- Arts, entertainment and weekend getaways
We’ve chosen to live in Penang, Malaysia’s second largest population center. While not as glamorous or exciting as the big city, Penang offers a more laid back environment and enough festivals, nightlife, concerts and entertainment to keep any expat occupied all year-long. Only a few hours away, Kuala Lumpur hosts world-class events from Grand Prix to pop superstar concerts and the nearby island of Langkwai is a mostly undiscovered gem, offering Bali-like beauty at deep discounts.
Bastardization of the English language irritates wordsmiths like me. Surprisingly, one of the best parts of Malaysia is the lack of a language barrier. Although Malay is the official tongue, almost everyone speaks English and strangely, most Facebook pages, websites and restaurant menus have better punctuation than most places in America. Experiencing a completely foreign culture without the need for Rosetta Stone is an enormous bonus for us. Unlike Thailand, signage is universally English, albeit filled with difficult pronunciations for an American.
Exactly one year ago, our lives changed with an unexpected layoff. Accelerating early retirement by as much as five years, we began preparations for the eventual move as early as 18 months ahead. Financially speaking, it made no sense applying for the MM2H Visa ahead of my 50th birthday since the requirements listed above double for applicants under 50. Even with the “recovery” it often takes a year or more for workers in their prime to find new employment and honestly, I didn’t make much of an effort having enjoyed a 150% increase in net worth over the current year bull market run.
Focusing on all the semantics, I’ve handled all the paperwork, investing, budgeting and household chores while my wife struggles through her commute for six more months. Utilizing one of the world’s best expat forums ever, we contacted and met a Malaysian living and working in the USA that owns a condo in the exact apartment complex we’ve been eyeing in Penang. Agreeing to rent us the unit ahead of time, it appeared we’d only have to close escrow, send off one LCL (less than container) load from San Francisco and hop on a plane.
Suffering our first setbacks before even arriving, the forum administrator shut it down after eight years and then our would-be landlord changed his mind. Homeless once again, it’s my job to research another housing option, make sure we’re properly invested and find a real estate agent willing to drum up multiple offers on the house. Did I mention the plan involves living entirely on the proceeds of the house for 10 to 15 years and hoping the retirement accounts grow sufficiently enough to take it from there? Assuming my prowess as a self-directed investor with 30 years of financial industry experience taught me something, early retirement looms on the horizon and that’s an accomplishment by itself. Becoming an expat just adds to the fun.
With 168 days remaining until we file the MM2H paperwork, I’m crossing my fingers and hoping our giant leap of faith turns out for the best.
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