-a-block with on-the-ground money tips for travellers to England, Russia, Thailand and today, we hear from Jean* about being money smart in Nicaragua.

(pssst: Want to become a world traveller but don’t have the money? My business helps folks set and attain those kinds of savings goals!)

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When my parents first told me they would be traveling to Nicaragua with my sister, my immediate reaction was, “Have fun with that.” But no more than a day later, my brother and I decided we would tag along for the trip.

For as long as I can remember, whenever I was asked if I would be interested to travel to the homeland, I would always say no and that it would never happen. “Not a chance in Hell!” I think I was afraid of what I would see and learn. Living in Canada, I have gotten quite used to my possessions and other things we may take for granted.

If you are going to be traveling to Nicaragua, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Do not advertise how well off you are by pulling your smartphone (or anything else of value, for that matter) out of your pocket. This is foolish because it is quite dangerous. You are likely to attract the attention of no-gooders anyway simply by being a tourist. You do not need to become a target.
2. Be prepared for the electricity and running water to cut out at the most inconvenient of times.
3. Dress lightly. Why you would even consider wearing long pants is just beyond me. They do provide great protection from the bugs though…

Now, as a super user of social media (Is saying “it consumes my life” too strong?), I usually rely heavily on Wi-Fi and for the most part (if at all), that isn’t an option in this country. So my one tip for those of you who are like me:

Turn off your mobile data. The cost of data in Nicaragua in roaming fees is astronomical. $25.60 per megabyte of data (if you are with Bell), to be exact. If you are looking to tweet or update your status on Facebook, set up the mobile texting service before your trip. The cost of sending a text is $0.75. A much better alternative. Facebook’s number is 32665 (FBOOK) and Twitter’s is 21212. You can set up these services straight from your phone or on the web. Leave all other events that would require data for cyber cafes. Cyber cafes are incredibly cheap and usually have 30min, 45min, or hourly rates for less than $2.50, maybe even $2.00. And you may want to keep phone calls short as they are $2.99/min. Don’t be a victim to the thought of “I’ll barely use the data, so I should be fine.” When they say apps run in the background, they mean it, and they consume a lot more data than you might think. Save yourself the headache and save yourself a lot of money.

Things are cheap in Nicaragua for the visitor. It was actually quite heartbreaking to see just what kind of life my family has. To bring things into perspective, I present to you some facts.

1. Beer can cost as little as $0.85, which, if you can stand to drink a beverage that will dehydrate you in the already blistering heat, I say go for it. My drink of choice during the whole trip was Coca-Cola, because water never did seem to come cold enough.
2. Food here is always fresh and local. Think about it! You are not paying to have someone bring in the food from another country. IT IS ALL THERE. And it is also cheap…for us. Twenty dollars really can get you so much. How much does the average Canadian family (say of four members) spend on groceries per week? Maybe around $150.00? Take that amount and think of it feeding your family for a whole month, if not more. Sounds great, right? Now think of how difficult that money is to come by, considering most homes are single income… Yeah…

And now for the kicker:

After speaking to one of our cousins’ wife, she was telling us how they had afforded to buy their home using the money earned by selling shoes that never quite made it to shelves, or were claimed. Think of how Winners sells brand name clothes for cheap because of defects in the stitching, missing buttons, etc. You know, the little things that don’t really matter. So a friend from the US would send down boxes of shoes, and she would sell them locally. When I asked, she told me that to buy the lot cost them 8,000 Cordobas, Nicaraguan currency. The materials to build the house cost another 8,000 Cordobas. This is in Esteli, one of the larger cities in Nicaragua. But let’s play a guessing game to see what that amount of money translates to in dollars.

For the total of 16,000 Cordobas, to buy yourself a lot and then build a home of approximately 800 square feet, what would be the equivalent cost in a consumer home electronic?

Would it be:
a. Nintendo Wii – $149.99
b. XBOX 360 250GB Kinect Bundle – $399.99
c. iPhone 4 32GB – $779.00
d. iMac 27-inch: 2.7GHz – $1,699.00

You might be shocked that I didn’t go any higher. Well, truth be told, I wouldn’t want to attract that much attention to my own home, depending on the location. But if you picked “c”, the iPhone 4 32GB model, you would be slightly over. The exchange rate that stuck with me the whole trip was 22.3:1. So for 8,000 Cordobas, that was around $360.00. So you could either own a vacation home in Nicaragua for the price of two XBOX 360’s for one of your LAN parties, or one iPhone 4, from which you might even be reading this very blog post. Kind of makes you think, hey?

