Whither Shall We Wander?

BITA family new home

When the BITA family first meandered down the path to financial independence, we came up with a timeline and a rough plan. I’ve reproduced below an excerpt from our plan:

“2022: We sell our house, add a nice chunk of change to the stash and move to some yet to be determined place in the world that has the following properties:

  • The cost of living is lower than where we currently reside. This one is easy. Almost anywhere else in the world qualifies.
  • Our new location must have an excellent walk score.
  • Mr. BITA can continue to work there and make enough money to keep us from withdrawing from our stash. We don’t need to save any more, but we aren’t allowed to touch the stash just yet.
  • Our daughter needs access to good public schooling
  • Our family must have access to healthcare that does not require us to hand over a kidney and our first born child in order to have a wisdom tooth removed.”

 

While that establishes a framework for what we want to achieve, as an actual plan it is somewhat pitiful. It is a mere skeleton and we have been working to give it flesh, muscle and clothes. In today’s post I will cover the four options currently under consideration to be to be the BITA family’s next home.

 

Philosophy First

Before we dive into the details of the destinations under consideration, I want to spend a moment covering how we are thinking about this plan. Our overarching goal is to be able to march into FIRE land armed with a plan that allows for dynamic stability.

Do canals and bicycles beckon?

We are keenly aware that we cannot possibly come up with a plan for the next fifty-ish years. It is too long a time span and too much will change. We will continue to grow as people, to learn and discover. We might uncover new passions, work on new skills, be presented with new opportunity. As we change as people, our needs and desires will evolve. A place that right now seems like it would be an ideal home for our family might seem much less so in ten years. And even if somehow, magically, we stay the same, so much else can and will change. Our daughter will be a person with a personality that we can’t begin to predict today. She will eventually fly the nest, and perhaps have a family of our own, and we might want to tailor our plans based on that. The economic landscape could shift. Technological changes could make the world as we know it today unrecognizable. The political landscape of this and other countries can and probably will change. As our parents age they might have needs that require us to change our plans.

Trying to plan right now for every eventuality would cause us to crawl under our beds, suck our thumbs and assume the fetal position for the next decade or so. So instead, we will aim for a plan that gives us dynamic stability. Here are the ingredients of such a plan:

  • A Stash with buffer built in. We don’t want to tailor the requirements of our Stash too specifically to a single physical place or to our current level of spending. We don’t want to work forever either, so our goal is going to be a Stash that is large enough to support a variety of different destinations, and moderate fluctuations in lifestyle.
  • A mindset of adaptability. We will strive to ensure that we always expect change, and embrace it. Being willing to evolve our plan as circumstances change gives us a higher chance of success and more ability to take on small risks.
  • Staying Engaged. We intend to fan our passions and ensure that we foster an environment of curiosity and learning all through our lives.

 

When we give ourselves permission to change our minds, and set up our thinking to embrace and welcome such change rather than dread it, it makes it easier to come up with a plan. Now, when faced with a decision of where we might want to live, I don’t have to think, “ We must pick the best possible place in the whole world, because I’m going to live there till I die”. Instead, I can think, “We need to pick a place that is going to make us really happy right now. If we don’t like it, if it changes or we do, we’ll make another choice at that time”.

So, Where Shall We Live?

Without further ado, here are the destinations under consideration to be the BITA family’s new home:

  1. The Netherlands (specifically, Amsterdam)
  2. Boulder, CO
  3. Spain
  4. India

What follows is a summary of the pros and cons of each destination.

DestinationProsCons
Amsterdam*Close to family1
*DAFT2
*Culture
*Healthcare and other benefits
*Wealth tax3
*Weather
*Currency risk4
*No dual citizenship with the U.S.5
*Homeschooling not permitted6
Boulder*Close to family7
*Familiarity with process8
*Excellent job market
*Healthcare costs
Spain*Close to extended family9
*Excellent price performance10
*Non-lucrative visa available13
*Currency risk
*Wealth tax11
*Remote jobs only?12
India*Close to family and friends14
*Familiarity with process
*OCI15
*No public schools
*Currency risk
*Weather
*Aesthetics16
*Inflation
*Traffic

Notes

  1. My sister and brother-in-law have lived in Amsterdam for over a decade. I miss my sister enormously, Mr. BITA gets along with them famously, and we would all love to be staying in the same city.
  2. There are two reasons why our plan calls for Mr. BITA to work from 2022-2026. One is to pad the Stash. The second is to gain a foothold in a foreign country for the purposes of residency. You need a reason to be allowed to live and work in a foreign country, and a visa to do skilled work is typically the most obvious way to gain a foothold to establish permanent residency. The existence of the Dutch American Friendship Treaty means that Mr. BITA may not need to be beholden to an employer for the purposes of establishing residency, and that is a big plus.
  3. I explained the Dutch Wealth Tax in this post, and it is draconian and does not provide any kind of tax shelter for Roth IRA accounts.
  4. Currency Risk. Any foreign destination exposes us to currency risk given that most of our holdings are in USD.
  5. We would very much like a path to eventual citizenship (with all the rights and security that that affords) in any country that we decide to make our long term home. The Netherlands does not allow for dual citizenship with the U.S. Even if we do love it enough to be willing to give up our U.S. citizenship, that is a very expensive proposition. If our Net Worth is over $2 million dollars, the U.S. will charge us a heavy fee on exit.
  6. Homeschooling is illegal in the Netherlands unless you have a religious exemption. This would limit our ability to travel over the next nearly two decades to school holidays (and the costs and crowds that come with traveling when everyone else does).
  7. Mr. BITA’s family (parents, sibling, aunts, uncles, cousins) all reside in and around the Denver area.
  8. Familiarity with process refers to our comfort level with #adulting. In the U.S. and in India we are very familiar with finances, taxes, property, insurance, dealing with the DMV and on and on. We know how stuff works, and we would have to build that familiarity in a new country.
  9. Three of my cousins and their families live near Madrid. My brother-in-law is Spanish and his family (who we have met and stayed with a few times) live in the South of Spain. So we’d have help with things like evaluating schools, finding property and so on if we chose to move here. We’ve also visited different parts of Spain numerous times.
  10. The price performance of Spain is hard to beat. Good weather (though a trifle too warm for some summer months in the South), friendly locals, excellent food and drink, culture and natural beauty for a very reasonable price tag.
  11. While Spain also has a wealth tax, it is far more reasonable than that of the Netherlands.
  12. The job situation in Spain is not rosy. If we did need to pad our Stash we would be dependent on remote jobs, and those are harder to come by.
  13. Spain offers a non-lucrative residence visa. This means that we can stay there long term if we have adequate investments and agree to not take a Spanish job.
  14. While my parents currently reside in Botswana, they do plan to return to India in a few years, when
    BITA family new home
    Return to my roots?

