Author Topic: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?  (Read 7273 times)

dudermcgee

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What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« on: November 24, 2016, 10:18:14 PM »
Hey Folks,

I'm 35 with a wife and 3 young children (5, 3, and 6 months) living in the midwest. Due to the fact that I have a young family, and because of my conservative nature as it relates to personal finance, I plan to retire as soon as we hit a 2.5% withdraw rate (I know, many frown upon such conservatism, but it makes me feel more comfortable). My wife is already "retired" (she's a SAHM), but she also dabbles in real estate as a side hustle. Our net worth and current expenses equate to a 3.5% withdraw rate. Within 2-3 years we'd likely be at a 2.5% withdraw rate, at which point we plan to travel with our family atleast 1 month each and every summer, immersing ourselves into new cultures.

So here's the situation:
I've been in somewhat of a rut with work, and possibly life in general; bored with the repetitive nature and seeking more adventure. Out of nowhere, a recruiter at a large company contacted me about a position based out of a major city in Europe. It sounded exciting, so I agreed to go through the interview process. The process went well and I was offered the job.

Here are the biggest pros and cons.

Pros
- My wife is on board
- 2 extra weeks of vacation (5 weeks total)
- Would be able to see most of Europe over the next 2 years (a lot more adventure!)
- Would expose my children to a variety of different cultures
- Culture shock would likely be minimal as English is spoken by nearly everyone
- I should be able to fairly easily obtain a job upon returning home
- Work/Life balance at this company, and within this culture are pretty amazing

Cons
- It is a significant pay cut that will likely result in the need to work around 5 more years rather than 2-3 in order to hit the 2.5% withdraw rate
- My 5 year old is in a Spanish immersion school that wouldn't be available to her once we return home
- Could potentially be a step back in career if I decide to, or am forced to work longer than expected
- We're very close with both my family and my wife's family, and we currently see them often (by choice) ;)

Totally understand that this is a 1st world problem, but want to hear thoughts from like minded folks such as yourselves. Thank you in advance for any advice or wisdom that you are willing to share.

Happy Thanksgiving!

- Duder
« Last Edit: November 27, 2016, 09:47:57 PM by dudermcgee »

ysette9

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2016, 10:38:39 PM »
God, why a fantastic opportunity. I vote for taking the job and never looking back. Get your kids in immersion public school in whatever the local language is and expose them to all sorts of other countries on vacation. Read up on the good research out there, including the sticky thread on this forum about not worrying about the 4% rule so you can throw in the towel already and ENJOY your kick-ass awesome life. Congrats on this great situation you worked yourself into!

Villanelle

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2016, 02:29:21 AM »
I would very, very heavily caution you against  putting stock in this sentiment: "Culture shock would likely be minimal as English is spoken by nearly everyone". 

To me, culture shock is more about not knowing that in Germany, you prepay your parking fees, rather than paying at the machine with the arm when you leave.  You are then the asshole American who didn't pay, and can't back up because there's a car behind you waiting, and you feel like the biggest moron because you can't even navigate a parking garage correctly.  Ditto for not know that you pre-weigh your produce and print a sticker which you take up to the cash register.Or that in Japan, you always back in to a parking space.  This are just some examples off the top of my head, some of which are a much bigger deal than others.  But in general, I've found it to be the lack of cultural literacy, not language difficulties, that cause the most frustration. 

That said, I've found living abroad--and especially living abroad in Europe--to be an incredible experience.  Your two youngest are probably not old enough to get much out of this other than a chance to be fluent in another language (which can be a huge benefit, especially it is is a more desirable language).  You and your wife and your oldest, however, will get so much out of this if you go out of your way to embrace the opportunity.

Have you done any research on true COL in your potential new home?  You mention a pay cut, but until you compare true cost of living (for a mustachian lifestyle), you can't know if that will be more or less significant.  If you make less but your lifestyle costs less, it could even be an overall raise!

