New Year, New Life—Where Will 2017 Take You?
What if you could go anywhere, do anything, and spend your time and your money any way you wanted?
As we start this week to New Year 2017, my question is not rhetorical, for, indeed, you could go anywhere, you could do anything, and you could spend your days and invest your capital however strikes your fancy.
All you have to do is to open your mind to the possibilities.
On one hand, this international living thing is terrifying. The opportunities, risks, investments, and speculations I introduce to you in these dispatches can seem intimidating, especially at first. The easy thing would be to ignore them and keep on living the way you’ve been living.
What a thing to create a whole new life for yourself in a foreign place. What a terrifying thing.
And what an exhilarating adventure.
In the more than three decades that I’ve been covering this beat, I’ve spoken with many thousands of people just like you who are, in fact, already living and investing overseas. And I’ve never met one who regrets the experience.
Sure, sometimes, things don’t work out as you expect. Markets zig when you’re positioned for them to zag. Currencies go up when you’re betting they’ll move down. Real estate values increase… but they also fall, sometimes quick and sometimes far, as we all recognize in this post-2008 world.
Sometimes, paradise comes with humidity, bugs, broken-down taxis, zero zoning, and litter.
You can be sure of a place or an opportunity… and then you can change your mind. A country can seem perfect… and then you realize that no place is perfect.
What’s the worst thing that could happen if you take the leap and start down this live and invest overseas path? Maybe you end up someplace you don’t want to be?
So you move on. You make another change. You could always go back home.
However, here’s my prediction as we move into the final week of 2015: Once you embrace these ideas and begin to act on these opportunities, you’ll never look back. You’ll be launched into a new phase of your life that you’ll treasure and that will lead you to places, people, and experiences you could never imagine as you read this today.
Lief and I have been living outside the States for more than 18 years. We met in Ireland 18 years ago last spring, where we both were scouting for new business ventures. I was intending a move from Baltimore, Maryland, to the Emerald Isle, with the business I was running at the time and my then 8-year-old daughter. Lief, living in Chicago, was thinking of ditching his cushy career-path job Stateside and pursuing adventures abroad, starting with a real estate development project in Ireland’s Sunny Southeast.
We were engaged to be married two months after we met, married two months after that, and living in Waterford, Ireland, by the fall. Ireland led to Paris led to, now, Panama…
Along the way, we have had a child (Jackson, a dual citizen, born in Ireland)… launched businesses in seven countries… renovated apartments… and houses… bought and sold real estate in two-dozen markets… made good deals… and some not-so-good ones… educated our children on two continents… shipped container-loads of furniture back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean (four times)… organized residency visas and work permits… opened bank accounts… acquired second passports… paid taxes… hired staff… vetted attorneys and tax advisors and property developers and real estate brokers…
Would we go back home?
We are home. In Panama City now, our little family has made a home.
We were home in Paris and in Ireland, too, and sometimes I miss those lives.
We miss Paris so much that we plan to reposition ourselves to be based in that city this summer 2017.
After Jackson has graduated high school, Lief and I will return to the City of Light, where, both kids launched, we’ll make our new empty-nest home.
We’ll also earn a lot of frequent flyer miles. Our plan is to travel from Paris to Panama every month or two. Our impressive and fully fledged management team in Panama City will run the Live and Invest Overseas business day-to-day, leaving Lief and me more time and flexibility to travel, write, and (I can’t wait) hang out in Paris… while still working to continue to grow our Live and Invest Overseas operations.
Sometimes I also miss my now long-ago life in the States. In Baltimore for the holidays this past week, I’ve been reminded how nice it is to be among extended family and hometown friends.
Mostly, though, I embrace our continuing journey. Panama isn’t a terminus but a point along the way.
Neither will our return to Paris be the end. We don’t think in terms of endings but an ongoing journey.
Opening your mind and your heart to these living, retiring, and investing overseas ideas comes with practical, quantifiable benefits.
You could move to a new country and cut your cost of living to less than US$1,000 per month. But please recognize that a reduced cost of living isn’t the only or even the best reason to launch a new life overseas.
Living or retired overseas, you could also reduce your overall tax burden, maybe to zero (legally and safely). You could cut your cost of health care in half or more. You could live where the weather is better, the cities safer, the neighbors more interesting, and the view from your bedroom window more pleasing.
Shift your perspective, and you realize that, despite the inescapably and seemingly unending bad news of our age, there is a world beyond the doom and gloom.
Things are not, in fact, tough all over.
In some places, in fact… from Panama to Portugal, from Nicaragua to Colombia, from Malaysia to Belize, and from the Dominican Republic to Thailand, to name only a few… the living can be good, safe, healthy, cheap, rich, full, and engaging.
When we moved from the States to Waterford, Ireland, some two decades ago, we never could have imagined that, come New Year’s Day 2017, we’d be living full time in Panama City. We couldn’t have predicted any of the turns or adventures along the way either. Not everything has gone according to plan.
But Lief and I and our children carry Ireland with us now… and Paris… and we’ll carry Panama with us, too, when we reposition ourselves back to Paris this summer.
The experiences and the memories of every stage of this ongoing global adventure are with us for the rest of our lives.
Back “home” in Ireland, in Paris, in Panama, and, yes, in the United States is our ever-evolving, ever-expanding “family.”
In each of the places where we’ve spent time, where we’ve been at home, we have made friends that have become permanent parts of our lives. We take them with us as we continue to move around this world.
When I began reporting on these ideas 30 years ago, they were ahead of their time. No more. You have more good reasons right now, as we move into New Year 2017, to launch a new life in another country than ever before.
Where will 2017 take us… take you? I have no idea, but let’s go find out.
( originally published on December 27, 2015 )