Author Topic: income challenged, tri-continental family. E is out of the question, but R?  (Read 3842 times)

Double Yu

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I humbly submit our strange scenario for your review.

I am 46, my husband 54. We have two young-adult children, one at home, the other trying to make a go of it in Germany, where we lived for her last 3 years of high school. DH is employed in a sector we have about given up on (higher ed) due to the fact that in spite of numerous publications based on his research, the founding and running of centers and organizations, successful grant proposals and funding sources, and courses taught, etc. etc .... he has been unable to find work in the US. [Are you thinking of going into the Social Sciences/Humanities? Let me dissuade you!]

We've bounced from China to Germany to China again and that's where he is now. I am in California with the youngest kid and my ailing father for whom I am a basic caregiver. Until this week that involved mostly cooking, cleaning, driving, medications, etc., but this week it's also including transferring, toileting, showering, dressing, the whole gamut. This could change - should the current bout of inability pass temporarily, but it's a slow downward spiral. With all the upheaval (international moves, family care, etc)., I've been out of the workforce for about 10 years, though I have a side-gig as an academic copy-editor that gives some pocket money and kid-care-funds. I can only manage that very part time. Previously I was an admin assistant in university settings.

We have limited income and it arrives (wired to me) very sporadically. I run a tight ship (with a few comfort-perks thrown in) so that we can manage major income insecurity/variability. I am saving like mad to have a one-year's-worth of buffer for the anticipated end of my husband's contract in 2 years. We are pulling out of this trajectory but haven't totally gotten our Plan B in place.

I haven't put in enough quarterly whatevers to social security to qualify. And I didn't realize until this year that we should have been paying SS and Medicare taxes... ? (But with what money, I haven't a clue)

Because we take the Foreign Earned Income exclusion, DH gets to come home once a year.

Meanwhile I do pretty much everything on this end.

The spreadsheet is about as complete as I can get it right now - some of the categories are wonky and I've highlighted things that need explaining or skew the picture  - and will comment on them in subsequent posts.

Monthly income: ~4500 (I had no editing jobs for much of the first quarter of 2017 - so better to not weigh my income too heavily)
Monthly expenses: ~3300 at bare-bones levels - this doesn't include what we give to Oldest Kid for her expenses (she can't currently work in Germany), nor my husband's incidental expenses in China (his housing is taken care of)

Right now, everything I don't spend is going into savings categories like "the next three months without income" or "the 12 month end-of-the-line buffer" ...

how's that for a start?
Why, yes I AM all over the map!

Freedomin5

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It does sound like you're doing the best you can with what you have. Is there some way to increase income without "working"?

For example, does the young adult child who still lives with you have a full/part-time job? Does he/she contribute to the family finances or at least cover some of his/her own living expenses (e.g., clothing, eating out with friends, costs associated with having a cat, etc.)?

Or does your house have an extra room/basement that can be rented out for extra income?

Other than that, I think there may be some other places in your budget where you may be able to cut. For example, $500 for food for two people (you and kid) is quite a lot. We spend that much for a family of four. Where do you do your grocery shopping?

Not being American, I can't comment much on the tax stuff.

Double Yu

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I forgot to mention that I'm primarily looking for ideas for how to go about generating future wealth - though if you see ways to cut current expenses, I'm game to try.

So, the first thing I've highlighted in the spreadsheet is income - we take the Foreign Earned Income credit. My guess from looking at the tax table is that we'd have to pay around $8000 per year more if we didn't. We don't want to do that, so we make do.

My small financial contribution is taxed at self- employment rates. While this year's work has been slim in the first half of the year, I'm not expecting to earn more than I did last year in the end, and I'm not trying to increase my hours. The nature of the work does require some focus and some brain power - something that can be easily shaken by proximity to my dad who is prone to yell for me through the house at any moment. Though he is mostly a couch potato and will watch TV for stretches of time, sometimes out of the blue he needs me. This week, as I mentioned, I'm much more on call than usual.

Another slow-going someday-side-gig is fiction writing - something I do when I can but it's hard for me to accomplish given everything else I'm doing plus the possibility of interruption at any moment. I'm working on a collection of short stories (ebook) that will be out this year. I doubt I'll make much (also, lack of backlist is a big problem and I'm slow...), but anything will be frosting.

The most face-punch worthy thing we do has a roundabout connection with income. I'll just put it out there to get the punches out of the way and then we can talk about ways to deal with the decision we made and how it relates to income...

Youngest kid just got her driver's permit, but until now I've been driving her the 10 miles to and from school every day (40 total, for me to do). We chose to return to an area we'd lived previously so that she could have some continuity in her life after having lived 3 years in Germany, 2.5 years in China, interspersed with this one town in CA. Rather than plop her into a totally new HS environment upon our return to the US, we chose to land near enough to her old school community. We just couldn't afford the college town itself, so we moved to the next town over, where housing is cheaper. And though we've paid with gas money and my time, we accepted those tradeoffs.

So, while it would seem this is a great time for me to return to work (as soon as YK can get herself to school) -- my dad's unstable health situation makes it a major challenge. Sometimes he's just fine by himself and he drives me crazy enough that I want nothing more than to get out of the house, and let him get meals-on-wheels for lunch and watch all the TV he wants. He's difficult to live with but we have no other family, so I have no one to spot me. He no longer drives (his #1 obsession) and I'm at his beck and call. In return, though, he contributes for his expenses, plus pays a bit extra as rent. So that's where the "Other untaxed Income" comes from. What he gives me varies between $500-1000 per month, depending on how he's doing financially.

Ideally, I get a job at the university (where I worked before), YK commutes in with me and buses back or eventually drives herself back and I bus back. I've submitted a few applications but have had no callbacks.

Admittedly, I waffle. I'm not flooding the local scene with my resumes because I just can't tell what's going to happen with my dad - is he going to go off half-cocked and decide to "walk" at midday, at 105degrees, to the tacqueria, which he can't find because he's lost his navigation skills? Is he going to fall? Is he going to pull his passive aggressive schtick out and make me regret not staying home?

We also have a bit of a deal with my dad - he contributed a big chunk of change as a kind of personal loan to pay off the house. We'll pay him back, interest free (to the tune of about $800/month) when he can no longer live at home.