Linea_Norway

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2016, 03:31:13 AM »
As an emigrant myself, I can give you some thoughts. In the beginning everything is new and exiting. You and your wife will be having fun about many aspects of that new country. But after a year and a half or so, you will be so integrated, that it turns into life as usual. Is it also an option for you to accept the job, but quit after two years or so?
It definitively broadens your horizon to live in another country. And if you learn another language. Even though most people in Europe speak english, you will be missing out on a lot if you don't learn the local language. Which country are you talking about?
For family matters, it is a long way to travel from Europa to USA, although it sometimes can be surprisingly cheap. You'll need to rely on using Skype or likewise. And there is the time difference issue when Skyping. The other issue is motivating your elder family to use it. My parent in law Skype every week, but my mother doesn't. And I don't want to spend international phone calls on her. So we end up only using email, which is not as personal as Skype.
You will probably want to visit them regularly. I the beginning we visited homeland twice a year. Now only once a year. It goes fine, using Skupe instead, but as soon as your parents, or other relatives, get into trouble, where you should have been there for them, then it is not nice to be the one abroad. You'll need to rely on your brother or sister to step in.
Can you negotiate a better salary?

In some countries, you can get a profitable tax reduction if you don't plan to stay very long, like one or two years instead of 5.

As the others say, children will learn the local language really soon when they go to school with other local children.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2016, 03:33:14 AM by Linda_Norway »

Playing with Fire UK

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2016, 04:26:12 AM »
Possible Pro: a better work-life balance when some of your children are still at home and not at school is more valuable than when they are at school all day or moved out.

Have you looked at how health insurance would work when you return to the US? Would you be able to keep a US policy or get one when you return? Would you be on an expat deal or would you be paid as a local?

Seconding the need to check out the COL in the destination country. Happy to give you pointers if you let us know the city. Costs can be so different in Europe compared to the US: Some people on this board spend more on healthcare insurance than I spend in total (living in the UK, working in London). You may be able to save a lot more than you think.

Would the parents be able to come and visit you ( are they healthy / adventure inclined / still working).

totoro

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2016, 05:43:39 AM »
I lived overseas with small children.  I liked it, but I wouldn't have worked three more years for the opportunity. I really enjoy raising kids with a stable home base in my own culture where we have lots of family and friends.  I'd rather have reached FI faster and then traveled with the kids for shorter periods of time. 

In your case the two youngest won't remember much if any of the adventure later.   On the plus side, once your kids hit ten or so it gets harder to travel with school and friends tethering them so now is a good time to set out for a multi-year trip if you're seeking adventure and your wife is on board. 

Also I wouldn't worry too much about culture shock.  The internet is full of tips and Europe is full of American expats.  A major city will have a large community.  I would be working the budget out carefully though before deciding to make sure your pay cut isn't further eaten away by a large increase in expenses.

daverobev

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2016, 09:40:20 AM »
As others have said, culture shock has little to do with language.

That's from a Brit in (English speaking) Canada.

seattlecyclone

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2016, 09:50:22 AM »
If you take the job, any chance you'd be close to earning citizenship in that country by the time you're ready to retire? Having an EU passport can open up a lot of options in retirement.

Watchmaker

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2016, 09:52:12 AM »
I was just presented with a very similar option.  I'm two years younger, and a bit behind you in savings.  No kids.  I was called about a job in Denmark which between the pay and COL, would have slowed my FIRE progress down by a few years.  I was tempted because I'd love to live in Europe at some point.  But, like you, I am conservative with my finances and ultimately I didn't want to give up the "safe" job with good pay.  If I was closer to FIRE (like a year or two out) I think I would have done it though.

Kids complicate it obviously.  But I moved a lot as a kid and in retrospect it was great for me.  I never lived overseas but my family did before I was born and, frankly, I'm envious of my brother that he got to do that.

How easy would it be for you to get a comparable job to your current one if you came back to america in a couple years?

myrax

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2016, 10:56:01 AM »
I would hesitate to move, if only for the Spanish Immersion school. I was lucky enough to attend a public French Immersion school while growing up and being bilingual has opened doors for me, including the opportunity to enroll in a French university practically for about 500 euro per year. Being bilingual in Spanish is very useful in the US and will help your children find jobs in a number of different careers. Once you have retired, you will have the opportunity to live in a Spanish speaking country to help your children perfect their language skills and learn about different cultures.


