Today I was reviewing the historical returns on my Fundrise investments and realized they have done pretty well since I first started in 2016. For those that don’t know, Fundrise is a leading real estate crowdfunding platform for non-accredited and accredited investors. Founded in 2012, Fundrise pioneered the eREIT asset, a private diversified real estate investment trust that lets virtually anyone invest in real estate with as little as $500. Get $50 when you sign up by clicking on my affiliate link with Fundrise.
Reviewing my account performance, I saw overall returns were around 10% a year and the annual cashflow was a bit over 6%. A 6% cash flow return on their eREITS is what a competent but non-genius landlord property investor might expect to get with actual rental property.
UPDATE: Since I originally wrote this post Fundrise has remained strong. Returns were rather weak in 2022 but beat pretty much every other asset class with the S&P losing over 15%. Here’s an update of my returns.
Reading this made me realize that investing in real estate this way is a much easier way to diversify into property investment than actually dealing with being a landlord. But it got me thinking that someone could semi-retire and travel the world on much less than you might think if you’re willing to do a little bit of freelancing with your free time.
How To Semi Retire on $200,000
This is just hypothetical and for entertainment purposes but I think it’s realistic and could work. Here’s how it might be done.
Based on assumptions of similar returns for crowdsourced eREITS and the 4% withdrawal rate from a stock portfolio.
So the above table shows how you might invest $200,000 to generate a monthly income of a bit over $900. Now if you’re interested in world travel, there are many places in the world where you can rent a nice apartment for $300 to $500. Research areas like Chiang Mai Thailand, Medellin Colombia, Pnohm Phen Cambodia, Philippines, and more.
Living in many parts of the world, a monthly budget might look something like this:
International Health Insurance
Transportation (use subways, trains, Uber)
Could it be done? If you have some discipline and maybe say Goodbye to Starbucks. I’ll take a Cama coffee over Starbucks anyways.
What About The Gap?
So if you’re paying attention, you may have noticed that the monthly investment income is about $900 and I just created a monthly budget of $1,200 in expense leaving us about $300 short. Well then my astute ready you may have also noticed that the title of this was post was how to “semi-retire”. If you put in some effort, it shouldn’t be too difficult to generate $300 a month freelancing on sites like Fiverr, or Upwork, or in many parts of the world you could earn $300 a month being an English tutor for less than 5 hours a week.
This post contains affiliate links, if clicked may provide new accounts a $50 credit for signing up as well as give me a $50 referral bonus. Thanks in advance! And now the obligatory, I’m not a financial advisor so check with your financial advisor before making any investments in anything.
Oh, you’re a location independent software engineer that travels the world living the digital nomad life with a six-figure salary, living on 15K a year? Good for you, but what about the rest of us? Why should programmers and software engineers have all the fun while the rest of us are stuck in cubicles?
I get it. Learning to code and develop isn’t exactly easy and it’s a high demand skillset. But surely programming isn’t the only skillset that lends itself to location independence. How can nonprogrammers live the digital nomad life? And why would we want to?
Why Asia for Digital Nomad Life
After spending the winter in Taiwan, I was close to the end of the 90 day limit of my visa exempt stay, so it was time to head out. Next, I posted up in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Chiang Mai is one of the most popular spots for low-cost living and digital nomad life. It’s easy to see why. Why did I decide to spend a few weeks here?
Delicious Thai food
Chiang Mai has delicious food at wildly low cost. Pad Thai, Pad Se Ewe, Tom Yum, Curried chicken and Pork and Papaya salad a just a few popular Thai dishes you’ll find. Chiang Mai has their very own signature dish Khoi Soi.
And there’s a surprising selection of Western style food in Chiang Mai, still at a reasonable price.
Cheap Internet. Fast Internet.
You can get 6 gigs of data and voice for about $16 for the month. (But I just beat that in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam with a 5 gig SIM for about $4.50 US.) And I’ve seen some blazing fast internet speeds in Chiang Mai. Here’s a speedtest I saw using the Wi-Fi at a place called “The Funky Dog Cafe”
Should you stay at least a month, you can find very nice apartments for around $300 to $450 USD a month. Some of these hotels are rented out on Airbnb. (Click the link to get $40 off a home booking of $75 or more and $15 off an experience of $50 or more.) The one I picked was about $18 a night. I booked it on Air BNB. Unfortunately, there were more mosquitoes than I could handle, but the host was nice enough to allow me to change my reservation and not get charged for the full time.
I switched to a nicer hotel in Nimman area, the trendy upscale area in Chiang Mai. My room was about $30 for a moderatley luxurious mosquito free place.
Warm Weather Year Round
If you’re looking to avoid a midwest freezing winter or a cold winter anywhere, digital nomad life will let you go where you want. Plenty of cheap warm destinations to hide away from December to April.
