Updated 27 October 2021
A few days back I published this post:
If you are even daydreaming about moving to the Philippines and you haven’t read it, you should. Go ahead, I’ll wait here for you.
Back now? Great.
Right after that post was published one of my oldest and most faithful readers, Tito Joe (thanks Joe) sent a comment which provided a lot of valuable suggestions.
I also thought of a few things myself which I should enlarge upon a bit, so here we go:
More Home Country Things To Keep
I have one thing I think would be valuable insurance:
A so-called Physical mailing address in the states. Could be a very close and trusted friend or relative letting you use their address, OR for one example get a South Dakota Address like a lot of the RV crowd does to receive mail (For a fee they scan and email you digital copies of what arrives).
If something comes in the mail that you absolutely feel you must have the original paper copy of. the service will, on request, forward the mail to you via airmail or express overnight services.
Dakota Post is just one of these companies, there are many others. They provide you with an address in the states.
This can be very handy for taxes or any other reason that comes up where you would need to show a presence in the US. South Dakota will even issue you a driver’s license with as little as a 24 hour stay.
Especially if you live in a horrendous taxation state like California, you owe it to yourself to establish residency in a low or no state income tax state before you move to the Philippines.
The tax savings will count up, year after year.
Keeping several USA-based Credit cards and keeping them active also gives you some liquidity for emergencies.
Could be anything, but TRAVEL and MEDICAL are top of the list.
I’ve already mentioned this previously, but if you are sitting in the Philippines (or some third country where you have fled because of a disaster, or where some no-name airline canceled your flight and left you stranded, your US-based credit card is your real ticket home.
As Karl Malden used to say, “Don’t Leave Home Without It”.
I know from first-hand experience that those USA-based cards are gold at the Hospital and they accept it as payment for everything except the actual doctors’ fees. (my experience was that the doctor wants cash, even at the Upper-tier Hospitals)
Lastly, and this is a big one.
Make sure you have credit cards and an ATM card for any USA accounts you keep that do NOT charge a foreign transaction fee and will also REFUND any network or bank charges for using the card to get cash or buy stuff.
I have NFCU no fees and no ATM charge on certain networks.
Charles Schwab Checking and my Fidelity IRA checking Accounts not only have no fees but use very favorable exchange rates AND they both refund any ATM network or Local bank charges when using the ATM in the Philippines. (I have used BOTH in foreign ATMs and POS transactions and can attest to this being true and a big money saver.)
Many Credit cards have similar terms. AMEX, USAA, and some Capital One cards etc.
Long term that can save a sizable sum of money also. Full stop. from Joe. Thanks.
To start winding this up, this is my personal plan regarding medical expenses.
As a retired US serviceman I have medical coverage called TRICARE For Life. This will pay as much as 89% of reasonable and necessary medical expenses for me.
But TRICARE only reimburses after the bills have been paid. Not for partial payments.
So you need something to plunk on the cahier’s counter at the hospital before you can be admitted (confined we call that here, how cute).
Unless you carry around a LOT more cash than I ever do, one or more high-limit USA-issued cards will fill the bill and get you treated. (and hopefully cured).
Two Very Important Tips For Using US Credit Cards For Philippine Medical Expenses:
Do not make deposits on your bill with your cards or with the cash you may have. Pay the bill for the whole stay with the card when your final bill is rendered.
TRICARE (and many other insurance companies) will not any preliminary deposits you make before the final bill is calculated and presented. Let the hospital open a charge against your card and then submit the final charge at the end of your stay. Trust me, many, many expats have been burned by the “Catch 22”. Don’t be the next one.
Don’t Use Joint (husband and wife) Credit Cards
If you decide to have one or more US credit cards that you keep mainly as a reserve for emergencies, especially medical emergencies, here’s an important tip:
Use only credit cards issued to you and you alone. Not jointly held with you and your spouse. Example,
I have three fairly high limit US cards in my name, and my name only.
This is not because I don’t trust my wife. Not at all, I trust her implicitly. She has her own “authorized user card for each of those accounts and she has complete use of the cards and their credit limits just as if the cards were in her name.
But if I should pass away, after running up big balances on those cards trying one medical procedure after another to keep myself alive, as an authorized user my wife will not be forced into destitute widowhood trying to pay down the card balances.
As an authorized user, you’re not legally responsible to pay the credit card bill or any debts that build up.
This is still the primary account holder’s responsibility.
From the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on the subject of wives being forced to pay their husbands credit card debt after the husband’s death:
Can I be held responsible to pay off the debts of my deceased spouse?
In most cases you will not be responsible to pay off your deceased spouse’s debts. As a general rule, no one else is obligated to pay the debt of a person who has died. There are some exceptions and the exceptions vary by state.
As a general rule, no one else is obligated to pay the debt of a person who has died. Here are some exceptions to that general rule:
- If there was a co-signer on a loan, the co-signer owes the debt.
- If there is a joint account holder on a credit card, the joint account holder owes the debt. A joint account holder is different from an “authorized user.” An authorized user is not usually responsible for the amount owed.
- If state law requires a spouse to pay a particular type of debt.
- If state law requires the executor or administrator of the deceased person’s estate to pay an outstanding bill out of property that was jointly owned by the surviving and deceased spouse.
- In community property states and depending on that state’s law, the surviving spouse may be required to use community property to pay debts of a deceased spouse. The community property states include Alaska (if a special agreement is signed), Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Unless there is an exception, you do not have to take responsibility for the debt of the deceased person. You are not obligated to do this and the creditor or debt collector cannot use unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices to get you to assume responsibility.
I Am Not Advocating Skipping Out On Your Bills
But if I rack up $40K or $50K worth of charges and then croak, I’ll be dammed if my widow is going to spend the rest of her life paying off what it cost for me to die. If she WANTS to burden herself doing so, I won’t be around to offer counsel, but legally, she will not have to be saddled with those costs.
So, any other home country things you need to hang on to?