Is this too much detail? Too much narrative? I think it's important to explain why I'm not out there pounding pavement and maybe the story will reveal the thinking ruts we've gotten ourselves into...
Why, yes I AM all over the map!

Double Yu

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Thanks, Freedomin5, for your reply!

The $550 is for 3 of us. I mostly shop at a few discount places (Grocery Outlet, Costco & Walmart) with a few forays to the higher end place for better meat. I have been trying to get the grocery expense down over time but it hasn't happened.

Youngest kid covers most of her own expenses with a small part time job she has each spring. She'll be looking for work when she returns from a family visit/language intensive this summer. If she can find more reliable work, she can take over a little more. This year, I've given her an average of $34/month - that went for school-required clothing (professional dress for presentations), some art supplies, a Spotify account, underwear, shoes, and a thrift store splurge or two.

I'd like to see her take on the Spotify account this school-year, and once she's got reliable work, she'll be expected to contribute to car insurance as that'll be hiked up about $100/month.

On the plus side, she's college-bound but choosing the community college/living at home route to begin with.
Why, yes I AM all over the map!

Double Yu

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And maybe this kind of breakdown (separate from the spreadsheet) is helpful? :

Income:

DH: $4480
Me: ~$450 (2016. This year will probably be less)
Dad's contribution: $500 to $1000 (depending on how much I think he can afford each month - trying not to draw anything from his retirement accts (just Soc. Sec) because he comes from a long-lived line and is facing a need for assisted living at some point).
Total: $5430 - $5930

Expenses:

Some off-budget expenses that I don't track particularly well: DH's expenses in China (mostly food and travel to visit family) and Oldest Kid's expenses in Germany (~600 Euros/month, will decrease when she moves and since she'll no longer be attending the Studienkolleg she was at)

Then, the ones I do track (calculated as monthly exp) taken from Jan-June 2017:

Income Tax: $125
Property Tax: $375
Water/Sewer: $120
Electricity/Gas:$266 (we have a solar array. The inverter died in 2015 and we had numerous fiscally challenging fires to put out that year, finally scraping together the $3500 to replace it this year. This large expense is a factor of the Net Energy Metering True-Up in which we owed a lump sum of ~$950 each year). Also, my dad is a huge energy hog and I CANNOT get him to stop his wasteful ways (yay, dementia!!). I anticipate our energy costs to decrease now that the solar panels are back online. Also, I do a LOT of laundry (yay, incontinence!) so in winter I used the dryer, causing a bump in gas costs.
Trash:$34
Home Maint: $500  This total factors in the $3500 for the inverter. We're also separately saving up to replace one of the HVAC units (spread out house) that has no functioning AC - which we can live with as my dad has an in-room AC unit. Old people can overheat easily, so he can use his own AC whenever. I'm in no hurry to replace the HVAC unit, but it will need to happen someday. As a rule, I keep the house 63 degrees in winter and don't run the functioning AC until inside temp is about 81-83.
Home Ins.: $70
Auto Ins.: $55 (could go up an extra ~$100 when youngest kid is licensed)
Health Ins.: $300 (includes DH's travel insurance. He's uninsured when he's in the US but has a basic thing for when he's overseas).
Life Ins.: $50. Big question! We're approaching the end of our term and have the option to convert it to lifetime coverage. I have no idea if this is good or not!
Car Maint: $20
Fuel: $90
Dentist: $25 (just for me, routine cleanings)
Healthcare: $150 Youngest kid had some expenses early in year (uninsured exp) but I don't anticipate any for the rest of the year, so that $150 will probably halve.
Internet/Landline: $66
Cell Phones: $80 (for 4 phones - should we drop my husband's and make him get a new number every time he's home?) Consumer Cellular
Office Supplies/tech: $50 (skewed number because I need new toner for the printer $70 each... but they'll last a long while as it's a laser printer)
Sports/Rec: $30 (gym memberships for myself and Youngest Kid)
Bike maint: negligible - I have tubes and can fix flats, do minor repairs. I do need some oil for my chain...
Travel: $225  this Is high this year - both kids are flying to China to visit their dad, attend a cousin's wedding, and see their terminally ill grandmother. Youngest is also doing a language intensive. Costs are mainly for flights and visas as all in-country expenses are paid by family. typically we don't go anywhere and DH works to make all his flights are work-related and thus reimbursable.
Education: $60. I'm trying to make myself more employable - so am currently taking an accounting class and will take one more in the fall - ideally my application to the university temp pool with thus be irresistible!!
Groceries: $550 for 3 of us.
Gifts (birthdays holidays, etc): $55
Entertainment & Fun: $20
My spending money: $40 (my personal expenses come out of this)
Restaurants: $20
Credit Card Fees: $15

Total: $3391 (slightly dif from spreadsheet, but I categorize things differently...)


« Last Edit: July 02, 2017, 04:37:59 PM by Double Yu »
Why, yes I AM all over the map!

Kathryn K.

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So how old is Younger Kid - 15 or 16? So she has two years of high school left? Are you and your husband both American and that's where you want to spend your retirement?  How stable/long term is your husband's current job in China? How long until you're oldest kid moves and you're no longer contributing towards her expenses?

As to if/whether your husband can retire, what do you have for retirement savings currently? (Apologies if I missed that in the spreadsheet. Thanks for pasting the expense info directly into your last post, that makes it much more convenient.)

The biggest wild card in your case sounds like the situation with your dad.  What is your dad's financial situation? Can he pay for another caregiver to come in at least some of the time to give you a break? My grandfather passed away this spring at home but it took a full time caregiver plus the coordinated efforts of five siblings (all living close by) to achieve it.  So both you and he need to start tempering your expectations of how long you can be his sole caregiver.
« Last Edit: July 02, 2017, 04:56:04 PM by Kathryn K. »

Kathryn K.

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Read back over your original post and your last post that went up while I was formulating my initial reply.

I see that your husband's contract is ending in 2 years and at this point you have no Plan B in place.  What at least are some possibilities of what your husband's next move might feasibly be or what he would like it to be?

