8 of the Cheapest Places to Retire Abroad to Stretch Your Savings

We have all done it at one time or another. We look to find some of the Cheapest Places to Retire. For some it is a curiosity and a fantasy but for others a necessity. Necessary because sometimes things don’t work out how we planned. Especially when it comes to our retirement savings. After years of saving, coming up far short of our wishes means thinking about taking the adventurous retirement option.

 of the Cheapest Places to Retire AbroadThat being, looking for where in this beautiful world we can stretch the retirement savings we do have to go farther. Not only that but without sacrificing our living standards.

The countries that make this Cheapest Places to Retire List are the countries where $200K can fund up to 30 years of retirement.

An Affordable Retirement Is Good But Be Sure To Look At The Non-Financial Aspects Too

Obviously there are many more considerations other than money when it comes to moving in our retirement that should be explored.

Are you interested in a rural or urban lifestyle?

Do you want mass transportation options or being close to an airport, hospital, etc.?

If looking for a country with a lower cost retirement then understanding the lifestyle we want helps us narrow our search for the country and the targeted city, town, or village within it.

Then visit it first if you haven’t spent any or much time there. It takes more than a couple of weeks of vacationing to really understand whether it is right for you as a full-time home. Go and LIVE it before committing. Don’t look at it as a vacationing tourist. Get deep into the living part. Check out the Leisure Freak Retirement Moving Considerations page for more non-financial aspects of moving.

There Is The “Language” Thing

Do you already speak the local language? If yes, then you are way ahead.

Are you willing and able to learn it? Then start before making your move.

Are you hoping to find a place that has enough English speakers to get by? Then Target communities with a large ex-pat population where English is commonly known. Do make a plan to learn the language ASAP.

The Elephant in the Room

Choose A Place Where You Will Be Welcome

I don’t see much about this on affordable retirement abroad articles but I believe it is important to note. Immigration is a huge worldwide topic these days. Even when a country’s policy is welcoming to ex-pat retirees, that doesn’t mean every community within it will be. That is no different from here in the US. Test the waters when visiting your target country and community by mentioning your intentions. See the place through non-tourist eyes.

The reason I mention this: When we were in Oahu Hawaii last year there was a lot of talk about how immigrants with big money were causing already expensive housing and other living cost to soar sky-high. There were feelings and claims that it was pushing the locals out. We sensed some animosity.

Be aware that in some countries our meager US retirement savings may make us look like the wealthy invasion driving their costs higher.

It is something to be aware of even though for the most part your retirement income and adding to their economy will be welcome in most country’s communities.

For some countries, even ones with an accepting culture and people, new tensions may arise when any new US policies play out they see as negatively impacting their country. If you notice any animosity then decide if it will get better or worse as time goes on.

Be sure to find the right welcoming place and get to know your new neighbors.

Here They Are: 8 of the Cheapest Places to Retire Abroad

This list of 8 affordable countries for retirement comes courtesy of a storymap from Easy Life Cover.

These countries offer a low-cost and a full retirement lifestyle. They all have low health care, rent and utility costs.

There is income, age and possibly other requirements necessary to retire to another country. Take Belize as an example. They have a great retirement plan for people aged 45 and over with a minimum income of $2,000 per month. Social Security can cover most if not all retirement lifestyle costs for many couples.

The 8 countries on the cheapest places to retire list are in order from highest to lowest retirement living cost (cost includes rent).

Panama $30,648 ($2,554 per month)

Spain $27,396 ($2,283 per month)

Costa Rica $23,100 ($1,925 per month)

Thailand $20,880 ($1,740 per month)

Malaysia $18,684 ($1,557 per month)

Belize $18,000 ($1,500 per month)

Ecuador $17,808 ($1,484 per month)

Nicaragua $14,172 ($1,181 per month)

For more details and geographical reference please check-out the below storymap.


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Retiring Well: Looking Beyond Finances

Retirement brings freedom and options. With that comes many choices that retirees must make. Obviously having our finances in order is a key to retiring well but that alone is no guarantee. There are two questions I always ask myself as a guide for keeping me on my retirement well-being track. Two questions that I believe can help anyone avoid doing something that will mess with successfully retiring well.

Having enough money available to live the retirement lifestyle you want and can enjoy is primary to retiring well. There are many online retiring well financially geared articles and plenty here on this Leisure Freak site.

Of course there should always first be financial analysis. Deciding whether we can afford to do something or how our spending, portfolio strategy, budget, saving, etc. will impact our long-term retirement funding. After that is settled comes the two questions to make sure we truly retire well.

Retiring well means retiring without regret or unnecessary backtracking to repair a bad decision.

Believe me, retirement and its freedom brings a lot of options and decisions to make. Retiring well means living life on your terms and doing so purposely. Retiring well means retiring to something, not just from something. Nobody plans on retiring into a void. That isn’t retiring well. Neither is retiring and taking on bad projects, strangling obligations, putting up with difficult people, being unnecessarily idle, or accepting a unfulfilling retirement job.

Retiring WellRetirement is much more than our finances that support it. There is the living part of retirement that must be addressed so that we can retire well.

Retiring well must include our avoiding making any bad move that strays from what it is we really want in our retired life. We get to call our own shots and everyone makes mistakes. But I use these two questions to make sure I am truly on track to a no retirement regret decision.

Two Questions To Ask Yourself To Help Ensure Retiring Well

Question #1- If money was removed from my decision, would I still do this?

By answering this question we force ourselves to focus on the importance of the decision. Its importance as it relates to what we truly value in our retirement.

I definitely used this question in my decision to retire early the first time.

It was the end of 2009 during the recession. My portfolio was significantly down but the retirement calculator numbers still came up with favorable but tight results. When asking myself this question the answer was YES. A financial only mindset would have probably caused more retirement delay even though I was truly ready to move on to my freedom. Answering this question gave me the push to clear all the economic uncertainty. There will always be less than perfect financial conditions.

I have also used this question when presented with a paid opportunity.

I focus on skills and experiences of interest and passion when it comes to working in retirement. Sometimes the salary can have me momentarily stray from my planned path. In those cases the answer to this question is NO. But for one stepped down lower paying gig the answer came up as YES. It checked off all of my interest and passion boxes and I enjoyed every minute of it.

