Author Topic: Move to Europe?  (Read 1128 times)

Pencil_Stash

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Move to Europe?
« on: September 19, 2018, 02:37:04 PM »
My Fellow Mustachians,

I'm in the military, currently stationed in CA.  Next year I'm separating and the plan was to move to Europe, but then I discovered the FIRE community.  I'm wondering if I should accept a pay cut to move to Europe, or stick it out in a high-paying U.S. job till I retire and move wherever I please.

I'm 26, make about $60k per year as an AF officer (including benefits works out closer to $90k).  Currently assessing my finances - looks like I spend about $30k per year, but I'm working on that.
Net worth is $90k, I want to retire in the next 10 years or so.

Here's my situation:

I want to live in Europe and travel.  Right now flights are expensive (travel-hacking will help), paperwork with the military is annoying, and I can only travel for 1-2 weeks at a time.  Moving to Europe and getting a civilian job would make travelling much easier, even taking weekend trips!  Plus I think I'll enjoy European culture more (languages, less consumerism, etc).  My top pick is the Netherlands: mainland, learn Dutch, everyone speaks English, Expat friendly, BIKING, pragmatic culture, seems awesome.  My second pick is the U.K. because my boyfriend is British and wants me to stay with him while he finishes his duty commitment (1.5 years starting next June) - and then move together to the Netherlands when he finishes.  This seems more difficult to me, since I would have to move twice and find a job for 1.5 years (not great for a resume).

HOWEVER, Google says Europe does not pay as well as the U.S.  I have my bachelors and masters in Operations Research (data science) and with the experience and clearances of my current job, I could get a $100k-120k job with an aeronautical company (Lockheed, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop, etc.)  On Indeed I've only seen mid-level analysts getting paid 30-40k euro in the Netherlands (and about the same in the area of the U.K. I'd be).  There's a possibility I could get a job with an American aeronautical company in Europe.

As far as job-satisfaction, I do not want to work in the aeronautical industry.  But even a different job would probably pay more in the U.S. than Europe.  My ideal job would be data analytics for environmental conservation, but that's niche enough it will either take a while to find or become a post-retirement pastime.

So should I wait it out and cash the big check?  Or go for it and maybe take a slower path to FI?  Thoughts on the Netherlands vs the U.K.?
I'm sure having a bit more control of my life by leaving the military will make a difference*, but moving to Europe would be awesome.  But I've heard of Geographic Arbitrage as such an important life-hack...

There's also the question of managing finances while living in another country, but that's a whole 'nother post.

Sorry if this a bit randomly laid out; I had trouble condensing and ordering.

Thanks,
Pencil_Stash

*I've enjoyed my time in the military and will miss the community, but I look forward to the change.

UPDATE:
For me, the draws of Europe are higher quality food, more stringent environmental standards, better access to health care, less guns and crime, a more equal society with less overt poverty, less chains and big box stores, more walkable and bikable cities, interesting architecture. 

The US seems to have more options for everything for example ethnic cuisines, styles of beer, music and better access to outdoor recreation such as world class singletrack, national parks, and open space. I've also concluded that the US is a better place to build wealth (higher salaries, lower taxes) but Europe probably has a higher quality of life depending on what you are looking for. Be sure to research taxes for where you are considering along with cost of living which can vary widely.

I'm also interested in the experience of others.  Cost of living seems like a mixed bag but it seems like you can live a better life for cheaper in Europe vs the US unless you want to drive a full size pickup and live in a 5,000 ft2 house.  I hope to live there myself someday but I plan to pad the stash for a bit longer because jobs in my field are difficult to come by in Europe outside of a major metro area.

That pretty much sums up why I think I'll be happier in Europe.  I also plan to have a vegan & minimalist lifestyle, so I think living expenses would be pretty small.  But then if you think about living as a minimalist/Mustachian in the U.S. - it's against the norm so you can stash MUCH faster.

You're only 26 -
if you want to build any kind of stash
and truly have the skills and say a contract offer from a big US company in your pocket then I'd say - stay.

Aww that's what I was afraid someone would say.  My greatest arguments for still going would be "practice early retirement now" and "I want my life story to go, 'And then I left the military and moved to Holland.'"  But I suppose, "And then I left the military, made six-figs, retired at 35, and moved to Holland," would be pretty cool too.  I don't care about the big contract job other than the salary.  My job is in pretty high demand across industries right now*, it just looks like Europe pays much lower for it.

