Will Our Quality of Life Decline?


Quality of Life (QOL) can be defined in many different ways. Most North Americans think of increased leisure time, early retirement, time to enjoy our hobbies, home ownership and the ability raise a family comfortably. Others want worry free living. That’s probably a bit of a stretch for most of us. This is likely the state of North American and OECD view of QOL. Since 1950 the lifestyle of Canadians and Americans has become increasingly rich and easy.

The rise of unionized labour, pension largesse, top notch medical coverage, cheap products from Asia and the ability of Canadians and Americans to borrow and accumulate debt in an unrestricted mode has meant that there are not many lifestyle amenities out of reach. It has indeed been a great 5 decade party akin to 50 years of Ferris Beuhler’s Day Off! QOL has been sustained by uninhibited borrowing.

However increased QOL is defined differently by citizens in the emerging world (Emergica). In Emergica there is more emphasis on income and jobs that provides enough to attain some of the accoutrements of the modern world. Savings rates are much higher in Emergica. Indians revere gold. You cannot be married without significant gold endowment in India. Gold is considered the way to create and store wealth in India. Chinese citizens are buying gold and silver at breakneck speed in units from single gram cards to kilogram bars. Gold is a quality of life asset in these countries.

Nevertheless, governments everywhere try to stimulate a growing QOL, however defined, in the culture of their country. One look at the domestic reaction to Greece’s forced “austerity” should convince one of this government’s priorities. Greece is once again feeling the heel of Europe’s jackboot. Remember the recent (1990 to 2007) “Flip that House” folly here in the U.S.? The government notion (with a big assist from Wall Street) that we should have a “chicken in every pot” housing policy was supported by both Republican and Democratic administrations. Housing was considered a quality of life asset. Subsequent to August 2007, much of what we have all experienced in North America, particularly the United States, has been fostered by this unsustainable orgy of low interest rates, easy loans, no down/ low down home ownership supported by cement mixer mortgage and investment bankers who rattled off mortgage bonds so quickly that they cannot now be unwound. Welcome to continued Quantitative Easing and “Too Big to Fail!

Across the globe, there are different views of a “good” quality of life. That’s part of the great strength of the democratic way of life in which humanity can strive to be better. My parents simply wanted to own their home free and clear, save for retirement and send their children to University.

But social scientists view lifestyle analytics differently in their efforts to measure and compare any country’s QOL over time (increasing happiness) and with other countries (relative happiness). Australian social scientists focus on immigration as a key driver of increased QOL.

For example here’s how the United Nations Human Development Agency views QOL i. The index is calculated using three sub-indices to construct an HDI index. They are per capita income, health (life expectancy) and education (years of schooling).

Screen shot 2012-03-01 at 9.41.32 AM

The following diagram shows the increase in this index as estimated by the United Nations Human Development Program for a group of OECD countries.    Norway sports the highest index value, the U.S. ranks 4th and Canada 6th according to the study.

These time series and graphs imply that the quality of life as measured by the HDI index has increased for these countries over the past 30 years. In 1980 The U.S. sported the second highest index while Canada ranked third (in the world). They now rank 4th and 6th respectively. I think this is what Mark Faber was getting at in his research results that the QOL of the West was falling and likely to fall further relative to other countries.

….read pages – 3- 6 HERE

5 Retirement Planning Tips


As the global economy plunges and retirement portfolio shrinks, many Canadians are worried more than ever for their financial well being after retirement. Some retirees will be able to maintain their expected living standard regardless of how the economy does. However, this may not be the case for everyone. If you need to work or are thinking of working after retirement, here are some tips to help you with your decision.


1. Some of the government programs for retirees such as Old Age Security (OAS)credit, the government pension plan (CPP), and so on may be affected if you work full- or part-time after retirement.


2. The best way to handle your clawbacks or drawbacks to government benefit programs is to consult a financial planner or tax specialist. They have tools andcalculators to show you exactly what your own numbers will look like based on your unique situation (as everyone’s scenarios are different)


3. There are free online tools and calculators available as well to help you with your retirement planning. Such online tools and calculators are available here: Retirement Tools and Calculators


4. Service Canada offers Canadian Retirement Income Calculator to generate retirement income information and post retirement benefit information, including CPP benefits and OAS.


5. Regardless of how much research you do on your own, my suggestion would be to still sit with a retirement professional and discuss your situations. Due to the complex nature of retirement benefits and clawbacks, it is worth paying for advice and take action based on accurate and updated information. 


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Best Places in the World to Retire


If you had $20,000 a month to retire on — you could live lavishly pretty much anywhere on the planet. But we’re interested in the places where you can live that lifestyle on one-tenth the budget…

Places where you can have a maid clean for you…hire a gardener… wake up to a view…have great health care, eat well, enjoy the finer things in life — for less than $2,000 a month. You may be surprised how many there are…

Months ago, our far-flung editors and in-country advisers began collecting all the data and details that inform our annual Retirement Index.

