Author Topic: Continue our expat adventure?  (Read 911 times)

DoNorth

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Continue our expat adventure?
« on: March 18, 2019, 11:34:58 AM »
My family is at a bit of a crossroads (married--we're 40 and 38 with two kids, 7 and 10) First, a brief history of how we got here.  A few years ago, I unexpectedly retired from the military a few years early for medical reasons.  I didn't understand FIRE at the time and blindly went into a new job.  I quickly realized it was a mistake quit exactly one year after starting the job.  We sold our mid Atlantic area metro area home and moved in with my parents up north as I began building my house nearby.  A chance encounter landed me a part time job with a small non-profit.  The non-profit work was enjoyable and gave me all the flexibility I needed to build our place.  I saw my wife and kids every day, loved working with my hands and being outside and really enjoyed the feeling of being physically tired at the end of almost every day and seeing measurable progress which I rarely got with white collar office work. But, I definitely underestimated on cost of materials and labor (every inch of the house is custom and we were building with cash) and time--it took me and the few guys I hired to help about 2.5 years to finish.  So on a whim, after going through all that house building work, my wife and I discussed moving abroad for a few years for a contract job.  Long story short.  We've been overseas for almost a year now.  The pros:  we live in a fantastic area of Europe; its bikeable, walkable, and everything is really convenient for traveling and seeing a lot.  I bike to work, my kids walk to school.  We can walk to the grocery store, bakery, and about 30 different restaurants, cafes, etc. are all really close by without being too crowded or busy.  My kids are quickly becoming fluent in another language and have made good friends in our new city.  My employer pays for all of our living and schooling expenses except internet/cell phone through a tax free allowance.  And my schedule and compensation are pretty good for the most part.  The biggest downside is that I ended up in the most mind numbing job one could possibly find.  I won't go into all the details, but it would be fair to say that I can dedicate an entire day to whatever personal endeavor I choose and its perfectly ok as long as I am physically present.  I have zero work related stress and none of the typical office problems you find in corporate america like toxic bosses etc. 

We have about $400K in retirement/529s/investment accounts and $62K/year in passive income from the pension adjusted to annual inflation + medical.  My salary for this job is about $130K/year including living expense stipend.  Our only debt is a mortgage from the leftover expenses related to our house of just over $200K.  We have about $250K in home equity and own 2 other vacant lots nearby valued at about $150K.   We left our house in the US unrented because we put way too much work into it and I just don't want the hassle.  My dilemma is that my contract expires in early 2020 and they are asking to extend us for another 1-2 years. If we stay, there is a good chance we can pay off the house/and or really increase our savings.  The kids would then have had 3-4 years here and definitely be fully fluent in another language. A summer 2021 departure would put my oldest at the end of 6th grade and youngest at the end of 3rd grade).  We could also travel quite a bit more. On the other hand, the idea of going to an office for 12 hours at a time (I do shift work) and having to come up with things to do to keep myself occupied for another 2 years is hard to digest.  Also, we really miss our home, family and friends from the US.  Then again, I want to do whatever is  best for my family both personally and financially and definitely don't want to undershoot FIRE the second time around.  Appreciate any thoughts or ideas on how to look at this decision.

rubybeth

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Re: Continue our expat adventure?
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2019, 01:20:30 PM »
I'd probably stay for the reasons you cited. What about having more family/friends come visit you? I have friends living in Europe and they LOVE visitors, probably have visitors every other week the entire year. Find some podcasts or audiobooks or something for the office job.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Continue our expat adventure?
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2019, 01:51:37 PM »
I壇 definitely stay. You池e giving your kids the best education they will ever receive. You値l be back in the US soon enough and they値l spend lots of time there, they値l never get chances like this again at such a great age for them. As for you, use that time to read books, learn new languages, run an internet business, do yoga or whatever. Milk it! It値l go quicker than you think.

eljefe-speaks

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Re: Continue our expat adventure?
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2019, 02:45:45 PM »
+1 on stay.

I think some perspective is in order. The salary and location of your job is the stuff of fantasy for many.

DoNorth

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Re: Continue our expat adventure?
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2019, 09:31:32 AM »
I壇 definitely stay. You池e giving your kids the best education they will ever receive. You値l be back in the US soon enough and they値l spend lots of time there, they値l never get chances like this again at such a great age for them. As for you, use that time to read books, learn new languages, run an internet business, do yoga or whatever. Milk it! It値l go quicker than you think.

Thanks--I'm definitely feeling more optimistic about the choice today and leaning towards sticking it out through 21'.  I might even be able to move into my supervisor's position once he leaves. 

DoNorth

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Re: Continue our expat adventure?
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2019, 09:42:11 AM »
+1 on stay.

I think some perspective is in order. The salary and location of your job is the stuff of fantasy for many.

