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Why Expatriate?
Old 07-13-2014, 09:37 PM   #1
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Why Expatriate?

I've been reading the thread about counties that offer some sort of retirement schemes to qualified expats. First thing that jumps out is how complicated the tax issues are. Second thing is how many real experts in this stuff we have on this board.

But it isn't clear to me why someone who had plenty of money to live in the US, and who does not have family or work issues that present him with domicile problems, and who is not a scholar of Theravada Buddhism or some other very specialized calling, would want to go to all this trouble?

For some, perhaps, girls. But on this forum that is unlikely to be a major motivator. What are the main reasons why someone would take on what at least is a hassle, and has some risks that are not part of staying at home? Imagine oldernme's problem with a knock on his door at night, but in Thailand or Malaysia or Honduras?

If seeing Angkor Wat or some other ruins is important, and I think it would likely be thrilling, how about a guided or solo trip?

Strongly negative attitudes toward the US is a possible reason, but in 11 years here I think I have never seen any evidence of this.

And of course there are some real negatives. Asia at least has some very difficult languages, that a typical expat is very unlikely to take to a sophisticated level. Laws are different, and to learn them seems not easy, plus enforcement in some places may be highly capricious.

So what are some reasons that perhaps fall outside what I have been able to come up with?

Ha
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Why Expatriate?
Old 07-13-2014, 09:53 PM   #2
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Why Expatriate?

I don't intend to expatriate, but visiting can be very good. I don't think the US has everything, but it has a lot.
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Old 07-13-2014, 10:38 PM   #3
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A few reasons we are considering it -

Less gun deaths -
Visualizing gun deaths – Comparing the U.S. to rest of the world | Humanosphere

Much lower health care costs -
21 graphs that show America’s health-care prices are ludicrous - The Washington Post

More social justice -
United States incarceration rate - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lower long term care costs (like half the cost of here even in developed EU countries)
The U.S. has 2/3 of the world lawyers - more chance of getting sued
No capital punishment
More vacation time
Less GMO crops
Lower cost of living

Less military spending -
U.S. Military Spending Dwarfs Rest of World - NBC News

In EU - easier to travel around to all sorts of countries and cultures, even just by driving and camping

Less income inequality -
Thomas Piketty: U.S. inequality is "spectacular" - CBS News

Less chance of going bankrupt or shot due to the above factors, more long term financial security.
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Old 07-13-2014, 10:56 PM   #4
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Ha, damned if I know. In any case, you get to pay taxes worldwide to the US even after you leave, so the attraction escapes me.
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Old 07-13-2014, 11:31 PM   #5
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I have been an expatriate for 27 years - most of my working life.

I did it because I was looking for something new and more interesting, and I continue to it because I find it interesting (even if not so new anymore).

I am also not a US citizen so worldwide income tax is not an issue for me (I only pay tax where I am actually a tax resident).

So my position is different - I am already the expat, not retiring to become an expat.

Why do I think people consider becoming an expat upon retirement;
- cost of living in most South East Asian countries is much lower than in developed countries (I assume Central and South America also cheaper);
- income tax rates are low (although if you are retired and your income is not hign, that may not be an issue);
- you can employ maids, drivers, gardeners are very cheap rate - never underestimate the benefit when retired of having a maid to do all you housework, cook etc for $150 per month;
- you can play golf or tennis or have a personal trainer at the gym for much less;
- the weather in most of these "retirement" locations is warm all year (which would be a consideration if coming from the US or Europe;
- cities in South East Asia have a lot more buzz and excitment about them.

I can understand people in good health in early retirement (say in ages 50 to 70) wanting to try something new. Its definitely not for everyone - but it is for some.

As for me, after spending so long as an expatriate, I am probably looking at spending some time back at "home", although, in my experience, most long term expats do not settle back into their "home" countries all that well.
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Old 07-13-2014, 11:42 PM   #6
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Some expatriates leave the US in order to have a lower cost of living. (I would tell them to just try living in the US rural south for a while first, and see if that isn't enough cheaper for them, but oh well).

Some want total immersion in another culture and language. (The rural south would give that to them too ).

I'm sure there are a lot of other reasons.

