Tag Archives: Freedom

Why have the Japanese stopped having sex?

Japanese workers at a Tokyo subway station

Japanese workers at a Tokyo subway station

A recent story in the Guardian rocketed around the internet recently. It’s not surprising how quickly the story was picked up given the provocative headline: “Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex?”

Now, obviously, a whole country didn’t completely literally stop having sex, but birth rates have been dropping and interest in sex and relationships have been measured at record lows.

The number of single people has reached a record high. A survey in 2011 found that 61% of unmarried men and 49% of women aged 18-34 were not in any kind of romantic relationship, a rise of almost 10% from five years earlier. Another study found that a third of people under 30 had never dated at all. (There are no figures for same-sex relationships.) Although there has long been a pragmatic separation of love and sex in Japan – a country mostly free of religious morals – sex fares no better. A survey earlier this year by the Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA) found that 45% of women aged 16-24 “were not interested in or despised sexual contact”. More than a quarter of men felt the same way.

What is going on here?

The article lists all the usual excuses: too busy, too tired, technological substitutes, you know the story. But there are other reasons, too. Businesses feel women will quit their jobs once they have a baby. And they feel babies are likely after marriage. Thus women put off marriage to avoid triggering career suicide. But overall, those interviewed for the article make it sound like it’s just a big bother. There’s work to be done and the reward doesn’t match the effort.

One must be careful not to stereotype an entire culture when reading these type of stories. We also must avoid projecting our own biases onto these people. But perhaps we can learn something about ourselves by viewing this phenomenon from the safe perspective of our own culture.

To me, the interesting aspect is the disconnect from what is real and what is important in life. And this is where I see North Americans heading down the same road, although the exact manifestation looks different.

Capitalism is an awesome power. I love the power of money to motivate people. I love how it makes us push ourselves to do better. An unleashed marketplace is one of the most powerful forces on the planet. But it makes a better servant than a master.

The Japanese obsession with career mirrors our own in many ways.  But like many things exported from America, they’ve taken our ideas and made them more efficient. I was in Japan a few years ago and riding the subway during the evening was a stereotype come to life. The train cars are totally silent. Each and every person (except for we tourists) was glazed over and typing frantically on their cell phone. They were tired, you could tell. The kind of tired you only get from being in an office all day. Their bodies swayed gently as the train rolled along. They glanced up only occasionally to see if it was their stop. On the sidewalks, people rush quickly to and from their jobs, barely looking from side-to-side as they scurry (violent crime is almost unheard of so there is little need to glance around for personal protection the way we do here in the U.S.)

I think what Japan has created here is the perfect worker drone, or something close to it. Could this help explain the Japanese fascination with robots?

(Quick side note: I don’t mean to imply everyone we met everywhere has turned into a worker drone. It was also one of the most peaceful and calm places I’ve been. People largely were very happy, open and friendly. They believe in nature, beauty and well-designed cities. It’s just in the business districts and subways where you could really see the strain on the working class.) 

In modern times, the Japanese have an unwritten understanding of lifetime (or close to it) job security. In recent years, this is reportedly slipping with more contract workers and less security overall. However, incidences of losing one’s job involuntarily are still quite rare. This security comes with a price, however, in many unpaid hours and institutional and peer pressure to work many hours. On a societal level this obviously impacts relationships and family stability. On an individual level, the price is even higher as many lead empty, unfulfilling lives of drudgery and exhaustion. Who benefits? Well, the employers, of course, pocketing free labor and a stable workforce. What does it matter if people drop dead from overwork? Yes, it happens. It’s a phenomenon common enough there is actually a word for it: karoshi.

Are we heading this direction? Are we already there? We already have a massive labor theft problem here. We already have families falling apart under financial strain. We spend hours glazed over sitting in idling cars trying to get home where we glaze over a few hours more watching TV before stumbling to bed to do it all over again. Japan may have a low marriage rate, but we have an abysmal divorce rate. While it’s still expected that the mother stays home to raise the child in Japan, we ship our little ones off to be raised by others in large groups of other kids. Maybe we’re all just the same.