FINate

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2016, 12:19:42 PM »
Adding to your cons list: Relocation is one of the most stressful life events - relocating internationally even more so, and small kids amplifies if even more. In addition to 'culture shock' issues already listed on this thread, there's a ton of logistical details that add to the stress. If you take some of your stuff with you be prepared for issues with the shipping company and customs. In our case we ended up living out of our suitcases for about a month while we waited for our shipment to clear customs.

Whatever you don't bring with you be prepared for the sticker shock - goods in the EU are expensive and the ~18% VAT doesn't help. In many parts of the EU an "unfurnished" apartment literally means totally unfurnished, as in you need to provide all your own appliances, fixtures, etc.  - this means you need to install your own kitchen and bathroom, lights, yada yada. Not only is this spendy, it's a major hassle, and in these places furnished apartments are very expensive. So look into what the norms are for apartments in the area you're considering.

You will also need a EU bank account to rent an apartment because your landlord is unlikely to accept a paper check because electronic wire transfers are the norm, and because of banking regulations you can't easily transfer money from a US bank to your EU landlord. In fact, getting money transferred from the US to the EU in general is a pain. If possible, set this up in advance and get Euros in a EU account in advance of your move.

Then there's the joy of taxes. Because the US is so worried that some wealthy fat cat might move overseas to avoid paying their fair share, the US is one of the only governments in the OECD requiring citizens to pay taxes on their global income. Not it's not as bad as it sounds, because most (all?) countries in the EU have tax treaties with the US (basically, you pay the highest of the two rates), but it does mean you have to continue filing taxes in the US while living in the EU. But the fun doesn't stop there, because of the way the tax treaties work with one affecting the other and vice versa, and because the two countries very likely have different filing deadlines, this means you likely have to amend your filings with both countries. Basically, you get to file 4 times each year - the short of it is you're going to spend a lot of time with a professional tax preparer each year.

Then you have to find schools, doctors, dentists, etc. etc.

The first 1-2 months are occupied with these types of details, which is offset by the excitement of exploring what a new country has to offer. Homesickness sets in around month 2 and continues for a number of months (4-6?) - this is a hard time - there's a continuous low-level of background stress because you don't quite fit in and even little things can be difficult to figure out (how do you winterize your car, where to go, what is expected? And other things like this).

After about 9+ months things settle down and start to feel more fun and relaxed again. At this point life because just life again.

Is it worth it? It's difficult to say. If living overseas is a goal of yours then it's probably worth it, even if it pushes FIRE back. It's an opportunity to really live like the locals in a way that's not possible if you're just traveling through. It will change your perspective, broaden your horizon, bla bla. But it's a shit ton of work, stress, homesickness, and such.

TrMama

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #11 on: November 25, 2016, 12:51:08 PM »
We did a semi-expat tour when our kids were 0 and 2. We moved from BC to Quebec. Even though that's technically within the same country, logistically they are separate countries. We were expecting everything to be different and to feel like immigrants. Our expectations were met, so it was a good experience.

There are a few myths about kids and language I'd like to dispel. Kids only become bilingual if you make a serious effort to teach them the community language. They do not learn via osmosis. For little kids like yours, unless one of their parents begins speaking the new language with them, or you enroll them in full time childcare, they will still essentially still be living in the US. Since their entire world is in their own home and they'll really only speak to you, your wife and their siblings they won't learn any other language without significant input from elsewhere.

If you do decide to send them to a local daycare/preschool the abrupt change in language will be really stressful for them. Expect some major regression. After living in QC for a year and speaking french with her half the time, I enrolled my 3yo in a 3 day/week preschool program. She never spoke to anyone while she was there. The teachers thought she was mute. She wasn't, just freaked out about the language.

If you go to all the trouble of teaching your children a second language, they will only remain bilingual when you return to the US if they continue to use the second language. This usually requires either an immersion school or a parent who continues to speak the second language to them. If the language is also your second language this can have an impact on your relationship with your child, since it's harder to express yourself in a second language.