This question was also prominent in our retirement decision to not move to a less expensive and snow-less location. Although our financial analysis showed we could improve our finances by making the move. It also showed we could stay put without negative financial issues. But by answering this question we were able to focus on what we really valued. That is, being close to our children and grandchildren. So the answer was NO.

There have been times when our financial analysis showed that we best decide against something.

But by asking this question we gauge the importance to what we value in our retirement. In some cases we really did want to move forward and answered YES. We then made necessary budgetary and income adjustments to counter the financial negatives.

Question #2- If I knew I only had 10 years left to live, would I still do this?

This question is the ultimate ego tamer when it comes to work, activities, and relationships. It forces us to remember an undeniable truth that we are finite and puts our mortality into the equation. It has us prioritize what is most important to us.

When it comes to work opportunities it counters heavy financial justifications and our ego.

In the case of relationships it has the power to force us to focus on where we are and where we really want to be.

How we want to really handle a bad relationship, what to do about grudges we may have, or close the distance between friends and loved ones that we want in our lives.

It has us look differently at social activities that we may not feel like participating in.

It does so by adding, do I really want to miss this opportunity to be with those I care about? Answering this question can change our focus because there is no guaranty of tomorrow.

This question comes up for me with work opportunities.

They checked off all of my interests and passion boxes after passing the first question that removes money from the decision. But I have answered NO for this question because the commitment was too long. Other times the project looked and sounded perfect but I had no respect for the company or its leadership and policies. One in particular opportunity had very tight deadlines covering many months. It would have made taking time-off for family trips or vacations too difficult to fit in.

Sometimes I need this question to silence my ego when it pushes me to investigate or do things that are not aligned with my retirement values.

It allows me to stop wasting my time on things I do not value. There can be many reasons why I wouldn’t want to waste any of my finite time. I then answer NO to this question.

This question has me prioritize relationships that I truly value so I can strengthen them.

I also use the question in how I view and limit relationships with people I really don’t care for but still have because of business or other connections.

In Closing

Retiring well does need having our finances in order. But there is the living part of retirement that counts just as much. The freedom that retirement provides also brings many options and decisions to make. But decisions dictated by a singular financial mindset may cause a retirement of regrets.

I use the above two questions to enhance my retiring well decision process. I am sure there are many others that can be used to keep us on the path to enrich our retirement with what we truly value. For instance questions about our health which is also important to retiring well.

Hopefully these two questions has you thinking about questions that go beyond finances that you can use as guidance toward your retiring well.


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Turn Retirement Wishes Into Reality

Retirement is a celebrated event that usually comes with cards and signed banners full of coworker’s, friend’s, and loved one’s Retirement Wishes. Most are just different flavors of the same common wishes. Understandably many are written simply as participation comments. Taken from online lists of retirement wishes without much thought. However for some well-wishers their wish is truly heartfelt and personalized. Those are the best wishes. Even when they are only personalized versions of the common retirement wishes.

Turn Retirement Wishes Into RealityMy wife and I retired early but we stay in contact with our good friends from our past working lives. We recently attended a retirement party for my wife’s ex-manager. Reading through the many retirement wishes brought back memories of my retirement. I mentally checked off all the wishes that actually came to be and what it took to make them come true.

I also thought about what we as heartfelt well-wishers could do to help our newly retired friend’s retirement wishes become a reality.

Going From Retirement Wishes to Retirement Reality

May your retirement bring you prosperity, health, and happiness.

There were many retirement wishes along this same line of thought. It certainly would make a short but sweet toast to the retiree while holding drink glasses up high. It is a common but great wish and one I and any retiree would totally want to come true.

What it takes:

Prosperity- Enjoy the celebrating and jubilation of ditching the rat race. But remember there is more to retirement than Aloha shirts, tropical drinks, and travel. Make sure your finances and retirement budget match. Stay engaged with your retirement funding and spending. Prosperity isn’t limited to  finances. It is the whole well-being package that includes your health and happiness.

Health- More free time means more available time to be active. Take advantage of it. There is nothing better than improving your health. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money either. Bicycling and hiking/walking are great retiree activities. Find ways to stay active and exercise. Don’t forget your brain. Stay curious and always try to learn new things.

Stay on top of your health by striving to eat better and restrict or cut any unhealthy vices. Health also includes having a social life. Stay involved in your community, church and other organizations. Always keep an open eye towards opportunities to expand your social life.

Happiness- Happiness is the one thing we can choose to have. People who have miserable conditions can still be happy about what they do have in life. Taking control of our finances is important. But taking care of our health and having a vibrant social life full of friends and family is a happiness boosting insurance plan.

Congrats! Go enjoy yourself in retirement. Retirement isn’t the end of the journey but a new beginning. Now is the time to live the life you have always wanted.

This is one of the best retirement wishes and it comes with a side order of pep-talk. Beginning a new life living our dream is a worthy goal to achieve in retirement. A happy and successful retirement isn’t about retiring from something but retiring to something

It takes having a vision of what you see as your retirement adventure. What is the life you always wanted? Make sure you have the answer. Don’t make the mistake of retiring into a void containing only spare time with nothing planned.

What to do:

Create your personal retirement lifestyle project plan. Set a loose schedule of fun things you want to accomplish and the routines you want or need to complete. Those daily routine activities like chores, exercise, Kazoo lessons/practice, etc.

List your hobbies. The ones you have and the ones you want to explore. Make time for them. Include all of your passions like fishing, golf, woodworking, brewing craft beer, etc. Make a point of having many interests and hobbies. Never allow the word boredom to be part of your retirement.

Set your travel goals, family related activities, and your plans to grow your social life.

Free yourself from your work identity and re-event yourself. Retirement is the time for YOUR new beginning.

Most of all allow yourself time to transition into retirement. It may seem strange to think that retirement can mess with your mind but it will. Just going from retirement saver to retirement spender did a number on me for a while. There will be an adjustment period after the celebration cools down.

May you find that perfect retirement job doing what you love.

Obviously this retirement wish is only proper for a retiree who has said they are looking forward to a stepped-down retirement job, starting an encore career, or starting a business. It is a simple but specific retirement wish that certainly strays from the casual common and participation-only retirement wish comment.

In my case I made it known to everyone that I planned to retire early and often  where I wanted to pursue opportunities aligned with my passions and interests. Many new retirees plan to do some form of paid retirement work.