Now, this entry is not meant to guilt you, but rather expose you to the reality of the kind of life you’ll be seeing if you take a trip down there. I have heard that one can spend nights in some cheap hostels for about $8.00, and transportation itself is very cheap and there are many options: mini-taxi, tricycle, motorized bike, motorcycle, mini-bus, you name it. Souvenirs are also very cheap, so you really won’t need to worry about how much you’re spending on gifts to bring back home to family and friends. Just don’t get too comfortable with how inexpensive most things are. Spend only for what you need, and if you feel you have some to spare, donate to the locals. You have no idea how much a little bit for us means a lot for them.

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Jean, aka Jeryes, is a long time Yellowknifer with bucket loads of ambition but with absolutely no direction. Dreaming of one day becoming either a musician, a designer, a writer, or a teacher (to name a few), he spends most of his days in the online universe correcting people for their misuse of punctuation and spelling errors. He is also allergic to cats.

Photo Credit: Damon_Torgeson

News Corp (as in, phone-hacking, police-bribing, bully parliamentarians News Corp) stock rises. Yes, rises. Clue: Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Euro-Zone lightens up the repayment terms for Greece’s debt, in part because the private sector (aka BANKS) also had to help out (Germany insisted). If you don’t get the whole Greece-In-Big-Trouble thing, my story will help.

Microsoft’s net income increased by 30% compared to last year’s Q2. It ain’t dead yet (although the article was rather gloomy) — have you *tried* Kinect??

We’re all still biting our nails about the US debt ceiling and potential default.

And in Canada? Well, < yawns > the Bank of Canada held their lending rate at 1%.

And in other news NORDSTROM’S ANNUAL ANNIVERSARY SALE IS ON NOW!

We’ve covered the UK, Russia, and today it’s Thailand with some on-the-ground money advice by folks who know whereof they speak.  Check back on Saturday for a post about being savvy with your money in Nicaragua!

How to keep your wallet happy in Thailand – “The Land of Smiles” is brought to you by a former colleague, Heidi.  She is a teacher-turned-banker-turned-teacher and is currently teaching primary school at the British Columbia International School of Bangkok.

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Probably the most expensive part of your trip to Thailand will be the airfare over here, but once you land, here are a few tips to help you save some Baht along the way.

Cash is King

Before you fly over here, order some Thai Baht and ask for a mixture of denominations (20’s, 50’s, 100’s). The exchange hovers around 30 Baht to the Dollar, so about $100 worth of small bills will be plenty – otherwise you’ll need a briefcase to carry away all the Baht!

7-11 the Unofficial Bank of Thailand

There is no problem using your ATM or Credit Card in ATM machines in Thailand, but the problem occurs in that they only spit out 1,000 Baht bills, and you’ll be hard pressed to get 970 Baht change from the streetvendor who just cooked up some Pad Thai for you. So “Oh Thank Heaven” there’s 7-11, where I believe it is their unspoken duty to change a 1,000 baht note for that 7 baht bottle of water you just bought (yes, only 25 cents for bottled water!) Not only will you appreciate the sub-arctic temperature they keep the store at, but you won’t get a deathly stare when you present them with a 1,000 baht bill. And 7-11 over here truly is like a bank – you can pay your cable, internet and electricity bills or even pay for a flight that you booked online, all while you buy your slurpee!

Transportation

Getting around Thailand is pretty cheap, but you can make some costly mistakes. Let’s start with when you first step off the plane in Bangkok – they’ve just completed a high-speed train directly from the International airport, so now it’s cheap, easy and fast to get into downtown Bangkok. If you’ve been flying for hours on end though you may just want to hop in a cab – just make sure you follow the signs outside to the official “Meter Taxi” stand – you do not need to negotiate this fare as the meter taxis are on a fixed rate per kilometer.

