Recently Fired? Why not Escape to Vietnam?

Vietnam is a great place to visit in Southeast Asia. If you’ve recently lost your job and are watching your budget, you’ll find Vietnam a very affordable place to stay for a good while and soak up asian culture.

Delicious and healthy pho is plentiful from a variety of street vendors at prices that are a steal. Vietnam is also known for a special type of “egg coffee”. I ate most meals in Hanoi for a price of around $1 to $2. Good luck finding meals for that price in the US! Vietnam is a destination that promises fun, affordability, and culture.

Pho for lunch in Hanoi, Vietnam
Coffee in Hanoi, Vietnam
Vietnamese Egg Coffee at a charming little cafe in Hanoi, Vietnam.

If you’re an American that has traveled abroad to several countries you’ll know that there’s a good list of countries Americans can visit with no visa. They will typically allow you to arrive and simply fill out visa on arrival paperwork and you’ll be on your way through the immigration gates to explore a new world. 

Getting a Vietnam VISA

The Vietnam visa process is a bit more complicated. If you’ve done a bit of research online, you may be asking yourself “How do I get a Vietnam Visa on arrival?”

My initial research seemed to provide some conflicting answers so I’ll break out your options clearly. Here’s an overview based on my experience and a fair amount of research to combat the confusion.

Hanoi Streets
The Streets of Hanoi are lively and busy

From my research, I discovered you have two main recommended choices on how to go about getting your Vietnam Visa.

One Country. Two recommended Visa Options

Visa Options for Vietnam

  1. Get an E-Visa

    For many, the best option is to first get an E-Visa. You need to go to the official Vietnam embassy website to get an e-visa. This can take a few days. 

    It’s relatively simple and will cost you just $25 for the e-visa. (It’s worth noting that there are several companies (some reputable some not) that have websites that seem to misrepresent themselves as representing Vietnam.)

    The above site is the true Vietnam embassy site and the only one qualified to issue an e-visa directly. It seems like a great option as long as you have time. If you’re in a hurry, then you may want to consider the “visa on arrival” option below.

  2. Visa on Arrival

    The alternative option is the Visa on Arrival option. If you aren’t a planner and your trip is in a day or two, you’ll probably need to do this option.
    To get a visa on arrival, you’ll need a letter of approval from a travel company and pick up your visa at the airport. You’ll want to work with a company that can get you a letter of approval very quickly, often within one day depending on the company. There are several sites and companies that provide this service. See below for my experience using one.

    Disclaimer: It’s also possible to go to the Vietnam embassy in your home country but I’ve been advised that this method can actually be quite costly. E-Visa is my method of choice.

Getting a Letter of Approval Notes

For option two,”visa on arrival”, there are a variety of sites that can assist with option three. With this option, you’ll pay a fee that varies for your approval letter. And then you’ll also need to pay for your visa on arrival.

This is the best option if you don’t have much time. This means after disembarking from the plane you’ll go to the visa area and you’ll probably need to wait a bit for them to review your letter of approval then process and issue the visa. 

You’ll need to pay $25US or $520,000 Dong to get your actual visa. In my experience, we needed to wait about 30 minutes to get the visa processed and then we were free to head out and explore the exciting things to do in Hanoi

My experience with getting a letter of approval

We chose Vietnam Visa Pro to get our letter of approval. The approval letter really just acts as a sort of required first step to getting your visa on arrival. I’m not being compensated for this review so it’s unbiased. 

The price was good. I got expedited service to get the letter of approval in a day for around $11. It came the next day in an email by PDF.

It should be noted there are several companies that run websites that do this. These sites aren’t government organizations but rather they are companies that are qualified to create your approval letter to make you eligible to get your Visa on arrival. You can’t get a visa on arrival without an approval letter so it’s a necessary step for the third option

Getting Around in Vietnam

It’s worth noting that as of December 2018, Uber is no longer available in South East Asia, including Vietnam. A nice alternative we discovered is Grab which is an Uber-like service. Sign up for Grab here, and get discounted rides. Or you can simply type in referral code: grabqnjfwbw4

Experiencing Vietnam Culture at Home

If you’re currently not up for the challenge of the long flight to get to Vietnam but still would like to try their amazing coffee, you can purchase it on Amazon here:

Once you have this you can easily make some Vietnamese style egg coffee by following instructions on youtube. Here’s a good tutorial. 

If you speak Chinese, here’s a great page to get info on the Vietnam Visa process.