To make it happen:

First figure out what your perfect retirement opportunity is. It starts with understanding what it is you want. List the dream-job attributes that you want to find. Identify your interests and passions. Then match them to your payable skills.

Target your resume towards opportunities aligned with your retirement work goals.

This was one of my retirement wishes and I have had successful paid work adventures in retirement. It certainly has been a rewarding retirement reality for me.

For the Retirement Well-Wisher

Doing more than offering casual retirement wishes

Many retirement wishes noted that they stay in touch. If your written retirement wishes are truly heartfelt then do actively strive to stay in touch. Be a part of the retiree’s social circle. You never know if they are struggling to stay close with their ex-coworker pals or having trouble keeping or growing their social circle in retirement.

I know it took a great effort to keep my work-pals and grow my social circle beyond work friends after three decades in a career and the only life I knew. I was very happy to have great ex-coworker friends.

Retirees, myself included, feel that those still working are very busy and the last thing they needed was a recent retiree taking more of their precious time. Reach out occasionally even if it’s just a short and simple email.

If you can, write retirement wishes specific to the retiree. Think about what they have talked about looking forward to. If you don’t know then go ahead and use some of the common send-off retirement wishes but personalize it. Even just adding your contact info and an invitation to use it would be welcome to any new retiree. Especially if you are close and know that they struggle socially or have a limited social life outside of work.

It’s not just for the retiree’s benefit-

You will retire someday too. By staying connected you will have an experienced retirement pal to help you with your transition into your retirement freedom. If retirement looks like a huge challenge for you to achieve, then they will be a good source of information and encouragement to help you figure out how get there. I know that my retired friends were a huge inspiration for me on my journey to early retirement.

In Closing

For our newly retired friend whose party inspired my retirement wishes reflection and this post there is an active social connection in place since my wife’s retirement. Our retirement wish was centered around “welcome to the club” and included our looking forward to expanding our social interactions.

Everyone loves good heartfelt retirement wishes and wants them to come true. I have only covered a few of the common ones I received and like I saw at the retirement party. But they do cover some of the best retirement wishes anyone would love to come true.

Retiree- With a little planning and effort, retirement wishes can all become a retirement reality. Go ahead and wing-it though your celebration phase. But afterward choose to actively pursue the best of your retirement wishes and enjoy your hard-won freedom.

Retirement well-wisher- If you are close to the retiree then go beyond the one-size-fits-all common list of retirement wishes and make it personal. Mention anything that you know that they are looking forward to doing in their retirement. If you are close to the retiree then make sure to stay connected. Good friends can be hard to come by.

The reality is that good friendships benefits all that are involved.


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I Fought My Way Out of Debt Misery

How I Repaid Credit Card Debt Equal to 44% of My Yearly Salary.

When I talk to people about early retirement I hear from many about the same obstacle. They are unable to save more for retirement because of their debt. I totally get it. I spent many years in debt misery myself where most if not all my paycheck went out to settle monthly bills. Of which the biggest part was to pay monthly debt payments. Mortgage, 2nd mortgage, and the worst of all were credit cards.

People think that early retirement is only for the rich and lucky. That certainly helps but it’s also for the money-wise. That wisdom includes saving and investing. But more importantly it includes figuring out how to pay off debt and living a debt free life going forward.

Paying off debt and living debt free is the first step towards financial independence. It is certainly the first taste we get of it. Debt liberation brought me a feeling of freedom second only to the day I ditched the corporate rat race with my first early retirement.

If anything, my story shows that being in debt misery doesn’t have to mean a lifetime of employment servitude. Setting into motion a plan to become debt free results in a win-win outcome and the sooner we start the better.

How I Ended Up in Debt Misery

Credit Card Debt = 44% of My Yearly Salary

My story isn’t too different from many people who start out to make it on their own. My debt misery was caused by Bandits.

Yep, little bandits. Those tiny blessings that come and take all of our love, time, and money to give them the life we want them to have. We gladly gave to 3 of them. But the cost of childcare turned us into a single income family beginning with child number 2. Besides the loss of my wife’s wages, my full-time income did not keep up with inflation. Even after adding a part-time job, especially once our 3rd little surprise came.

Easy Credit to Solve Everyone’s Problems

I admit I rationalized our poor debt decision. During this time all interest paid including credit card interest was tax-deductible. The credit industry makes using them for any financial solution easy. We were getting credit card offers with large balance limits in the mail daily.

We didn’t go on a spending spree and remained as frugal as we could. But life happens and things change.

We fell for the mental trap of “tax deductible” as a rationalization that debt is always OK. The tax code was changed in 1986 to what it is today removing that credit card debt perk. It happened a year after our third child’s birth which was 3 years into our poorly rationalized debt plan.

Our debt was the result of charging and using the handy checks the credit card company supplied to cover expenses above my income.

Our Plan to Repay Our Crushing Credit Card Debt

Increase Income – Our plan was simple. Use debt to help support us during our “Mom at home with the kids time” as necessary. But once our first and second child began school my wife would return to part-time work. Then when our 3rd child entered school my wife would return to full-time work. All of her income would then be devoted to paying off debt.

Our increasing income plan was a mistaken delayed strategy. There was a constantly growing debt misery to live with during the 6 years before that strategy could start.

Our costs increased beyond what my 2 jobs could cover. I was leaving the house at 7 AM and returning home at 10 PM. I was bringing in less than our bills. That’s even when only paying minimum credit card payments.

I was at times just moving credit card amounts from one card to another. I did this using their free credit transfer checks. Although we were considered current on payments our credit card debt grew. When financially desperate we can do financially dumb things.

Getting Serious About Debt Repayment

I Fought My Way Out of Debt MiseryI was miserable seeing every penny I earned go out and watching credit card balances growing beyond amounts I never thought possible.

I decided that I needed to get fighting mad and seriously go after a repayment strategy to climb out of our debt misery hole.

I was juggling 5 credit cards. My income had slowly increased over the past 5 years to where I could just make minimum credit card payments without adding to the debt.

We swore off using any additional credit to carry us through this phase of our young family’s life except for an extreme emergency.

Prioritizing Credit Cards-

First I identified the lowest to highest interest charging credit cards. I balanced transferred as much as I could from the highest interest card balances to the lowest interest cards.

We created a strict budget that would make sure we could cover at least the minimum payments. When my paychecks came up short because of something unexpected we either sold something or I did side-jobs for cash. I hauled trash, delivered firewood; I did whatever I could do to avoid using credit cards.