 

Naturopathic doctors often look at the skin to determine your overall health. Blemishes, rashes, pimples, etc. are all indicators of various medical issues, frequently related to diet. More fundamentally, however, clear, glowing skin indicates vibrant health. Just look up “health” in any stock image site to see what I mean.

A person’s sex life is the same way. It can be an indicator of overall health and life balance. While not as outwardly visible as your skin, it’s still acts as the same type of viewing window into your overall life — even if you’re the only one who can see it.

When something as fundamental as normal sexual interactions between people begins to break down, we know the problems run deep and have been building for years, possibly generations.

The Japanese are panicking because they are concerned about a shrinking economy (and their obsession with racial purity precludes them leaning on immigration the way other countries have done.) We don’t yet know what other problems these breakdowns in normal human interactions will have. We know pretending we can force ourselves into something beyond human causes major dysfunction — just ask any altar boy. We also well understand the strain modern life can take on us, most clearly seen when the vulnerable finally snap — all too often with weaponry in-hand.

Humans are animals as much as we like to we pretend we’re not. Allowing ourselves to be turned into machines for the sake of money is damaging to ourselves and society. Yes, we need food, clothing, shelter, rest, sex, love and emotional support to survive. And that’s just for survival. Is survival the goal? Or should the goal be to live as full and vibrant a life as possible? Society should be geared to harvest the maximum value from each individual, but that value shouldn’t be measured in money.

The important thing is that men should have a purpose in life. It should be something useful, something good.
-Dalai Lama

No one wants to give up the advancements of the modern world. In many important ways, things are better now than they have ever been. But we cannot lose who we are. Stories like this one out of Japan should be the canaries in the coal mine warning us we’re veering off-course. It’s not too late to change and individuals must lead the way by valuing their humanity more than money. Choose how much and when you’ll work. Buy your freedom as soon as possible and devote your life to what you think is important. Your society (and your spouse) will thank you.

Pretirement story: Leaving work for good at age 33

Hey folks, I want to introduce you to a new blogger on the scene! Justin decided he was leaving work for good at 33 years old and has been writing some terrific content over at Root of Good for just a few weeks. He was kind enough to host a guest post of mine on his site earlier this week. Be sure to check it out and let me know what you think! 

Justin and I share a similar mind-set about pretirement and about focusing our respective web sites on giving you real information straight from the heart. You won’t find a lot of boring lists of regurgitated financial “tips” on either of our sites. And neither of us are afraid of offending anyone. Justin wants to show you how easy it is to leave the corporate world behind for good and he’s off to a great start. I predict big things for his site. He has a great story and is a great writer on top of it. I am honored to be the first site to host a guest post of his anywhere! I hope you enjoy it!

Goodbye work, hello blogging!

Photo courtesy Root of Good blog.

Photo courtesy Root of Good blog.

I started Root of Good not long after I retired from full time work.  I found myself sitting at home with a lot of free time and an interest in finances, early retirement, writing, computers, coding, and technology. I was able to “retire” at the tender age of 33, and I figured I could share my story and provide insight into how I accomplished this feat of financial engineering. One day a couple of weeks into my retirement, one of those crazy ideas crept into my head — I’ll start a blog!

Some people have nagging thoughts like “I really want a pick-up truck, a new boat, and a vacation house on the lake where I can store my new boat”. The nagging thought in my head was “I’m going to start a blog!”. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I resigned myself to spending the next few days investigating “how to blog” to figure out the basics. I had no clue where to even start with blogging.

You have to have a server that provides your carefully written blog posts to all your thousands of readers. You need software that makes your blog look beautiful and helps you manage your content. You’ll have to tweak the appearance of your site to make it conform to your wants and needs. Once you get your site up and running and offering readers the aesthetic experience you are aiming for, you still aren’t done. Unless you are particularly fond of writing soliloquies, you have to figure out how to get readers to surf over to your awesome new blog.

One way to attract readers to your blog is to read other blogs and comment on these other blogs, with the hopes that someone will like your comment and click on your name to find out more about this really clever and interesting commentator. Some aspiring bloggers prefer to carpet bomb the blogosphere with rather shallow comments that lead back to their own blogs in order to get as many clicks as possible.