Dad's contribution: $500 to $1000 (depending on how much I think he can afford each month - trying not to draw anything from his retirement accts (just Soc. Sec) because he comes from a long-lived line and is facing a need for assisted living at some point).

This may sound harsh,  but I'm afraid you are endangering your and your husband's financial future to take care of your dad. Retirement accounts are there to be drawn down; if your dad has to go on Medicaid eventually for his nursing home care, so be it.
« Last Edit: July 02, 2017, 04:57:02 PM by Kathryn K. »

Double Yu

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This is becoming the book I haven't written yet!

Kathryn K, thanks for your input. There's more to the story (related to Assets, provided by my dad out of his retirement portfolio) - but I need a nap :)  Will be back later!
Why, yes I AM all over the map!

Double Yu

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So how old is Younger Kid ? So she has two years of high school left? Are you and your husband both American and that's where you want to spend your retirement?  How stable/long term is your husband's current job in China? How long until you're oldest kid moves and you're no longer contributing towards her expenses?

As to if/whether your husband can retire, what do you have for retirement savings currently? (Apologies if I missed that in the spreadsheet. Thanks for pasting the expense info directly into your last post, that makes it much more convenient.)

The biggest wild card in your case sounds like the situation with your dad.  What is your dad's financial situation? Can he pay for another caregiver to come in at least some of the time to give you a break? My grandfather passed away this spring at home but it took a full time caregiver plus the coordinated efforts of five siblings (all living close by) to achieve it.  So both you and he need to start tempering your expectations of how long you can be his sole caregiver.

Youngest Kid just turned 17 and will be a senior this year.

DH and I are both Americans but he's a naturalized citizen who absolutely left China for a reason!! He hates it there, would much rather be here. That he hasn't gotten to live in the US in the last 10 years galls and depresses him. This does lead to some interesting dynamics - like, I'm much more willing to consider moving to a LCOL area outside of CA, but he's still nostalgic for CA and for the North Bay Area in particular (aiyaiyai!).

We aim to decrease our contribution to Oldest Kid this year - she may marry her girlfriend (?), she may undertake an apprenticeship (minor pay but skills earned) ... due to one bad grade on her high school transcript she's not a shoe-in for university in Germany and must do a program of preliminary work. Due to all three of those factors, we won't be able to claim her on our taxes this year, though we'll be helping her out somewhat.

Here's the breakdown on my dad's situation as it intersects with us:

He has about $500,000 in his portfolio. As a veteran, if he needs a certain level of care (that he's now needing, starting this week but like I said, this may be temporary), there are VA benefits he qualifies for that are income dependent - so it's good that he hasn't been withdrawing from the portfolio.

He's always made a big deal about my "inheritance"  (essentially whatever's left of the portfolio) while still being a poor decision maker. Now that he's somewhat incapacitated, it's less likely that he'll go buy a giant RV, spend money frivolously, etc. I'm aware it might all be spent on end of life care, but we made a move to utilize some of it in advance.

He gifted some and the rest became a personal loan to pay off our house. We'll pay him back principal only (30 year term, which I doubt he'll survive) when he can no longer live at home.

We chose this house for a few reasons though it was technically out of our price range. Now we have a ~$470,000 house as an asset :). We paid $410K but our region's home values have gone up about 5%/year since then.

#1. it could fit all 5 of us (and it has fit all 5 of us, when Oldest Kid had a crisis in 2015 and when DH was home for a time) and we knew my dad would need to move in with us and it would still give him some autonomy with its layout)

#2. It has ample garden room (large lot), shade trees to cool us in summer and a few other resource smart features.

#3. We could sell it and move to a LCOL area OR it could function as our retirement, itself, as we'd have a guaranteed place to live so long as we pay property taxes.

So, I basically got an advance on my inheritance (loose repayment terms) that were in danger of being mindlessly spent or paid out to extended care. My dad was very happy to do this (grand gestures make his day).

We also own a car (2005 Scion xA) and my dad owns a crossover car that's easier for him to get into.
Why, yes I AM all over the map!

Double Yu

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I had no idea how to add that part to the spreadsheet :)
Why, yes I AM all over the map!

Kathryn K.

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Exactly what kind of benefits for in-home or nursing home care would be provided by the VA for your dad? Unless the VA covers a lot, I wouldn't count on much being left over for you to inherit - my grandmother (different side than the grandfather I mentioned earlier) who also had $500K ran through that in a LCOLA long before she recently passed away.

Do you and your husband have any retirement savings (or any kind of pensions) besides your house? A list of your assets/savings and liabilties in addition to your income and expenses would be helpful. Check out the sticky at the top of this section for details.

Lepetitange3

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With the ages of your children, I think you should seriously consider dropping any payment for their expenses.  I know that's hard to do, I have a 17 year old who's graduated and leaving the nest and wants this and that.  But they don't get their wings so to speak if you keep paying for them and you're hurting your retirement which will in turn hurt your kids when they are your age and you don't have enough of a safety net?  If that makes sense.  Your oldest is definitely old enough to figure it out with that much money from parents.  I get that she's technically not supposed to work in Germany from what you've said.  But she's a grown up.  Let her figure out what she needs to do.

As for younger kid, that ones old enough to part time job it and pay if they want luxuries like car driving and Spotify.  The earlier they start, the better they get it.

Re: phones, call your cell service today.  Most services let you keep the number and suspend the line and then turn it back on when someone's overseas.  This means you aren't paying for that line while it's on pause.

Your grocery bill is what mine is on a high month for a family of 6, which includes a spouse in law endormcent working 12 hour shifts who takes 2 meals and multiple snacks every day he works, as well as a giant, always starving 17 year old boy.  I'm already guessing your problem is meat since you said you go to the more expensive grocer for some of that.  I'm not saying go Veagan or anything but seriously beans...lots of protein, lots of ways to cook, swap out for a meat meal.  Chill maybe?  Also buy produce that's in season and on sale and plan what you make around that.  And try ethnic grocery stores if you're in Cali.  That's where the savings is in HCOL areas.  Also if you have Aldis.

Finally, it sounds like you're an only child and dad can afford to offer more since you can't work due to his issues.  Full time caregivers make a ton more than you're taking from dad.  If he's got VA benefits, you don't need to worry about assisted living costs or burial.  They will be free from the VA.

