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Insecure long term expat
Old 04-08-2014, 11:39 PM   #1
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Insecure long term expat

I admit I am in a very fortunate position. Financially, my position is good.

At age 55, I am probably not looking at "early retirement" but with retirement and pension ages going up to 67 years in some countries in the next 5 few years, many more people of my generation will likely to have to work until 67 before they can consider retirement.

Some background about myself;

Personal
I am 55 years old (which is when I thought I would retire but now unsure).
I am married, my wife is 50.
I have 2 children, both of whom I am fully supporting (one is at university and the other has another 4 years of high school to go).
I am an Australian but I have not lived in Australia for the past 27 years. I have been an expat for all of that time. I am currently living and working in South East Asia.
Due to my family situation (children in university and school), my wife and children live in Australia and I live alone in South East Asia. I spend about 10 days each month in Australia with my family and 20 days back in the office (although I have a home office and work whenever I am in Australia).

Work
I am basically self employed as a consultant so I do get to chose how much I work – but generally that means never saying “No” to a client who wants me to do some work. As a result, I generally work about 70 hours a week (12 hours a day, Monday to Friday in the office and about 5 hours a day from my apartment on Saturday and Sundays).
I used to really enjoy my work – but cannot say that any longer. I feel a bit trapped by work and do not know how to get free of it.

Income
I have been earning about US$500,000 per year for the past 4 years after tax. It varies from year to year but that is the average.

Assets
My wife and I have a reasonably large house in Australia, close to the city centre. It is worth over US$1,000,000.
I have a large apartment where I live when I am working. It is worth about US$700,000 - I hope to sell it later this year.
We also have an investment property in Australia worth about US$800,000.
We some other investment property worth about US$400,000.
I have a superannuation (retirement) fund of about US$2,100,000 plus some other shares and funds of about US$750,000.
We have cash in the bank of about US$1,400,000 (now largely earning nothing as interest rates have crashed).
We have no mortgages on any of our properties and no debt apart from monthly credit card bills of about US$2,500 and a tax bill estimated at about US$50,000.


I know it sounds like we are well off but I still feel quite financially insecure and feel I need to keep working in case everything turns sour.
As I mentioned, I have 2 children I am still supporting and see no end in sight in paying private school fees and university fees.
We are not big spenders – we are not frugal but most of our spending is modest.

Our annual spending is about US$150,000 per year - it sounds like a lot (it is a lot) but it includes things like monthly travel to and from Australia, private school fees, running 2 houses etc.

I have looked at the various financial calculators and basically I can retire now and still maintain my lifestyle, so I don't really need to cut back on my spending (although I have identified various savings I could make if not working).

I guess my big issues are;

1. How to feel confident enough to break free of work and relax – if I don’t, my current lifestyle will probably destroy my marriage or kill me (or both);

2. What do I do with myself if I am not working? I had a day off last weekend and was crawling up the wall with boredom (I keep active with gym, tennis and occasional golf but otherwise really have no hobbies – I try to avoid the usual expat hobby of drinking myself stupid every weekend).

I would be interested in any thoughts or comments – even if you tell me I am stupid and should not worry.
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Old 04-09-2014, 03:57 AM   #2
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With $6.5MM in retirement funds plus primary residence fully paid off - I would say you are good to go.

But if your consulting gig makes you tick - why not continue, at least in a part time mode.
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Old 04-09-2014, 04:58 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Aus_E_Expat View Post
I guess my big issues are;

1. How to feel confident enough to break free of work and relax – if I don’t, my current lifestyle will probably destroy my marriage or kill me (or both);

2. What do I do with myself if I am not working? I had a day off last weekend and was crawling up the wall with boredom (I keep active with gym, tennis and occasional golf but otherwise really have no hobbies – I try to avoid the usual expat hobby of drinking myself stupid every weekend).

I would be interested in any thoughts or comments – even if you tell me I am stupid and should not worry.
Welcome to the forum, Aus.

It's hard to have hobbies, or any kind of personal life, when you work 70 hours per week and your family lives elsewhere. When you have free time during your days home with the family do you also climb the walls?

Have you considered returning to Australia and working fewer hours while you reunite with your family and rebuild your life with them? That would help you deal with both questions. It would also let you better assess how much money you need to stop working, give you time to convert part of your wealth into something other than real estate.
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Old 04-09-2014, 05:09 AM   #4
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It's hard to have hobbies, or any kind of personal life, when you work 70 hours per week and your family lives elsewhere. When you have free time during your days home with the family do you also climb the walls?

I find being in Australia is generally boring - I think that is because it is predictable. Despite living in the inner city of a major Australian city it does not have the buzz and excitment of Asian cities.

Have you considered returning to Australia and working fewer hours while you reunite with your family and rebuild your life with them? That would help you deal with both questions. It would also let you better assess how much money you need to stop working, give you time to convert part of your wealth into something other than real estate.