I took a different approach and focused on finding the most relevant bloggers in my little niche of expertise — financial independence and early retirement. I read these blogs and engaged with the bloggers and their other readers. Since I’m not running my blog like a business (although I love making money!), I prefer to have genuine conversations with interesting people where we can all benefit mutually from sharing knowledge while entertaining each other in the process.

Enter Pretired.org. I was looking around the internet and I found dozens, perhaps hundreds of personal finance blogs of varying quality and usefulness. Nick’s writing sucked me in. I liked his philosophy of “pretirement” since I struggled a bit with defining myself.

One of the first pages at Root of Good was my “About” page. I realized I had to give myself a title in the very first paragraph of the “About” page.  Here is what I came up with:

Through careful saving and planning, I managed to accumulate enough wealth to make me financially independent by age 33.  I could also be variously described as unemployed, in between jobs, a stay at home dad, retired, or a kept man with a sweet sugar momma.  Call me what you want!

“Retired” is a strange word — a sort of verbal shorthand for “financially independent and not working”. “Retired” for a 33 year old is a really strange word. I see many of my friends from high school and college posting on Facebook about how excited they are to be finally finishing up their PhD dissertations or completing their medical residencies. And here I am retired.

Retired or Pretired?

When I composed my “About” page, I had never heard of the concept of “pretirement”. It makes so much sense though. When you retire in your 30s or 40s, you aren’t heading off into the sunset to a life of sitting on the porch in your rocking chair.  You probably won’t play any shuffleboard or bingo for at least a few more decades. You are still 15+ years too young for an “active adult” retirement community that frowns on those under age 55.

And let’s face the facts.  If you manage to work hard and accumulate enough wealth to retire at a very early age, you probably aren’t cut out for sitting around twiddling your thumbs all day anyway.

Pretirement is a perfect word to describe that period of time after you reach financial independence but before you hit the traditional retirement age of 65. It is one of the few periods of your life that you get to choose what you want to do. You are still healthy enough to climb mountains (in a figurative or literal sense). You still have enough energy to pursue side projects and hobbies, and try out volunteer opportunities that you put off during your working life.

In my situation (as well as Pretired Nick’s), leaving full time work has meant a big increase in how much time we spend with our families. We both have toddlers running around the house, and they take a lot of time and energy. I was busy working a full time job and making money when my other two kids were toddlers. This time around, I won’t miss my kid’s childhood because I was too busy working, or too busy de-stressing from work to give them my undivided attention.

I also view pretirement (or early retirement) as a renaissance of your life. A chance to reinvent your life in whatever form you want it to be. I decided to pursue blogging, which has led to hours of fulfilling work writing blog posts about topics I find interesting. It also led me into the world of coding and tweaking WordPress blog software. I’m currently a novice, which means I have a lot to learn.

I recently spent a few hours reading tutorials and modifying code to enable a certain kind of automated functionality at Root of Good. At first I had trouble getting the code to work like I wanted. After some trial and error and learning the basics of WordPress programming, I eventually got the program to output the web page with the desired appearance. A small victory, but a rewarding feeling to accomplish something new. Now I have a new skill and can build on that skill by taking on more challenging and complex coding issues to tweak Root of Good.

Who knows what these skills will lead to? I may develop my WordPress and PHP skills enough to be able to take on freelance programming work a few hours per week to make some easy cash. I don’t really need the money, but if the money comes easily, why not try to earn a little bit? It’s hard to call it “work” if you make a couple hundred dollars in exchange for a few hours of your time and you are doing something you like.

If that sounds really boring to you, wait till you hear about my other interests! Since retiring, I don’t feel guilty about spending hours watching, reading, or learning about the things that happen to interest me. So far this has included an interest in 16th century Europe. Lately I have been watching period drama TV shows and reading fiction and non-fiction works set in that period.