Southern Taiwan

Taking a Vacation After Getting Fired

Modern life often has us on a treadmill that can make enjoying life a challenge. Our time typically falls into two categories throughout our careers. Gross oversimplification, but I’m talking about time employed and time unemployed. But there is a third category that arises once every few years for many people.


“Time employed” is the default state of most adult lives with respect to where their time goes.  You may have the money to live and enjoy life, but you don’t have the time. Even if you secure the time with an approved vacation, the time is often limited. Many office workers these days are uncomfortable taking more than 5 consecutive days off at a time. 

Digital Colouring Exercise (Woman Computer with Microscope and Calculator)
Time to update our work culture.

This is at least partially for fear of losing their job. “If the company can get by without me for two weeks, maybe they’ll realize they don’t really need me” the thinking goes. The other rationale seems to be with keeping up the image and playing the game so to speak.

Even if you are brave and make your happiness and health a priority securing an extended two-week vacation,  there is unintended baggage coming with you on your travels.   Whether you check your luggage or do carry-on you’ll likely be bringing an unintended co-passenger; Workplace stress.

Even on a vacation, it takes some time to let go, unwind and truly relax. Even if you can relax and let it go, in the back of your mind is the knowledge that when you return, you’ll have 500 emails to catch up with and the dreaded return to the daily grind awaits.

Time off is great but it often creates a backlog of work that needs to be done when you return. A vacation is great but is there a better way? I think so. But first, let’s discuss the other time period.


You’re unemployed. At last, you finally have some free time to come and go as you please. You can truly let go of all your work stresses and enjoy life. Travel and exploration is a possibility. Right?

Well, that would be the case except for one thing. You’ve likely occupied with finding your next job. You spend your days sending resumes, scheduling interviews, re-writing the resume. Good times for sure.

And while the free time being unemployed provides is great, it’s just not the time most of us feel comfortable spending any money since our next pay date is likey unknown.


Except for when we do know. This is what we might refer to as a golden time in life.  The time when you’ve secured a new job but have not yet started.  You’re not tied down to employment but you almost certainly have a paycheck in your near future.   This time period can vary significantly but it’s usually between one week and a month by my estimates.

If there was ever a time to celebrate it’s in these two to four week period of employment limbo.

Here’s what I’m saying: Savor this time. It’s doesn’t typically happen so frequently in life for most of us. The time where you’re unencumbered by the constraints of current employment, yet secure in your career and financial future with a signed offer letter. Do all you can to stretch this time out as much as possible.  If there was ever a time to celebrate it’s in this two to four weeks employment limbo.

Good fortune has shined on me as I have a free weeks before my next work project so travel will follow. I’ll post my findings with pics.


A night in Vancouver.

Some time in Taiwan

Some time in Hanoi, Vietnam

photo credit: pni Digital Colouring Exercise (Woman Computer with Microscope and Calculator) via photopin(license)

Breaking Job Interview Rules and Still Getting Hired.

Well, one of the ideas of this blog has been validated.    Getting canned can often result in putting you in a better situation in the long run.   It took less than three weeks from my termination date, but I’ve now got a contract with a new employer that on first appearances seems to be better.  But what’s interesting is that I’ve broken a few of the supposed rules of interviewing and still go the job.

Rule #1 You Need A High- Quality Well fitting tailored suit.

Our consumer culture would have us believe that we ought to spend probably somewhere between $500 to $1,500 for a quality suit and have it tailored to present an excellent fit in order to showcase our best selves.   My theory was that the value of expensive suiting up is WAY overstated.   In reality, I believe you need only to present as well groomed, clean, and basically not stick out with any egregious fashion mistakes.   Don’t show up to an interview with khakis and short sleeve dress shirt for example.

So what did I wear?   Well…unfortunately, my previous years of sitting in the office caused some weight gain and I no longer fit in the fancy tailored suit I bought just about 5 years ago.    I didn’t really have the time nor the inclination to drop $700 on a new suit and wait for the fitting.   So I went to my local JC Penny’s.   I found a plain black suit jacket and pants for around $160.   The fit was…ummm…not horrible.  But definitely not ideal.   The material was ok.    It was just good enough to not stick out and be embarrassing but I’m sure a super in the know fashionista could rip me to shreds.  But that’s the point.  I’m not trying to impress someone from GQ.  I’m trying to have a conversation about my skillset.

waking up
Getting up early for an interview after not working was difficult.  Disclaimer:  I’m not this pretty.