When our middle blessing started school my bride got a part-time job. We stayed on the strict budget. By this time the credit card balances were equal to 44% of my yearly salary. Ouch!

Much more psychologically daunting was our credit card balance was as much as 50% of our first mortgage. It was an embarrassing secret. Repaying this debt was my only thought so that nobody else had to know about my financial mistakes.

The Delayed Repayment Phase Begins

As we had always planned, we devoted all of my wife’s income minus part-time childcare costs to credit card repayment. We targeted our highest interest rate card first for the extra payments. Because we shifted balances to the lower interest rate cards the high interest rate cards also had the lowest balances.

All of my increased income from raises also went toward the highest interest card. We worked our way through the credit cards one by one.

Two years later our youngest entered school and my bride was able to work full-time where she worked. We were then able to really ramp-up our debt repayment.

Once I finally got a promotion and a decent raise our income to credit ratio was acceptable to refinance our 2nd mortgage at our Credit Union. That refinance included enough to cover the last of the credit card payoff.  This greatly reduced the interest rate we had to pay. We then focused our debt repayment plan to the one 2nd mortgage loan.

It took 6 years to dig our debt misery hole and 3 years of concentrated effort to win the fight out of it.

We have never carried a credit card balance since then. We now win financially with our credit card use.

Debt Repayment Strategy

I didn’t know it then but my repayment plan is a hybrid Avalanche + Snowball Method. There are other strategies. Until my wife started working to add some income I was truly in debt hell.

My debt misery occurred 1983 to 1990, back in ancient times. No internet or cell phones, high inflation, and limited employment opportunities. Yes, we did have an easily accessible library but I didn’t think to search there for help on this subject. I should have. Any debt repayment strategy should begin by researching solutions and ideas.

I winged-it and made many mistakes. Fortunately we have much more easily found information available to help us escape debt misery.

For a great “How To” for getting out of debt I recommend checking out the Power Over Life website’s Create a Debt Destruction Plan. It lays out the different debt repayment strategies and gives the information necessary to get anyone started on their debt liberation journey.

Final Words

There are many reasons that can cause us to enter into a life of debt misery. At some point debt will eat your finances and get in the way of living a free life. It certainly makes retirement harder to achieve.

The best thing that came out of my debt misery experience is I learned that we can take control of our own finances. We can learn from and reverse mistakes. The lessons learned will help us to reach our Financial Independence – Retire Early goals.

As I mentioned above, my debt repayment brought a feeling of liberation and independence second only to my first early retirement.

When you experience the freedom from debt misery then use that liberating feeling to carry you through financial independence and an earlier retirement. FIRE! There is nothing better.


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Do You Have a Forgotten or Lost Pension From Your Past?

How to Find an Old Pension

A forgotten or lost pension is a reality for many people. Unclaimed pensions total in the hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s no secret. Company provided retirement pensions have been in a steep decline over many years. But if you started working decades ago there is a chance a company you worked for had a pension benefit. Pensions used to be offered by many companies from retail stores to building/construction companies. My uncle earned a small pension from a little shipping pallet manufacturing company. A job that he worked as a retirement job.

Forgotten or Lost Pension When we are young the thought of retirement is far off. We certainly had other concerns and priorities. When we are Retirement-Unaware it’s easy to not pay attention to long-term company retirement benefits. It’s worth your while doing a little research. Especially if you have no memory of whether your long ago employer offered a pension benefit. Even a small amount of recovered long forgotten or lost pension is a beneficial retirement find.

Finding a Forgotten or Lost Pension

I hadn’t given this subject much thought. That is until a Leisure Freak site reader left a comment on the Pension De-Risking post. He had stumbled upon a forgotten pension when he looked into buying and annuity. That made me think about looking into one of my own long ago employers. I was curious to see if I had forgotten retirement money waiting to be found.

In my early working years I had two different past addresses and in a different state than where I live now. It would make sense that it might be difficult to find me if my previous employer tried to reach me.

Believe it or not, the company, PBGC, or the insurance company holding your long-lost annuity or pension wants to hear from you. They have a legal obligation to hold your money as an unclaimed pension and attempt to find you within the legal guidelines.

What to Do:

Prior Employer is Still in Business-

If you are fortunate your ex-employer is still in business which will make your search easier. You can do an online search to see if they offer retirement/pension benefits. However what they offer employees today doesn’t mean it will match what was offered when you worked there many years ago. You must be specific in your search for ancient benefits which may be difficult to find.

Your retirement treasure hunt is as simple as contacting it’s human resources (HR) department. Then ask about their retirement pension benefits and vesting periods (qualifying length of employment) during the timeframe you worked there. If you determine that you may have qualified for the benefit then ask for the plan administrator. Hopefully then you will be given a phone number or an email address to contact them and finish your long forgotten or lost pension search.

Prior Employer is No Longer in Business-

The forgotten or lost pension treasure hunt gets a little more complicated if your earlier life’s employer is no longer in business. It could have closed, went bankrupt, or was acquired by another company. Find out what you can from online searches. News of your employer’s demise or its acquisition/merger may give clues to your next steps.

If an online search for your old employment company fails, then reach out to any former co-workers that stayed after you left. If they are outside your circle of friends after all these years, then use LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. to find them. Simply ask what they remember and whether your old company offered retirement benefits and/or a pension. If they are getting a pension earned from your shared old company then ask them where their payments are coming from.

Other possible contacts for chasing down an old employer:
  • Contacting the chamber of commerce of the city/town your old company was located.
  • If any of the employees were union represented, then contact the union. They may know what happened.

If you find that your old employer was acquired by another company, then call that new company’s HR group. The new company is responsible for the other company’s pension benefits.

However, if you find that your old company is gone for good then all is not lost.

Search the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) Website

The PBGC is a government agency which insures and guarantees private sector pensions. It administers payments for underfunded and terminated pension plans. On its main page there is an option under Popular Tasks”Looking for an Unclaimed Pension.

The Unclaimed Pension page has a search box where you can enter your last name, company name, or state. If your old company pension plan was underfunded or terminated then the PBGC takes over. If you find your name in their Unclaimed Pension search then follow their instructions to get your information to them.

You will have to prove you are who they have listed. Once confirmed you may receive pension payments from the PBGC, a private insurance company annuity, or money set aside by your old employer.