Whatever the reason, it seems like an awful lot of them are back living in the US or spending a lot of their time in the US, within just a few years. Maybe the experience is not really what they expected. But others do seem to adjust better and stay expatriated.
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Old 07-14-2014, 12:41 AM   #7
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I have never felt a whole lot of satisfaction living in the US. I don't want kids and I only have one life. Why stay in the US? Taxes be damned and I live a minimalist lifestyle anyway.
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Old 07-14-2014, 12:42 AM   #8
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For some, perhaps, girls. But on this forum that is unlikely to be a major motivator.
In the majority of cases especially with single men over 50 that's the reason.

As for cost of living if your an expat living a US lifestyle it will probably cost you more outside the country.

Cars and gas cost more.
The stuff we buy in the grocery store is cheaper here.
Stuff like toothpaste and shave gel are almost twice the price of Walmart overseas.

With Obamacare health care can be low in many cases.
Then theres Medicare and Medicaid.
Food stamps and other social programs are available to low income earners.

Try and find a soup kitchen in Latin America.

Rent and homes will be cheaper overseas than most of the US but then there are a lot of reasonable places here too.
And we owe Uncle Sam no matter where we live.

Adventure and new experiences are also a reason to pick up go but if the expat maintains their US ways I do not see where it is a better financial situation.
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Old 07-14-2014, 12:57 AM   #9
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I chose to become an expatriate for the following reasons:

America's overall cost of living is still much higher than where I am now. Most of America is a fairly boring suburban sprawl interspersed with some very beautiful nature. If you want to live in the exciting areas of the U.S. then you will pay dearly for it.

I'm familiar with the south and it's nice to visit however if you aren't into bible thumping, football, or red state politics then it's no place to settle. Overall quality of life matters more.

I am a fairly young guy in my 30's and single. A mobile lifestyle makes a lot more sense. This isn't P.C. to say but I do like foreign women more too.

Life is short and there's a lot of interesting things in the world to see and experience.
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Old 07-14-2014, 01:08 AM   #10
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For me, work and study kept me overseas for 23 of my now 54 years so it raises a real question of where "home" is... Most of my adult life has been out of the uS so retiring there would seem pretty exotic!


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Old 07-14-2014, 01:23 AM   #11
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I chose to become an expatriate for the following reasons:

America's overall cost of living is still much higher than where I am now. Most of America is a fairly boring suburban sprawl interspersed with some very beautiful nature. If you want to live in the exciting areas of the U.S. then you will pay dearly for it.

I'm familiar with the south and it's nice to visit however if you aren't into bible thumping, football, or red state politics then it's no place to settle. Overall quality of life matters more.

I am a fairly young guy in my 30's and single. A mobile lifestyle makes a lot more sense. This isn't P.C. to say but I do like foreign women more too.

Life is short and there's a lot of interesting things in the world to see and experience.
Great you are young and mobile and have the energy to explore, Go for it.
You also know foreign women will be nicer to you than American women.
And as you get older young foreign women will still be nice to you.

For the older guys the availability of attractive young foreign women who will be receptive to them is their motivator to live in these countries.
Take the women out of the equation and 75% would probably return home and the same women in the US may not even give them the time of day.
Its not PC but its reality.
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Old 07-14-2014, 01:30 AM   #12
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28 year career expatriate and can honestly say I've traveled the world and enjoyed a rich variety of lifestyles and cultures.

That being said - I have zero intentions of retiring outside the USA.

Reasons -

Overseas life is all starting to wear on me, I want to be where people talk like me and think like me.

I want to retire where life is convenient and not an uphill struggle - like most of the overseas locations I have been posted.

Spent the last five years preparing a retirement retreat in the Northwest - a secure and well stocked nest in preparation for a future that may be quite different than today.

DW needs access to specialist medical facilities. May or may not be available outside the US where the general standard of health care is excellent.

Have no need to seek out a lower cost country as resources are sufficient to fund retirement.

I can always travel out to Thailand or the Alps or the Maldives as desired and for as long as desired. No need to permanently relocate.

+1 on the comment that you are taxed on global income regardless. A not so nice feature of carrying a blue passport.







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Old 07-14-2014, 01:36 AM   #13
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Great you are young and mobile and have the energy to explore, Go for it.
You also know foreign women will be nicer to you than American women.
And as you get older young foreign women will still be nice to you.

