Thailand is one of my favorite countries.
Pele and I love the food, the people, the winding mountain roads, the beaches and the amazingly cheap massages.
But we’re still 7 countries away from arriving in Thailand. Before we fly to the land of smiles, I’ll be speaking in Bahrain, Egypt, Oman, Kuwait, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia.
On Tuesday, March 8th, I spoke at one of the most beautiful campuses I’ve ever seen, The American University of Sharjah.
At first, we didn’t know where to go. But the students had created signs for us to follow.
I spoke to a group of finance students and faculty. The students appealed to my “work less, live more” philosophy. They asked great questions, many of which were finance related, but most (after the talk) were about my lifestyle.
They asked, “How much money did you start with when you began investing?” Answer = $100.
“Why don’t we learn to invest our personal money when we get a degree in finance?” Answer= Great question. I have absolutely no idea.
Our schedule has been hectic. But so far, we’re enjoying it.
I’m speaking five times a week–every week. It’s always somewhere different.
Here’s a sample of what we’re doing, I thought I would give a rundown on today: Wednesday, March 8, 2017.
Most mornings, I exercise. I usually alternate a run with some (extremely ungraceful) core and upper body exercises.
If I can find a tree, a park bench or a pull-up bar, I’m ready to frighten people. “Stay away from that strange man, Timmy. He’s too old to be playing on monkey bars.”
After grunting away on a bar, I ran a couple of loops around the Desert Palm area of Dubai.
It was just the horses, the sand, the polo fields and a skinny white bald guy.
After showering and eating, we got ready to pack for Bahrain. I wear the black and white dress when nobody can see me.
We no longer put my detailed speaking schedule online. There’s a really strange reason for that.
The Middle East is filled with British salespeople who like to sell ridiculously expensive investment platforms.
These platforms aren’t legal in most developed world markets.
A long-term structured savings scheme, such as the common ones sold here, aren’t legal in Canada, the U.S., the UK, Australia, or most other developed world markets. Such regulations are tighter.
But anything goes in the Middle East.
Speaking to British expats breaks my heart. Almost all of them own these platforms. They cost investors about 4.5 percent per year in investment fees.
They can’t usually sell before a pre-determined date (often 25 years away) without paying a massive penalty.
In some cases, the early redemption penalties cost 80 percent or more of the portfolio’s value. I have yet to see one of these policies beat inflation over a period of 10 years or longer.
Matthew Bachus works at GEMS American Academy in Dubai.
He recently received an email from a representative of deVere. The salesperson offered Matthew a vacation for two to the Maldives in exchange for ten names and phone numbers.
That easily beats the iPads offered to teachers at Abu Dhabi’s Brighton College. But then again, they only had to supply the contact details of six friends to their deVere representative. And expats wonder why the phone calls keep coming!
Here’s why the investment sales representatives are offering iPads and free trips to the Maldives.
If a broker convinces someone to invest $2000 a month into one of these 25-year policies, the broker will receive an upfront commission of $24,000 as soon as the contractual ink dries. They share that commission with their brokerage.
Perhaps you can see why these brokers don’t like me. No, I don’t exercise daily to fight these guys. But it helps if I can outrun them.
When my schedule was online, brokers started to call and email the establishments where I was scheduled to speak. Here’s a sample of an email they sent a school. “I hear that Andrew Hallam will be speaking at your school. I’m just emailing to inform you that Mr. Hallam is a con man. He’s broke. He’s a fraud. He just wants your money. Don’t let him in the door.”
At noon, on March 8th, Pele and I arrived at the Dubai airport to take a flight to Bahrain.
I just follow Pele, so I don’t get lost. She says I need a leash.
That night, I spoke to teachers at the Riffa Views International School in Bahrain. Today, I’ll be speaking to their students, while giving another teacher-talk in the evening.
The following day, we’ll board another airplane.
After Bahrain, we have just six countries to go, before we get to Thailand.