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Retire to old country or stay put in USA?
Old 07-24-2015, 07:39 AM   #1
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Retire to old country or stay put in USA?

I came to America for college back in '99 and totally integrated. In 5 years DW and I will be ready to FIRE. Now comes the interesting problem. Should we return to Kenya where we have family and lower cost of living or should we stay put here in Northern Virginia where we have friends and the standard of living is quite high. Here are the facts:

First, the numbers:
Net worth: 1.2M
Mortgages: 2 houses in US on 15 year mortgages balance of 700K
No other debts.
In Kenya we own a beach front condo in Mombasa suburbs, a condo in Nairobi, an undeveloped real estate in a commercial area and 20 acres of farmland. The condos currently generate rental income of 3K per month.

If we relocate to Kenya, plan is to sell bigger house in VA and use proceeds(500K) to develop the commercial real estate. This would generate about 60K net profit per year with potential of more. But there is also high risks involved due to nature of doing business in Kenya. We would also be able to do some farming on the 20 acres.

If we stay put in VA, we would spend some of our retirement money(500K) to develop the commercial real estate while renting out the other properties in Kenya.

DS(only child) goes off to college in 2019 either to University of Cape Town( 5K per year) or to state university in VA. If we relocate back to old country his mum wants him closer at UCT.

So here's our dilemma. We love it here and our son's future belongs here. But on the flip side, we still have family in Kenya and there are amazing business opportunities here although the risks are equally high. What would you do?
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Old 07-24-2015, 09:37 AM   #2
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Do you think your only child would want to go to a Virginia college or to the UCT? It would be very hard for me to decide what to do without a crystal ball to see the future--his probable career location would be an important factor, more than the extended family you have now in Kenya.

I would also want to protect myself financially as much as possible, but you of course are knowledgeable about both countries' risk factors. Really a tough decision for you.
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Old 07-24-2015, 09:44 AM   #3
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So here's our dilemma. We love it here and our son's future belongs here. But on the flip side, we still have family in Kenya and there are amazing business opportunities here although the risks are equally high. What would you do?
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Old 07-24-2015, 10:03 AM   #4
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I came to America for college back in '99 and totally integrated. In 5 years DW and I will be ready to FIRE. Now comes the interesting problem. Should we return to Kenya where we have family and lower cost of living or should we stay put here in Northern Virginia where we have friends and the standard of living is quite high. Here are the facts:

[...] So here's our dilemma. We love it here and our son's future belongs here. But on the flip side, we still have family in Kenya and there are amazing business opportunities here although the risks are equally high. What would you do?
Here's how I see it. Kenya is part of your past and you have moved on. Even though you have family there that you miss, still, you have not lived there (or near them) for a very long time. It has surely changed since then, and memories can be unrealistically rosy.

What I would do is to retire here where you have friends and a lifestyle that you are accustomed to at this stage in life. I would budget for frequent trips back to Kenya with your son, perhaps month-long trips once a year if possible, so that you can keep in close touch with your family back there.

My situation was similar, but not identical. I miss Hawaii, where I grew up, but it is very expensive to live there. Not only that, it has radically changed since I last lived there - - I can't even find my way around Honolulu any more. My friends and family have died and/or dispersed, as well. My memories are MINE; they will never disappear or change and they are very dear to me. Still, it is not the same place and I would not have the same experience if I moved back.
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Old 07-24-2015, 10:08 AM   #5
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It really depends which lifestyle you want, since money does not seem to be an issue.
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Old 07-24-2015, 10:10 AM   #6
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In 5 years DW and I will be ready to FIRE.
./.
So here's our dilemma. We love it here and our son's future belongs here. But on the flip side, we still have family in Kenya and there are amazing business opportunities here although the risks are equally high. What would you do?
If there are amazing business opportunities, you might not be ready to FIRE.

You have a place there. One option is not to make a choice yet, but just go back for 6 months or so, don't make any long term commitments, and see if you still like it so much you want to remain. Then choose.

Things can change quickly in a developing country. No matter what you decide, it might be to your advantage to always have the option to return to the US.
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Old 07-24-2015, 10:25 AM   #7
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Your experiences and knowledge relative to this very personal choice probably greatly outweigh that which the forum can bring to bear. As you say, the potential opportunities in Kenya are huge;however, as in all things it seems, with the possibilities of great rewards come commensurate risks. Having family in Kenya is a huge plus obviously and you know what many of the challenges will be. UCT is a fine university, Capetown is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and South Africa seems to be holding together. The experience for your son would be completely different and likely be quite enriching. Consider whether his degrees would be recognized in the US if he decides to return. Even if your son ultimately decides that he will live in the US, the experience and contacts he develops in Africa may be invaluable in his future. Expanding one's horizons is seldom a bad choice.

