ATM card hell…The consequences of not leaving South Africa as previously planned…

This is our Basket, the Bully, who was thrilled to see we’d returned to the bush. Many weeks ago, he appeared with a bloody right ear which now is but a stubble of an ear that seems to have healed nicely.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Wildebeest Willie was so happy to see us he didn’t bother to eat a single pellet for several minutes after Tom tossed them his way.

It wasn’t as easy as canceling a few planned flights and tours and losing the money associated with doing so.  We had carefully planned every step in our upcoming itinerary to ensure a seamless transition from South Africa to Kenya to South America to a cruise to the US and a flight to Minnesota from San Diego.

Now, all of these plans are dashed, and we reach to the future to make new plans with affordability as a critical issue after losing tens of thousands of dollars in non-refundable fares and fees. One might say we should have had travel insurance.

But in the real world of non-stop travel, this type of “trip insurance” doesn’t work. We don’t have a home, and any journey we do is not considered a “trip.” To acquire such insurance, we’d have to lie about our lifestyle, and that’s not our way of doing things.

Besides, it’s difficult to be reimbursed for any claims for a good trip, let alone trying to file a claim for an untruthful application. Even now, we struggle to get our medical policy to pay for my heart surgery, as they claim I had an undisclosed pre-existing heart condition (not the case).Of course, we are grateful I’m am alive and imply no complaint or sense of unfairness. The fairest thing in the world that ever happened to me was this condition being discovered in time.  For this, we are eternally grateful.

Nonetheless, there are consequences we must bear for these last-minute changes in plans. Fairness is not an issue. Reality is the issue, and as much as we’d like to bury our heads in the sand, we have no such option. Life continues with or without our approval for such consequences.

In tomorrow’s post, we’ll share some of those consequences and the economic effects and burden they have placed upon us, not as a warning to potential world travelers but as a revelation of what worst-case scenarios may transpire while choosing a lifestyle such as ours.  

We always knew this day would come, but life seldom provides enough warning to make us better prepared. No doubt, we were thrown for a loop and work diligently now to muddle our way through many of these.

One seemingly minor issue that never crossed our minds during these past two weeks since the surgery was our debit/ATM cards. With mine expiring on February 28th and Tom’s on March 31st, we faced quite a dilemma on how we’d easily access cash. 

Basket has the most prominent side warts of any warthog we’ve seen in the garden in over a year.

When we made our original world travel plans, we chose five credit cards that best serve our purpose. We each had ATM/debit cards we could use at a relatively low cost to access all the cash we’d ever need. Since we’d never used PINs on credit cards since we didn’t want to access some money from the cards, we didn’t give it another thought. Thus, we never requested PINs.

Perhaps this was an error on our part. We should have ordered the PINs. But, once we left the US and began using a mailing service, we didn’t want PINs coming to the postal service, although the company is bonded and highly reputable.  

One short-term dishonest employee could wreak havoc on our cards if they perused our mail. We felt safe and in control using our bank ATM cards for all of our cash needs. Little did we know that we’d be unable to collect the renewals cards, arriving in our snail mailbox in Nevada, USA.

With the former upcoming original plans, we’d be in the US on April 8, 2019, and could collect our renewed cards at that time, leaving only a short gap in time without access to the cards.  Tom’s card was sound until March 31st, during which time we’d have been on a cruise with no need for an ATM card.  This only left us with an eight-day gap.  We never gave it much of a thought.

But then, life happens, and the blur of the past two weeks brought us to these past few days realizing we wouldn’t have a working ATM card until we received them in the mail from the mailing service.  Mail service is not ideal in South Africa. It’s possible they’d never arrive. Plus, Tom’s card had yet to arrive in Nevada with its 3/31 expiration date.

In the interim, when Tom tried to get cash from his card yesterday, it wouldn’t work. Some convoluting security block had made use of his card impossible. This morning we spent 90 minutes on the phone with Wells Fargo, attempting to get the situation resolved.

Much to our relief, after the call dropped several times, they sent us two new cards via FED EX International. They removed the block on Tom’s card, which we can continue to use until 3/31, while the new cards arrive within two weeks. Situation resolved. Fiasco averted.

This is only one of many issues we’ll have had to maneuver during this challenging period. Then, of course, there are immigration issues, more flights to be canceled, more cruises to be canceled, the hospital insurance claim, and my many months of recovery to tackle, and… it goes on and on. But, we’ll continue to chip away at each obstacle as we face them head-on.

But, above all, I am alive, if not blissfully so, temporarily fuzzy-headed from the somewhat mild pain relievers and a plethora of heart-related medications slowing me down, but…I am alive.

Photo from one year ago today, February 26, 2018:

A foam tree frog nest, made overnight by the female frog awaiting up to one dozen males to fertilize it. We’ve been watching for the males but have yet to see them. In this post, four years ago, we had the opportunity to see the males fertilizing the nest. After an incubation period of a few weeks, the tadpoles will drop into the pool of water to complete their growth cycle. For more details, please click here.

Tom corrected me over yesterday’s post…”We do gamble,” he says!…An element of our lives we seldom mention here…

A little hut in the neighborhood managed by a woman and her daughter where they sell SIM cards for data and phones and a few other products.

“Sightings on the Beach in Bali”

This large rock formation has formed on the beach visible only at low tide. 