My skills are valuable and marketable in Asia - but no one would give me work in Australia so while I could relocate to Australia, I would be working exclusively on Asian projects (which also would require face to face time in Asia).
I think only about 40% of my investments are in real estate - and I do intend to reduce that.
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Old 04-09-2014, 10:26 AM   #5
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Hi Aus,
Welcome to the forum. If you came here looking for confirmation that it is OK to retire early, you have definitely come to the right place!

As you have noted, your issue is not money. Sounds like you are working for others because you aren't sure how it would be to change your lifestyle. The only way I can think of to get over that hurdle would be to try a change and see how if feels. That could be switching to 20 days and home and 10 days at work. Another thought is to try real estate investments as a new career direction. The nice thing about FI and retirement is you get to choose how busy you want to be and how much of your time you want to give in support of others. You can say "No" whenever you want.

Have you had serious discussions with your wife on this subject?
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Old 04-09-2014, 02:42 PM   #6
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So, some issues:
1) Where to live after retirement. It sounds like you would like to live in Asia--does your wife? Will you greatly miss contact with your children if you lived outside Oz permanently? Obviously, this "where to live" issue is a biggie, and it might be possible that this choice is one of the things keeping you tied tot he present work.
2) Would it even be feasible to throttle back on the work days? Some customers really want the ability to use contractors at an accellerated weekly rate (a lot of hours per week), and if all of yours are like that, then scaling back can be tough.

I'm a consultant, but I do zero work when at home. It forces a complete segregation between my personal time and my work time, and it has been very beneficial to me: Before that, I was always thinking about work/projects/the "in basket" while at home. Now, when I'm on the road I work 12 hour days frequently and that's fine--it's a "work day" and there's nothing better to do. When I'm home I don't think about work at all.

Hobbies/social activities: It's possible that if you find a way to spend more time in Australia that you'll have a chance to develop more "outside of work" interests/activities there. I'm guessing now that your time there now is largely spent recuperating from your time working while abroad. Australia may seem less boring if you've got these other things going, if it becomes more than a place to stay between work "gigs."

Welcome to the board.
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Old 04-13-2014, 05:20 PM   #7
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Reading between the lines, and obviously I don't know you, but it sounds to me like you need a reboot.

With the amount of work you are doing, both in Asia and then when you come 'home' to your family, you risk becoming the source of funds and not much more. You say your marriage is at risk.

You say you would be bored if you weren't putting in 70 hours a week, but I suspect you may be filling your life with a 'justifiable' excuse that prevents you from being present with your family. And I don't mean physically present.

What is ultimately important for me, is being around people who love me and who I love. Being connected. Sharing time. Doing simple things and being content with what I have. Those things vary from person to person.

I would ask yourself why you feel the need accumulate more money, when you have enough already. What are you working towards? What is your end game? Life is too short not to take the time to find out what makes you happy and then to find a way to be able to do more of it.

I don't know you, so am possibly way off the mark. My apologies if that's the case. You are obviously very successful in your work life, but maybe your commitment to that success has prevented you from really working out what makes you happy.
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Old 04-13-2014, 06:41 PM   #8
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Sparkie - you make good points.

Particularly I should ask myself "What am I working towards? What is my end game?"

I reading about official retirement ages going up to 70 by about 2025 and I feel a bit guilty that I could stop working and enjoy myself when by cohort have another 15 years of work ahead of them.
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Old 04-13-2014, 07:11 PM   #9
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I wouldn't bother feeling guilty. It won't help 'them' and certainly not you. I stopped working, in the main in 2010 age 43. After a period, I decided I could do some work (maybe 10 - 20 days a year) and be ok with that.

I don't feel guilty. Each person makes their choices and lives with the consequences. Why should your choices be impacted by the choices of others unnecessarily? If you don't begrudge others for retiring early, maybe they won't begrudge you
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Old 04-14-2014, 09:41 AM   #10
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It seems to me that you have a lifestyle or relationship problem more than a financial one. In fact your financial situation looks fine. On this forum there are plenty of people who are great at helping with financial problems. There are also plenty of posts dealing with the lifestyle (what will I do in retirement) questions. We are generally not as capable in helping with relationship problems. Perhaps a professional could help you more than we can.
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Old 04-14-2014, 10:00 AM   #11
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Welcome to the forum. You sound very entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurs often struggle with the "what will I do with my time" question, as they like to always keep busy and find things to work on. Hopefully you can find a balance between keeping busy and working 70 hours a week, primarily in a different country from your family. I would think there is a middle ground somewhere in there that works well for you.
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Old 04-14-2014, 10:14 AM   #12
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I imagine you are financially independent right now by anyone's standards. You seem to really prefer your Asian location vs the Australian area.

You should send your posts here to your spouse and then have a long discussion about them to get her feedback as well as where she sees the future going. Maybe she likes the status quo, but on the other extreme maybe she would love to join you in Asia with the younger child or have that one go to boarding school and join you herself. Or maybe she sees you back in Australia with the fam. Or something completely different. I only suggest this in case there might be some surprises in this conversation or in the marital situation given your long independent living.