The only problem with moving to Europe if you are American is that it is not that easy to get a residence permit that grants you access to all these fun things like free education and free healthcare. Having a job is more or less the only way unless you are marrying someone local.
If anything, if you feel drawn to the idea of living in Europe now would be the time to go and not after you are FIREd for the reason that in pretty much any EU country spending 5-7 years working there will give you right to citizenship.

But, I have a small tip for you, see if you can get a job at NATO headquarters in Brussels. They hire people from the military. Great benefits and tax free salary. No idea how competitive it may be for your profile though.

Ooh good tip!  I was also considering getting a job with one of the aero companies, but in Europe (though I might not like the work) as a compromise between location and salary.
I hadn't really thought about the difficulty of moving to Europe after FIRE.  I'm not sure where I want to settle long-term (Ireland is nice) but for now I'd love to travel around and test places out.
Right now, Google says I can move to the Netherlands fairly easily as a "highly-skilled worker."  I only need a work permit (no residence permit) and the company that hires me will do the paperwork.  They're pretty friendly to Expats (especially Amsterdam, though I don't want to move there).

Thanks everyone!  I'm open to more opinions and advice!

*OMG you know data science!? Can you predict the future!? ... Yes.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2018, 10:18:28 AM by Pencil_Stash »

BuildingFrugalHabits

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Re: Move to Europe?
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2018, 06:00:48 PM »
In general, your observations with respect to salaries in Europe are similar to mine.  I've visited the EU a few times and kicked around the idea of moving there.  For me, the draws of Europe are higher quality food, more stringent environmental standards, better access to health care, less guns and crime, a more equal society with less overt poverty, less chains and big box stores, more walkable and bikable cities, interesting architecture. 

The US seems to have more options for everything for example ethnic cuisines, styles of beer, music and better access to outdoor recreation such as world class singletrack, national parks, and open space. I've also concluded that the US is a better place to build wealth (higher salaries, lower taxes) but Europe probably has a higher quality of life depending on what you are looking for. Be sure to research taxes for where you are considering along with cost of living which can vary widely.

I'm also interested in the experience of others.  Cost of living seems like a mixed bag but it seems like you can live a better life for cheaper in Europe vs the US unless you want to drive a full size pickup and live in a 5,000 ft2 house.  I hope to live there myself someday but I plan to pad the stash for a bit longer because jobs in my field are difficult to come by in Europe outside of a major metro area. 

aspiringnomad

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Re: Move to Europe?
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2018, 07:24:26 PM »
In general, your observations with respect to salaries in Europe are similar to mine.  I've visited the EU a few times and kicked around the idea of moving there.  For me, the draws of Europe are higher quality food, more stringent environmental standards, better access to health care, less guns and crime, a more equal society with less overt poverty, less chains and big box stores, more walkable and bikable cities, interesting architecture. 

The US seems to have more options for everything for example ethnic cuisines, styles of beer, music and better access to outdoor recreation such as world class singletrack, national parks, and open space. I've also concluded that the US is a better place to build wealth (higher salaries, lower taxes) but Europe probably has a higher quality of life depending on what you are looking for. Be sure to research taxes for where you are considering along with cost of living which can vary widely.


This pro/con list seems pretty spot on, with the caveat that Europe and the US are both diverse places with exceptions to every rule depending on where you settle (duh). I'll also add that the flipside of Europe being less consumerist is that there is often less consumer choice and a higher cost of living. For me, that doesn't outweigh the overall higher quality of life in Europe.

But the income differential and ability to build wealth is a potentially huge factor, especially when you're aiming for FIRE. We're planning to slow travel Southern Europe after FIRE'ing from jobs in the US. Accumulating in the US and retiring in Europe seems like a good way to do it if you can swing it.


« Last Edit: September 20, 2018, 07:59:52 PM by aspiringnomad »

Rosy

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Re: Move to Europe?
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2018, 09:16:14 AM »
You're only 26 -
if you want to build any kind of stash
and truly have the skills and say a contract offer from a big US company in your pocket then I'd say - stay.

If you really would like to travel more than anything
then I'd say go with the BF to Great Britain and take a job there - after - you have residency status and a work permit.
Europeans have plenty of vacation and you'll be able to build a career and see the world.

As far as ultimately moving to the Netherlands - find out how complicated it would be to permanently move there and obtain a work permit for both of you. The laws are changing with Brexit - it means you can't just job hop all over Europe.
So even your BF will have to be sure his papers are in order.

Salaries:
Your best bet would be to work for an International preferably US-based company in a big city.
They often pay better, but still have to comply with the local labor laws - lots of vacation and paid sick days.

It is really a question of
do you like European style living - making less, but living a more enjoyable life that allows for travel and offers good, affordable healthcare?