For the older guys the availability of attractive young foreign women who will be receptive to them is their motivator to live in these countries.
Take the women out of the equation and 75% would probably return home and the same women in the US may not even give them the time of day.
Its not PC but its reality.
My wife (who is 50 and not Asian) enjoyed living in South East Asia and as far as I can tell, the attraction for her is not attractive young Asian women.

As our children are now at university, my wife is spending a few years back at "home" base but wishes she was back in South East Asia.

My wife also has a lot of friends who are also attracted to living in South East Asia.

One of the advantages is the freedom having maids gives to wives - they do not spend their lives doing housework.

The expatriate life does not work for everyone (probably only a small percentage) but it is a viable lifestyle choice for some us.

Even though it is not politically correct, for single guys (old or young) spending their lives chasing young Asian women is a viable lifestyle choice.
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Old 07-14-2014, 01:42 AM   #14
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28 year career expatriate and can honestly say I've traveled the world and enjoyed a rich variety of lifestyles and cultures.

That being said - I have zero intentions of retiring outside the USA.

Reasons -

Overseas life is all starting to wear on me, I want to be where people talk like me and think like me.

I want to retire where life is convenient and not an uphill struggle - like most of the overseas locations I have been posted.

DW needs access to specialist medical facilities. May or may not be available outside the US where the general standard of health care is excellent.

Wingfooted - after 28 years living overseas, I hope you can find people who talk like you and think like you.

That is one of the biggest problems I have when I go "home" - people have not understanding of my life experiences over the past 27 years as they have lived very settled lifestyles. Even worse, they question my accent now and ask if I am British (I am not!!!).

I can certainly understand the health care issue - it is definitely a valid reason to retire to the US.
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Old 07-14-2014, 02:10 AM   #15
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Ha, damned if I know. In any case, you get to pay taxes worldwide to the US even after you leave, so the attraction escapes me.
Some times its just Wunderlust

As a kid, I would ride my bicycle down to the library, grab an atlas and some National Geographic magazines and "travel the world." At least it improved my knowledge of geography.

For me there are no tax savings. I do not pay Thai Income Tax but I do pay US Income Tax on my US Dividends and Capital Gains. The only financial incentive is that my with drawl rate has usually been under 1% of my portfolio. I pretty much do what I want, but I just don't spend that much money. Having said that, its also very easy to blow a lot of money here and not every thing abroad is cheaper than back home.

The one thing I have learned is that foreigners are (barely) tolerated and not really liked. After I learned the language -functional level- I realized that ignorance can some times have its advantages. Derogatory comments reference.

Last year I had my ephinay: my motorcycle was stolen and when I reported it to the cops, they laughed at me and didn't even want to take my report. This despite the fact that I presented them with a CCTV video of the guys stealing the bike. Thailand can be a lonely place when you have a problem.

I've since decided that its better to be a traveler than an expat, so I'm in the process of returning to the USA.

I don't regret my time abroad but the USA is a pretty good place to be as well.

I bought another bike, but now I only stay in Five Star resorts
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Old 07-14-2014, 03:28 AM   #16
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I actually don't believe women are the #1 reason for most expats.

Cost of living and overall quality of life issues are a bigger factor.

For example..

I can take weekend trips to a nice island where I can go scuba diving, swimming, and or just lounge on the beach drinking out of a coconut.

I can take a short flight and be in a different country.

2-3 hour plane trip and I can be in a bustling metropolis with a first world standard of living.

Each area also has a different culture, unique cuisine, and interesting sites to see.

The women are just a big bonus on top of that.

Where in the U.S. can I have this kind of flexibility at a reasonable cost?

I did a lot of regional comparisons to try and come up with places that match my criteria. This lifestyle simply isn't available in the U.S. unless you want to pay out the nose.
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Old 07-14-2014, 04:13 AM   #17
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In my case I'm considering the perpetual travel attitude for a few years, moving around at a slow pace. Sometimes sticking around for several months.

Reasons for: The home I left doesn't exist anymore in any real sense. People changed, circumstances changed, I changed. The home I have here is not really a home, I just set up camp here. Do have somewhat of a social network here now, that's a counterpoint.