With respect to feeling like an outsider, I have a theory that this is easier for people who have always felt out of step with their peers. As mustachians, I bet a lot of us feel "out of step" a lot of the time. This can be stressful because we expect to fit into the culture we were born into. However, when you move to a different culture, this expectation disappears. If you expect to feel like an outsider, then when that turns out to be true, it's actually a less stressful experience.

All that being said, international moves can still be really great experiences. There's nothing I regret about ours. I learned tons and returned to our old city with a new appreciation of both it's charms and flaws.

Hadilly

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2016, 01:17:18 PM »
We spent three months in Germany a few years ago as a family of five and had a great time. We put our children into preschool and first grade. They learned an incredible amount of German. If it is a different language, that could substitute for the Spanish immersion.

If you are bored at work, I would totally do it. I love to travel so being based in Europe was great for us. Can you negotiate a better salary and/or benefits? What opportunities might it open up for you down the line?

We rented out our place so that covered our mortgage, something to consider.

It was great for us  as a family to all share a new experience together. I also really liked being free of our normal obligations. We had a lot of free time together.

I very much want to go again when our career paths permit.

human

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #13 on: November 25, 2016, 03:16:23 PM »
I really liked this movie:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0959337/

You already have a 3.5% withdrawal rate. I know what I would do.

You can always move back to the US but you can't turn back the clock to take the job again.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2016, 03:18:04 PM by human »

jjcamembert

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #14 on: November 25, 2016, 03:52:09 PM »
I lived in Germany for 3 years and loved it! So my initial response is, yeah, why wouldn't you? I get the extending FI date thing, but once you achieve FI, what are your big plans? Is it more exciting than living in Europe? One month per summer is a far different experience than living there. I went to 14 countries and hundreds of cities while over there; you can't do that from the US very easily without a massive trip.

I knew some people abroad who were also close to their families. It was definitely tough for them but they made it, and I don't think they regret their decision. Make sure to budget in a flight back per year if that's important to you. Would your extended family be willing to come visit in between as well?

Highly depends where you move, but generally I found: food is cheaper, housing is expensive, gas is expensive. Not sure what your tax arrangement will be but you can exclude foreign earned income from US taxes (up to a limit of around $90k).

Little Aussie Battler

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #15 on: November 25, 2016, 08:08:16 PM »
What city? This makes a huge difference.

I made a similar move to Europe, although mine was with my existing employer.

SwordGuy

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #16 on: November 25, 2016, 08:14:43 PM »
Remember that if you spend most of the year outside the US you don't have to pay income taxes on the first $90k (or thereabouts, it changes from year to year).   That's a bit of a raise if you don't have a higher COL.

LeRainDrop

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #17 on: November 25, 2016, 08:16:26 PM »
Will the employer pay for all your relocation costs?  Have they flown you and your family out to visit for a week?

itchyfeet

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #18 on: November 25, 2016, 11:22:25 PM »
I agree with others that moving abroad will be a shock to the system irrespective of language barriers. Different people handle such a big move differently. My wife and I moved from Australia to the Middle East.
My wife was very hesitant about moving, but settled in really quickly. Where as I was very excited for the move but found the stress of a new job, different and increased bureaucracy, and no friemds around quite overwhelming and extremely frustrating at times. I would say it took me 18 months to feel truly comfortable in the new setting - even though everyone speaks English.
On balance the move has been a huge success and has created so many opportunities that would never have been possible from Australia. We would definitely take the same decision if the clock was wound back 2 years.
We will probably have to find jobs when we finally head back to australia, but like you are in the ballpark of Being FI, so are not to concerned about the lack of job security.

AMandM

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #19 on: November 26, 2016, 10:49:49 AM »
Take the job in Europe!  I say this as someone who has moved to Europe and back again three times with children.  In a nutshell, it's a challenge that brings irreplaceable rewards.

Yes, it will delay your FIRE.  But during that delay you will be fulfilling some of your FIRE goals.  You say you want to travel after FIRE, to immerse your kids in other cultures; but even extended travel doesn't really allow for immersion.  Actually living abroad does.