If you go to Thailand, understand Uber is not available. However, you can sign up for the SE Asia equivalent of Uber which is called “Grab. Sign up for discounts when you take Grab. My girlfriend and I were able to taxis around most spots throughout the city for around $1.60 to $3.00 USD.
Cool Cheap Coworking Spaces
How to Do It
Well if you want to join what Tim Ferris has referred to as “The New Rich” that work location independent and keep cost low with geo arbitrage you need to generate location independent income.
Generate Location Independent Income
You can generate location independent income in many ways. Here’s a few.
Sign up to do gigs on Fiverr. Fiverr is a website where people from all over the world post “gigs” that they will do for prices starting at, as you may have guessed, five dollars. A gig can be almost anything. It could be something as common as a logo or website design, to something more obscure like dance in a monkey suit and sing a song and provide a video of this performance.
So you can choose to do any type of work on Fiverr. You could proofread resumes. Perhaps you could sing jingles. Or maybe you could be a hand model. But the bottom line is you don’t need to be a programmer.
The secret to getting work on Fiverr is having good reviews. It’s not easy to get business initially until you’ve built trust. Here’s how you do it. Start off charging bargain basement prices and increase your gig price as you get good reviews. You have to pay your dues.
Use Fiverr as just one channel to advertise your business. If business comes in through Fiverr, sure you’ll need to pay them 20% but it’s risk-free. Think of their fee as an upfront advertising cost that you only pay if you get business. That’s something you won’t get from Facebook ads or any other advertising.
You can use Fiverr as your place to vet business ideas with zero advertising cost. Once your business proof of concept has shown an idea is viable consider developing your own website to try marketing your service on your own terms. Once your site is built advertise it with a marketing avenue that works. Facebook is popular to do very targeted marketing.
Fiver isn’t just a place to earn online. As you build your business, you’ll eventually want help and expertise of others. Other freelancers can help you build your business. Need a logo or a whole WordPress site? Get 20% off Fiverr gig purchases when you sign up for Fiverr here.
Upwork is similar to Fiverr in that it’s a community of workers willing to help you with projects or a network you can join to do work yourself. You could say Upwork might be viewed as the somewhat more “grown-up” version of Fiverr. Sign up to do larger projects on Upwork.
The same as Fiverr, the secret to success on Upwork is offeirng top tier service at ultra low prices until you have some good reviews under your belt to inspire trust from new potential customers.
If you sign up for customer service related work before April 15th, 2019 you will receive 1 month free of Freelancer Plus at Upwork.
After Chiang Mai, I took off for Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, another popular low-cost living spot in Asia. More on that later. But here’s a preview of a serviced apartment you can get for around $30 a night. Another Airbnb find.
Once you are earning some location income you can dramatically lower your cost of living and get by on around $1,500 a month if you’re interested in living the digital nomad life. Come back to this site and consider subscribing if you’d like to know more about ditching the office.
This post contains affilate links for Grab, Agoda, Airbnbn, Upwork and Fiverr. I may be paid a commission for sales generated from clicking these links at no cost to you. I only establish affilate partnerships with companies that offer brands or services I use and believe are a good value.
One of the unintended upsides of unemployment is that it frees you to explore other avenues in your life. And may mean finding a job or starting a business that will allow you to travel the world untethered. And if you get that chance, one of the first places on your list should be Lisbon, Portugal.
When I first moved abroad, I was in search of a permanent new home. The main criteria were that it needed to be cheap, yet, was highly accessible should I choose to travel more. Suffice it to say, Lisbon more than fits the bill.
Lisbon has everything you could possibly need to feel fulfilled–a vibrant nightlife, cheap digs, and a chill vibe. It is also within minutes of some of the cleanest and most beautiful beaches in the world. So in the summertime, you can take off work and go take a dip in the ocean. What could be better than that?
If you are worried about the language barrier, don’t be. While it is true that Portuguese and Spanish are not mutually intelligible, so don’t expect your high school classes to come in handy there, nearly everyone in Lisbon speaks English. While this is due in part to the high number of tourists and expats, the local population itself has learned the language to a level of near fluency. As a result, you’ll be able to speak to anyone, anywhere about anything with little to no hindrance.
The Portuguese are also extremely friendly and open to visitors but don’t worry about making friends. They will be in ample supply. Why? Well, the city is already filled to the brim with others of your ilk. That’s right. There will already be a community of like-minded and like-lifestyle people ready to welcome you in.
Portugal has a long and interesting history, so there is no shortage of local history and culture to absorb. From Sintra Palace to the Monastery of Belem, there is plenty to do, see and explore. So if you happen to find yourself in the unemployment line, don’t fret. There may be adventure and community waiting for you on the other side of the pond.