I also spent a lot of time studying the French language using a free online language instruction program (Duolingo.com for the curious). Lately I have been too busy (imagine that!) to spend much time learning French, but it will be there waiting for me if I find myself wallowing in boredom. Like that will ever happen.

During my full time career, it was difficult to do very much of anything recreational during the work week. My job and my three kids required most of my attention during the week. This left little unscheduled free time to pursue other interests. Now my job is no longer, but I have picked up full time child care duties for our one year old. That still leaves me with a lot of free time during the day, and also allows me to live life more intentionally at a slower pace. I walk the kids to and from school every day, and bring the little one to weekly story times and toddler play times at the community center.

Working for the Man

I have always regarded “work” as an instrumentally valuable activity that provides an income sufficient to fund my wants and needs. Work should also pay well enough to leave a surplus (after my expenses are paid) that I can invest for future use. It is great when work is interesting and provides happiness and satisfaction, as that is an added bonus on top of the paycheck.

Some find work intrinsically valuable — that is, work in and of itself provides value, meaning, and validation to their lives. I suppose I was unlucky during my short career since I never found a position that I considered to be intrinsically valuable. Maybe I should have chosen social work or the medical field instead of engineering. Not that I want to take a mulligan on life at this point!

Work provides money. Money buys freedom. It is a simple transaction in my mind. But the only money that can be put toward your future freedom is the money that you don’t spend.

How much money you spend depends on your wants and your needs. Needs tend to be relatively fixed in price (basic food, water, and shelter). Wants can be highly variable. The trick to being able to retire early is to pay attention to your “wants” and figure out how much value you get out of the “wants”. Some may prefer a shiny new car and a McMansion over the equivalent value invested at an 8-10% rate of return. I’m satisfied driving a 13-year-old compact car and living in a moderately priced house. For others, they may derive great unimaginable value out of living in a fancy car. Whoops, Freudian slip! Living in a fancy car is what you do when you can’t pay your fancy mortgage on your fancy house and it goes back to the fancy bank.

Living Well

The Root of Good family spends around $2,000 per month on our core expenses. Some people are shocked we can keep food on the table let alone live well on this amount of money. We aren’t eating Kobe steaks stuffed with caviar encrusted lobsters every night for dinner. But we eat well enough. Being retired means I have plenty of free time to try new experiments recipes and procure high quality ingredients at low prices. Our house keeps us safe and comfortable. Our cars get us where we need to go. Our minds are occupied with a variety of entertainment and educational options. Our friends (and our kids’ friends) are treated well at social events frequently hosted at our house. We are simply very value conscious consumers living well on a low budget.

By focusing our spending on the things that bring the most value to us while cutting costs in other places that aren’t very important, we have managed to live well and save a significant portion of our earnings each year. These turbocharged savings led to early retirement at 33 for me.

Pretired Nick here again. Well, what do you all think? Does Justin’s story get you dreaming at all? What will you do when you’re done working for good? Are you just bouncing along for the ride or are you deciding what you want to do every day and choosing to do that?  

Labor theft: How your life is stolen from you bit by bit

Worried businessman image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici. Farmer image courtesy Sura Nualpradid. Both via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Worried businessman image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici. Farmer image courtesy Sura Nualpradid. Both via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Labor theft: No one really knows when it first began. But certainly as soon as one group had the power over another, the subjugated group was put to work. There are well known examples of slavery throughout ancient history, perhaps most notably in Egypt.

While certainly the indigenous people of North and South America practiced various forms of slavery at times before European invaders arrived, it was only with the arrival of the white man that the practice became so efficient and so systematic.

The arrival of Columbus could be considered the critical turning point in this dark history. The discovery of the New World set off a fascinating economic boom with wealth extracted from the local population and shipped off to Europe.

The history taught today in the U.S. skips quickly from the arrival of Columbus in 1492 to the arrival of the Mayflower in 1620. In those 128 years, however, a great deal happened. Columbus himself became a tyrant and entire tribes were completely obliterated in the Bahamas. When there were no more locals left to exploit, the import of black slaves from Africa began. This practice quickly spread to the farmland of what would become the southern United States. In South America, a conveyor belt of ships began filling up local settlements with Spaniards. The Spaniards had equally devastated the cities of that continent, wiping out the Incas and replacing their epic civilizations with adorable Colonial towns. And yes, coerced labor was widespread there, too. Tending crops, digging in mines, moving stones.

