Dreams of Living Overseas on the Cheap: Reasons I Haven’t Moved Abroad Just Yet

by Kevin on May 29, 2013

I love America. I love the opportunities I’ve been given, the freedom I have, and the business I can build while working my normal 8-5 job.

But every so often I allow myself to dream just a little bit. Of foreign lands and unknown places where the dollar seems to stretch for miles. A place where my wife, son, and dog can relax and explore while I write freelance personal finance articles for our income. Since we live in an extremely low cost of living place we don’t need as many dollars to survive.

Maybe you’ve had the same dream every once in a while. What’s holding you back?

Here are some things I considered.

4 Reasons Why We Haven’t Moved Abroad

Here are four things I’ve weighed in my mind every time I’ve started to think about moving to another country.

Family

When we left Birmingham to move to Knoxville we did it primarily to be closer to both of our families in east/northeast Tennessee. Picking up and moving to a foreign land with many hours on several different planes would be the complete opposite of moving to Knoxville. With our families getting older we want to be closer to them to assist them as they age rather than moving further away.

Healthcare

I honestly haven’t done as much research as I need to here, but healthcare is a major concern. Can you get health insurance to be an expatriate? Is it affordable?

Even if you can get health insurance, what is the actual healthcare like in the country (or countries) you decide to travel and settle down in? While healthcare in America is an expensive and bloated industry, at least I know I am getting quality care.

Taxes

How do taxes work with working and living overseas? I know the US government is constantly on the search for additional tax dollars. How does that work when you earn the income overseas? There are rules about expatriating just to avoid taxes and the IRS has a set of guidelines to see if you will owe tax or not. But what if you want to come back?

Risk

Lastly there is the risk factor of living in a foreign land among a foreign people with a society that will have significant differences from the one you know.

Everything is different. Etiquette. How to communicate in the grocery store. Laws and law enforcement. Legal issues – can you get a lawyer if you are arrested by a corrupt government?

The list goes on an on.

Address Your Concerns with Education

You can address most of your own concerns about moving overseas with an education in being an expatriate. There are dozens of quality websites available with forums so you can learn, engage, and ask questions.

At the end of the day I’m sure there is nothing quite like selling everything you own, packing up, and moving to that foreign country. Before you jump straight to that I would be inclined to rent out my house and belongings for a 3 or 6 month period of time to test the waters. I would personally hate to make a big commitment like that and end up hating the place I had decided to travel to for the long term.

Have any of you ever considered living outside the US to stretch your dollars?

{ 1 comment }

Alex June 5, 2013 at 7:55 am

I will vouch for health care, risk and taxes.

I have found during my travels (including a test 6 month overseas stay) that crime is relative. In places like Southeast Asia, you can live in very safe areas at much lower costs than we are accustomed at home.

You do have to keep in mind that things like central air (a given in the US) might not be available. You will have to have units in each of the rooms you want to cool, and running it 24/7 will bring up your expenses.

With that in mind; I learned how to live without A/C all the time while in the Philippines. Kind of nice for a change…believe it or not.

Health care wise, most people prefer to pay cash when you need the care. It is that cheap. There are plenty of highly educated doctors using standards exactly as we would expect in the US to care for patients.

Just make sure you are not in a very remote area. Stay close to a larger city with a western styled hospital.

Lastly! Taxes 🙂

Finding a job abroad will be very difficult, so you should only count on your funds. Yes, you can try a small side business abroad, but that should be counted as extra income (fun income) and not something to rely on to live off.

Not 100% sure how it works with Social Security, but I do know that if you stay outside the US for 330 days a year, you will receive a tax exemption of up to $97,000 a year. Something to look at when it comes to Federal taxes.

I made it in the Philippines with $1500 a month. That meant eating well, and paying rent on a house, part time maid etc. You can do much better if you just buy your place and cut down the cost of renting.

Good luck!

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