Why Do I Have To Rent A Scooter Next Week?

When my wife and I are about to take a holiday, we’re very selective about asking our colleagues for hotel recommendations. 

We live in Singapore, a haven-like jumping point for delicious trips into the exotic locales of Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia or India.

My colleagues (as well as my wife and I) are prolific travellers, and as school teachers, we get plenty of time off every year.  But like I said, we don’t generally ask our closest friends (in Singapore) for hotel or itinerary suggestions when heading off into the wild frontier.

Why Not?

True, they earn the same salaries my wife and I do, but most of them spend with a high-rolling capacity that could nearly satisfy Paris Hilton.  Despite being able to keep up with them financially, we choose not to. 

 True, we do work with teachers who are frugal…I’d even call some of them cheap.  I know of one couple in their 50s that only stays at hostels.  But the majority live lifestyles akin to the rich and famous.

This week, I’ll be attending the EARCOS conference in Borneo,  where hundreds of expatriate teachers will convene to attend a variety of professional development workshops.

The head of the conference asked me to deliver an investment seminar.  So my wife and I will be flying to Borneo tomorrow morning.  Since we don’t have to be there until Thursday, we’ll take a 3 hour bus ride to Northern Borneo, then take a boat to an idyllic island, where we’ve booked accommodation costing roughly $35 U.S. a night.  In Malaysia, that kind of money can get you a pretty decent place.

After a few days of scuba diving, snorkelling, relaxing and exploring, we’ll head south to the conference—taking the same three hour bus ride back to Kota Kinabalu.

That’s when we’ll be settling into a resort that can put Beverly Hills to shame. It’s the site of our conference.  And luckily for us, our school is footing the bill.

This is the sort of place that many of our colleagues frequent on holidays.  It’s beautiful. But I think it’s isolated.

That’s why we’ll probably rent a scooter.

When you’re stuck at an isolated “high-roller” resort, you might need to take out a mortgage for a meal.  And if you’re there for a few days, like we will be, you can come home with a visa bill in the nosebleed section of a hockey arena…even if the hotel room itself is free.

Sure, we’ll probably fork out the money for a meal or two at this plush resort….just to be social.

But we’ll have the scooter as an auxiliary.  With no plebeian eateries near the royal grounds, we’ll be forced to ride a few miles from the palace.  But it’s a heck of a lot better than the alternative.  Sidestepping excessive costs is one way to ensure that you won’t have to work until you’re 80.

What about you?

Do you have friends you can’t financially keep pace with?  And how do you get around that?

Andrew Hallam

I’m a financial columnist for Canada’s national paper, The Globe and Mail, as well as for AssetBuilder, a financial service firm based in Texas. I’m also the author of Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School and Millionaire Expat: How To Build Wealth Living Overseas. My mission is to educate, motivate and inspire people on basic retirement planning and best practices for investing, using evidence-based strategies. I'm happy to comment on your questions.

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7 Responses

  1. Think Dividends says:

    I stayed at Sutera Harbour last summer while in Kota Kinabalu. The place is amazing. We paid $110 / night for a deluxe room with a sea view. The food at Sutera was amazing. We went to the indian restaurant and it was the best indian meal I ever had (and a bargain compared to indian restaurants in Canada). Another great meal we had at Sutera was a seaside barbeque. They limited it to 12 people per night (because the beach section was tiny) and we stuffed ourselves on lobster, shrimp, red snapper, rack of lamb and beef filet mignon for about $20 Canadian per person.

    We also spent a couple of nights in another hotel on the main street of KK, but the extra $$$ to stay at Sutera was totally worth it.

  2. Think Dividends says:

    Here's the link to the indian restaurant: Spice Island


    • Hey Think Dividends,

      We enjoyed your recommendation to eat at Spice Island! And you were right; it wasn't too costly. It's so ironic that you selected our restaurant for us, all the way from Canada. One thing I really enjoyed also, which surprised me, was that lunches were included while we were at the conference. And on two occasions, so was dinner! I think there were two days when we didn't have to spend a penny. Needless to say, we were surprised by that.

  3. Hey Think Dividends,

    I can't believe it! You're giving me dinner recommendations for tonight, from halfway around the globe. OK–we are going to check out that Indian restaurant.

    Thanks for that!!!

    And hey, best of all is the free ride into town that leaves every half hour. No need to rent a scooter!

  4. Hope you enjoy the trip and have fun at the event, Andrew!

    Just watch out for crazy drivers… though, I drove a scooter in Nha Trang and survived. 😛

  5. woody says:

    Unfortunately I see far too many of these sam e teachers at my school. We have a large contingent of self proclaimed, "Five Star Girls" who refuse to stay anywhere less than that. My wife and I recently decided to politely excuse ourselves from one of these ladies birthday parties after discovering it would be a $100.00 A PLATE evening…..

    How do these people plan on retiring? Planning is such an important part of an international teacher's career, it simply astounds me that so few of our fellow IT's plan for their future.

    As a side note, we also enjoyed EARCOS. The local market at the end of the waterfront had some of the best seafood my wife and I have ever eaten. The low plastic chairs and tarp roof added a special ambience to our exquisitely cheap meal!

    • Hey Woody,

      Of course, I entirely agree with you. Many expatriate teachers spend far too much. Here's a bit of perspective. A 58 year old British Columbia teacher can retire after 32 years of service, with a pension of roughly $50,000 a year. That same teacher will generally own a home, outright, upon retirement. That same teacher will also have an RRSP (retirement account) amounting to something in the lower six figures (say, $150,000 or so) If they are married to another teacher, who earns a $25,000 pension, that puts their pension income at $75,000 annually. If they draw 4% each year from their RRSP, that gives them another $6000 per year, or a retirement income totalling about $81,000–not including what they'll eventually get for old age security.

      That pension will also adjust itself with inflation.

      An international teaching couple, to put themselves in the same position, will likely require a house that's paid off, and an investment account of roughly $1.4 million (at age 58).

      If they buy a fixed insurance annuity, indexed to inflation, they'll need to give the company that $1.4 million, and they'd get roughly 6% on that money, based on something close to the going rate.

      But few international teachers in their mid 50s have $1.4 million. For some, their schools haven't paid them enough to build that kind of capital. For others, as you mention, they've been living the high life and they've delluded themsleves into thinking they can afford it.

      All we can do, Woody, is try to convince young international teachers to start looking at their retirement from the moment they arrive on the international scene. I do believe that you can travel, live reasonably well, and come out ahead of our home country teachers (financially) after teaching overseas. But sadly, most international teachers haven't figured out how to do that.

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