Yes, it will present you with culture shock.  That's what broadens your perspectives and your kids' perspectives. Dealing with the differences and difficulties together also creates closeness within your family.

Yes, it will take you away from extended family.  That is a loss. It can be mitigated through letters, emails, skype, and visits, but it can't be wholly compensated for.

Living, not just visiting, abroad can be challenging, but meeting the challenge makes a wonderful family adventure.  Make the most of it by learning the language and using it as much as possible.  Get out of the expat bubble!  Go to local, rather than international-oriented, stores, restaurants, church, school.  You'll experience different assumptions about how life works, different ways of solving problems, different views of what counts as a problem.  You'll build a treasury of shared family stories.

As to language specifically, study it before you go so you can say at least a few polite phrases when you land.  Have your kids watch movies they know with the soundtrack in the target language. When you arrive, put your kids in a local school/kindergarten and you will be amazed at how fast they become fluent (at their age level, of course).  We had daily "German success stories" at the dinner table, where each person would tell one small linguistic triumph.  Example: "I figured out the history teacher was talking about Charlemagne today."

I envy you!  Our kids are high schoolers now, with commitments that make an international move much harder.

Dicey

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #20 on: November 26, 2016, 03:52:56 PM »
Do it and never look back. Well, except to tell us how the 4% rule really does work and you wasted too much of your life being overly cautious. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but cancer at 21 changes one's life perspective and relative old age now makes me want to encourage and/or shake everyone who is avoiding the wonders of life due to fear.

And the immersion thing: studies show that people who speak two languages fluently pick up new ones even more easily. Spanish immersion is good, but living in a foreign country and learning the language like a native speaker is far better. Your daughter may ultimately speak better Spanish as a result of this experience.

pbkmaine

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #21 on: November 26, 2016, 04:10:04 PM »
Do it and never look back. Well, except to tell us how the 4% rule really does work and you wasted too much of your life being overly cautious. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but cancer at 21 changes one's life perspective and relative old age now makes me want to encourage and/or shake everyone who is avoiding the wonders of life due to fear.

And the immersion thing: studies show that people who speak two languages fluently pick up new ones even more easily. Spanish immersion is good, but living in a foreign country and learning the language like a native speaker is far better. Your daughter may ultimately speak better Spanish as a result of this experience.

Go.

ysette9

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #22 on: November 26, 2016, 05:26:03 PM »
^^^ totally agree

waltworks

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #23 on: November 26, 2016, 07:35:45 PM »
Given that you're inherently super conservative about finances and won't quit now, I'd take the job.

Really, I'd just quit/semiretire and spend time with your kids while they're young (and travel if you want) and NOT take a job, but hey, you've already ruled that out.

Go have an adventure. Worst case scenario, you're retired anyway and you can just quit the job and call it a vacation.

-W

Dee18

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #24 on: November 26, 2016, 07:52:05 PM »
Sounds like you and your wife both want this, so go.  I moved my family to China just for a semester;  we wished we had signed up for longer.  It was a fabulous experience, even with major language challenges since few people where we lived spoke English.

SnackDog

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #25 on: November 27, 2016, 12:47:09 AM »
Jump on it. Any SWR less than about 3% will last for eternity. You are close enough. Consider yourself retired. This is a paid vacation in Europe. And there will be culture shock for your family and the many uptight Europeans you offend, haha.

Ayanka

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #26 on: November 27, 2016, 06:10:02 AM »
Just one question: where in Europe, as there is a pretty big difference and I wouldn't want to live in some parts of even the EU with a raise and small children. Especially in the south and the east, don't assume people will speak English. Even in Belgium, where most natives speak English the immigrants don't. Seen the recent problems in the middle east, we have tons of them.

Poundwise

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #27 on: November 27, 2016, 07:16:42 AM »
Go. I lived in Europe on a shoestring when I was in my 20s, and it's still a memory that I treasure.  I experienced more in that year than I did in five years at home. The chance to live in a new country is the chance to live with intensity.  Think of it as gaining X years of life.