Good luck with your planning and your choices.
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Old 07-24-2015, 11:53 AM   #8
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I am a dual citizen: US and an Asian country. My home country is not quite 1st world, nor is it un-developed. We plan to maintain 2 household and shuttle back and forth, until we can fly anymore.

This adds to our estimated retirement expenses. But home country has universal health (almost free to us), and better choice of elder case so we do not purchase LTCi here in US.

So, you can try to do the same and pick the areas to your benefit from 2 societies.
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Old 07-24-2015, 03:00 PM   #9
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Tough question. What does your son want?

My opinion is that a U.S. university education is the way to go. This probably means that your DS would stay in the U.S even after he gets his degree. We're dual citizens and have chose to raise/educate our kids in the U.S., but once they are on their own, we plan on spending 3-4 months a year in Europe so we can spend time with family and friends there. This way we get to enjoy the benefits of each place.
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Old 07-24-2015, 04:52 PM   #10
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I like the option for son school here. If you can afford to maintain both would time in Kenya during the winter or some extended times during the year give you the best of both? Congrats on your success


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Old 07-25-2015, 03:11 AM   #11
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Do you think your only child would want to go to a Virginia college or to the UCT? It would be very hard for me to decide what to do without a crystal ball to see the future--his probable career location would be an important factor, more than the extended family you have now in Kenya.

I would also want to protect myself financially as much as possible, but you of course are knowledgeable about both countries' risk factors. Really a tough decision for you.
My son is definitely intrigued by the prospect of studying abroad and UCT is a fine university so we are encouraging him to consider it at least for his undergraduate degree.

You bring up a big pro on staying put here, which is hedging ourselves financially. The thing about developing countries is that you have to worry about high inflation and currency risks that.
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Old 07-25-2015, 03:24 AM   #12
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Here's how I see it. Kenya is part of your past and you have moved on. Even though you have family there that you miss, still, you have not lived there (or near them) for a very long time. It has surely changed since then, and memories can be unrealistically rosy.

What I would do is to retire here where you have friends and a lifestyle that you are accustomed to at this stage in life. I would budget for frequent trips back to Kenya with your son, perhaps month-long trips once a year if possible, so that you can keep in close touch with your family back there.

My situation was similar, but not identical. I miss Hawaii, where I grew up, but it is very expensive to live there. Not only that, it has radically changed since I last lived there - - I can't even find my way around Honolulu any more. My friends and family have died and/or dispersed, as well. My memories are MINE; they will never disappear or change and they are very dear to me. Still, it is not the same place and I would not have the same experience if I moved back.
This is my ideal compromise, and I like the idea of long visits with my son. Dear wife thinks otherwise. She feels that we need to spend more time with our aging parents who can no longer take the long trips to America. So that's why I like the prospect of doing frequent and longer trips to Kenya just for the parents.

Thanks for your insight.
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Old 07-25-2015, 03:32 AM   #13
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If there are amazing business opportunities, you might not be ready to FIRE.

You have a place there. One option is not to make a choice yet, but just go back for 6 months or so, don't make any long term commitments, and see if you still like it so much you want to remain. Then choose.

Things can change quickly in a developing country. No matter what you decide, it might be to your advantage to always have the option to return to the US.
I should mention that I'm referring to passive business opportunities such as commercial real estate. Basically we envision hiring a management company to handle the business. The farming is just more of a hobby since I love the outdoors.
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Old 07-25-2015, 09:29 AM   #14
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You don't say whether or not you are US citizens. If you are permanent residents, you must be present in the US for a certain amount of time each year or lose your status IIRC. Of course living abroad as US citizens, you will still have to file US income tax returns. I think doing undergraduate study in Capetown would be a great experience for your son even if he ultimately wants to return to the US for a career.