You're going to get a lot of comments about the gym membership and credit card fees?  In your situation, I'd be putting that to savings and retirement.  Every penny counts. 

Lepetitange3

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To be clear re the VA situation, most states have free live in facilities run by the VA for veterans that need assisted living care.  So you don't get to choose the facility, but they do have free facilities that provide that type of care.  With dementia, dad will unfortunately not know that he's in a free VA facility vs costly private care when the time comes. 

Double Yu

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Hi Lepetitange3, thanks for chiming in.

Yeah, that's a valid point, about the kids. We just have a mentality that's a bit more aligned with old fashioned (and probably Asian) notions of familial support. Neither kid, thank goodness, expects a parental full-ride through college or what have you, but we want to help them launch. Each year, especially as Oldest Kid matures out of a rough patch of teenagerness, we expect her to shoulder more responsibility. Especially given that she's trying to establish herself where there's no family support. At least she can find a cheap shared housing arrangement and the general COL is low where she is.

We're not the "You're 18, get out" kind of people that some families are, but nor do we want to be sponged off of. So, little by little, we're getting there. Oldest kid will be slower, it seems, than Younger Kid (YK) to get her ducks in a row, but I definitely take your point. I brought it up with my husband tonight and we're on the same page of decreasing OK's (oldest kid's) contribution. That's a big step for DH who feels guilty for not being physically present for a chunk of the kids' childhood - and so tries to make up for it with promises to pay for more of life than is smart for us.

  As a plus, both kids are thrifty and open-minded enough to be willing to explore non-college and self-directed learning and skills-based options.

...

And there I was, proud of myself for coming in under the USDA's "Low Cost" plan on their food cost calculator :( ... I cook from scratch for the most part (except bread - while I do make it sometimes, I can't keep up with demand and I have many things to do besides that, and snacks for my starving 17 year old :D ) and while I don't batch cook, I aim for meal planning (and often fail, but I do try!). I buy the least expensive cuts of meat possible - but I tend to go for organic because I recognize that it's the fats and items higher up the food chain where organic makes a big difference for long-term health. My dad is unfortunately VERY PICKY and I don't usually have the energy to make multiple versions of one meal - so while I'd be happy with beans and rice a couple times a week, it won't fly with him. And no, he doesn't cook a lick. I do buy on sale - and most of my food purchase is from the fresh section ... so I don't know what else I should be doing. I waste very little - leftovers galore! and have a wide repertoire, so I can use what's in season or cheap...

It's possible that because I have a low tolerance for boredom (in cooking, that is -- in eating, I eat oats for breakfast most days, can eat leftovers for lunch, etc), so I tend to spend more on groceries so that cooking can be a creative outlet rather than a chore. I'm trying to get better about honing in on a set of reliable meals and not straying too far off plan. But I don't even buy fish or steak (except once every four-six weeks a tray of tri-tip from costco that doubles as one night of steaks and about 5-6 meals of stir fry... $5.99/lb more or less IIRC.

I'll work on trimming groceries and see what I can do.

The VA thing - last year his income was too high to qualify (the year he took some withdrawals to help pay for the house), but this year might be better. It's kind of a mystery to me but there's an application process that I'll get started. It covers care anywhere, not just at a VA hospital.

Frankly, it all probably comes down to  -- I hate to send him to assisted living. He's a kind of helpless guy. It's true that his current health challenges are exacerbated by poor decisions (no exercise, sedentary lifestyle, poor diet) and I'm bearing the brunt of his choices ... blah. This is a weak spot, for sure.

Let's see, what else: credit card fees - one is for the United card so I can earn miles - either to give to my husband or for me if I get a free moment to go visit him since he can't come home. The other is a rewards card that earns its fees back so far.... oh, maybe I shouldn't have added that to the total if that's the case? woops!

And the gym. $15/month for myself and YK is perhaps one of those luxuries I alluded to in my first post (along with pets). I see what a lump of ill health my dad has become and resolve to not do that to myself or my kids. I'm not paying for any exercise classes, and am unlikely to exercise at home with any regularity. I bike places when I can but frequently use my school-transit drive to grocery shop. Other than that, i don't go out much so a random bike ride is a low priority. I do ride my bike to the gym some of the time :)

Oh dear, am I excuse making? I LIKE having the gym membership because I get to spend dad-free time with my daughter when we go (he's unpleasant to be around and judgmental of YK, so it's nice to get a chance to do something together with her after school). I'll think about what you've said, but I feel much better, physically, for having joined the gym this year...



Why, yes I AM all over the map!

deborah

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Can't you and YK do simple things, like biking to the park together after school, instead of going to the gym? That would give you one-on-one together time away from your dad, as well as all the exercise. Maybe you could work together to think of other ideas that are free, but get you out and exercising.



PapaBear

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Since it is one of your biggest expenses per month, I would like to focus this post on your daughter in Germany:
As you said, the idea should be to encourage and enable her to finance her life independently in the short-medium term.
Maybe I can help with a bit of a local view on available methods of financing.

- With what kind of visa (or Aufenthaltstitel) is she currently residing in Germany? With a student visa, you can usually work part time or during holidays or within the limitations of a mini-job (400 EUR-Job) and a lot of students do that to finance their lifestyle.

- You said that she is currently in a preparatory program for university (you mentioned Studienkolleg, as far as I know that is mostly focused on university subject-specific German language, right?), but she is also considering an apprenticeship? How does that fit together and what is her long-term plan? If money is the only reason for the apprenticeship, she might want to reconsider the choice, as you can earn at least as much working part-time as a student + there might be state grants/loans (Bafög for example to finance cost of living for students - also possible for foreign students but quite complicated and depending on the Aufenthaltstitel - if you speak German, you might want to read chapter 3 of this page: https://www.bafoeg-rechner.de/FAQ/bafoeg-fuer-auslaenderinnen.php#p3 - feel free to ask if something is unclear, bureaucratic German is quite horrible.
And, just out of curiosity, what kind of apprenticeship is she considering?