The PBGC also offers a very detailed PDF document called Finding a Lost Pension. Note: If the link I provided doesn’t open the page for display then Search “finding a lost pension” with your favorite search engine and select the pdf pbgc.gov link provided in the search results.

The PBGC knows many things but it only has knowledge of terminated pension plans. It also doesn’t cover Government pensions.

The Social Security Administration May Know About Our Forgotten or Lost Pension

When we leave a business where we have earned a pension benefit, the company is required to report any pension benefit to the SSA. Once we apply for our Social Security or Medicare the SSA is required to tell us about any pensions that were reported to them.

The SSA notification of a reported pension benefit doesn’t necessarily mean there is treasure due. For instance, it may have been paid out in the past and the SSA wouldn’t necessarily know about that. However the SSA notification will give enough information to help us find our forgotten or lost pension if we know we didn’t receive an earlier payoff.

The Social Security Administration has what we were paid and by whom for each of our working years. We may be able to get the employer identification number from the SSA earnings records to help us track down our pension.

File Form SSA-7050 for a copy of your earnings record. “Request for Social Security Earnings Information.” The form is available at www.socialsecurity.gov/online/ssa-7050.pdf, or call 1-800-772-1213. There may be fees associated for the request.

Other Resources to Find a Forgotten or Lost Pension

According to the PBGC Finding a Lost Pension PDF document the following agencies along with the PBGC mentioned above may be of help.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Within the Department, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) and EBSA’s regional and district offices provide assistance to individuals who are having difficulty with their pensions.

The Pension Rights Center (PRC) – The Pension Rights Center maintains an online clearinghouse called Pension Help America (pensionhelp.org). The Pension Help site walks you through a step-by-step process for getting information about your retirement benefits, including referrals to legal professionals. Or, you can e-mail PRC through their website at www.pensionrights.org/contact.

In Closing

Finding a forgotten or lost pension is like a retirement treasure hunt for anyone who lost track of their benefits.

I my case I found that the company I worked for decades ago had a retirement plan when I worked there but only for management. That must be why I really couldn’t remember anything about a pension benefit. I was not management.

I did find in the PBGC Unclaimed Pension search using my last name that a distant cousin was listed there. It showed his name along with the company he worked for. A company that is bankrupt and is no longer in business. I am in the process of contacting him to let him know.

I may not have found a forgotten pension for myself but at least some good will come from my treasure hunt.


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Starve the Monster: My Early Retirement Income Tax Strategy

I like to apply a title to my projects and plans. It’s my way of adding a little fun. My 2017 Early Retirement Income Tax Strategy is named “Starve the Monster”. I know that it’s the season for thanks, charity, worship, family, and friends. But this is a great time of year to review our personal finances for this year and the next.

Starve the Monster: My Early Retirement Income Tax StrategyPlease don’t get me wrong. I do love the celebration of everything that is good and decent in the world during the holidays. But I still take a little time now before the year comes to an end to assess my financial stuff and especially taxes.

By doing this I have time to make adjustments and this year I’m glad that I did.

You may find similar issues in your own tax situation.

Tweaking My Early Retirement Income Tax Strategy

Step 1- Set Income Tax Goals

I believe the first step is to identify one’s tax strategy goals. My goals are simple.

Stay in lower tax brackets. I will do this through establishing threshold base taxable income limits to keep my taxes as low as possible. I fund my lifestyle with a combination of taxable and non-taxable income. My income tax efficiency goal is to be in the 15% tax bracket or lower.

Keep things simple-No shady strategies. I will have no complicated schemes or maneuvers and I will pay my fair share but nothing more. I don’t want to do anything that would be difficult to defend or puts my name on an IRS auditor’s desk. It is all about flying below their radar.

Never withhold so much that it causes a large tax refund. In fact, my goal is to NEVER get a refund and always owe some tax at tax filing time. There’s no reason to give the government an interest free loan.

Step 2 – Run the Numbers

At this time of year I have all my income projections and tax withholding details. I keep track of these things along with my budget so I don’t need to wait for any W2s or 1099s to do this.

I use tax software each year to prepare my taxes so I just set up a test tax return on the last tax filing year’s software and plug-in my end-of-year numbers. In the old days I did my taxes by hand. I would simply print out the tax forms to do this.

Even though there will be small changes in Standard Deductions and Personal Exemptions for the following year this is close enough. Since we are mortgage free we don’t have enough deductions to go Schedule A so we use the Standard Deduction. When I was still with a mortgage I would use the previous year’s numbers which worked out well enough for this exercise.

This test tax return’s result will let me know whether I am on track with my income tax goals and give me an estimate of what I will owe or be refunded.

This year I screwed up big-time and I have over $2000 in Federal Tax refund projected. I never saw it coming so it is good I found out now.

Step 3 – End of Year Income Tax Efficient Options- This Year

Most people would be happy to see a $2000 refund to look forward to. But I hate the idea that I will file a return and then wait for the Government to send it to me when they feel ready to pay me back.

I like to look at my options and long-term retirement funding goals. Part of which is my future efficient Social Security tax strategy of which Roth IRAs are critical.

Action to take- Based on my test income tax results I’ve decided to eat up the refund with Roth Conversions which are a huge part of my early retirement tax efficiency moves.

I reran my numbers through the tax software test return and found I can convert $17,000 to a Roth IRA and the increase in what I will owe in my State taxes won’t be too bad. I was planning on doing a smaller Roth conversion this year anyway.

Step 4 – Income Tax Efficient Tweaks for the Upcoming Year

The fist thing I did after seeing the test tax return results was kick myself and then figure out what happened.

Early in 2010 after my first early retirement I started my lifestyle funding with a SEPP (72t) Substantially Equal Periodic Payments to sidestep the early withdrawal penalty. I also set it up to withhold 10% for Federal income taxes from each monthly distribution.

This arrangement serves me well when I’m doing my “retire early and often” thing. This year I only had a 3 month craft beer-tender gig for a couple of four-hour shifts a week. Our taxable income of less than $35,000 for 2 people means my 10% tax withholding from my SEPP (72t) income was too much.

Action to take- I have notified my financial planner who handles my SEPP (72t) to decrease the federal withholding from 10% to just 2% for next year. This way I will owe just under $500 in Federal income taxes once I file my taxes in the future. At this time I have no plans for beginning another encore career. But if I land a sweet paying gig aligned with my passions and interests I will make withholding adjustments.