    my father retires. I also have a ton of extended family spread across the length and breadth of the country, and plenty of close friends. Some of these are also Mr. BITA’s friends because they have visited us in the U.S. many times, and even stayed with us here.

  15. All of us will soon be Overseas Citizens of India. This will give us rights close to that of citizens, and we will be free to work there and purchase property etc.
  16. While India has very many beautiful spots worth visiting, day to day life is severely lacking in aesthetics – at least in the major cities, where I imagine we would live. Pollution levels are high, there is more visible trash etc.

 

This is a Work In Progress

While our plan is still clearly a work in progress, narrowing down the field from “anywhere in the world” to four places is, I feel, a worthy accomplishment. We have a lot more work to do, and I will share updates as we make progress.

As always, your input, Constant Readers, would be very much appreciated.

<

9 thoughts on “Whither Shall We Wander?”

  1. Dear BITA,

    Ever thought about Mexico?

    We lived there from 2005-2008, wintered there from 2009-2017 and are currently in the process of selling our house in Canada (we will rent) and spending six months a year in Mexico.

    No matter where you decide, I hope that you’re happy.

    Besos Sarah

    1. We did consider Mexico, but sadly not for very long. We needed to use some criteria to reduce our list from ‘the whole world’ to ‘a manageable few’, and the criteria we used were

      *We have either lived there, or visited there multiple times, and have a good idea what living there would be like
      *We have family close by

      Sadly, Mexico did not meet either of those criteria. We definitely plan to visit though, and if we fall in love, who knows what might happen?

      1. Dear BITA,

        If you’re ever in Southern Mexico (specially the city of San Cristobal de las Casas), send me an email as you have a place to stay.

        Or, let me know if there are any questions that we could answer for you. There are definitely cultural differences but I think that there are more similarities on the major things then people realize.

        Besos Sarah.

  2. Interesting – the wife and I have also been talking about exploring other locales as well. (Talking = me trying to brainwash her but so far she seems receptive.) Our cases would be a little different in that we’d probably do it after the kids were done with high school. That is both easier to deal with but also awfully far away now that I think about it!

    1. My daughter is 3, so waiting will she was done with school never crossed our minds : ) It also helps that I grew up as an army brat and went to 11 different schools – and I (for the most part) had a blast. Obviously, she is not me, and I can’t guarantee anything, but at least I am not starting from a position of ‘kids must have “stability” and go to the same school and live in the same place all the time’.

  3. We would love to welcome you to our cheesy country 😉 But I would personally choose Boulder, CO. Love that area, cleaner air, pretty mountains. Spain is also a nice place to stay, but (subject to the area) gets really, really hot in summer time. You can also just live in all 4 countries/places and just not settle, leave stash in USA and hop around?

    1. The problem with hopping around is my child who requires schooling – we _could_ homeschool I suppose, but we certainly haven’t seriously researched that as an option yet. The other problem is healthcare – if we hop around, our home base will always be restricted to either the U.S. or India (the only two places where we will have citizenship rights), and healthcare in the U.S. is not something I want to rely on, if I can help it.

  4. Oh my goodness. I’m having heart palpitations about moving across our little town and you’re talking about retiring in a whole other country! I have all kinds of resilience but easily relocating is most definitely not one of them. I recall reading in some SF/F book or another that someone like me is a “rootfoot”, stays in one place, rooted for long periods of time, perhaps never moving. That’s such an accurate characterization that it makes me laugh how I immediately rebel at the idea of helping someone leave. But it’s awfully hard to convince people this is the place to stay if their hearts are elsewhere, and it’s sure an expensive place to stay if your heart is elsewhere.

    I wish you could cherrypick the top five things you value and the bottom five you’d compromise on and combine those to create your place.

  5. Thx for sharing your thoughts on this.

    At the same time, it makes me happy and I feel dull.

    Happy because we plan – for now- to stay in Belgium. No appetite to move kids out of their environment, discover/build up new communities abroad,… That simplifies the FI journey, at least for now.
    I feel dull: May, one day, this might be my biggest regret. That day, I will work on that.

    And a plus for Amsterdam: close to the best beer and French fries and chocolate in the world!

Leave a Reply