- Even in a Studienkolleg, you are able to work, but only in the semester breaks. However, if I interpret this correctly, then you need to get an individual permission of the employment bureau (Agentur für Arbeit) and the local bureau for aliens (Ausländerbehörde).
Quote
Wenn man einen Sprachkurs besucht oder im Studienkolleg studiert, gelten noch strengere Bestimmungen. Man darf nur mit Zustimmung der Agentur für Arbeit und der Ausländerbehörde arbeiten – und auch nur in der vorlesungsfreien Zeit.
https://www.daad.de/deutschland/in-deutschland/arbeit/de/9148-geld-verdienen/

« Last Edit: July 03, 2017, 08:08:48 AM by PapaBear »

Double Yu

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Hi PapaBear, sure, let's discuss her specifics :)

She has an IB Diploma from a German Gymnasium (Abitur equivalent, except when it's convenient for institutions to think otherwise) - but she didn't do well in math. Because she's not German, she has to send all her college applications through a middleman (Uni-Assist). Due to the poor math grade, it's determined that she must attend a Studienkolleg, which she just did, for environmental engineering. It was probably a poor choice, due to her lack of math/physics background, but she has hoped to get into urban planning. She didn't pass the qualifying exams to get into the uni in environmental engineering.

Her German is great, it was just those two subjects that she'd done poorly in.

She's a creative person but her dad and I nixed the notion of going to art school - and emphasized the need for livelihood training.

To that end, she's looking into a Floristin Ausbildung. (florist - she hopes to gain business experience, utilize her creative skills, own a business, etc). This is a few notches over from urban planning, but close enough for the time being to landscape architecture that she's happy with the idea)

Problem: The Ausländerbehörde says it's unlikely she can switch from a student visa to an Ausbildung-allowing one. The visa she had for being at the Studientkolleg stated explicitly that she couldn't work. She did a little under the table, but...

She and her girlfriend may decide to tie the knot to make things more stable... but girlfriend is also a student.

So - for the time being, it looks like the pure student route is out of the question. Though she's investigating whether she can re-take the IB math exam and then avoid the whole Studienkolleg rigamarole.

If she can do the Ausbildung while she gets herself college-ready and then determines that she'd be better off going to college, that's fine.

She is quite determined to stay in Germany and she's trying to figure out ways to do that on her own. Given the challenges of a few years ago, we're happy with her progress in becoming more responsible.
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Double Yu

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This series of posts has really driven home to me (in spite of my waffling) how the fundamental problem is that I'm not earning sufficiently.

DH will look for positions that can utilize his fieldwork, in-country knowledge (probably mostly in the realm of security analysis), though it'll take a little bit of effort to reinvigorate his enthusiasm for job searches (he's been applying every year for the last decade - academic jobs are only posted in the fall).

I'll be talking to my dad's doctor today because after four days of me being primary caregiver at this new level of need, I'm reduced about 25%. Also, the general un-safety of the shower situation is bad all around, so I think it's time for dad to move to better digs.

Let's briefly, if I may ask, turn our attention away from monthly expenses and come up with ideas for how to handle increased income.

When DH leaves China in two years, and when his mother passes, there will be one apartment to rent in a high-rent-earning area, and one apartment to sell in a rapidly appreciating (new transit zone to SE Asia) but not quite rent-worthy area.

We're looking into purchasing properties in the US to rent out. If I can get full-time employment, that helps us qualify for mortgages and I'd like to leverage that with rental properties.

Would this be a sound trajectory or would it be wiser to put cash into other investments first?
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Double Yu

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Also, PapaBear, maybe you know more about this than I do, but I was under the impression that a lot of the rules for foreigners are decided on a locale-by-locale basis. For example, when my husband had his position at MPI, the city we lived in did not allow me to work. I continued to do my freelance editing, but used my US address as my official address to circumvent that.
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Lepetitange3

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I think you need a cushion of investments first.  You're still struggling on the income front.  Do not add more debts for your family until you've got a better handle on the job thing.  I'm curious if your husbands ever reached outside academia?  I'm asking because I'm a historian by training, published etc, taught at a big university, etc but I've done a LOT of other things, much more high paying with my degree and skill set (lots of computer and foreign language ability).

 Also he speaks Chinese and you said security analysis.  He should be looking for government jobs if he can pass the security clearance requirements, if he's a disaffected former Chinese citizen even better, make sure he emphasizes that if he gets an interview in that field.

  Also if dad has dementia, you should have the talk about his desires for end of life and funeral now.  You should also see if he will sign power of attorney over to you.  You'll get it eventually anyway when he's incapacitated, but it's easier if he willingly does it before he time that the court will order it. This will make it easier for you to handle his affairs (guess how I know). 

PapaBear

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Sorry to come back to this, I had the answer already typed in when I saw your replies. I will comment on the investment angle in a separate post.

---

Okay, so let me see if I got the facts straight:
So basically she has passed Studienkolleg and can now apply for environmental engineering classes, but was not accepted in her program of choice?
Or did she not pass Studienkolleg? What about other universities/Fachhochschulen or other subjects that are in similar fields? Or is she bound in the location she is currently living in? If it was just about grades, then usually applying to other universities/Fachhochschulen does the trick, since entrance requirements differ from school to school.

The way from Florist to university is quite steep. And you have to consider that the apprenticeship would be three years below minimum wage:
Average Florist apprenticeship wages are 539€/580€/642€ gross for the 1./2./3. year. Depending on where she is living (LCOL), it could be well below 450 EUR... not enough to live on in my opinion.
Also after the apprenticeship, Florist salaries are not faring way better than the creative route in my opinion (Florist after apprenticeship: 1500 - 2300 gross, equals ~1.100 - 1.500 net). This would basically mean that you need to somewhat support her for at least another 3 years.

By the way, there are also state grants for apprenticeships: Berufsausbildungsbeihilfe (BAB) (see here https://www3.arbeitsagentur.de/web/content/DE/BuergerinnenUndBuerger/Ausbildung/FinanzielleHilfen/Berufsausbildungsbeihilfe/Detail/index.htm?dfContentId=L6019022DSTBAI485769). For foreign nationals, the eligibility depends again on the Aufenthaltstitel.

