Planting trees in Nagoya
RetireJapan: I'm very happy to present a new reader profile today from DC Rise, an English teacher in Nagoya who attended one of the RetireJapan talks last year.
We've been keeping in touch by email and he kindly wrote up his profile for the site.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m an American expat in my late 40s and have been living in the Nagoya area for
15 years. I started in the Eikaiwa business and gradually improved myself, and now teach full time contractually at university and part time here and there. Unfortunately permanent jobs are hard to come by and the job environment is insecure; too bad I wasn’t here a bit earlier when the pickings were easy.
I’m married to a very nice Japanese lady, no children. She works long hours in a tough, underpaid position, typical for the turf over here. I’ve always told her I’m ok if she quits today and goes baito styles; her per hour would come out the same, though no health insurance or minor 401k perk.
How did you get started with personal finance?
I got started in personal finance out of necessity really. I’m living here saving good money, but it’s sitting in a bank earning virtually zero interest, and getting taxed too! It’s obviously a problem for my later years. I’d like to live indoors if I am fortunate to make it to my late 60s or 70s so I have to get SOMETHING on my money. I’m not greedy; I’d be thrilled with even 3% over time. I’m a well-educated man except for I had no financial education my whole life, and I’ve paid for it. There’s nothing to do now but take it from here, educate myself now, and do the best I can. My good points have been my earnest work ethic and my desire to live simply. I’m a good saver and also super-averse to debt; I don’t have any. The biggest potential liability I have to worry about—all things being equal-- is my wife’s parents: will they need expensive and time-consuming care as they advance in years, or not? They have no financial means beyond a meager national pension, and they will absolutely need major help if one or both of then becomes debilitated. That said, I love them very much and I am ready to step up if that scenario plays out. I am sure that this country has tens of millions facing that prospect, many of whom lack even the most basic resources. In my view, it’s a much more serious crisis than a low birthrate or lack of inflation. This crisis is right here right now, it’s far reaching, and it’s expanding rapidly.
What books/websites/companies do you recommend?
The absolute best book to read in order to educate yourself on the basics of investing must be Andrew Hallam’s Millionaire Teacher. He is a magnificent teacher, and puts it all in simple, easy-to-understand passages. Furthermore, it is a fast paced and entertaining read. He’s my kind of writer for sure. I’d say it’s the only book you really need. His follow up, The Global Expatriate’s Guide to Investing in my opinion was of minimal use, particularly if you are American. You can pass on that one, but Millionaire Teacher is the ESSENTIAL work. Beyond actual investment itself, there are lifestyle books that are incredibly useful, and will also result in your bottom line getting larger. Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is well worth the cover price. Mastering the art of keeping only what we need and value benefits us not only mentally and spiritually, but I assure you it will make us financially richer over time, too. One more I would add is John Robbins’ The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less. John Robbins takes you through everything there is to do with money: our philosophy towards it, our relationship with it, how we earn it, how we use it, how we waste it, and how we can evaluate it and maximize what we have. I am absolutely certain that all of us from rank amateur to seasoned investor can take away something powerful from his writings. In fact, I recommend ANY book he has written; but specifically when it comes to money matters, this book is the one. By the way, please don't confuse John Robbins with Anthony Robbins, the famous entrepreneur, speaker, and self-styled strategist for success. The two men could not be any more different.
What are you doing at the moment? What's your plan going forward?
The good news is that about a year ago, I started taking steps to get my future financial life together. It started by attending Mr. Shearon’s presentation at JALT Nagoya. Although I didn’t act on anything for about three or four months, the power, truth, and reality of his words stuck with me. Finally, I contacted him, asked a few questions, and he got me pointed in the right direction. I am so thankful for his work and also the way he generously gave of his time to help get me going. As Mr. Shearon said, “The best time to plant a tree was 25 years ago. The next best time is today.” Well, thanks to his work, I am planting an orchard. My wife and I have improved our financial future significantly over the course of this year, although there are still plenty of steps to take. Still, we have made huge progress—and it started with Mr. Shearon’s efforts!
Any other thoughts?
As many of you know it can be a real bummer to be an American expat. You are often walking a line that Andrew Hallam aptly describes as “You’re not breaking any laws, but it’s not exactly James Dean cool, either.” You always have to be concerned that the IRS hammer can fall on you, or otherwise shut you down directly or indirectly, or that you may suddenly be denied access to your own online accounts.
I still feel though, as Mr. Shearon stated in his presentation, “Even so, the cost of staying out (of the market) is just too high.” The plan is to just keep stuffing money into Vanguard index funds of various sorts and always max out my contributions to my IRA. We’re going to get my wife started on a NISA soon, and hopefully the conditions for the NISA will keep improving as the Japanese government realizes it needs to help people to save for their retirements. For now, I’ll just try to keep all my paperwork straight with the IRS and the Japanese government, keep educating myself little by little, and keep saving and investing. Thank you again, Mr. Shearon!
RetireJapan: Great stuff. It's nice to hear from a US citizen, as so much of what we write about is unfortunately inaccessible to them.
There do seem to be changes afoot for NISA, so subscribe to our weekly emails to get all the latest information delivered to your inbox.
Thanks for the extremely kind write-up, DC Rise, and good luck with your plan going forward.
I'm still looking for more reader profiles so if you would be willing to answer the questions above and share your situation and story please get in touch via the contact form. We'd love to hear from you.