(Update Jan 2017: My CFP informed me that they can only withhold 0% or 10%. I have it set for 0% now and then in October will have it changed to 10% for the last 3 months of the year)

Other Tax Issues To Look At

This is a good time to look at any non-retirement account investment-dogs you might want to unload to take the investments losses.

If you use the long form with Schedule A to file your taxes then look to see if instead of waiting whether a well-placed charitable contribution or paying for other deductible expense before year-end will improve your tax situation. Same goes for any business or rental property related deductible purchases. That is if the move makes sense.

If you find that you underpaid your taxes by far too much and worry about under-payment interest/penalties then make use of the time now to adjust your tax withholding up for the rest of the year.

In Closing

I blew it tax-wise this year and overfed the monster. Politics aside, I use the term monster because it will happily over-eat without squabble but will hunt you down and destroy you if you don’t feed it what it thinks you owe.

I have to pay the monster something to keep it off my back but not more than I have to pay. It’s better that I manage my money than trust the monster with it.

Everything considered, my discovered tax oversight isn’t too bad. My Early Retirement Income Tax Strategy tweaks will have me add to my Roth IRA holdings before year-end. I will also be giving myself an 8% early retirement funding raise without increasing my taxable income. Sweet!

Even though I can make a Roth conversion for this year up to the tax filing deadline, I like to keep things in the same year when I can. I am very happy to have taken the time during this holiday season to get a head-start and make the necessary income tax tweaks.

What’s your tax strategy?


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4 Must Dos for Making the Transition from Work to Retirement

You may find it hard to believe but retirement can mess with your mind. The transition out of working life to our hard-won retirement freedom can be a bumpy ride. We leave behind the only life we have known where we earn income through working and save for our retirement future. We set into motion our plan for this milestone, pull the trigger, and all of a sudden everything changes. Here are 4 Must Dos for Making the Transition from Work to Retirement to maximize your chances for a smoother path to early retirement bliss.

Maximizing Your Chances for a Smooth Transition from Work to Retirement

#1- Establish your retirement income plan before you retire

If you are retiring with a Pension and/or Social Security and it covers all of your expenses then your income plan is for the most part covered. But many folks retire needing more income than even their Pension and/or Social Security will provide.  Then there are others like me who retire earlier than Social Security age and without having a monthly pension check. Creating a retirement income plan from our portfolio is a very important part of our transition from work to retirement.

Figure Out Your Portfolio Withdrawal Strategy  

 There are many ways to handle this. First off, depending on your portfolio and your age at retirement, you may have retirement account early withdrawal penalty rules to work around.

If your portfolio generates enough passive income in dividends and interest then you have an easy target for harvesting retirement income. If you don’t and will need to occasionally sell assets to meet your income needs then develop your portfolio rebalancing strategy to know which assets to sell.

All of this should be done within the safe withdrawal rate guidelines. For example there is the 4% safe withdrawal strategy and Bucket strategies to consider. This may be an area where you want to consider getting professional advice.

Address Your Budgetary Income Needs

When you were working you probably received a paycheck at specific intervals. Your bills are going to continue arriving just as they always did and with the same due dates. Decide how you want to receive your portfolio income. Will it be easy to handle your retirement lifestyle budget getting a monthly transfer? Perhaps you prefer a quarterly transfer.

I was used to getting paid on the 1rst and 15th of the month when I was a working stiff. But my retirement funds are distributed once a month on the 23rd into my Credit Union Savings Account. At first it was hard for me to easily handle my budget, at least in my head.  I unnecessarily restricted my spending early in the monthly distribution period.

To allow myself to live my budgeted and planned early retirement lifestyle I decided to transfer ½ on the first and the other half on the 15th from my savings account to my checking account. It was a simple mind trick.

Now that I am a fully transitioned and experienced retiree I just transfer to my checking account once a month for the amount needed. I still have a budget but I now know that some months will come in below and some above. But by keeping spending discipline throughout the year the budget stays intact. Decide how you want to receive your portfolio retirement income.

#2- Wrap your mind around going from saver to spender

The transition from being a saver to spender of the portfolio messed with me and most everyone else I know who have retired. After years of adding to our portfolio along with reinvested interest and dividends we see the opposite occur. Seeing a monthly subtraction on our statement for our retirement lifestyle funding can and will mess with a retiree’s mind.

Expect the saver to spender mental challenges

This had never crossed my mind before I retired the first time. I was surprised by these feelings. My initial reaction was that I needed to pull back on my budget even though it was all planned out. My lifestyle budget was fine-tuned over many years and the retirement calculator results were all good.

When logic and calculations fail to relieve our saver-to-spender financial funk then find peace of mind through affirmation. I just repeated to myself that this is what the portfolio is for. It is only a tool created to be used for just this purpose.

Give yourself time to adjust your mindset 

Nothing happens overnight. The journey to retirement took many years to accomplish. We have to give ourselves some time to adjust our thinking. It took me about 4 or 5 months before I was able to start developing a long-term retirement spending mindset within my portfolio.

Mentally ditching the working life and saver mentality is a gradual progression. Just stick to your retirement lifestyle budget and long-term portfolio investment and income strategy. And of course, enjoy your retirement.

#3- Know and embrace what you are retiring to

Making the transition from work to retirementThe celebrating of your retirement will only last for a short period of time. At least relative to how long you will be retired.

It is then that you understand that for retirement happiness it’s not about what you are retiring from but what you are retiring to which matters most.

Before retiring or at least very shortly afterward look at what it is you want to do with your time. Think about hobbies, volunteering, sports, part-time work, encore career, starting a business, travel, improving our health, and any other kind of retirement projects. Consider including things that push you outside of your comfort zone to add excitement and learning.

Protect your mental health by creating a retirement activity schedule 

Nothing causes more retiree anxiety and unhappiness than retiring into a void. There is only so much day-time TV, boredom, and loneliness a person can tolerate. Anxiety is common to many who retire. Much of this can be alleviated by doing what we all have done for many years.  That is our having a schedule. But this schedule isn’t dictated by some job or boss. It is ours.

By setting a schedule or list of activities and things we want to accomplish we have a way to feel productive and purposeful in our retirement.

Even if we don’t have much to plug into it, having some structure helps our brain cope with our transition from work to retirement. Freedom takes some getting used to after decades of working.