If the partner is an EU citizen, marriage would at least get the Visa issues out of the way and would provide a full work permit.


PapaBear

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Let's briefly, if I may ask, turn our attention away from monthly expenses and come up with ideas for how to handle increased income.

When DH leaves China in two years, and when his mother passes, there will be one apartment to rent in a high-rent-earning area, and one apartment to sell in a rapidly appreciating (new transit zone to SE Asia) but not quite rent-worthy area.

We're looking into purchasing properties in the US to rent out. If I can get full-time employment, that helps us qualify for mortgages and I'd like to leverage that with rental properties.

Would this be a sound trajectory or would it be wiser to put cash into other investments first?

On the investment front, I would look at the investment order first (https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/investor-alley/investment-order/msg1333153/#msg1333153): Before you have not reached a stable security buffer (not earmarked for future expenses) and maxed out the available tax-advantaged accounts, I would not consider rental properties. Additionally, leveraging of any kind is always associated with risk - in your situation with unstable jobs and ongoing support of your father and your kids, I would rather look at decreasing than increasing the risk profile.

On the China end, I would definitely research money expatriation rules in China. There are some rules in place that limit the cash outflow, however I'm not sure how they are affected by an inheritance by non-Chinese nationals. In the worst case, you would need to keep the sales proceeds and rent invested in China.

Double Yu

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Hi PapaBear,

no she didn't pass the Studienkolleg exams - so no guaranteed entry into the program she was aiming for.

Every school and every program will require her to do a new Studienkolleg specific to it (unless she finds out that passing the IB exam re-take will remove that requirement - next exams are probably at the end of Winter Semester).  Not sure if the marriage situation accommodates her moving out of her area as future partner is based there.

ugh, complicated.


--

and thanks (and to Lepetitange3, too) for weighing in on the real estate option. This was a notion that I'd steered my DH toward after trying desperately to wave him down from a collision course with certainty that a cafe/restaurant business ownership was the way we should go. Did I mention he's flailing about at the upcoming loss of career direction? Thankfully I've talked him out of aiming for food service business... that would kill me, not to mention our "capital."


edited to add - OK can probably finish the Ausbildung in 2 years (due to having the IB diploma) and then can move on to a Fachhochschule...
« Last Edit: July 03, 2017, 11:04:17 AM by Double Yu »
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Lepetitange3

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Hey- reiterating that he should get of academia.  If you want to talk over private message if it gets too personal on the forum, I'm happy to.  But let me re iterate that a social science specialty with Chinese speaking has much better higher paying options then academics.

rockeTree

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Yeah, I took my phd out of the slow moving nightmare of academia jobs and got paid and got benefits. If he can get a basic public trust clearance and write well he can get six figures in a couple years. Even CA govt a possibility though the pay is lower.


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mozar

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My 2 cents re: the older daughter. How good is she at art? Has she been able to sell any of her artwork? I wouldn't nix the idea of art school if its what she's good at. If she plans on being low income either way it doesn't matter, and university in Germany is free right? I know from experience as an artist trying to force yourself to do "normal" jobs can be painful.
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Double Yu

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Who here would like to have a conversation about recovering from academia? And the options that come after breaking it off? :D

Lepetitange3 and rockeTree - got any suggestions for where we should start as we slowly withdraw the needle from his arm?


As for OK's art - well, I'm her mother, but I think she's great. She has admitted, though, that she's not certain she wants to take something she loves and put it under the pressure of being her livelihood. So long as she's doing something somewhat design (amorphous, but you know what I mean?) related and creative, I think she'll be fine.

oh and regarding the China/money repatriation problem - already encountering it, which explains why income has a hard time getting to me. He can hardly wire it out at all - thank goodness he's got family who can.
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rockeTree

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There are various state and national fellowships that put academics in govt positions for a year or two; varies by field and at a guess this admin is closing the doors a bit but they usually are a feeder for job offers. If the market hasn't worked out for ten years it's not going to, ever. May well not be fair or his fault but it's 99.99999% true.


http://fellows.ccst.us/



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Double Yu

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Thanks rockeTree - we agree completely that it's a dead end and while it's taken a bit too long to come to that conclusion, at least we arrived at it.

I've also been directed toward versatilephd.com (? net? anyway, I've looked at it) but am awaiting confirmation that DH has a UC affiliate login (he has the affiliation, just not sure about the login) so he can access more of the stuff on that site.

I'll take a look at the link you provided, thank you!
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rockeTree

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Never got anything out of vphd myself but that was years and years ago. Friends have had some luck just getting on LinkedIn, looking up grad school buddies who aren't faculty and pinging them for advice and connections. Obviously do some consulting if it's an option. Think about the story he'll tell in interviews - not of washing out of a busted system but of his complex problem solving skills, effortless public speaking, desire to see real-world results rather than abstractions from his work. Try not to sound bitter or like you're settling. I'm excited to be back in the states full time and supporting a mission I care about with AAA Whatever is the line. Look for places where credentials matter a lot - a cal psci degree or whatever we're talking about here is a big sturdy one.


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Double Yu

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Social sciences ... not really in the same degree of desirability as the STEM ones?

I'll have to do a forum search to see if this's been discussed before. But meanwhile, thanks for chiming in - I'm all ears to folks who've walked this path.
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Lepetitange3

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Ok he's a naturalized citizen who I'm reading has no love for China and speaks Chinese.  As long as he can get security clearance, there are federal govnt jobs in security analysis with his name all over them.  Seriously, native or near native speakers of languages with non standard alphabets are treasured.  Throw in a phd and any ability to do decent intelligence or security analysis and hey will be fawning all over him.  He will have all the love and credit and all those nice job related things he never had in academia.  I think the fed website is usajobs.gov or just go directly to FBI.gov etc.  literally NSA, CIA. DIA, FBI, homeland security, he can have his pick.

lhamo

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Isn't it hard to get a security clearance if you have living relatives in China?   

I had considered taking the FSO exam until I learned that they would be unlikely to ever place me in a China post (despite my Chinese language proficiency) because I have family there (like you, DYu, my husband naturalized).

