I often write on Quora.com, where I am the most viewed writer on financial matters, with over 328.3 million views in recent years.
In the answers below I focused on the following topics and issues:
- What are the countries you can retire in with less than $100k USD without investing? Is it even possible to begin with?
- Is one’s temperament more important to succeed than natural talent?
- Is it possible to earn money easily?
- What degrees do employers see as useless?
- How would I invest during the decade of 2020-2030?
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What are the countries you can retire in with less than $100k USD without investing?
It depends how long the person in question will live for.
Assuming they aren’t seriously ill, and therefore could last for a few decades, then the answer is probably nowhere.
At least that is the case if you:
- Don’t have a second income from a spouse.
- Want to live a decent quality of life which includes healthcare
- Don’t have any extra sources of income like a pension or online passive income
- Desire a “Western “ lifestyle. Many cheap countries are expensive for expats. For example, an expat focused cafe and bar like this in China will be very expensive, sometimes much more so than back home:
So, if you have $100,000 or less, usually the cheapest place to retire is your home country.
That is because you will usually be entitled to other benefits like healthcare and pensions.
What is possible is retiring overseas with less than 100k, if you have other forms of income aside from that money.
I have met countless expats on good pensions who had less than 10k in cash.
Yet they could only do that due to rental income, pensions investment or other forms of income.
Inflation will also slowly erode the 100k as well. So, proper retirement planning is needed.
Realistically, you might need to invest the 100k, add to it, and grow the pot, to be able to retire comfortably.
Some of the cheaper countries to consider are:
- Some parts of Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand in SE Asia
- Bulgaria, Poland and a few other Eastern Europe countries.
- Some parts of Mexico and Colombia.
- Turkey or Egypt in the Middle East/Greater Europe.
If you are retiring overseas, moreover, it is important to factor in inflation and currency risks.
Many places can go from cheap to expensive within one generation
Is one’s temperament more important than talent to succeed?
It isn’t often that boxers’ quotes get widely used outside the sport, but the one above gets to the point.
Every time there is an unexpected economic, business, or stock market event, some people get wobbly.
We saw that during the panic of 2020. Plenty of people panicked and got emotional.
That included people who know basic facts that stock markets have always come back.
It also included people who know, rationally speaking, that the best time to spend more on business is during a downturn.
Stocks were cheap – and a decline and a loss aren’t the same thing.
Social media ads were very cheap, even though lockdown was going to drive people to that medium. Few just stayed stoic.
Even fewer took advantage of these events. The very rational ones saw those cheap social media prices, and stock valuations, and got in there.
The emotional response was to panic, or at least “wait and see”.
So, in response to your question, somebody’s temperament or at least ability to control their natural personality can sometimes be more important to success.
Not always though. If you want to be a sports star, you need some natural talent to even get on the pitch.
In many other domains as well, you do need a certain base level of talent.
Yet we live in a competitive world. So, what often separates the total performers in business, sports, or other domains, is mental toughness.
In investing, we often aren’t competing against other people. If I buy the S&P500 ETF, and so do you, we can both make money.
Yet what separates the best investors isn’t knowledge, natural talent, or connections.
It is emotions. This quote sums it up:
What is even more difficult is having a consistently good temperament.
Many people get lazy or complacent after being successful for a period of time.
What are some easy methods of making money in 2020?
We are now in 2021, but I am sure my answer will still apply in 2041.
Let’s start with three basic facts:
- Everybody wants to make money, whatever they say. That doesn’t mean everybody is materialistic, but it does mean that almost everybody wants to make money.
- Human nature doesn’t like hassles. So, even though everybody wants to make money, many people don’t want to take big risks, or make huge sacrifices. Therefore, if there was a simple and easy way to make loads of money, everybody would do it. In comparison, if there is a way to make money with bigger risks and hassles, then fewer people will try
- Easy and simple aren’t the same thing
In terms of the third point, I would focus on things which are simple but not easy.
Let me give you some examples
Investing is simpler than people think. That doesn’t mean it is easy as per Buffett’s quote below.
It is emotionally difficult to have to watch your portfolio fluctuate.
Many people know this and say things like “such and such person is a multi-millionaire but all he has done is buy assets for decades and held onto them”.
It is true. Most people can buy say an MSCI World or S&P5000 index fund and become one of those everyday millionaires.
That doesn’t mean everybody will do it. Most people either never start, or they do start and stop once there is a crash.
So, it is emotionally difficult. Only the ultra patient are rewarded.
Another example would be traditional ways of doing business.
I personally know many middle-aged and older people in my network who are worth a lot of money, and started decades ago using techniques like cold calling and door-to-door sales.
This was back in the days when it was more profitable than now, and less associated with scams.
They would sell legitimate products by playing the numbers game.
99% of people would refuse. They would treat the 1% well, upsell them and ask for referrals.
Eventually, they got strong enough to employ others and scale it.
Even today, many of the biggest recruitment and real estate firms started in this way.
It is a very simple task, but few want to do it as it isn’t easy from an emotional point of view to always get rejected.
Likewise, looking at loads of data also isn’t interesting. It is boring, just like buy and hold investing.
Yet some of the biggest YouTubers today, like Tai Lopez, got big by detecting a mispricing of ads many years ago.