The Shoes

If you’re going to invest somewhere, shoes might be the place.   A good quality pair of dress shoes are worth spending on and maintaining.  It occurred to me when putting on my shoes, that I’ve used these shoes for previous interviews and just a few formal events going back all the way to 2004.   Yeah.   I guess that makes these shoes 14 years old.  And they’ve held up well (not wearing too often will help with that).   If you’re curious these shoes are a pair of Cole Haan’s.

The Tie

The Tie is your chance to shine and another place where you might want to invest a little.   I think it makes more sense to have a nice pair of shoes that last and a quality tie for maybe $65 than to spend a grand on a suit.   Make sure it matches your shirt well.

Rule #2 Have a Well Prepared Story about How it Ended with Past Job.

Truthfully it didn’t really even come up.  I glossed over it at one point.   After four years at my previous employer, it was time to move on.    The reality is, an intelligent manager knows that sometimes employees get fired for reasons that aren’t entirely their own fault.    They were a whistleblower and called out bad behavior at a previous employer, they stood up to inept management, they rocked the boat politically and their behavior highlighted revealed another employee’s inefficient process.   It needn’t be a death sentence for the career.  It could just be the universes pushing you along to where you should be next.

Rule #3 Bring in a Fancy Notepad Portfolio

I actually forgot a notepad and borrowed a simple notepad from the contracting consultant that presented me to the client.   Wasn’t an issue.

 Knowing your field well is going to help you out a lot more than your choice of pinstripe or solid suit color.

The bottom line here is that for most positions that aren’t image sensitive (sales, modeling, politics) content trumps treating the interview like a fashion show.   Knowing your field well is going to help you out a lot more than your choice of pinstripe or solid suit color.  Whether to tie a traditional or Windsor knot.   But yeah these things don’t hurt.


Old man

3 Reasons Your Office Job is Killing You.

Have you ever taken a look at some of the folks that have hung around an office a bit too long and made it all the way to traditional retirement age?   It’s not always a pretty sight.  Maybe getting fired from your job is a blessing in disguise.   Work takes its toll.  Decades of sitting at a desk for 8 to 9 hours a day does things to your posture.  The endless motivational office sweets result in extra pounds.

Not good for the physique.  Let’s look at ways office life is slowly killing you.

Sitting all Day

You typical office job will have you at a desk for about 8 to 9 hours a day with maybe a few brief moments of activity for bathroom breaks or to go to a meeting.   Taking lunch is an option typically available, but these days a lot of office workers are too focused on “Being a Brand Ambassador” for the company and maintaining that image of not lifting your nose from the grindstone.   Setting aside the fact that this often isn’t worth it from a pay perspective, we also ought to consider the additional cost to our health.

Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present;
the result being that he does not live in the present or the future;
he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” -Ghandi

Mayo Clinic reports risks from sitting include:

  • cardiovascular problems
  • obesity
  • posture problems

If you must continue to grind it out at the office, do everything you can to get up and walk around as much as possible.  Frequent breaks and trips to the restroom are a strategy.   Get out and walk during lunch.   Some coworkers and your boss could judge you but it’s your body and it’s your right and responsibility to move around and stay healthy.   What’s the worst that can happen?  They might fire you.  Well, you could file for unemployment.


Lack of exercise

It’s true that work doesn’t take up all your waking hours.  So we can all exercise after work right?   Well, work can take up more then you think.   While we might be at work for 8 to 9 hours, other work-related things are grabbing a bit more of our time.

  • From the time you wake up until you arrive at work, you’re typically spending your time in preparation of work.  Showering, shaving, making yourself pretty.   Getting in a quick breakfast if there’s time and then hitting the road to do battle with traffic in order to arrive at your palace of productivity.    The time required for this typically ranges from around 30 minutes to two hours for most of us.   It’s not so easy to squeeze in exercise during this time, but if you can you’ll be better off
  • After work ends, we’ve got the dreaded 5 o’clock traffic commute home which can range from 20 minutes to an hour for most.   After this, there’s some time for exercise but most will be ready to make or buy dinner.

Exercise isn’t impossible here but the point, I’m getting at is that we often dedicate around 10 to 11 hours a day towards doing our office job and then the few hours left before bed have left us needing some time to unwind, relax, or enjoy ourselves which makes exercise fall off the list of priorities.

The Office Diet

Looking around many offices, you’ll see….well…not the same levels of health you’ll find from swimsuits.   Different shapes and sizes and lumps right?    It’s mostly attributed to the office diet.   Quick lunches from fast food drive-throughs.   Bringing processed crappy food.   Snacking from vending machines.   And of course, the infamous office snacks that are typically brought:  Cake, muffins, chocolate, candies, etc etc.