Yep, it’s still happening

In North America, we have a rich tradition of stealing the labor of others. It stains our conscience and pulls at the patchwork of our country, even today. In 1607, the settlement at Jamestown started things off with indentured servants. These people worked off their debts for a set period of time before being set free. It was a difficult life, but would seem like heaven compared to the nightmare that would come later. By the mid-1600s black slavery was fully part of the American culture, so accepted that it seemed as normal as not having slaves seems to us today. Even today there are millions living in slavery here and around the world.

We pretend it doesn’t exist even as we benefit. It’s always been this way. We think of the people living in the “free” North as against slavery back in the 1800s, but I’m sure they all wore cotton shirts. We abhor exploitation of labor in the abstract. We get all worked up about it, even as we read about it on smartphones created with exploited labor. Our fingers are encrusted with diamonds dug from mines by enslaved hands.

Our long tradition of stealing labor, of moneyed interests exploiting the work that created their wealth, crops up in new and surprising ways all the time, as much as we try to ignore it. Often it hides in the shadows and goes by other names, but it’s still with us, yes even here.

Our own workforce is frequently exploited. This modern version of labor theft comes in many forms and companies use many tactics to keep us trapped. Let’s look at a few:

Cheap overseas manufacturing

Think about it: I can say with almost 100% certainty that everything you’re touching right now was made in China. Why? Because the American appetite for low prices is a perfect fit for China’s abundant supply of untapped labor. Setting aside the exploitation of China’s workforce for a moment, the other effect of globalization has been the disappearance of America’s good manufacturing jobs. Factory workers who still have jobs in the U.S. now have to compete with very low cost workers in other countries. Countries without labor protection and safety laws.

Undocumented workers

One has to love the hubris of the American right wing as they demonize “illegal immigrants”. After all, the party obsessed with big business has been instrumental in ensuring millions of foreign workers stream into our country to find cheap work. Why? So our “expensive” labor will have cheap competition.

High unemployment rate

Want to talk about cheap competition? How about millions of people thrown out of work? Why import a bunch of cheap labor when we can just make our own, right? No, I’m not saying these criminals crashed the economy on purpose to create cheap labor. But I am saying it’s just another opportunity to drive down the cost of labor. Not only is there always someone else willing to work more cheaply, but you’re less likely to demand a raise or move to another company if there are limited opportunities out there.

Wage theft

Wage theft is a tried and true form of labor theft. It’s pretty simple. Have someone work for you, then don’t pay them. I know a lot of hired day laborers run into this a lot, especially undocumented workers who have no recourse. But others who work legally often have portions of their checks stolen by shaving hours or not paying overtime.

Debt

Taking on large amounts of debt has reached the level of sport in America. It’s like a competition to see who can rack up the most debt before they tip over. The party-time of endless shopping has a downside, though, when the realization comes that this debt has left you trapped in your job. Being trapped means you have little alternative but to keep working for whatever you can get.

Health care system

Attaching one’s health care to one’s job was always a terrible idea. It was a movement driven by labor unions — misguidedly in my opinion — to drive toward health coverage. At a time when most workers were unionized, I guess it made sense. Unfortunately this handed a massive amount of power to corporations. At its absolute worst before the Affordable Care Act was finally passed, the chronically ill were truly enslaved to their companies. Others were simply forced to work for less and less money as health costs were shifted onto workers. Many people worked many extra years, not for money, but for health coverage.

