Expat Financial Wellness: Foundations Of The Expat Lifestyle
We often tell children to dream big. That the sky (or now the stars) are the limit. As long as you work hard, and go to university you will secure a good job, perhaps your dream job.
That narrative of "working hard" does not apply to achieving the dream expat life. Many people work hard, many people have higher education (and advanced degrees), now many people speak English and technology has opened up and connected the global economy.
Whether you are a young professional from a developing country, or an entrepreneur with no university from the US, or a overworked teacher that wants to make more money by teaching abroad, to live an expat dream life will take more than just "hard work." You need to tap into your "inner child" and use your imagination, listen to advice from people that are living the life you want to live, and be prepared to take strategic financial, professional, emotional, spiritual, and personal risks.
At Her Expat Life, our team, our network, and combine experienced of living a global expat life is on a mission to help our clients and members advance their global lifestyle.
This series: Expat Financial Wellness is a guide to help you plan and execute the dream expat life you want. Let's get started!
Mindset Shift: Poverty, Scarcity, Can't Do, Negativity, Word Vomit, Lack of Boundaries
I'm sure you've heard, and rolled your eyes, when people say "you need to change your mindset." Yet, no one exactly explained what mindset shift means. And if you don't know what it means, you can not change or evolve it. So what exactly does mindset shift mean?
To change your mindset means: how you see yourself in the world (your home, friendships, community, workspace, public space, etc.), and your abilities to achieve what you want. In essence, what you believe you can and cannot do in society.
If you grew up in poverty, your mindset whether you escaped it or remain in it late into adulthood, does influence how you see yourself and abilities at a subconscious level that many don't realize. If you grew up in an environment where people were negative, passive aggressive, and bitter adults, that energy can follow you well into adulthood. Lastly, if you live in a collective society where there is very little boundaries and strict hierarchy where the young are expected to fulfill the wishes of the elderly and never put yourself and dreams first, this mindset of people pleasing and putting yourself last is very hard to break from.
Having a healthy, abundant, positive, and self-first mindset is foundational to living a dream expat life. Especially for women, because we've been socialize to put everyone's needs, well-being, and professional ambitions first. Whether you are single, married, a mother, grandmother, a caregiver, widowed, or divorced, if you don't have the right mindset your expat life can quickly become a nightmare or never happen.
Getting into the right mindset requires steps to put yourself first, getting support and not feeling guilty (hiring cleaners, a housekeeper, a nanny, a doula, a virtual assistant, a therapist, a cook, getting a hairstylist to come to your home), removing toxic and negative people from your life (or setting clear and hard boundaries), having a gratitude journey, and joining a community of like minded people who live the lifestyle you want to live. You don't have to live a life of struggle and dissatisfaction because that's how your parents, friends, and people in your community live.
Wherever you are in your journey, the right mindset is foundational.
Marital Status, Spiritual Life, & Professional Life
One of the main differences between men and women when planning the expat life (or life in general) is marriage and children "interrupting" or "changing" your life. For women, if you don't want marriage or children, this advice is not for you. As most women, in many expat communities, are married women who follow their spouses careers and if they have children are the primary "family managers" for their families. Often, this comes at a price, following your spouses career, taking a break from your career or job once you have children, so if you are married and want to live the expat life, you have to get your spouse (and children) on board.
For single women, never married, divorced, or widowed, there is more flexibility since you take lead in planning the life you want without permission (unless you have children). However, certain "stratospheres" of expat life, in countries like Singapore, Dubai, Switzerland, Monaco, and other rich small countries, the barrier to entry is quite high, as the skill set and job opportunities that bring expats to those countries are mostly married men who work at executive level. Whereas other countries that are not as expensive and has a more creative economy, you will find a diverse population of expats with singles, families, same-sex partners, divorcees, and retirees. Essentially, if your dream is to move to Singapore, as a single woman, you need to either work in finance and have a specialty where no locals can do that job, be a licensed teacher and work in an international school, or have the financial capital ($100K+) to sponsor your own visa to work as an entrepreneur.
Spiritual life:if you are a single Christian woman, and your religion is important to you, and you want to find a partner that shares your beliefs, don't go to a place where the majority religion is Buddhist, Islam, Orthodox Christian, or very secular. Outside the US and Europe, religion in many parts of the world do play a large role in identity, political status, marriageability, and if you move to say, Thailand, which is majority Buddhist it will be very hard, not impossible, to find a partner that is Christian (unless that partner is another expat). Many countries do have expat communities where they've built their own places of worship: Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, and Temples, but if you're looking to expand your dating pool, in say a majority Muslim country, such as Turkey, don't let your spiritual life get in the way of securing marriage (there are many expat women, Christian, Jewish, or coverts to Islam who have married local men).
Professional life: you need a skill set, education, or expertise to be able to financially support yourself. Many countries do provide work permits to foreigners because it's good for the economy, they want foreigners to start businesses and bring their ideas. However, if you don't have skill (or don't know how to market your skill), it will be very challenging to secure a work permit (if you're married and on your spouses visa, it's good to still have a skill) to legally live and work in the country. Many women expats are teachers, non-profit, consulting, and there is a growing segment working in tech, finance, banking, and business. If you want to move abroad, getting a job at an international company or local company is the best way to get started.
What Type Of Expat Are You: Trailing Spouse, Professional, Entrepreneur, or Retiree
And lastly, there are different expats, and traditionally many women expats were married women who followed there husbands career or moved to their husbands home country. There is no shame in this type of expat, as having a spouse (especially in conservative countries) provides a world of opportunity, safety, and comfort. Legally, being abroad you are single (boyfriend girlfriend in most countries don't count), married, divorced, or widowed. Immigration is determined on your marital and tax status, so if you're in a long term relationship and want to follow your partner, its best through marriage.
If you're a professional woman and have your own career, getting an overseas position is an excellent path to living an expat life. There is a growing demographic of men who are following their wives career, so if this is you, make sure your spouse is comfortable with being the "family manager" while you focus on building your career and networking in your foreign post.