After Tom read yesterday’s post, he said, “You’re wrong, Sweetie. We do gamble, big time.”

I thought for a moment trying to jog my memory over the past many years when we were in a casino and played a few games.  I couldn’t recall a single occasion.

He laughed and said, “We gamble every day playing the stock market! Isn’t that gambling when all is said and done?”

“You’re absolutely right, Honey,” I replied nodding my head in agreement.

Sunset view and reflection in the infinity pool.
Once Tom retired and rolled over his 401K to an online brokerage company we could easily access in our travels, this type of “gambling” has served us well. Armed with a plethora of knowledge he’s gleaned from a few extraordinary experts, he’s become quite good at it.  (We’re not talking about that guy that screams on TV or on any other TV celebrity or supposed finance guru).
With my daily photo taking, posting, management of spreadsheets, financial records, banking, and accounting for our travels, overall I paid little attention to what he was doing other than to listen when he wanted to share interesting details.

I didn’t want to hear when it wasn’t going well so he stayed mum to keep me from worrying.  But, as his expertise and desires for diversity have grown and we’ve made our way to the plus side at the moment, my interest has peaked. Over this past year, I’ve taken a greater interest while Tom makes all the moves.

Some mornings humidity, fog, and smoke from local fires create a fuzzy scene on the beach.

Sure, with stocks, options, longs/shorts, and a wide array of other financial products, one is taking an enormous risk.  We see this each week when, for example, we go online after 9:30 pm (Indonesia time) five nights a week when the stock market opens in the US. 

Based on this huge time difference the US market closes at 4 am when we’re sleeping. But, it’s not entirely unusual for either of us to be awake during the night or very early in the morning unable to avoid firing up Tom’s laptop to see what’s going on. 

The ups and downs are not for the faint of heart. We’ve both had to learn to avoid letting the downs become upsetting. I suppose it is gambling, after all, except in a  much bigger way than putting a few dollars on a blackjack table, poker table, or in a slot machine. One may be “gambling” with their life savings.

Another larger shop in the neighborhood carrying many tourist-type needs, beverages, and snacks.

Also, we had no desire to turn this process over to a “financial advisor” paying fees and commissions while allowing someone else to make decisions on our behalf. For many, this is their only option when they have investible funds but little education, time, or interest in handling it on their own.

Over these past 44 months of world travel, Tom has had all of the time and interest necessary to further educate himself to a point of feeling confident in making important decisions. 

Flowers blooming from a small tree.

Tom’s favorite source of education has been with Bob Rinear on this website. Bob’s information and education have provided valuable information. Tom followed Bob’s website and free newsletter long before we retired. 

About one year before Tom retired in 2012, he paid for Bob’s annual yearly subscription, “The Insiders Club” which has ultimately served us well. Tom also participated in the comprehensive training course, again proving to be a valuable tool.  (In no manner are we involved in any revenue or proceeds from Bob’s website. We’re simply subscribers as are many others throughout the world).

Since I’m way more frugal than he is, it’s best I continue to stay out of the day-to-day decisions, although he shares details of every transaction with me prior to making any changes. In the process, I too, am getting an education through my savvy partner.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

We won’t draw any money out from these funds until after Tom turns 70.5 years old (7 years) at which point US tax laws require annual minimum withdrawals be made along with the payment of required federal tax (and state taxes, if applicable). If we lost it all, we could still survive and continue to travel the world.

It’s only under these circumstances that we feel comfortable taking the risks. If one wouldn’t be able to cover living expenses if they lost it all in a stock market crash, which may be likely at some point, they shouldn’t be investing. (We’ve also decided it’s wise to secure some of one’s investments into less vulnerable assets).

The stress of potentially losing everything could be unbearable making the later years of one’s life, less than enjoyable. We’re not offering any investment advice here.  We’re explaining how we perceive “gambling” in our lives.

A modest well cared for Hindu home in the neighborhood.

The excitement of it all is certainly comparable to winning at a casino and the disappointment perhaps even more devastating than when losing at a poker table. 

With a tough hide, diligent attention to market fluctuations, world affairs and a degree of knowledge and expertise and, an enormous amount of interest and desire to make it work, its an exciting area of our lives we seldom, if ever, mention here.

No, we don’t sit around all day playing games on our phones. Even on those sunny outdoors-all-day days, the wheels are always in motion as we continually reach for safety, security, and peace of mind achievable in many ways in our lives of travel.

In Bali, it’s common to see trash fires burning along the road or in yards.

One more point, we use a VPN, a virtual private network, to further secure our access to financial websites (which are supposedly secure) but this added measure of security provides us with further peace of mind.

Without a doubt, life is a gamble in many ways for every one of us; our health, our well-being, our sense of security, our financial health, basically all aspects. The degree to which we proactively pursue enhancing each of these areas is entirely up to us.

May your day provide you with an opportunity for peace of mind.

Photo from one year ago today, June 20, 2015:

This is the noisy night bird, the bush stone-curlew (Burhinus grallarius) that kept us awake the first week in Trinity Beach, Australia after which we became used to it, sleeping through the noise. It’s a nocturnal, ground-dwelling bird that makes its home in Australia’s open forests, grasslands, mangroves, and salt marshes. (Not our photo). We never saw one during the day.  For more details please click here.