You can't just move there because you want to do so on a whim - except for a short period of time, whatever the visa may allow - say 30 to 90 days.
Immigration takes time - no matter which country.

My suggestion would be to find the best paying job in the US you can possibly find and stash like crazy for five to max 10 years. During that time set up everything you need to have for buying a home to immigration paperwork.
With luck, you could find a job you can do online from anywhere in the world - later on.

I think you are right to travel while you are still young, but there are many ways to do it and still build a future and a secure retirement for yourself.
Right now the world is your oyster - which doesn't preclude stashing in the US for say five years.

I just returned from a two months stay in Europe and I found everything to be cheaper and a better quality of life.

To the poster/s above:
I can't agree about the beer since I visited Germany:) I was surprised at the number of craft beers in addition to the established breweries and I wonder where you were that didn't have good access to National Parks or outdoor spaces/recreation.
Open spaces - depends entirely on where you live.

Agreed:
Quote
Accumulating in the US and retiring in Europe seems like a good way to do it if you can swing it
True, however, personally I wouldn't be too keen to move to any country when I'm old, I think you will be happier and more successful if you establish residency by the time you are around 30 to 40's.

I visited Germany with the thought in the back of my mind - could I live there again just on my retirement income - if something happened to my partner? If so, where? and what do I require now that I'm old?
Conclusion: Yes, I could live very well on my income - much better than I had anticipated, living is cheaper, food and rent are cheaper. I forgot how pleasant life can be there.
More important, it seemed a kinder place to grow old.
I could afford to live wherever I wanted in Germany and travel all over Europe. Healthcare is great - better yet, it would save me an additional $700 in health insurance premiums a month as well.

So financially speaking a huge advantage to live in Germany and if both of us were to move we could save $3K a month. But, we are firmly entrenched here in the US - we'll be comfortable in retirement with a paid off house in the middle of Tourist Mecca near the beaches. The caveat here is that we have several excellent hospitals nearby and there is plenty to do with cool entertainment options, outdoor attractions, museums/exhibits and tons of restaurants and craft beer gardens everywhere:) even budget-friendly shopping for food and clothing. 
If we moved, he'd miss his friends and he doesn't speak German, I doubt he'd be happy in the long run.
Nevertheless, it is good to know I'd be fine either way - it's always good to have options.

Good Luck OP!

havregryn

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Re: Move to Europe?
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2018, 09:34:33 AM »
Salaries in Europe can rarely match those in the US and the only notable exceptions there could be places like Luxembourg and Switzerland, but these are also super expensive to live.
However you can have a very high quality of life in Europe on very little money. I lived in Vienna as a PhD fellow earning about 1200€ net per month (1400 USD) and i was able to save quite a bit of that (didn't track carefully but had about 20 000€ saved after 3 years) . I was not living some kind of an ERE experiment, I lived in a nice apartment in a good neighborhood (100m2 with 2 roommates, perfectly doable for a 25 year old) , travelled to Paris, Copenhagen and quite often to Croatia where I was from, regularly bought new clothes (I was a 25 year old girl). I only went out to free stuff though and got a free unlimited membership at a yoga studio in exchange for helping out. That whole time I had access to really great healthcare at no cost, great public transport and access to all kinds of education for free.
The only problem with moving to Europe if you are American is that it is not that easy to get a residence permit that grants you access to all these fun things like free education and free healthcare. Having a job is more or less the only way unless you are marrying someone local.
If anything, if you feel drawn to the idea of living in Europe now would be the time to go and not after you are FIREd for the reason that in pretty much any EU country spending 5-7 years working there will give you right to citizenship.

But, I have a small tip for you, see if you can get a job at NATO headquarters in Brussels. They hire people from the military. Great benefits and tax free salary. No idea how competitive it may be for your profile though.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Move to Europe?
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2018, 10:26:30 AM »
Previous thread about moving to the Netherlands:
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/moving-to-europe-expat-tips/

Yeah, there's very little chance you will be getting anywhere near your current comp over there.

Peachtea

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Re: Move to Europe?
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2018, 06:50:17 PM »
Have you thought about applying for civilian U.S. government jobs in Europe? No work permit required and somewhat comparable salaries (to US gov jobs, not necessarily private sector US jobs). And your military experience will probably give you a boost in consideration. https://www.usajobs.gov/Search/?l=Europe&hp=public&p=1&smin=61650&smax=500000

I would think you’d have also have a shot at jobs with Lockheed (or similar) in Europe and they would help get work permits etc. Have you looked if those companies have comparable salaries in US vs Europe (rather than comparing private sector jobs in general)?