FIREby35

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #28 on: November 27, 2016, 09:24:51 AM »
I'm 32, with three kids, nearly FI and considering the same type of life move when actually FI (at 5% SWR, FYI). About to go on 2 month sabbatical to MX with the family.

Anyway, instead of lowering your SWR to 2.5% why don't you think if it as a 3.5% SWR but with an income stream that is now going to allow you to avoid sequencing of return risk? You can simply allow your current stash to compound for a couple years. You might hit the 2.5% SWR without actually adding anything to it via savings.

BTW - if you have made it to a 3.5% SWR - what do you care about taking a pay cut or your future career prospects? You have already made it. Now you can do something, exactly like what you are proposing, simply because you want to. That is the freedom you purchased.

Anyway, count me as vote in favor. There is no time like the present.

kiwi

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #29 on: November 27, 2016, 10:12:35 AM »
We lived in Switzerland starting when my kids were 4 and 7, for 2 years. It was an awesome experience, and I'd love to do it again. Having said that - I searched out this opportunity diligently, and have had "living a year or more overseas" on my bucket list for ages. It sounds like it's been dropped in your lap. I know what *I* would do, but different personality types handle it differently. I know quite a few who moved over there where the working spouse loved it, but the non-working spouse, stuck at home with no social life, and perhaps with a not-so-adventurous personality, hated it and even went back early.

If you really want to travel, I'd do it this way, having an established base set up, and travel from there. In my opinion, it's WAY better to live and work overseas, and then travel from that base, than to just roam around after you're retired. It can be hard and wearing to travel for a long time, but if you have a base, and take trips from there, it's an enjoyable break from work/home life.

BTW - you can call regular phone numbers from Skype, for relatives who don't do Skype. You do have to pay, but it's super cheap.

dudermcgee

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #30 on: November 27, 2016, 09:45:03 PM »
Thank you all so much for taking the time to offer such great insight and advice. We really appreciate it. The location is Amsterdam for those of you that are curious.

Linea_Norway

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #31 on: November 27, 2016, 11:42:44 PM »
Thank you all so much for taking the time to offer such great insight and advice. We really appreciate it. The location is Amsterdam for those of you that are curious.

A few comments on that:
Dutch people do indeed speak English very well, with our unique charming accent. ;-)
Dutch people are generally quite open and easy to get in touch with. They will probably find you interesting.
Dutch is not a very easy language to learn.

A Dutch frugal expression:
Zuinigheid met vlijt bouwt huizen als kastelen = Frugality with hard work builds houses like castles.

FINate

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #32 on: November 28, 2016, 11:09:02 AM »
Thank you all so much for taking the time to offer such great insight and advice. We really appreciate it. The location is Amsterdam for those of you that are curious.

People on this site skew heavily towards world travel/adventure so I'll be the contrarian voice for a bit.

Not that I think the move is necessarily a bad idea - we loved living and working in EU and would do it again if presented with a similar situation  - but I think the decision hinges on the details of your situation rather than a romantic idea of living abroad.

When I worked abroad I did not take a pay cut, in fact, I got an additional living allowance to offset the increased cost of living/taxes, and all relocation expenses were covered. And we relocated from a HCOLA (SF Bay Area) to a higher COLA, but one that is slightly less than what you're considering (Munich vs. Amsterdam). Even so, our finances took a hit because we did a ton of travel. It was totally worth it, but not sure how I would feel about it if we had struggled to make ends meet as the result of taking a pay cut while simultaneously increasing our cost of living.

Things to consider in your decision, no need to respond here:
  • How does your COL in the midwest compare to Amsterdam? There are free online "salary conversion" calculators that can help with this. For example, $100k in my HCOL area is equivalent to about $164k in Amsterdam.
  • How will taxes affect take home pay here vs. there?
  • What benefits are you eligible for in Amsterdam that will offset higher taxes/reduced pay?
  • Will you wife be able to work in Amsterdam, what will be the net change for her income (I assume she can't continue her side hustle in NL)?
  • Other incidentals: Travel home to see family. Relocation expenses (there and back, assuming you plan to return at some point).