Others have suggested just doing lengthy visits to Kenya. In retirement, that is much easier to do and I think I'd recommend that as well.
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Old 07-26-2015, 09:52 AM   #15
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Very insightful responses. I think being an immigrant facing retirement presents special opportunities and challenges especially with an American born and raised child. My DW and I are both US citizens so the logistics of retiring abroad are a little easier since we can always return if things don't work out. And there is a desire in us to expose our DS to a different culture just as we did when we came here for college. UCT presents that amazing cultural experience without compromising on quality. DS wants to have a career in Science so he will go to grad school(at a US university) and that's why we see no qualms with him attending UCT for undergrad.

The allure of retiring in Kenya comes from the fact that we already have two condos in very different settings; beachfront and the city. Plus there is an opportunity to do some farming. I've always been a very restless person and I don't see that changing in retirement thus the allure of having multiple homes for change in scenery and activity.

Contrast that to retiring in NOVA. There are lots of interesting activities to be involved in but there is no diversity in the scenery unless we travel. And any travel would have to be short-term and even that get's old as we get older. But I see the value of staying in NOVA and taking longer trips to Kenya until we're certain what option to select. Maybe after being in Kenya for six months we might realize that it's not really for us.

There is a third option; retire to Cape Town. This option presents us with first world standards of living whilst being closer to Kenyan family and DS. As 6smith and others have alluded, Cape Town is not too bad as a retirement destination. I've been there and I loved the great outdoors, the beautiful settings and proximity to Kenya. It helps that it is not that expensive to live there either. Lots of options, which is not a bad problem to have. The good thing is that we have time between now and 2020.
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Old 07-27-2015, 07:27 AM   #16
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Wow, tough choice. If it wasn't for your son I would think Kenya offers the better solution - cheaper cost of living, beach and city, good health care/LTC if you need it, cultural fit. But your son is a native American and will probably end up here - long way to visit him and the grand-kids. But, on the other hand, what are the odds that your son will end up living near you where you can visit frequently? If you move around the US to stay near him that could be costly and dislodge you from the community you have developed here. Would moving to Kenya save you enough money to enable frequent trips to wherever your son settles? If so, that is a very real factor to consider. Better living in Kenya and as frequent visits with your son as would be affordable and likely here?
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Old 07-27-2015, 11:55 AM   #17
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We also had somewhat your dilemma back in 2010. I am a dual citizen of US & Turkey. My wife is a US citizen. We have two kids ages 11 & 2 and they are also dual citizens. We still have a house on Long Island, NY & a condo in a sea town of Turkey, and an undeveloped land in Turkey. Long story short, we have been settled in Turkey for the past two years and there is currently no intention of coming back to the US anytime soon.

As others pointed out, it is mostly a personal choice. Our main driving force of moving to Turkey was to be closer to the family while the kids are small, make them a true bilinguals, and give them the heritage of my home country.

Good luck with your decision.
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Old 07-27-2015, 03:54 PM   #18
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Nowhere did I see what your son wants? There are all these ideas what others think for him, but being soon an adult, he should be able to make his own decision on where to attend college. Since being born and raised in USA, he may want to stay in USA. Or he may be excited about going to college in Capetown. It may be too soon for him to make the decision now, but I think he should have the highest priority vote for what he wants.

As for your retirement, that is up to you and what you prefer. Not everything is a pure financial decision. Aging parents and son's college location may not be a nice choice to make.
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Old 07-27-2015, 05:42 PM   #19
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The father of a former collogue dreamed of retiring to his ancestral village in the Philippines. He lasted 6 months. His was a case of 'You Can't Go Home Again.' His relatives barely remembered him - most of his age mates had passed away. After living in the US for 40 years he had become accustomed to the services available in the developed world. He had visited his ancestral village briefly over the years but as a visitor he was treated as a guest. Taking residence changed the picture. His son brought him back to the US.

I suggest you plan extended visits to see what works best for you.
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Old 07-29-2015, 05:48 PM   #20
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@FiredToBeExpat and 38Chevy454


I've often felt that being bicultural/lingual is actually a plus in an increasingly globalized world and we try to instil that in our son as much as we can. Throughout his life he has been exposed to different cultures be it via travel of hosting relatives from Europe or Africa. An aunt of his even has 2 Chinese high-scholars living with her that we visit and interact with often. So at this point, a move to Cape Town for college is not too daunting for him. In fact, he is even more excited about the move than us, but that could change when he gets older. Now what the kid does after college, that's beyond me. But he will have been exposed to the fastest growing economies for the next decades and that's a good thing.


@Brat


What drama! Hopefully the years of travel back and fourth and familiarity with the environment will lessen the impact of reverse-culture shock if we decide to retire to Kenya.
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