My schedule isn’t a hard schedule. It is just a list of goals for the day and the week that I want to accomplish and for some they’re to cross off from my overall retirement bucket list. It isn’t precise scheduled activity either. There is room for spontaneity and variety. None of it is carved into stone.

Use a schedule to transition your brain until it readjusts to a freedom lifestyle.

Let go of your work identity and embrace your retirement identity

Many people will feel a loss of identity once they retire. It stands to reason that after years of thinking of ourselves as our career or title that there will be a feeling of something missing. That is why it’s important to understand and embrace what you are retiring to.

Making the transition from work to retirement is much easier when we can let go of our past identity and those efforts should start before we retire. There will still be some feelings of identity loss but this is another mental progression over time.

Figure out what you are retiring to and proudly identify with it. Retirement is the all-time best opportunity for us to reinvent ourselves. Reinvention is changing something to be better. Figure out what it is you are looking forward to becoming. Identify yourself as your better reinvented version of you.

#4- Inventory your friends and social life before retiring

Retirement happiness is easier to have when we have a robust social life. It is important to sit down and list the people who we consider as those we are closest to.

  • Who do you want to be part of your retirement life?
  • Look at how many of these friends are work related.
  • How many friends do you have outside of the work you did?
  • Also look at those folks you may not want to be part of your retirement life. Most of us have someone who we tolerate in our social circle but could use some space from in our retirement.

It is also important to identify all of your non-work related social activities. Will you have easy opportunity to meet with people you enjoy? Will there need to be a plan to expand your social circle?

Work to keep relationships with people you enjoy from your old work life

When we spend so much of our lives on the job it should be no surprise that most of our friends are work related. But what started these friendships may be the bond of our shared labor through both accomplishment and workplace misery.

It is far easier to keep these friendships when you are on the job. Once we retire it will require an extra effort to keep these friends close. Always remember that they are still in the grind. If that grind is our only common bond then you will feel as an outsider soon after retirement.

Many of my friends who are still on the job have slowly become less close over the years since my retiring. I didn’t feel comfortable when all the talk turned to work. I didn’t want to hear about all the corporate BS and I didn’t feel they wanted to hear about how glorious retirement life is. It was then that I realized we only had the job as our connecting bond.

Others have however stayed in my social circle. That is because we share outside interests.

Look at your working relationships to understand your work related friendship bonds and what it might take to keep them as close friends.

Make new friends in your retirement

Friends within your social circle outside of work should still be your friends after retirement. In fact you will have more time to be an even better friend. However if your social circle is limited or you just wish to expand it, then you should find a way to meet new people and make new friends.

Always be open to people. You never know who may be someone you really want to get to know and begin a friendship. Look at places you enjoy going where you will meet other friendly people.  Places you may frequent like the gym, church, coffee shop, volunteer activities, clubs, etc. are logical places to start expanding your social circle.

When I first retired I had few friends outside of work. But it only took a little concentrated effort to make many new friends in the town I live in.

In Closing

Most of us concentrate on all the financial aspects of retirement while we are still in the working world. From saving enough to retire to how we will handle our health insurance.

Retirement is a major life changing event. Making the Transition from Work to Retirement can be a lot easier by considering the above retirement must dos.


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Dealing With The Dreaded Question, “What Will You Do When You Retire?”

It’s always great when you finally get to the point where you can stop work and just do what you want. But after a lifetime of work, it can sometimes be a bit tricky to know what to do. What’s more, you’re constantly barraged with questions about what you are going to do by friends and family. If you don’t have a plan, it can feel a little uncomfortable.

Here, we’re going to look at how to deal with the question “what will you do when you retire?” Let’s take a look at what you can get up to.

What Will You Do When You Retire?Flickr

What Will You Do When You Retire?

Volunteer

When retirement arrives, you’re suddenly able to give more of your time to your community and good causes. There’s plenty of things that you can do. You can help out at the local library, you can mentor children, or you can join a charity. Think carefully about the type of organization that motivates you. What have you been passionate about during your life? How can you direct your efforts towards fulfilling these passions in your volunteering efforts? Perhaps you’ve always wanted to do something to combat childhood diseases. You could join a fundraising campaign for a charity that researches cures for these illnesses.

Take Up A Hobby

Retirement HobbiesFlickr

The best hobbies for retirees are those that you can do in conjunction with other people. Horse racing, for instance, is a great place to start. There’s nothing more exciting than knowing you’re going horse racing tomorrow with friends. Race day always brings a sense of energy and excitement. And you get to meet lots of interesting and talented people who share your interest. Other team activities like golf are a great option too. Why not just do both?

Start A Business

You might think that all entrepreneurs are in their 20s and 30s. But the truth is that more companies are set up by people in the 60 plus age bracket than any other. That comes as a surprise to many people, but when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. People in that age group have worked all their lives. They’ve usually got a pot of money saved up. And often, they’ve been in business for a long time. With both experience and savings, starting a business is tempting. Many people go their entire careers wishing that they could be their own boss. In fact, one of the reasons why people are so desperate to retire is so that they can escape their job, not their work.

Make Some New And Interesting Friends

Make new friends in retirementWikimedia Commons

For the last forty years, you’ve spent most of your time working. It meant that you didn’t always have much time to spend with your friends. But now that you’re retired, you’ve suddenly got a lot of time on your hands. It means that you’ve got more time to invest in the people that you know.

Retirees, however, don’t have to stick with their regular circle of friends. They can branch out and invest in relationships with people they otherwise wouldn’t have time for. Making lots of relationships like this will help you stay younger for longer.


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How to Haggle in Today’s World

Frugal living is not a part-time philosophy. Applying money-saving techniques only some of the time, or only in certain contexts, will seriously compromise your efforts to prepare for a better future, or to make the most of your retirement if you’re already there. And one way you are probably losing money is by paying full whack at the shops.

We tend to assume, in this day and age, that price tags are nonnegotiable messages from above, and that phone and internet tariffs are necessary evils. Not so. Haggling for a better price is still an effective practice in the 21st century, and if you’re not bartering down then you’re losing out.

How Should We Haggle in Today’s World?

But how to go about such an approach – how to do it politely and successfully? Well, that very politeness is the key. Nobody is under any responsibility to give you a better price, and they’re likely to walk away if you offend them or come across as self-entitled.