Girls not so much a motivator. Lower cost of living is nice as an enabler (don't have to worry about added cost of moving around).

In the end, I believe it doesn't really matter where you go to, as the biggest factor in your own happiness (yourself) always tags along

I'd guess it goes back to the original question for me: why getting out of bed or the house on any given day at all?

I think in my case: because I'm curious and like to push myself a little bit out of the comfort zone. Going expat is just another way for doing that.

Otherwise I get bored and passive ..
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Old 07-14-2014, 05:16 AM   #18
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38 million of us are First Generation Immigrants. We always search for answer to "where do we belong." You can not erase being born somewhere else just as you can not erase living in US for decades.

So many of us expatriate back to place where we were born or at least spend large portion of year in our birthplace.
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Old 07-14-2014, 05:26 AM   #19
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There are two kinds of expats. This applies whether you are from the US or somewhere else in the world, but we'll use to US as an example. The first is the expat who always intends to return to the US at some point in their life. IMHO, they are only an expat by virtue of not living in US at present. The second type is the emigrant. The emigrants, those intending to live abroad permanently, are the true expats.

The temporary expat (the first type) will always be American. They may assimilate, to a degree, into another culture; but their Americanism controls their primary mind set.

What may come as a surprise to the emigrant (the second type) is that they will also always be an American as well if they did not leave the US before the age of, say 25(?). The formation years of ones cultural outlook is American. They do not have the cultural grounding that comes with growing up in the foreign country. There are subtleties they never quite grasp. IMHO, it is unlikely they will ever be 100% French, German, Canadian, or whatever.

The result for both types is a true multi-culture outlook. Its success will vary according to the individual and how long they stay abroad. That can create the curse. They're comfortable in the country they're in, but miss aspects of the other country.

So, why expatriate? If you're the type who couldn't move permanently to North Dakota, or Florida, or Arizona, or Mississippi, then moving abroad probably isn't for you. There's nothing wrong with that, you're just that type of individual. If you can learn to live where you're planted, and enjoy the diversity, then why not expatriate? If you have an open mind, learning a new culture can be a very rewarding experience.

I'm an LTE (long term expat). I'm also an emigrant. I've taken up citizenship in a 'foreign' country. I've considered the 'what if I had to move back to the States' scenario. My problem: I don't feel there is anywhere in the US where I would feel comfortable on a long term basis. In spite of being American, I would end up living the life of an expat in America. I'd be just as happy living somewhere else.

There's a great deal more we could discuss: the tax problem, the various aspects of American culture, etc., but we best avoid that discussion for now.
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Old 07-14-2014, 05:41 AM   #20
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All great comments. Not a lot to add from those who have done it since their comments are spot on.

I too have been an expat for almost my entire working career - and a bit in college too - and it comes down to the challenge, adventure, and food for the brain for me. Keeps the mind sharp.

To the commenter on girls- perhaps for a small percentage that is true but the reality is that many move simply looking for companionship, perhaps a second chance after being married to someone not right for them who took all their stuff including the house etc. They find it, and live a happy and fulfilled life. Don't knock em. These old guys also tend to be good providers, good parents and good loyal spouses.... Not all, but 26 years across 6 countries and I find that most are quite happy - happiest days of their lives - isn't that what retirement is supposed to be ??

As for me- well we are on year 26 of a marriage and my wife and I can't see living back in America full time ever. We have changed - bottom line - and no longer fit in to the narrow definition of life in America. Just seen too much and don't want to miss out on all the pluses of what lies beyond USA borders. The good (and the bad)...

Perhaps when We slow down We will move back to easy America - but this great nation is not the same as when I lived here last either. ... So mixed feelings on moving back. What Are we moving home to? A house ? A storage unit full of stuff we have not used in 20 years ? Stuff that we don't miss and does nothing to enrich our lives? It's the people- All our friends are abroad. Our extended family is dying off or spread coast to coast. Life goes on. Now our play ground has been the world... So that's where I guess we need to play.

It's definitely not for everyone. Those choosing to expatriate later in life usually flame out within a few years - they just don't have the same open minded and coping skills as someone who had been a global nomad for most of their adult life. That's ok too.




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