Money Talks, So Should You

Q&A: I want to live and work abroad. What do I do?

Mitch Marsden
by Mitch Marsden , NAPFA

Living and working abroad can be very exciting and will be an incredible adventure for you. There are a number of important things you should do and be aware of when you are looking to live abroad.

1. Identify where you want to live and work abroad. Duh, right?  If you already have a place in mind, or your current employer already has a location lined up for you, you can move on and worry about everything else involved. A key factor in identifying where you want to go is to have a clear understanding of your own goals in terms of career path, family, cultural experiences and personal finances.

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2. Spend a lot of time to research where you are considering living. The worst thing you could do is take the time, money and risk to move abroad only to find that you hate the place and want out. Take time to get to know the country, city and region you are considering. Online searches, discussion boards, magazines, and social media outlets may all be good ways to learn more about a location and even make some connections with locals. You may also consider networking through church organizations (if global) or through your employer to make further connections. Relationships and connections will be invaluable to you in your new home, especially if you get into a tough situation.

3. If you don’t already have one lined up, try to get a job before moving abroad.  If you don’t have a large asset base to tide you over, you take a huge risk by rushing to a new location without a job lined up. There are a number of sites and services that tap into international job opportunities, like GoAbroad.com and TransitionsAbroad.com.

If you are financially able, you may want to first join a volunteer organization in order to network, build relationships and get involved in the community you would like to live in. A few other ideas to make connections and find opportunities internationally include working with your U.S. alma mater or continuing your education abroad before entering the foreign work force.

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4. Do your best to prepare and set a budget. Even with all of the cost of living information you can find in publications or online, it will be difficult to know exactly what you personally will need to spend. Be very conservative with your projections and include a nice contingency pad for the initial move expense and the first few months. Start your budget with your basic needs and then add in the extras if your future income will allow. You can be a little more liberal if you have a sizable asset base to live on while you experience the budget in real time.

5. If you can, visit the location and prospective employer in person. This way you can iron out issues related to housing and community. You can also build rapport and get clarifications on a new job environment, duties and work culture.

6. Update your passport and get a work visa. The difficulty of obtaining a visa to live and work abroad will depend on the country and whether or not employment is already in the works. If employment is or has been secured, working through the visa process will likely be much easier. A great place to start learning about visa requirements and to access information on foreign embassies is at Travel.State.Gov, which is a service of the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.  

Information on how to obtain or renew a passport can be found here.

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7. Get familiar with the country's tax code. Remember that as long as you are a U.S. Citizen, your worldwide income is taxable in the U.S.  If you will be paying significant taxes in your new location, the U.S. tax code is structured so that you should not have a large U.S. tax burden, if any. However, if you will pay little taxes abroad, you will likely have to continue to pay some U.S. taxes. It would be wise for you to find and work with an accountant or tax preparer who is familiar with expat situations.

8. Make a plan for your insurance coverage. The first priority is health insurance, which may or may not be required depending on where you are relocating. If you are on or will be on a group plan through your current or prospective employer, this may not be much of an issue. The bottom line is to research how your health care needs will be met and then, as needed, work with insurance carriers to obtain the appropriate coverage.  After health insurance, your other insurance needs should be evaluated and planned for as well.

9. Prepare moving arrangements, including plans for any storage needs. You might want to throw an old fashioned yard sale or use social media and digital sale platforms like eBay to get rid of unnecessary things and generate some extra cash.

10. After all the ducks are in a row, say so long (at least for a time) and make the jump! Enjoy the incredible experience that awaits.
 

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Mitch Marsden is a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), a fee-only professional association and a Dimespring knowledge partner.