So, the point is, you don’t need to have a high IQ, or very high skills, to make money.
Yet if you are willing to do what others won’t do, which typically means taking more risks or doing more mundane and boring things, you can get rewarded.
Many people want those “sexy” jobs in Silicon Valley, or even normal stable jobs.
Fewer people want to make money starting a business in recycling human waste!
Why does the price of Facebook’s stock keep dropping?
It is fascinating doing what I do.
You see the same recurrent stories, worries, and concerns.
People worried about the 2016 US election. Markets went up. Then they worried about the 2020 election.
They worried about the US government shutdown in 2018–2019. Then markets went up.
The same people were worried just last week about the latest possible shutdown.
Now this very question was asked in 2016. Facebook’s stock was at about $119 at the time.
It was going through a rocky patch. Now it is at $323, which is a fall from $376.
Now many people are asking if Facebook is in decline and even a dying company, after the latest scandal involving a whistleblower.
However, the concern about an individual share like Facebook is a more rational worry than people who are concerned about the general health of the stock market.
Stocks do rise, fall and even go to zero, as per Lehman Brothers and many others, whilst the general market has always risen.
Facebook is facing many headwinds including
- Enhanced regulations
- Worries about how social media is affecting people’s mental health and democracy
- New competition, such as TikTok
- Concerns about privacy and data protection
- Possible global minimum taxes on large corporations with revenues of about 750 million a year.
- They make so much money from ads, but some users want more control over what they are shown, as concerns about algorithms grow.
- Users globally have increased, but the number of people posting less, and spending fewer hours on the website and app, has increased.
- Like all huge companies, growing as a bigger company is more difficult compared to the early days.
Against that, we aren’t in 1999–2000 anymore. Technology is a big part of our lives.
Just look at what happened last week. Facebook and WhatsApp went down for hours.
As I explained below, this lead to some businesses losing thousands from not having ads up, and not being able to contact customers on WhatsApp and Messenger.
The point is, technology is now essential in many parts of life.
Even as recently as 2007–2008 it was used mainly by kids and young people.
It is now used by most generations and countless businesses.
So, I am not saying that Facebook will beat the S&P500. Nor am I saying it won’t even decline permanently.
Most firms die eventually. That is why capitalism and the stock markets tend to get stronger over time – the young and hungry “kill” the old firms that won’t innovate.
Facebook Netflix and other relatively new firms did that themselves to the old guard relatively recently.
But my sense is that Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and other big tech firms are here to stay for at least a decade or more.
What is more, Facebook could continue to focus on acquisitions, and strengthen the group even if the core product gets weaker over time.
Either way, I wouldn’t focus on these short-term fluctuations.
What degrees do employers think are totally useless?
I think it is wrong to say that certain subjects are worthless. What has become more important, for entry-level jobs, is:
- Where you have studied
- What trade you have got
Take the UK as an example. If you get a 1 (the top grade in the system) in art from Oxford, you have a superior chance of getting a job compared to obtaining a 3 from a minor university.
Many employees say they will only accept applications from people with the top two grades – 1 and 2:1.
Some go further and say candidates need a 2:1 or 1 from a top-tier university.
Apart from smaller firms that can’t train people up, few firms aren’t at least open to getting an application from somebody who is inside the top 5%.
There is a reason for this. The biggest indications of early success is often just cognitive intelligence and conscientiousness.
I can remember I read a study from one of the big 4 accountancy firms, which showed that those who got geography and history degrees outperformed all others in terms of passing professional qualifications at age 24–25.
Once somebody has at least five years of experience, what you study becomes much less important.
If somebody can show that they produce results, then many doors open up. I don’t hire new grads.
However, when I hire experienced people, I don’t even look at whether they went to university.
There is a difference, however, between Western and non-Western countries.
In many countries outside the West, what you study and where can be much more important.
How would you invest during the decade of the 2020s?
As per the quote above about the more things change, the more they stay the same, it is a mistake to think “this time is different.
Or “this decade is different”. Does anybody remember January 1, 2010?
At that time, the US stock markets had a lost decade. The general sentiment was:
- Markets could have a weak decade
- Emerging markets would outperform
- Gold and commodities would do well
- The Eurozone area could collapse
- Inflation would skyrocket due to QE and high oil prices. See an example of the media’s hype around this time:
- The USD would get weaker
- Many people were worried about markets falling back down again. Stocks hit rock bottom in March 2009 when valuations were dirt cheap. Plenty of people worried about “the Dow going below 10,000 again”. Indeed it did go below 10,000 later in 2010
What has happened since? Well:
- The USD has strengthened. Not every year, but that has been the general trend. The Eurozone hasn’t collapsed. Emerging market currencies have been the big losers
- The Dow hit 35k relatively recently
- Commodities have performed poorly for the most part. Oil, silver, and gold are below their 2010–2011 real-term prices
- Most of all tried and tested techniques like buy and hold, being diversified, and so on, has worked a treat
I don’t see those tried and tested ways of growing and preserving wealth failing to work in the 2020s.
There is room for doing things differently now government bonds pay little.
That doesn’t mean things have fundamentally changed.
Somebody who invests today, and keeps investing whenever they have money either monthly or yearly, will do fine long-term.
Those who are least likely to do well will always change strategy, and listen to the media, especially every time stocks fall in value.
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