Your work schedule is pretty intense. Have you been on this 20 days in Asia working 70 hours a week schedule for most of the 27 years you have been an expat? Is there a reason you are feeling trapped by work for the first time now? Will the situation improve or get worse?
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Old 04-14-2014, 10:25 AM   #13
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Your work schedule is pretty intense. Have you been on this 20 days in Asia working 70 hours a week schedule for most of the 27 years you have been an expat? Is there a reason you are feeling trapped by work for the first time now? Will the situation improve or get worse?
We have only been doing this current 20 days a month in Asia, 10 days a month in Australia for the past 2 year.

Prior to that, my wife and family were with me but we decided due to stage children were at they were missing out on "normal" teenage years.

I have been working the 70 hours a week for over 20 years.
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Old 05-06-2014, 09:43 AM   #14
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We have only been doing this current 20 days a month in Asia, 10 days a month in Australia for the past 2 year.

Prior to that, my wife and family were with me but we decided due to stage children were at they were missing out on "normal" teenage years.

I have been working the 70 hours a week for over 20 years.
You are obviously very successful in your work, and very intelligent, and I may be way off the mark on this, please don't take it personally, but sometimes working this long in a stressful, exciting environment can be like taking a drug. I have had stretches like this (not 20 years though) and indeed it gives you a real high to be so completely involved in something and so needed that it is all consuming. But like taking a drug, it means you are missing out on something else, maybe your kids for one or your marriage or walking in the woods or looking at sunsets. I am only 1 month into this retirement thing, and retired later and older than I should have, and struggled in my mind with making the change for the last year before retirement. This forum helped me a lot. I took the first 3 weeks of retirement on a trip outside the country (SE Asia actually), and now doing some remodeling, all to get me out of the work mind track, and so far it is working, all of that work cr*p is fading pretty fast. Taking one day at a time as always. Hope things work out for you, sounds like you have some big decisions to make.
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Old 05-06-2014, 08:32 PM   #15
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Sometimes working this long in a stressful, exciting environment can be like taking a drug.

I took the first 3 weeks of retirement on a trip outside the country (SE Asia actually), and now doing some remodeling, all to get me out of the work mind track, and so far it is working, all of that work cr*p is fading pretty fast. Taking one day at a time as always. Hope things work out for you, sounds like you have some big decisions to make.
I know what you mean about the work being a drug - you become dependent on it and it is hard to wean yourself off it.

Hope your trip to SE Asia was enjoyable - a complete change of scenery is a good start. We did a trip around national parks in Western US last year - something I would like to do again this year but not sure if it will happen.

This message board is giving me a lot of encouragement that I can break free.
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Old 05-06-2014, 09:32 PM   #16
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Decide to work less. You have more power to change things than you think.
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Old 05-07-2014, 09:07 PM   #17
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It seems to me that you have a lifestyle or relationship problem more than a financial one.
Yep, that is very clear to me also. It's hard for me to relate to your situation, as I longed for more free time (away from work) for years prior to retirement, and once I got there, I felt as though I had been released from bondage. I have no problem keeping myself busy in retirement, and am rarely, if ever bored. If you've worked 70 hours per week for the last 20 years, and have become accustomed to leading that kind of hectic lifestyle, I can see where the transition to retirement could be difficult. As someone else said, you need to just take some time to think about what your goals are.......what's important to you in this life, and what you plan to do with all that $$. None of us can really answer those questions for you. The only advice I would offer is that life is short, and the sooner you think about these things, the better.
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Old 05-09-2014, 09:33 PM   #18
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Aus,
It's funny that you say that it's very boring in Australia vs. buzzing SE Asian cities, but then you mention your 'climbing on the walls' when you had a weekend off, I'm guessing, in that same 'buzzing' city in Asia. If so, there's a disconnect somewhere: either SE Asia isn't as exciting as you make it sound or you have a hard time identifying what makes you excited? If such boredom occurred on your time-off in Australia, then you've definitely got a big problem on your shoulders that you cannot enjoy time with your family.

Like the other commenters, I also think you've got not financial, but some other problems. I'm very curious what skills you possess that they're mostly valued in SE Asia only, if you can share. What's your profession or what do you do? It's just curiosity, that's all. I definitely wouldn't be happy to work as many hours, but I'm not as ambitious, I presume.
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Old 05-11-2014, 04:19 AM   #19
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Aida,

You are almost certainly correct. I probably do have a hard time identifying what makes me excited.

The skills I have which are valuable where I am located are;
- a good client contact base;
- a name and reputation that is well known in the local market;
- good knowledge of the local regulatory and business environment.

I think I am pretty smart and could probably build a new business in Australia - but do I want to start again from scratch at age 55? No.
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Old 07-14-2014, 11:43 AM   #20
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Also consider the laws of supply and demand. If you reduce supply (your hours working), you may increase demand (and by proxy the rate you can charge). I have seen this myself and with others time and time again. It wouldn't shock me if you could end up cutting your hours to say 20-30/week and making nearly what you're making now.
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