Just make sure that you're happy with your ongoing financial position after accounting for changes (including things I've missed - expat blogs in Amsterdam are a good resource here). The novelty and excitement will fade 6-9 months after relocating and then the baseline resets to the new normal. At this point you're just living a normal life in your new city. If you're having to dip into savings every month to make ends meet, or you're barely scraping by and can't afford to travel and explore then you may not be happy with the move.

What I'm advocating for here is a bit of caution. Not unreasonable fear, but also not throwing caution to the wind because "OMG living overseas is wonderful!" Put together a spreadsheet and account for the change in your financial position given the information you can gather. Then be honest with yourself about where and how you want to live. Would you be ok with living in a cheap outlying suburb with little character? Yes, these do exist in Europe. What are your expectations for travel and how much this will cost. Are your expectations realistic given your new financial position?

If everything lines up then I say it's absolutely worth it.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2016, 11:11:22 AM by FINate »

Making Cookies

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #33 on: November 29, 2016, 10:21:59 AM »
If you can make the finances work for you and if your family is an adventurous bunch - I say do it. I will change you.

I lived in southern Italy for several years back pre-Internet. I was single, making piddly money and spent everything to go sight-seeing. Spent a fair amount of time and effort building a circle of friends and they gave me all those little cultural lessons that a person needs to know about to make a city livable. Places to go, foods to eat, ways to save money, etc.

Homesickness did not come quickly for me. I was there two years before I came back to the states the first time on vacation. I would have gladly stayed another two years. I can't imagine having a communication tool like the internet to rely on.

Doing this with children might have changed the flavor of of the experience. Might not been as free to come and go on a shoestring b/c I would have responsibilities. I think my kids today would flourish overseas.

As TrMama mentioned earlier, I did not (do not) feel in step with American culture very well and my travels only highlighted that for me. I felt very comfortable and enthusiastic living overseas once I learned how to function there. I really enjoyed being disconnected from the American media and advertising mechanism. Didn't get very plugged into the media in Italy either. Freed up my mind and time for so many other topics. This is something I've carried forward today with my own family.

The attachment to material possessions can be an expensive proposition. Do you take a load of household things with you to Europe or do you discard it all and buy it all there again, discard it again to return and buy it all yet again when back stateside? Store it? I stored a few things in a friend's garage.

CloserToFree

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #34 on: November 29, 2016, 02:22:07 PM »
I'd add my voice to those urging you to consider saying yes and taking the job abroad, especially now knowing it's in Amsterdam -- widespread English-speaking there, and super central for traveling purposes.  My husband and I have lived in Europe before together (pre-kids, we now have a toddler) and hope/plan to move back for a few years when our son is a little older.  Yes, it'll set back your FIRE date, but as someone else noted it seems like a great opportunity to start doing the things you'd want to do in FIRE, but now.  The extra vacation is key and will allow you to take full advantage of living so close to so many awesome destinations.  And it sounds like you're definitely in a rut and looking for a chance to make an exciting change.  A few questions:
-will your family be willing/able to come visit you while you're there?  if not, can you build in a budget for having them travel to you (possibly cheaper than flying all five of you back home for visits)?
-is there an international or Spanish school in Amsterdam you could send your kid(s) to?
-is there state funded or subsidized childcare/preschool?  That could be a huge bonus for your two younger kids, and could give your wife a break or allow her to find part or full time work if she wants.

My one hesitation is the young age of your kids -- I know how helpful it is to have family around to help during the baby and toddler phase, so it'll be hard to not have that if you take the new job.  Wonder if any of the grandparents are retired and could come for extended visits?  Also, do you have any sense of how rare an opportunity this is?  If you turn it down now, any chance you could find a similar opportunity in a couple years when you're closer to FI and the kids are a little older?

Good luck! Looking forward to hearing what you decide to do! 

Livewell

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #35 on: November 29, 2016, 02:37:48 PM »
You're in a great position with just 2-3 years left to go, good for you!   This is indeed a first world problem.   I think without kids it's an obvious choice (go) but with kids there are a couple of things I'd consider.

