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Hoping to be an ER Expat in 3 years
Old 07-23-2010, 07:58 PM   #1
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Hoping to be an ER Expat in 3 years

Greetings everyone. I've already posted a couple of times but neglected to introduce myself. Sorry about that.

I first started thinking about Early Retirement after being introduced to the man who wrote the book on the topic, Paul Terhorst. This was in the early/mid 90s, if I remember correctly. Paul and I still keep in touch.

I was in my 30s then. I turn 47 this year, and if all goes well, my wife and I are planning to retire in about 3 years. We currently live in the States but will retire in Taiwan, her home country, for a couple of reasons:
  • we want to help care for her aging mother
  • Taiwan has national health insurance, thus removing one big obstacle to ER
  • we will have use of a modest condo that her family owns
  • the average salary in Taiwan is about US$16,000, so our expenses will be considerably lower than here in the US
Our savings is on track to make the change in 2013, but with little wiggle room. Because (like everyone else), we've been taking a beating in the stock market, I will probably continue to work at least part time for a while. I've been laying the ground work to do some contract/consulting work that can be done online. I've also been putting out feelers about opportunities for teaching English.

I've been to Taiwan about half a dozen times since I got married 7 years ago and I like it there. I get along very well with my in-laws, many of whom speak English. I've been lazily studying Chinese but have a long way to go to achieve fluency.

Anyway, I've already got a spreadsheet where I'm listing the things I'd like to do in retirement: books to read, topics to study, causes to support (through volunteering), places to visit, etc. My brother-in-law, an airline pilot, celebrated his 50th birthday by taking a week and bicycling around the island. I'm hoping I can do the same - but I have a lot of training to do before I'm as fit as he is!

And for those interesting in seeing the numbers:
  • We currently have about $240k in our retirement accounts (Roths, rollovers, 403bs).
  • We currently have about $35k in VWITX (tax exempt muni fund), which we're trying to build to about $160k to cover us until we hit 60 when we can then draw on the 403b/rollovers.
  • We have about $20k in regular savings, which will help cover our move/transition.
Numbers aside, the biggest questions I've been trying to find answers to revolve around expat issues: banking, voting, taxes, etc. We still have lots of planning to do, but we also have some time to do it, fortunately.

That's the nutshell version. Thanks for taking the time to read. I'm looking forward to interacting with everyone.

Cheers!
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Old 07-23-2010, 08:01 PM   #2
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Hi ncaraway, and welcome to the ER Forum!
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Old 07-23-2010, 09:01 PM   #3
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Hi ncaraway. I kept the book under my pillow for years; not The Great Gatsby but The Terhorsts' Cashing in on the American Dream which is still relevant IMO. Looking forward to seeing more of your posts.
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Old 07-23-2010, 10:34 PM   #4
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Thank you for the warm welcome. I agree - the message of Paul's book is still relevant. Too bad CDs aren't still paying the interest rates referenced in the book.

(BTW, my mis-spelling of Nick Carraway - ncaraway - goes back to the days when my email address was limited to 8 characters)
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Old 07-23-2010, 11:50 PM   #5
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Waving from Beijing!

You will probably find it pretty easy to earn supplemental income by teaching/tutoring. Perhaps even enough to live on, while working only part-time hours as you build up your reputation and client list. One good thing about relocating to Taiwan/China/Korea/Japan, etc. is that the stress on education and pressure to get into good schools (including US colleges and universities in many places now) means that parents are willing to invest a lot in extracurricular classes and tutoring for their kids.

I would take the ESR approach to begin with, and see how that works out. If you find your expenses are low enough, you can always ease into full ER pretty quickly.

good luck with your plan and keep us posted as things develop!

lhamo
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Old 07-24-2010, 01:09 PM   #6
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Thailand Expat Forum for Expats Living in Thailand - Expat Forum For Expats, For Moving Overseas And For Jobs Abroad
http://www.expat-blog.com/en/directory/asia/thailand/
Other than these resources, I imagine you want help with offshore taxes and investing. Is that why you are here?
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Old 07-24-2010, 03:15 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by lhamo View Post
Waving from Beijing!