If you aren't reading her site already, run -- don't walk -- over to TheProfessorIsIn.com.  Karen Kelsky has a lot of excellent, free stuff on her website, including lots of advice for how to deprogram from academia.   I like her much better than the versatile PhD woman -- maybe because she speaks/thinks like me (also anthro background).   

As long as you pay the taxes on the sale of the apartment(s), you can legally export the sale proceeds out of China.   The process is a bit confusing and cumbersome, but I can walk you through how it works in Beijing at least -- probably better to do via PM or other means. 

There is LOTS more I can say but I'll try to take it slow and not overwhelm you.  DH and I met in grad school, ended up going into non-profit work due to ugly academic job market, and spent 2002-recently working in China.   Dealing, like you, with aging/ill parents on both sides of the Pacific.  DH is actually making an emergency trip back tomorrow (MIL fell and broke her hip...)

Wherever you go, there you are

Lepetitange3

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You can get clearance even with relatives still in China.  It's a matter of how your allegiances play out in the interview stage.

Double Yu

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lhamo, thanks for the referral for The Professor Is In. We might just need to have a consultation at some point with those folks. DH hasn't much of a clue how to market himself in a new realm... I'll also start browsing the USAjobs website - though we're a bit early. Still, it might be all kinds of helpful to see what's actually out there.
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Lepetitange3

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Any research experience will play out well for any job that's got "analysis" in its description.  Just gear his resume to the posting. Add in fluent in Chinese and he's gold!

PDXTabs

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I am in California with the youngest kid and my ailing father for whom I am a basic caregiver. Until this week that involved mostly cooking, cleaning, driving, medications, etc., but this week it's also including transferring, toileting, showering, dressing, the whole gamut. This could change - should the current bout of inability pass temporarily, but it's a slow downward spiral.

...

He has about $500,000 in his portfolio. As a veteran, if he needs a certain level of care (that he's now needing, starting this week but like I said, this may be temporary), there are VA benefits he qualifies for that are income dependent - so it's good that he hasn't been withdrawing from the portfolio.

He's always made a big deal about my "inheritance"  (essentially whatever's left of the portfolio) while still being a poor decision maker. Now that he's somewhat incapacitated, it's less likely that he'll go buy a giant RV, spend money frivolously, etc. I'm aware it might all be spent on end of life care, but we made a move to utilize some of it in advance.

I would let your father pay for his own care, but that might be tricky with that personal loan. Your father's retirement shouldn't  keep you from reaching your retirement. He has money, VA benefits, and when his money runs out he will have Medicaid.

Double Yu

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Thanks, PDXtabs - after talking it out loud through this thread, I've come to the same conclusion. Upthread KathrynK said "This may sound harsh,  but I'm afraid you are endangering your and your husband's financial future to take care of your dad. Retirement accounts are there to be drawn down; if your dad has to go on Medicaid eventually for his nursing home care, so be it" and that was a NICE slap upside the head. Absolutely correct and while I have to give credence to some of my values that care for loved-ones shouldn't be totally outsourced ... I'm concluding that this is an untenable situation.

The call went in to the doctor (who, of course is on vacation) and we'll start the process for skilled nursing (a temporary measure) but I'll double down on my job applications once I'm not chained to the house. And then dad'll either need to find a better place to live or hire someone to be at home with him.

Once I find something, then we can talk about loan repayment and just totally stuffing the stuffing out of every retirement option there is.
« Last Edit: July 04, 2017, 06:25:18 PM by Double Yu »
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Kathryn K.

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Thanks, PDXtabs - after talking it out loud through this thread, I've come to the same conclusion. Upthread KathrynK said "This may sound harsh,  but I'm afraid you are endangering your and your husband's financial future to take care of your dad. Retirement accounts are there to be drawn down; if your dad has to go on Medicaid eventually for his nursing home care, so be it" and that was a NICE slap upside the head. Absolutely correct and while I have to give credence to some of my values that care for loved-ones shouldn't be totally outsourced ... I'm concluding that this is an untenable situation.

The call went in to the doctor (who, of course is on vacation) and we'll start the process for skilled nursing (a temporary measure) but I'll double down on my job applications once I'm not chained to the house. And then dad'll either need to find a better place to live or hire someone to be at home with him.

Once I find something, then we can talk about loan repayment and just totally stuffing the stuffing out of every retirement option there is.

Double Yu - Glad you took my nice slap in the spirit in which it was intended :-) and I am impressed that you are already taking steps to find a different situation for your father. I totally understand wanting to keep your dad at home but my grandfather's situation was eye opening to me as to how extremely difficult that is to do and how much of a toll it takes on the caregivers.

And agree with all the other folks saying your husband needs to get out of academia stat. I read this author's blog and while she is in the sciences, her book on getting a non-academic job with a PhD has advice on networking, etc. that would apply to other fields as well: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00NABNFVW/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00NABNFVW&linkCode=as2&tag=wanderscient-20&linkId=UVHEWAADCIQI6OT5

rockeTree

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Social sciences ... not really in the same degree of desirability as the STEM ones?

I'll have to do a forum search to see if this's been discussed before. But meanwhile, thanks for chiming in - I'm all ears to folks who've walked this path.

So it's a Santa Cruz soc degree - no matter what field, the man can either write or do data analysis and there's work if he can get past the revered professor fantasy. It's past time.

(Sorry, just lost a great colleague to her husband's version of this fantasy which has uprooted them and two kids for a VAP in the middle of nowhere- I may be projecting some irritation here)

Lepetitange3

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I also wanted to add- he can still keep a foot in academia if he's desperate to do so.  I taught at a university and then went into govnt work literally my whole career before FIRE but I always still did research and publication on the side because well...I like it.  I also really liked the respect I got for my expertise in the govnt work.  The only job I ever had that I disliked was my very last one, which was not in govnt or academia, but ridiculously easy and and well paying.  He can have a career where he makes an impact and is respected and actually brings home a nice, fat paycheck without being a professor.  If he really loves his field, he can keep publishing.  And hey, maybe he makes enough to set you two up to actually retire/be financially independent (you're already living frugally, if he gets a different job, save it all and be FREE quickly).  Once you're FI, move to a LCOL state and he can teach at a small university or community college if he still desperately wants to be a professor after all is said and done.  I promise you, when he no longer *needs* a job in academia, he will end up with one ;)

Heroes821

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Just to add to the security clearance discussion. The number one reason I've seen people fail to get a clearance is when the investigation finds something the applicant did not tell them about. Usually this applies to relatives in foreign countries or say drug abuse in the past.  The clearance is about trust and if you're caught in a lie early on your probably done.  That being said fluent Chinese is so desirable that it's definitely worth a shot.  Lots of locations for that work in CA as well.