I have young kids too and we have no family close by.   Just keep in mind that if you move away you will be the village taking care of them.   How often do your relatives help now?   Think about how much you rely on them - it's tough work raising kids under 5!

I would also caution that maybe it would be best to simply finish out the 2-3 years and then indulge your traveling itch.   Sounds like you have a great home base and a good job, if not inspiring.   Maybe there is a middle ground, for example do some of that traveling now and slow travel later like you say? 

Great that you and your wife are in sync - ultimately you two have to decide for yourself versus the internet :^)

Schaefer Light

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #36 on: November 29, 2016, 02:38:39 PM »
Do they serve their beer warm or cold in Amsterdam?  For me, it would be very important to know the answer to this ;).

gaja

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #37 on: November 29, 2016, 02:52:35 PM »
Have you included child care benefits in your calculations? In many European countries, anyone living and/or working there who has small children, will receive Money from the state to cover part of the expences. It is meant to combat child poverty, so there might be caps according to Income, but I don't know the system in detail. Also, it looks like the state funded child care facilities are cheaper than the private ones, so it might be an idea to register for the waiting list, unless your employer offers child care?

More info here: http://www.euraxess.nl/incoming-researchers/social-security-and-working-conditions/social-security-1/benefits/childcare-benefits

I can't imagine you'll need a car in Amsterdam, you should be fine with public transport and bikes. Train connections are also very good, and the nearby airports offer very cheap flights.

As to languages; both you and the kids will be immersed in different languages. Dutch is the official one, but you are very close to both France and French Belgium, and Germany, and Spain are only a train ride away. In addition, there are a lot of Arabic minorities in the Netherlands, so you could even find someone to teach them that language.

ruraljuror

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #38 on: November 29, 2016, 03:08:54 PM »
I wouldn't think of my two years in Europe as extending my working career, rather it's getting paid to have some of the experiences you'd likely seek out during ER anyway.

Goldielocks

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #39 on: November 30, 2016, 12:14:31 AM »
Go

Cons
- It is a significant pay cut that will likely result in the need to work around 5 more years rather than 2-3 in order to hit the 2.5% withdraw rate
- My 5 year old is in a Spanish immersion school that wouldn't be available to her once we return home
- Could potentially be a step back in career if I decide to, or am forced to work longer than expected
- We're very close with both my family and my wife's family, and we currently see them often (by choice) ;)


.Paycut does not matter much in the long run, just keep local costs of living down.
.Many parents quit immersion schools by grade 6 anyway.  Around here, there is about half that do so, they mainly start in to immersion schools as self selecting a perceived better school over the local one.    Learn german instead.   
.Step back in career is unlikely.   You are going to retire in less than seven years anyway.

.Family is a consideration, kids are older now, though, and you will return for teenage years.  They will visit you, etc.

Two items to consider
1) culture shock 6 months in, especially for your spouse.  It is normal but real.
2) transferring kids to a new school system is stressful.  For the parents.  Kids that age are amazing.

Go.  Just Go.


pbkmaine

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #40 on: November 30, 2016, 03:17:50 AM »
I wouldn't think of my two years in Europe as extending my working career, rather it's getting paid to have some of the experiences you'd likely seek out during ER anyway.

This.

FLBiker

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #41 on: November 30, 2016, 08:46:56 AM »
Personally, I'd do it, especially since you're already FIRE.  I spent my 20s living in England, Taiwan and China.  I'm sure I could have made more money in the US, but I have 0 regrets.  I really enjoy living in other countries (though it's admittedly not fun for everyone).  If it appeals to you, though, I'd absolutely do it.  You can always move back.

Poundwise

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #42 on: November 30, 2016, 09:14:42 AM »
WRT the pay cut, do you think you could negotiate? If the pay is non-negotiable, they still might be able to find you housing, pay storage costs, or provide other perks.

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AMandM

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Re: What would you do? Move your family to Europe, or stay home?
« Reply #44 on: December 12, 2016, 08:34:50 PM »
OP, did you decide one way or the other?  I'm curious nosy!