So What to do?

How can we maintain good health while working in an office?   Well if you’ve recently been fired, this is at least something you can be happy about.  You’ll no longer be sitting down for eight hours a day letting the body fall apart.    Get out and exercise and move around.   Spend your days cooking healthy food and enjoying your day.   But for the rest of us.. here are just a few ideas.

Compression Socks

It could be time to consider some countermeasures.   Have you ever heard of compression socks?   Images of old men with socks pulled up to their knees come to mind.   Well, these socks are designed to basically be very tight and the pressure they exert on the lower legs improves blood pressure and prevents clouting while improving circulation around the body.  This is especially helpful if you’re having to sit for 8 hours a day.  They’re also great for if you’re traveling long distances by planes.   They actually don’t have to be styled like old man socks and professional runners wear them as well.  (This made me feel a bit less old about getting a pair..ohh shoot did I just tell people I own a pair..err).  Here’s what they look like and where to get a good priced pair at Amazon.

Take Walks

It kind of goes without saying, but put yourself first.   Without regard to what your company cultures likes, get up as often as feasible to walk around.  Walk on your lunch.   Hit the bathroom or go to meetings as much as your freedom allows.


Consider a standing desk.

These days companies are a bit more concerned about their employee’s health. (Or concerned about potential future backlash and lawsuits by neglecting health.) .  There is at least some chance your employer may provide you with a standing desk.   If they don’t there’s still the option of purchasing one for your home so at least you can do some computer work while standing.   Reasonable options exist.

Say “NO” to the Office Sweets

It takes willpower but the sugary snacks most offices promote to pick you up in the afternoon cost you in terms of weight gain and health decline.    Bring some healthy food to snack on instead.  It will improve your health and probably be better for your pocketbook as well.

Consider Freelancing

Consider freelancing as you move towards achieving FI.   There’s still money to be made from blogging also.  I’m three months into it and have generated a few hundred dollars so far.

Move your money

Need to Rollover a 401k? Consider This.

If you’ve recently lost your job and have money in a 401k, there’s a good chance you may want to roll that money over to a new broker with more options. These days robo-advisors are a popular choice to automate investing and that can make saving for retirement easier. You just set it and forget it.

There’s a good selection of brokers in the “Robo-Advisor” market these days and most are a good choice for a rollover.  Wealthfront and Betterment were among the first.   Vanguard has an offering.  Fidelity and Schwab do as well.    I’ve even read recently that E*Trade has jumped on the bandwagon.   I have experience with Wealthfront and Betterment and I don’t really have any complaints.

mutual funds are forced to periodically realize capital gains which creates a taxable event in a non-retirement account

It’s About Cutting Fees

The reason for the growth of this style of investing is clear.   It automates something in a cost-efficient way.     Vanguard has become very popular in recent years for their low-cost expense ratio ETF’s and mutual funds.   And you can invest in a mutual fund that is managed and forget about it.   But one issue is that from time to time, mutual funds are forced to periodically realize capital gains which create a taxable event in a non-retirement account.    Your fund will typically distribute a capital gain only to then turn around and reinvest it.   And you pay taxes on that capital gain.

One way to avoid the forced capital gain is to use ETF’s.  The only issue is that if you invest in ETF’s like the famous “3 fund portfolio”, you kinda need to manage it.   A typical setup might be 33% Bond, 33% Total Stock Index and 34% International.

Three Fund Portfolio
Vanguard Three Fund portfolio courtesy of

For your initial setup, this isn’t terribly difficult, but EVERY TIME YOU PUT MORE MONEY IN (or withdrawal) you need to allocate the shares and asset allocation properly.    If you’re doing a weekly deposit, this is going to require a bit of calculation every week to calculate it down to the share.  And you can’t do fractional shares without a robo-advisor.

Bring in the ROBO-ADVISORS.

You simply make your deposit and the algorithm buys in accordance with your desired portfolio allocation.   If the bond market is down you’ll be buying and getting the cheaper shares.  If stocks are a bit high, you’ll be buying a bit less in order to bring your portfolio into balance.

This is what Robo-Advisors do and this is a fine application of technology and the algorithm.   But there’s just one little thing.  They do it for a small fee.

Bring in M1 Finance

Now, you could certainly make the debate that the fee other brokers charge is reasonable and worth it.   Intelligently maintaining the portfolio balance could give you an edge of .25% vs blind buying at a fixed allocation.   And you could also make the argument that the time saved is worth something.    But there’s an army of Vanguard soldiers that simply aren’t hearing it.  And with good reason.   Even a fraction of a percentage compounding over time adds up.  This is where M1 Finance wins.   It’s simply FREE.