To compile it, we evaluate and rank countries around the world according to eight crucial categories: real estate, special retirement benefits, cost of living, ease of integration, entertainment and amenities, health care, retirement infrastructure and climate.


This is a qualitative assessment, based on real-world data gathered on the ground. For each category in our Index, we looked closely at what matters most to you when you’re considering an overseas retirement spot — everything from the price of bread to how easy it is to make friends or stay in touch with family.

We considered a vast range of data points, from the average humidity to the cost of a taxi. And with costs in mind, we examined prices for real estate, rentals, and utilities like water, electricity, and cable TV. We looked at costs for groceries, eating out, even specific medical procedures. We took into account what kind of discounts retirees can get on travel, taxes and entertainment. And we considered whether there were direct flights back home…how many and how long they are, too.

And we asked: What is the Internet like? Do you need a car? Can you catch a movie in English? Are the people friendly? Does it rain? In effect, we asked all the questions you should ask when you’re considering a retirement overseas. This year’s Top 19 foreign locations are listed below:


Numbers and rankings don’t tell the whole story, of course. When it comes to relocating overseas, there is no such thing as “one size fits all.” So the staff and global correspondents of International Living also recorded a wide range of boots-on-the-ground testimonials from folks who have retired to these various foreign locales.

Take Daphne Newman, who lives in Caribbean Honduras. She’s spending just $1,400 a month to live yards from a white-sand beach on the island of Roatan. Only a three-hour flight from the US, English-speaking Roatan with its world-class reef just offshore, is an easy place to make friends and fit in. It lands mid-table in this year’s Index.

Jack Griffin and his wife Margaret have opted, by contrast, for city life in Nicaragua. When the stock market crashed and the value of their home in the States plummeted by 30%, they began to worry about how to fund their retirement. The final straw came with a 37% hike in their annual health-insurance premium. At age 60, they felt they deserved the retirement they had worked for all their lives, so they found a new home in Managua, the country’s capital.

Today their international medical insurance costs them 62% less than their policy did back home (yet their local hospital is internationally accredited and the doctors speak English). Retired now without money worries, they spend their days exploring, horseback riding, going to the beach or gym, and doing yoga. They have a full-time maid and a gardener and, says Jack, “We do it all for less than half the cost of a moderate lifestyle back home in Atlanta, Georgia.”

Chuck and Jamie Bilbe, ready to retire in Florida, found themselves in a situation similar to the Griffins’. “We were concerned that our retirement savings wouldn’t see us through, so we began looking overseas for a place where our ever-shrinking nest egg might last longer,” says Chuck. Now they live in Corozal, Belize, their cost of living is much lower than it was in the States, but that’s not the greatest appeal. What they say they like most is the Old-World lifestyle. “Like Florida in the 1950’s,” they say. “We’re eating better, sleeping better and enjoying social activity much more now than we did before.”

It’s not just destinations south of the States that appeal. Pam Griner Leavy and her husband Jim are just two of the more than 100,000 American expats living in France. They’re retired in Paris on a reasonable $3,149 a month. “There are so many things for free here, or reasonably priced…big-city life is good,” says Pam.

In Asia you can live comfortably for less than $1,000 a month on a powder-sand beach in Thailand. Up the budget just a bit and you can afford First-World comforts and conveniences in colonial Penang Island, Malaysia. Keith Hockton and his wife Lisa live there, where they rent a sea-view apartment for $1,000 a month — it comes with a shared pool and gym — and they eat out five nights a week, keep a small sailboat, enjoy cycling through the botanic gardens. Their total budget is $1,719 a month.

In Brazil, expats with $2,150 a month can live a block from the country’s best beaches in Fortaleza. In Boquete, Panama, Karl and Liz Parker need just $2,000 a month to fund their life in a place that provides lavish highland views in a near-perfect climate. Panama’s retiree-benefit program provides them discounts on nearly everything, too, which helps keep their costs down.

In Cuenca, Ecuador, Douglas Willis, his wife and two children live on just $1,000 a month. In Costa Rica’s Central Valley, Sharon and Lee Harris bought a townhouse in Heredia for $75,000, and pay only $40 a month for healthcare coverage as members of the Caja, the country’s excellent national healthcare system.

Wherever the locale they’ve chosen — beach, city, highland, valley — these expats all have one thing in common:  They’re living the lives they’ve always wanted for much less than they ever dreamt they could.

This 2012 Retirement Index covers all the bases, revealing a wealth of choices when it comes to comfortable retirement living abroad. Choices you don’t have to be wealthy to take advantage of.


The International Living Team
for The Daily Reckoning