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In the beginning...Prologue

I couldn't do it today, no, not here anyway.

Things were different fifteen years ago. The economy here was not booming then. What I have now is stable, but every once in a while, I wonder why. I mean, things have changed. But I guess my companions are mine for life, for as long as I live. However long that will be.

It seemed as if it would always be that way here. It isn't now. Now, today, is January, 2018, and a life like I made for myself here would be fragile.

Fifteen years ago, it didn't seem fragile.

Fifteen years ago...

That was 2003. Me in 2003...

I had some savings. No, that's a lie. I had a fair bit of savings. Plus I had invested in both Cisco and Apple in 1993. That requires a little explanation.

I had inherited twenty thousand dollars, but there was a huge string attached. I was required, via the will whereby I received the funds, to do something very much against my character: to invest the money and not touch it for twelve years. I could watch the money, but I couldn't use any of it until 2005.

I grinched loud and long, as I had any number of ways I would have been happy to spend those dollars right then and there, but that is why I bought the Apple and Cisco stock.

In 2003 the Apple stock wasn't doing much yet, but I still had hopes. The Mac was so much better than Windows. All my friends used Macs. I bought fourteen thousand shares of it in September of 1993 for $0.7187 per share or $10,061.80 for all of it.

In January of 2003 that Apple stock was worth only $0.909 per share. But it had split once in 2000 at 2 for 1. That made all of it worth $25,452 at the time. I figured I was doing OK.

By 2005, it was my plan to cash out of everything. But, oddly, just as I was ready to cash out this stock, as it wasn't really moving, it started to climb. And then it split 2 for 1 in 2005. Rather than flatten out, it continued to rise in value. By 2014, there was a 7 for 1 split. This stock that had essentially performed only modestly for the first eleven years was making me exceedingly wealthy.

The stock price today is well over $170 which makes it worth over $70,000,000 today. I have not sold a single share... yet. But I will tomorrow. And even with all the taxes I will pay this year, I will be more than theoretically an extremely wealthy man, I will be so in cold, hard cash. Much has changed for me in these past fifteen years, but far more so for those around me.

The Cisco stock I bought in February of 1993 for $0.9841 a share for ten thousand shares was worth $18.33 per share in November of 2003. There have been six stock splits since then.

But, I sold some of my Cisco shares and now only retain four hundred ninety thousand shares. So what had cost me $9,353, even after selling some of them, is now worth a measly $19,938,100 fifteen years later.

If I had held on to all of it, at $40.69 per share, it would have been worth $22,972,600. As it is, in November 2006, I sold fifty thousand of the then, five hundred and forty thousand shares (after the many splits), at $21.7297. The sale of those shares netted me over a million dollars.

I figured that, even if all the remaining shares tanked at that point, I still had done far better than the fool that I would have been has any right to be.

Still, in 2003, I had no idea then that my investments would make me the appallingly wealthy man I am today. In point of fact, I was pretty well worried that the Cisco stock, that was looking good in 2003, would plummet before I could sell it.

And so today, as this body of mine, year by year, fails me in small but real ways, I have accumulated more wealth than I will ever need in what is left of my life.

So... in 2003 it was only the savings I had, not the stocks, only the savings that supported my move to the Philippines.

I had value in my house, but had no plans to sell it. Selling my home in Dorchester seemed like jumping into the ocean without a lifejacket or a way to swim to shore.

Yet, moving from Dorchester and the USA, to somewhere else entirely, seemed like a necessary and cautionary move.

Before it happened, I had more than a premonition that the tech bubble would burst in 2000. It was really obvious. How could it not? I was amazed we were still riding the wave when, in 1999, I had sold the company I was running at the time, and banked the profits, before getting into a small consulting practice.

I stayed with the consulting practice for a few years, but the business wasn't going anywhere and I started to regret the sale of my company, though I really knew it had been the right thing to do. I was feeling frustrated, I guess. The excitement of running the company had been supplanted by a placid and eerily quiet consultancy.

My marriage had fallen apart in 1996, probably because I was working sixteen hours a day and not making a huge take-home income. I was plowing profits back into the company. You can have a happy marriage or a rock-star startup... you can't have both at the same time.

By the time 2002 rolled around, the consulting practice was not doing much, I had been divorced for six years, and I was just tired — burned out.

Social security would kick in in seven years. I had 35 years of salary already banked in the system and I doubted that any newer salary would push my checks any higher at the end. But the simple fact was that I was scared of ever having to rely on those checks. I had savings, but savings is not income and I just couldn't see a bright financial future if I stayed in the USA. If I was blessed with a long life, with that blessing would be the curse of diminishing finances.

So... I had savings and I was healthy. I ran the numbers, looking at historic US inflation rates, and estimated the drawdown of my savings even allowing for investments whereby I had some liquidity and safety. My premonition that living in the USA was not my best option was displayed on an unforgiving spreadsheet.

I needed a plan.

I had never traveled to vacation spots. Yes, I had been to London, to Hong Kong, and to Tokyo on business, but those trips were from an airport to a nice hotel to a business meeting and back. And sure, I have been all over the USA, but my passport had not been used to explore the world and the options I might have.

I decided that while I could, before old age and social security became my life, I needed to try living a little, even though I would be drawing on those critical savings.

I had a friend in the BVI, the British Virgin Islands, who urged me to give the place a try. So I tried that, but it just didn't feel right. Yeh, the weather was warm, and I liked the ocean, but there was something that was grinding on me that I couldn't put my finger on.

I don't really remember to whom it was I was speaking, but I was sitting at the Mermaid Bar and Grill in Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda, pissing and moaning, when a guy on the stool next to me said I should check out the Philippines.

I knew nothing about the Philippines and said as much. I need a place where I could navigate around in English. I didn't see how anywhere in Asia would work. Even in Hong Kong, where the Brits had held sway for so many years, getting a taxi driver who could speak English was a challenge. I was able to conduct business there, but getting around the city was a real frustration. Tokyo was no better in that regard and actually a bit worse.

Yeh, I know about Singapore. English works there and I like the place, but with my finances Singapore would not work.

The guy insisted that I could get along OK in the Philippines.

That was in 2002.

Back home in Boston, I ruminated a bit and did some research on the Philippines. Magellan didn't do so well there, but I wasn't going to try to bring Christianity to the Islands, so maybe it would be OK. The average exchange rate in 2002 was one dollar to forty-four Philippine Pesos, but I had no idea what a Peso would buy.

The place is really not a place but a bunch of places, a bunch of islands and the economy of each is a bit different from the others.

Researching the economy of each island and its cities was more than a challenge. It was almost impossible in many regards. There was much I just could not figure out. But what I did learn was rewarding.

I was not looking to find a place that was well meshed into the world economy... just the opposite... so almost immediately I struck Manila and Cebu off the list. And while it made my search beyond difficult in one way, it was illuminating in another. The less I could learn about a place, the better it might be!

In general, as I looked at other Philippines cities it became clear that the cost of living was going to work, and I decided to give it a try.

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In the Beginning...1