Very true--That fact isn't lost on me.  I think the biggest obstacle has been going from giving 110% effort toward something to well, almost nothing and not having a defined purpose in a work related environment.  I've largely come to terms  with it though and am focusing on the many other positives.

Dicey

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Re: Continue our expat adventure?
« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2019, 10:39:57 AM »
Stay, but at least find someone to caretake your home. Also, find a new hobby or two that you can do at work. Reading is my favorite suggestion. Real books.

rubybeth

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Re: Continue our expat adventure?
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2019, 10:41:02 AM »
+1 on stay.

I think some perspective is in order. The salary and location of your job is the stuff of fantasy for many.

Very true--That fact isn't lost on me.  I think the biggest obstacle has been going from giving 110% effort toward something to well, almost nothing and not having a defined purpose in a work related environment.  I've largely come to terms  with it though and am focusing on the many other positives.

When I get bored at work, I let my boss know and ask for more projects, or come up with ideas for projects and present them. Maybe that's not possible in your industry, but I figure if I have to work for another 10 years, I might as well do some good for my organization and make it interesting for me.

reeshau

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Re: Continue our expat adventure?
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2019, 06:46:39 AM »
I know how you are feeling.  My situation is not as generous as yours--we are paying for housing in pricey Dublin.  But my wife and I literally used to fantasize about getting an assignment in Europe, and now I have it toward the end of my career.  I secretly think of it as a going away present from my company.

It's not surprising that many are urging you to stay, and I conclude that, too, from your description.  I also do agree you need a caretaker of some sort for your house back in the US.  Not sure where you consider Up North, but this was a hard winter in the US, and you don't want an undetected line freeze or roof problem to come back to.  This could even be an opportunity for some money, from the *right* renter.  (as opposed to just any renter)

One thing I would ask more about, though: you mentioned you moved back to your parents.  How are they doing?  Are they able to visit you?  Do you talk to them frequently, or at all?  In our plan, the two things that will bring us home are: a) when our son is old enough that we are not comfortable with him transitioning school (meaning, before middle school...we think) or b) my wife's parents, who have no other relatives nearby, start needing some care.  We look at either of these as family duties, and will not resent either because we have planned ahead for them.  This also drives us to fully enjoy the time we do have in Europe.

DoNorth

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Re: Continue our expat adventure?
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2019, 08:21:18 AM »
I know how you are feeling.  My situation is not as generous as yours--we are paying for housing in pricey Dublin.  But my wife and I literally used to fantasize about getting an assignment in Europe, and now I have it toward the end of my career.  I secretly think of it as a going away present from my company.

It's not surprising that many are urging you to stay, and I conclude that, too, from your description.  I also do agree you need a caretaker of some sort for your house back in the US.  Not sure where you consider Up North, but this was a hard winter in the US, and you don't want an undetected line freeze or roof problem to come back to.  This could even be an opportunity for some money, from the *right* renter.  (as opposed to just any renter)

One thing I would ask more about, though: you mentioned you moved back to your parents.  How are they doing?  Are they able to visit you?  Do you talk to them frequently, or at all?  In our plan, the two things that will bring us home are: a) when our son is old enough that we are not comfortable with him transitioning school (meaning, before middle school...we think) or b) my wife's parents, who have no other relatives nearby, start needing some care.  We look at either of these as family duties, and will not resent either because we have planned ahead for them.  This also drives us to fully enjoy the time we do have in Europe.

Thanks for your thoughts.  Our place in the US is on the Canadian border.  Fortunately, my parents who we lived with while building our home only live about 100' away so they are the caretakers.  I hire a couple kids to do some shoveling and my Dad plows are driveway in the winter so propane can be delivered and he checks on the heat.  During the really cold spells they drip our faucets and turn off our well pump so if a line did freeze, it wouldn't flood the house (probably going to hook up the generator this summer). Luckily, if there's an outage at our place, they will always experience it as well since we're on the same power lines.  Maybe we'll rethink the renter issue.

Yes, we FT and talk frequently with family and they are planning to visit in the fall and my in-laws are coming in a few weeks along with some other friends.  We're thinking along similar lines for our return departure.  Our son will go to French school 5th grade equivalent this fall and if we do stay the extra year, would transition to a French middle school ("college") for his 6th grade equivalent.  That would put him in 7th grade at the same school he was at (small parochial school that goes from K-8 and then feeds to the public high school with all the other middle school kids)  My daughter ended up in the French second grade equivalent and sort of bypassed 1st grade because they don't use cutoffs here.  Everyone born in the same year goes in the same class, so she'll do French 3rd and 4th, and then basically repeat 4th in the US school.  If I agree to stay the extra year though mid 2021,  I do get 2 weeks of bonus vacation to go home so that might be the compromise for the 3rd year.