If you remove the cost of the Robo-Advisor, it’s kind of hard to make an argument AGAINST using one at least for taxable accounts.    Now to be fair, I think for a retirement account you’re probably fine with just using a typical retirement target fund.  They realize capital gains but it’s not a taxable event so it doesn’t matter in a retirement account.   But for taxable accounts with free management… why not?

Initial impressions

I signed up for an account to check out M1 Finance.  I’ve got to say I like what I see so far.  The interface is slick and fast. Beyond that, you’ve got a lot of options to do more than just buying a set portfolio and can even create baskets of individual stocks you can buy commission-free. Overall I think this is a very good thing for the investment world and should force other brokers to lower or eliminate management costs for simply using a buying algorithm.

Interested in trying M1Finance? If you click any of the M1 Finance affiliate links on this page, you’ll get $10 for signing up. Click below to set up an account.

M1 Finance

Disclosure:  I have an affiliate partnership with M1 Finance and may earn a commission on new signups over a certain threshold. You’ll also get a $10 credit for signing up.


The First Week of Being Unemployed.

So the chronology here is as follows.    About four years of working in “big corpa” as an analyst for a large dinosaur retailer as of April 2018 and my first official day of being unemployed was this week.   There’s a definite adjustment just as the caveman from Plato’s cave had to let his eyes adjust after years in the darkness.  Have I been merely existing and performing the functions of life on auto-pilot for the past few years?  This awakening would seem to suggest so.

The 9 to 5 has conditioned me to try to multitask and accomplish things quickly because there was always a shortage of time.

The lack of a forced structure is refreshing but also forces the need for discipline.  You wake up when you want to and maybe you shower immediately or maybe you wait till after coffee a new leisurely morning routine. I’m finding my newfound freedom to be a bit like being a kid in a candy store wanting to grab everything and in a frantic pace. The 9 to 5 has conditioned me to try to multitask and accomplish things quickly because there was always a shortage of time.   Understanding that there is some time now is an adjustment.

So what is the candy that I’ve been eying with the options available to me? Well, I’m furthering my exploration of the gig economy for income  I’ve got a strong desire for location independent work.   Any of these might be of interest to someone that wishes to end the office grind.

  1. I’ve found some success doing English tutoring online. It helps that I’ve done it in a classroom for a few years in Asia and I’d like to think that my TEFL certification maybe does something to help win students.  It’s a relatively low-stress way to make some money from the comfort of wherever you can find an internet connection.  Additionally
  2. I’ve found contract work doing some data analysis and system customization for a few CRM systems. I see potential to develop this further if the need exists. This has led to another website currently in development. If you’ve got a good handle on Excel and are an analytical type this is doable once you’ve got a good grasp on the basics and a few of the more sophisticated functions. Incidentally, if you are interested in learning a few Excel tips or want to share them hit me up.
  3. I’ve really dove into WordPress and site design and blogging. In fact, this particular blog started as a side project to test out Generate Press theme which comes highly recommended and runs in stark contrast to another them I’m using on other sites, Divi. Both are powerful and have their appropriate place. Generate Press is more focused on clean vanilla simplicity with the ability to customize with CSS whereas Divi is a very powerful WYSIWYG Site builder. Ok, enough nerd talk.
  4. I’ve got some learning on the agenda. I’m realizing with my new time, I’d love to take some classes on WordPress, CSS, and maybe graphic design.

I’m happy to explore blogging and hosting a site just to see what it may bring. If I connect with a few people and get some ideas that would be nice. But it’s also at least feasible that after some time, this or another blog could be monetized. There are many ways to do it.

Unless it’s just urban folklore there’s tons of people out there that have started blogs and over a period of time, gained a readership and were able to monetize it.

It starts with simply have an audience. Being published and read put’s a bit of power in your hands to communicate to a large audience but also to potentially offer something of value and as such be compensated for it.    Unless it’s just urban folklore there are tons of people out there that have started blogs and over a period of time, gained a readership and were able to monetize it. One relatively common way bloggers make money is to promote site hosting. When you understand how powerful it is to have a web host the decision to have one seems to be a very good one.

But I digress. My first week of unemployment has also brought the time and freedom to move around. I’ve put on some 20 pounds sitting in an office 8 hours a day and doing the commuting day after day. Now, I’ve started the path of getting back in shape taking walks every day for 40 minutes. We should all do some time of exercise a few times a week but the work week can make it challenging.