I get the old school notion of supporting your kids, but it sounds like she has it made for an early 20s kid.  Free money from home, a perfect excuse to not work, no one looking over her shoulder to keep grades up or pass school. A place to stay with her SO.   Talking from my personal experience I was known as a highly reliable walk the line kid but oh my god how living alone far away from family in a college environment can change that quick.  I'm not saying she's a slacker, but with the mom and dad safety net paying her bills, where's the motivation to do well?  I'd step back and focus on your ducks before hers, but let her know that if life kicks her in the teeth she's welcome to come stay with you in CA while she gets back up again.  That being said, I have  friends who went to Asia and Europe after they graduated college to teach English. They don't save much, but they make enough to live on comfortably and travel.  I'm not sure how it shakes out without a degree, but their degrees were not in teaching or English and they find work all the time, usually with the government of the country they are living in. 

Double Yu

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So it's a Santa Cruz soc degree - no matter what field, the man can either write or do data analysis and there's work if he can get past the revered professor fantasy. It's past time.

(Sorry, just lost a great colleague to her husband's version of this fantasy which has uprooted them and two kids for a VAP in the middle of nowhere- I may be projecting some irritation here)

?? Is "a Santa Cruz soc degree" slang for some really useless diploma that makes you lose your grip on reality? :D

I mean, you're close, it's a UC anthropology degree, just not Santa Cruz ...

Maybe, if he doubles down on it somewhat, he can throw his Amdowa language skills into the mix though he's not totally fluent. The Chinese - no sweat!

And, should the clearance thing not come to pass, there's always open source analysis, right? Or one can hope, anyway. Also, his research has been tapped for policy-making (by both US and China) so I think he's relevant.

As to Oldest Kid - I hear y'all. DH and I aren't quite at the cold-turkey stage - I mean heck, I had the support of my family when I went to college and I turned out fiscally and otherwise extremely responsible. But she's happily re-iterated to me this week that should she get the apprenticeship, she won't need any "stipend" from us (nor will she need help with tuition - the Studienkolleg wasn't free) and she'll work on finding extra work so she can pay her own rent though that won't happen right away. So, again, I hear what you're saying and we're taking steps in that direction. 'nuff said?

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Double Yu

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I'd like to extend DH's thanks to you all. I've been reading your messages aloud via smartphone app and they've got him optimistic - something he's not felt in a good while as he has to put up with such bureaucratic shenanigans that he just thinks he's sunk in a hole and everybody's pissing.   Anyway, that was NOT where I thought that sentence was going when I started it! :D  Suffice it to say, your replies here are much appreciated.

A question for you kind folks in the know - DH says the info he's come across is that his request for any sort of clearance has to be initiated by an employer (or a potential employer). Is this the case as far as you know?
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Lepetitange3

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Yes- employer requests clearance.  Typically, they do an initial screen so he can get to work on an interim clearance and then do the full blown background investigation and full clearance after that.  They absolutely want people who speak Chinese, like the other poster said, answer honestly and don't try to screen your answers the way you think they want something answered and he will be fine.  It's not a genius test, it's a are you going to sell classified info/ be the next wiki leaks test.

Acorns

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I'll also start browsing the USAjobs website - though we're a bit early. Still, it might be all kinds of helpful to see what's actually out there.

Chiming in to add...the hiring process for gov't jobs can take a very. long. time. Like months. So factor that into your planning process. I doubt whether your DH could actually access the USAjobs website from China to start looking at options, if he can't, you could screen them for him and upload his application.

Double Yu

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the hiring process for gov't jobs can take a very. long. time. Like months. So factor that into your planning process. I doubt whether your DH could actually access the USAjobs website from China to start looking at options, if he can't, you could screen them for him and upload his application.

Duly noted Acorns, thanks!
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lhamo

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This is extremely poorly written, but gives some idea how inept both sides of the surveillance/intelligence gathering system seem to be:

http://www.nate-thayer.com/how-the-chinese-recruit-american-journalists-as-spies/

That being said, even if agents are inept the system itself is quite robust and searching USA jobs or other, more specialized sites in the intelligence sphere should probably only be done with a proper overseas VPN (some of the VPNs that work in China seem to have special arrangements with Chinese state security that makes that possible...). 
Wherever you go, there you are

Double Yu

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DH just found out that he's likely to be taxed in China this year - happy day!! That means that he can come back here at his leisure and do a proper job search w/o firewall :D
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Double Yu

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  • Location: in a city that also starts with W
  • W is for Wanderbird
Well, we are 4/5ths of the way toward my dad being at least temporarily at an assisted living place here in town. He's spent all day at the hospital ( I was there for 10 of those hours but absconded the last 2.5 ) - not for a real medical emergency but he was definitely "off" this morning and when I impressed on the staff there how unsafe he is at home and how the situation is unmanageable.... we got the paperwork rolling for admission to the A.L. place. The admissions person will return to town within an hour our so and we'll get him moved in. They have a respite program for just such occasions and we'll take a few weeks to evaluate how he's doing and whether he can function at home with hired help or if an assisted living situation is better for the long term.

The past few days have been harrowing. Now I have to deal with his anger and disgruntlement at this as well as my own emotions and the weird sense that in spite of all I've been doing and have done, it's like I've failed somehow.

Tomorrow I will sleep in. Probably lie on the floor for part of the day. Then I'll start on the housework that's gone undone while I was (essentially) babying my father.

Who knew that this was going to turn into less of a case study and more of a... I don't know, a journal?

Also, I talked to my dad's financial person and she's on board, though she'd hoped he'd be able to just live off interest (or let it generate) a lot longer before having to touch principle... But that's what it is and we'll just have to deal.
Why, yes I AM all over the map!