You will probably find it pretty easy to earn supplemental income by teaching/tutoring. Perhaps even enough to live on, while working only part-time hours as you build up your reputation and client list. One good thing about relocating to Taiwan/China/Korea/Japan, etc. is that the stress on education and pressure to get into good schools (including US colleges and universities in many places now) means that parents are willing to invest a lot in extracurricular classes and tutoring for their kids.

I would take the ESR approach to begin with, and see how that works out. If you find your expenses are low enough, you can always ease into full ER pretty quickly.

good luck with your plan and keep us posted as things develop!

lhamo
Ni hao lhamo!

You are right about the emphasis on education in Asia. My nieces and nephews all go to cram school after school, which amazes me. They have almost no time (in my opinion) for a social life.

Having managed an English school in Taiwan (and speaking English as a second language) my wife thinks I'd make a very good teacher. I'm not sure I have the personality for it, though. But I may give it a try.

By the way, what does ESR mean?

Keith - thanks for the links. I've been to that site before but they have almost no info on Taiwan. I think I'm here for the same reason most folks are - to be with a community of like-minded folks and to get advice from those with experience. I also spend time in other forums: bogleheads, Taiwan, and ESL, primarily.

Cheers!
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Old 03-17-2014, 11:59 PM   #8
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Well, I've now been living in Taiwan for just over two years so I thought I should post an update.

First off, I don't really miss the US (other than Mexican food) and I certainly don't miss working in the IT field. That was way too stressful! I am working part-time teaching English as a second language and it is fun. I probably don't have to work but it keeps my mind active, allows me to meet and interact with more local people, and it helps postpone us dipping into our savings. Also, we're using the extra money to do some renovations on our condo.

The cost of living here is low. Amenities are comparable to the US. Our average monthly expenses are just under $800US. We live a fairly simple life. If we traveled more, the cost would be higher, of course.

I can't say enough good things about healthcare here. The national health insurance costs us about $100US/month plus 2% of the wages I earn teaching. Seeing a doctor is almost as simple as walking in to the office. I seldom have to wait more than 5-10 minutes. And if it turns out you need medicine, they will give you a 3-day supply of prescription medicine before you leave the doctor's office. No need to make a second trip and wait at a pharmacy. The copay is about $5US. As a result, when people catch a cold, they are more likely to see a physician rather than self-medicating with expensive OTC medicines.

Anyway, I spend most of my time now working on my family genealogy. I hope to leave that legacy to future generations of relatives. I also go to the gym regularly; good thing since I'm now 50. The one thing I have been too lax about is learning Chinese. I took an intensive class one summer and made great progress but it was too intensive for my old brain. English is relatively common here so I could probably get by with my current level of Chinese but that's not good.
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Old 03-18-2014, 12:26 AM   #9
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Thanks for the update from Taiwan.

Is it easy to find part-time work teaching English in Taiwan? I'm interested in spending a year or so in China teaching English after getting ESL certification, but a lot of what I read seems to indicate that full-time work is more common. My interest is in teaching in order to integrate a bit with local people, rather than being a tourist. The money isn't really an issue (doesn't hurt, of course), and I don't really want to get back into full time work after retiring a year ago from an IT career. I've been looking more at mainland China since I've been learning Mandarin, and hadn't really thought about Taiwan. I'd also thought more about teaching Business English to adults rather than kids.
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Old 03-18-2014, 02:07 AM   #10
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Thanks for the update from Taiwan. Is it easy to find part-time work teaching English in Taiwan?
Actually, it's easier to find part-time work than full-time. The problem is getting a work visa. I am fortunate that my visa is tied to my marriage so I don't need an employer to assist with that. If you haven't already taken a look, check out the international forums at eslcafe.com (Dave's ESL Cafe). You can get an idea what your options are in various countries. For the benefit of folks like you, I shared my Taiwan experiences at length in this thread:

Job Discussion Forums :: View topic - On getting hired in Tainan

Feel free to PM me if you have other questions.
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Old 03-18-2014, 08:54 AM   #11
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I'd love to Expat, SO will have nothing to do with it. Having researched retiring overseas a few years ago one important item to consider (no matter what country you settle in) is to establish your residency in a State with no income income taxes (e.g. Florida, Texas) if you planning on expating permanently or for a significant number of years.. There are several (5 or 6) states (can't remember which ones, but I remember Virginia being one) that aggressively pursue you for State Income income tax. The other States with State income tax seemed to be hit or miss unless you owned property there. This may not be as big factor in your case as it was in mine (retired with pension, a lot of my portfolio still in pre-tax accounts, and not planning or needing to work in whatever country I went to).
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Old 03-18-2014, 09:53 AM   #12
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I'd love to Expat, SO will have nothing to do with it. Having researched retiring overseas a few years ago one important item to consider (no matter what country you settle in) is to establish your residency in a State with no income income taxes (e.g. Florida, Texas) if you planning on expating permanently or for a significant number of years.. There are several (5 or 6) states (can't remember which ones, but I remember Virginia being one) that aggressively pursue you for State Income income tax. The other States with State income tax seemed to be hit or miss unless you owned property there. This may not be as big factor in your case as it was in mine (retired with pension, a lot of my portfolio still in pre-tax accounts, and not planning or needing to work in whatever country I went to).
prototype, I don't own any property in the US so state taxes aren't an issue for me. I do file federal taxes but my income is considerably below the level where I would have to pay*. I will probably have to pay income taxes in Taiwan, but I don't think it will be much. I'll find out next month when my employer sends me my earnings records.

Since you mentioned issues with being an expat, one other thing for consideration is jury duty. I was living in Maryland. If I remember correctly, I had to notify the county that I was moving and had no intention of returning. Had I not done that I could have been called for jury duty and my county was very strict about requiring participation for those called.

I do still vote using my last address, but only for federal offices, not local or state.

I am happy to answer questions if you have any.

*Publication 54 (2013), Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad
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Old 03-22-2014, 09:44 PM   #13
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I'd love to Expat, SO will have nothing to do with it. Having researched retiring overseas a few years ago one important item to consider (no matter what country you settle in) is to establish your residency in a State with no income income taxes (e.g. Florida, Texas) if you planning on expating permanently or for a significant number of years..
It is not necessary to establish residency in a no-income-tax state to avoid having to file state tax returns after expatting. It depends on the tax domicile regulations of your last state of residence. There is no requirement that every citizen establish residence in a state. Indeed, establishing residence in a state like FL or TX before moving abroad could be construed as fraud since it is not your intention to reside there.

NY state, for example, does not consider you liable for state taxes even if you own property in the state as long as you do not spend more than 180 days per year within the state. When I move abroad from NY I surrendered my driver's license, sold all property, changed addresses with all financial institutions to a mailing address in FL, and stopped filing tax returns. I do not vote.

For other states, like CA, owning property alone could make you liable for state income taxes. The worst state does seem to be VA which takes the view that you continue to be liable for state income taxes until such time as you establish residence in another state.
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Old 03-22-2014, 09:55 PM   #14
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The one thing I have been too lax about is learning Chinese. I took an intensive class one summer and made great progress but it was too intensive for my old brain. English is relatively common here so I could probably get by with my current level of Chinese but that's not good.
Congratulations on the transition. I do urge you to buckle down and master Chinese. It's not true that you are too old. Much to the contrary, it is because you are older that you need strenuous mental effort to keep cognitive decline at bay. There is one study that showed that being bilingual delays the onset of Alzheimer's by five years, on average.

Having retired to Thailand, I spend my days studying the Thai language. At age 64. So, you can do it too. Spoken Thai is comparable to Chinese in difficulty for native English speakers. However, we do have a considerable advantage in that Thai is written with a syllabary, not ideograms. Nevertheless, the satisfaction from developing competence in the language is comparable, I am sure, and a big feature in my retirement.

Good luck in any case.
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Old 03-22-2014, 11:06 PM   #15
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How do you keep travel costs down if you have adult children or grandchildren when you expat? Do you use things like Skype to visit with them electronically?

I am getting closer to ER. I could retire in FL now due to lower cost of living there, but I don't care for the area in general. I would like to look at international destinations, but am not familiar with Asia at all. How do you decide where to start looking for ideal early retirement location?
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