Better to create relationships, be it a friendly getting-to-know-you with a shop assistant who, at the end of the month, is close to hitting their bonus target if they can just manage one more sale, or a long-term understanding with the boss of an independent store in a town you’ve lived in your whole life.

Finding the right person to ask, and working out what will motivate them to lower the price, will get you a long way. This is one reason you may be better off with local retailers who have more say over what goes on in their store.

That said, if you find flawed or damaged goods in a chain store, it’s worth asking for some money off – such big businesses would rather get problem items off their hands. And when making a big purchase (for example electricals [appliances/devices] or expensive shoes) it’s worth asking for extras if you can convince them it will make the difference to whether you open your wallet.

Different contexts will require different techniques, but a great new infographic identifies some of the best ways to go about haggling in ‘real life’, over the phone and online. Have a look next time you’re planning to shop, and think about the value you can add to your lifestyle.

In Closing

Haggling is traditionally only considered when buying a car, at garage sales, or buying used items online. But there is a place for haggling in today’s world that goes beyond that.

Many of us are uncomfortable with haggling. But doing it politely can be a valuable negotiating skill for us to have in our frugal living. Anyone can learn and apply proper and basic techniques in a polite and nonabrasive way to save money. With practice we can become comfortable with it.

I want to thank Amit Raj for sharing this infographic link that shows some great ways where we can haggle in today’s world and save money.


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How to Start an Online Microbusiness on a Shoestring Budget

How to Start an Online Microbusiness on a Budget- start a microbusiness onlineImage Credit: Pixabay

Dreaming of being an online entrepreneur? Struggling to make ends meet? Here is how to start a microbusiness online, budget-style.  (If you want to learn more about setting up your first website, read this Leisurefreak guide).

Plan it all out & budget sensibly

Online markets can be volatile, and there are sneaky hidden costs out there for the unsuspecting online entrepreneur. Mitigate any chances of overspending by planning everything out in minute detail before taking the plunge. Budgeting is your friend, especially when margins are tight.

 

  • Forecasting is really important – you can learn a lot from traditional forecasting models for startups, but remember to adjust this to the online model. You will be paying out for services, not traditional business overheads; and though there’s a lot of free stuff out there – you will be hit by mounting subscription fees if you want to grow fast.
  • Map out all the different channels you are going to spend money on like web development, design, SEO, images etc. Make sure that you include timings as well as costs, as waiting around for a developer to finish when you have SEOs on standby can be expensive (and stressful). Plan extra breathing space into a development budget to allow for testing and tweaks.
  • The SaaS model can quickly add up – evaluate whether you can make do with free trials, or whether you are going to eventually end up for going for pro packages.
  • Don’t forget to include maintenance costs like hosting and content management in your plans.
  • Read the small print of everything you’ve paid for – who actually owns the website? Where is your content hosted (their server, or yours)? What happens if you want to terminate a service? What image rights have you actually got? Paying less now may end up costing you WAY more in the future.
  • Don’t try to grow too soon. The beauty of online work is that you can stay quite small as you build up funds.

Learn things for yourself

Don’t outsource if you can learn how to do things yourself.

 

There are loads of free courses out there that can help you top up your digital skillset and get more clued up on things like SEO, web design and PPC.

 

  • The main things you will benefit from learning yourself are content management and social media management. Updating your website yourself is a great thing to do and means that you have 100% control over content. Most CMSs offer extensive training packages – use them wisely. Social media management is made way easier with social media tools like Hootsuite (who also offer a certification).
  • Start learning with free online courses and certifications like HubSpot’s Inbound Certification to help you navigate the world of web promotion. There are so many free resources out there – use them to help you grow.
  • Even if you don’t learn enough to implement all the tactics yourself, you will be better at vetting suppliers, spending less money and making better business decisions.
  • Eventually, you might even be able to monetize all this learning and offer out your web services to others.

Sell things online

A great way to make money online is to take a cut of the growing ecommerce industry.

 

You don’t need a warehouse to be an ecommerce merchant; in fact, you don’t need much at all to become an ecommerce merchant (except a lot of common sense and time).

 

  • Start small and sell products that will be easy and cheap to produce and ship. If you have a specific business idea you think will work (like upcycling vintage dressers), do your market research before investing in anything. Use search engine trends and searches to give you an idea of current competition.
  • Take advantage of free trials and the digital ‘try before you buy’ mentality when choosing an ecommerce platform (like this online store free trial). Use the professional themes you get with the platform, and customize with a logo and your own imagery.
  • You can dropship products if you don’t fancy getting involved in the logistics of shipping products yourself. This essentially means re-selling other retailers’ products on and can be very lucrative if you get into the right niche.
  • Sell digital products like ebooks, webinars and worksheets from your website to cut down on production costs.

Leverage advertising & affiliate income

Use the power of advertising and affiliate marketing to earn passive income online, reinvesting it back into your microbusiness.

 

  • The beauty of running an online business (or even just a website), is that you can monetize it with ads or affiliate links.
  • Though these methods are totally legitimate, it’s important you do them in a ‘non-spammy’ way and that you always disclose any affiliate links. Make sure you aren’t negatively impacting your website’s look and feel.
  • Running a product review series is a great way to get steady affiliate income. Just remember to optimize for keywords and promote your content through social media and search engines.

Local SEO

Not all SEO is fancy with bells and whistles on.

 

Whether your business is all online, or has an offline arm, use Google maps, local listings and reviews to appear higher in search results. (Moz has some great posts on local SEO and where it’s going right now).

 

  • As a small business, take advantage of free online promotional tools like Google MyBusiness. Takes minutes to set up and has instant results.
  • List yourself on free online directories – just make sure that you keep your business and contact details consistent.
  • Register for a business address and tell Google where you are – local searches with maps attract loads of clicks (especially on mobile).
  • Ask customers for reviews and encourage them to leave them with an email or a phone call – they are a brilliant form of free online marketing that people trust.

 

We hope you’ve got some good ideas on how to manage budgets smarter when starting your online business. What online business tips have you got to share? Let us know!

 

This is a guest post by Content Marketer & Startup Specialist Kayleigh Alexandra.

Passionate about writing for the startup and entrepreneurial audience, I have recently been part of setting up an exciting project at MicroStartups.org. We donate all our website profits to charities that help people reach their full potential. Find out more on Twitter.


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