Getting around Bangkok you’ve got multiple modes of cheap transport: skytrain, bus, taxi, tuk tuk, or if you’re really brave – a motorcycle taxi! One of my favourite modes of transport though is the water taxi. For about 50 cents you can get an hour-long river boat “cruise” on one of the traditional Thai longboats. No need to pay a huge amount for a river cruise when you can hop on their water-transit system for 14 baht!

Everything is Negotiable

I’ve never really been much of a haggler myself, but I’ve had to get into the game here, because I quickly realized that if there’s no sticker price on something (which there rarely is!) then the price is open for debate. Many foreigners come here and feel like they are constantly being “ripped off” because they see the Thais paying a different price, and I felt that way too until I put a few things into perspective, namely that the Thai minimum wage is 300 baht per day (about $10 a DAY!) As a foreigner living in Thailand we would never be paid that low, and as a traveler, you would have brought money with you for your trip, so in their eyes we get paid more, so we should pay more. Saying that though, there’s a difference between paying the “farang* tax” as I like to call it and being taken for a ride.

My advice on making sure that you are paying a fair price is to shop around a bit to get a sense of what the item is worth before making your final purchase. And when it comes to taxis or tuk tuks, either make sure they turn their meter on, or you negotiate the price of the ride before you drive away – otherwise they literally will take you for a ride…like to their cousin’s restaurant or brother’s gift shop!

Overall, your money will go a long way…it’s just a matter of saving up so that you can buy yourself that plane ticket here!

*farang (or sometimes pronounced falang) is the Thai term for a foreigner. The term derives from the word Francais, as the French were some of the first foreigners to come to Thailand. And Francais in Thai is Farang-set…hence anyone who doesn’t look like they come from Thailand is instantly referred to as a farang.

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Want to travel to Thailand but need the money?   My business helps folks get organized and in control of their day-to-day finances to obtain such goals!

It’s not often you get the chance to directly compare service from 3 different banks on the exact same customer-service issue. But I did yesterday.

You may recall I was nearly stranded without money during my UK holiday, since my cards were not set up with chip technology.

Sure enough, upon my return, there were three, count ’em, 3, very discreet envelopes in my mail containing new cards from Vancity, ING and Royal Bank of Canada respectively. Each one had a different process for activating them. Here are the (drum roll) results:

FIRST UP: ING
I heart that bank.
As always, they were slick. I called the phone number which was a direct line for card activations, followed about three quick prompts and…. DONE. Just like that.  5 minutes tops.  Except trying to memorize the new pin will be a pain in the neck.

SECOND UP: Vancity Credit Union, (aka seller-offer-of-formerly-best-bank-in-Canada)
I got the card, read the letter and … nothing. I had to do nothing. Did you read that? Nothing. Zip. It was all taken care of for me and I could keep the same pin. “That was easy”.

LAST UP: Royal Bank of Canada

  1. Call Toll-Free number.
  2. Got “this number is temporarily unavailable” kind of message
  3. Called Toll-Free number again
  4. Entered Card number.
  5. Got put through to agent
  6. Had to verbally give my number again to agent.  It took her three (3!) tries.
  7. Agent then asked “how old are you” as a security question.  I said, “Uh… can you ask me something else?”  She then asked my date of birth which I gave, albeit aware it was essentially the same question.  Somehow at least it *sounds* more respectful though.
  8. Agent then said some kind of activation was taking place and meantime she started to pitch me on insurance I don’t want.
  9. “I don’t want that insurance”, I said, loudly and clearly
  10. “Uh, Well, Anyway….” the agent said then continued exactly where she’d left off on the pitch
  11. I then recalled this was THE EXACT SAME PITCH I GOT LAST TIME when I got a new card from RBC,  AND I HAD ALREADY SAID I DID NOT WANT THAT INSURANCE BACK THEN TOO
  12. I put the phone on speaker and carried on with some paperwork while she continued
  13. “Are you still there?”  agent asked
  14. “Is my card activated?”  I replied
  15. “Yes” she said.
  16. “Great, thanks a lot,” I said, and we politely said goodbye.

I totally understand she was just doing her job.

Guess, just guess, who won the customer service showdown, and who lost.

psst — want to know why I have 3 bank accounts?  Because I know how to rock them to reach my goals.  So do my clients. You can too.

Photo Credit:  24oranges

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