AS I’VE MENTIONED here on occasion, we own a townhouse downtown, and we rent it to vacationers, mostly Gringos.
Shuffling through internet files today, I happened upon this photo taken six years ago, a photo I had forgotten. Our place is one of those white buildings. They almost look like they belong in Greece, I think. Nice mountains too.
We bought the townhouse in 2010 with money I inherited after my mother’s death in 2009. We purchased it as an investment with no intention of renting it, but after about two years of its sitting there, furnished and pretty, we decided to share the joy.
Turned out to be a good investment. We would have paid much less now than we paid in 2010. The dollar equivalent then was about $76,000. Now it would be about $20,000 less. Oh well, you buy your condos, and you take your chances.
But it’s worth more now than we paid, and it’s fun to have.
We also have a condo in Mexico City, which is far smaller. It was where my child bride was living when we met lo these many years ago. We just recently got the deed to that place, so we own three, free and clear.
WE OWN three homes. One is the Hacienda where we live. Another is the Downtown Casita* where nobody lives. The third is the condo in Mexico City where nobody lives either.
All are stylishly furnished.
If we had to pay Gringo-level property taxes on those babies, we’d dump them fast as a flash.
My second ex-wife still lives in the Ranch-style home we purchased in 1986 in Houston for about $65,000. It’s valued far more now, and she pays way more in property tax than we pay for our three Mexican addresses combined.
We’re likely going to add a fourth address to our real estate empire. It’s a new development of just 11 off-street lots downtown here in a fantastic location.
And all utilities are ready to go, buried underground.
It’s just the lot. We’re not going to build a house, so it will be an investment, nothing more. And with the peso-dollar exchange rate what it is, the price is stupendo!
More on this later, I suppose.
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* Available to vacationers for a quite reasonable price!
(Note: Actually, we will own five properties if you believe our electricity provider which lists my wife’s pastry kitchen as a commercial storefront, a separate account. Its bimonthly bill is usually a bit higher than the entire Hacienda bill.)
DECADES AGO, before she ran off the rails and joined a cult, my sister, who’s a therapist or counselor or something of that sort, gave me a standardized personality test, a tool used to determine one’s best occupational fit.
The trait that topped the list was that I favored adventure, which was not a surprise to me, and likely explains why I now sit atop a mountain in the middle of Mexico in my declining years instead of on a park bench, feeding seed to pigeons in Des Moines or St. Petersburg.
With that in mind, I was quite interested in this news story headlined “Ten Surprising Facts About Retirement.” Some of the facts interested me more than others and, despite the headline, some were not surprising at all. You need investment growth, sure. Most retirees depend mostly on Social Security, yep. Something about Medicare, which interests me not at all because I don’t use it, and never will.
Forty-four percent of folks over 65 live alone. I don’t like that, and I don’t favor living alone, but living alone is certainly better than living with some people. Yes, there are worse things than living solo.
Let’s go directly now to the item that really captured my attention. And that is the percentage of Americans who retire and move to another country: a minuscule 0.3 percent.
This percentage is of people over age 65. I bailed out of the workforce and flew over the Rio Bravo when I was 55. Would I have done it at a more settled 65 or now at stodgy 70? I don’t know. I’d like to think so.
Those of us living out here beyond the porous and troubled border are clearly a rare breed, which would make a fine title for an old television Western. Giddy-up, go!
You’re overdrawn, he said, by more than 2 million pesos, somewhere in the neighborhood of 150,000 U.S. dollars. Holy Moly! I exclaimed — or something along that line.
Here’s how that happened: Via the bank’s website, a week earlier, I had scheduled a transfer from checking to a mutual fund. There are two little spaces on the website where you can either write the cash amount or the number of shares you wish to buy.
One or the other.
They are in Spanish, of course. Monto or títulos. I knew the difference, but I suffered a moment of dyslexia or lunacy. Instead of writing the amount in monto, I wrote it in títulos.
There would have been no problem had each share been valued at one peso. But they weren’t. Not by a mile. I had ordered a whole dump truck full of shares.
And worse than that, I slipped right through a glitch in the bank’s award-winning website that permitted me to purchase that dump truck with money I did not have in checking, to put it mildly. The website should have told me the purchase was impossible.
What it did was take 2 million imaginary pesos from the checking account and put them into the mutual fund, leaving me with a very fat mutual fund balance, imaginary, and a very negative checking account balance, quite real.
Would you like me to cancel the transaction? asked Tanitzi. Of course, I replied. Duh, I thought to myself. Does Woody Allen like little girls?
This is where it got even messier. The mutual fund only allows transactions twice a month, and I had almost two weeks to go before a cancellation was possible. And a negative balance in the checking account gets walloped with a 300-peso fine every single day.
That adds up to a two-week fine of about 350 U.S. dollars. Plus having a temporarily useless checking account, frozen like an iceberg.
Tanitzi grasped the bind I was in, and said he would see if he could get the daily whammy reduced. I did not hear back from him, and I was not optimistic.
On returning to the Hacienda, I did what I usually do when I have a serious problem with a large corporation. I go straight to the top, baby. I sent a registered letter to the bank’s general director in Mexico City — and waited.
The two weeks ended, and the transaction was reversed, and the $350 fine was waived, all with no word from the bank. Till a few days ago when Tanitzi phoned from the nearby state capital and asked if he could come visit. Sure, I said.
We met today at a coffee shop here on the downtown plaza. He said the general director had shared my letter with him, and that they had made changes to the website. We chatted a spell. He left his direct phone number and email, and said he would help with any investment needs in the future. Nice guy. I liked him.
I like the bank too. HSBC.
I only switched to HSBC last spring after a decade with Banamex.
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(Note: Tanitzi is his first name. It’s a name of the indigenous people of this state. Though young, he has a degree in finance, handles investments, and has a large corner office at a big branch in the state capital. He’s my kind of Mexican.)