Worker “productivity”

Worker productivity is a euphemism for squeezing more work out of each employee. Now I don’t blame companies for wanting to get the most out of their labor dollars. Even as a fellow employee, I would be totally aggravated by people who took the paycheck, but did little, if any, actual work. The problem, however, is without any union framework or a balanced economy, there is no countervailing force on the employee side. I once knew a guy who worked nearly every night doing the work he didn’t have time to complete during the day. He was a director, but he sat on the couch each night instead of playing with his kids, entering new SKUs into the database. What the hell? This is an entry level job, but he was doing it for the company for free, on top of his regular job. Why? Because he had kids and a mortgage and a low self-esteem. He was terrified of taking another conference room beating for not having his work done. I don’t mind putting in a few extra hours when a project calls for it. Certainly work doesn’t always come in nice eight-hour bundles. But every night? I would have been out of there before my lips could form the words “fuck you.”

America has managed to turn the purist word in the world — “freedom” — into a brand name. We pretend we’re free as we’re forced into work by our massive mortgage, car payments and school loans. Worse, we buy “cheap” stuff made elsewhere, thinking we’re saving money and yet are taking money out of our own economy to send elsewhere, driving down our own wages.

Is your labor being stolen?

If you’ve been working for the same pay for years or are being pressured to work nights and weekends, you may not have a lot of immediate options in the short-run. However, in the long run, you do have some choices. Stay out of debt, drop the mindless spending, build up your passive income and pretire as soon as possible.

Look, if you’re regularly working 16-hour days, your company is stealing from you.  And it’s worse than stealing a few dollars from your wallet. They’re stealing your LIFE. You only get so many hours on this planet. Sell them as needed but don’t let anyone take them from you.

Pretirement story: Planning a move to Spain

Hey, everybody, today I’m sharing a guest post from Buck, the writer behind one of my favorite blogs, Bucking the Trend. One of my favorite things to do on Pretired.org is share interesting stories of pretirement, such as the recent story of my friend Rebecca who gave up her fancy corporate job to move to Mexico

Buck is planning to pack up his family and move to Spain and is well into the planning and preparation stage. Read on for his story and be sure to share your thoughts and advice for Buck in the comments! 

Introduction

buck-spain

Earlier this summer, Pretired Nick and I were comparing notes.  We share a goal of living abroad with our families and he asked if I’d do a guest post.  This is the latest on our story.

The tagline on my blog says “Save. Invest. Retire @ 42. Move family to Spain.”  If everything were to go exactly as planned, we would reach our goal in the year 2017 or thereabouts.  We all know things rarely go “as planned” but it’s good to set goals, right?

This was the plan up until about a month ago when my wife and I decided to turn everything on its ear.  The tagline should now read “Save. Invest. Pretire in 2014. Move family to Spain.”

The Goal

For as long as my wife and I have been married, we’ve had a goal of living abroad.  We tried to navigate our careers so that we could live and work in a place other than the U.S. but the stars just never aligned to allow us to do it.

Our plans were put on hold with the birth of our twin boys a little over 8 years ago. Now that they’ve grown and we have some money in the bank, we’ve been able to rekindle our dream to include the entire family.

Our goal is to move and immerse ourselves in a Spanish-speaking country for at least one year starting in June 2014. The following are some of the questions we’ve asked ourselves that have led us to this decision.

Why?

I went on my first trip abroad during my sophomore year in college. And while it was only a month-long whirlwind tour through some parts of Western Europe, I returned with a new appreciation of different cultures.  It also struck me how most everyone we met that was close to my age was able to speak English – at worst in a conversational way, at best with an authentic British accent.

I learned that many countries teach English at very young ages, most at the start of any sort of formal schooling around age 5. I thought this was wonderful and vowed to give my kids the gift of bilingualism and the time to take in a different culture and all the things that go with that (language, food, people, sites, etc.) I think this experience will go a long way into making our sons more well-rounded.

Why Now?

Like many big decisions in life, there is rarely the perfect time to do something like this.  The more relevant question when I first brought it up with the wife was why not now?

As we evaluated our original plan of waiting another 4 years to move, we started seeing bigger issues that would potentially be roadblocks. Two of the bigger considerations were:

  • Age of our boys. The twins just started 2nd grade and the thought of waiting until they were nearly teenagers seemed like it would be more impactful both from a schooling and social perspective.
  • Age of our boys’ grandparents. We are very fortunate to have both sets of grandparents with us. Everyone is in relatively good health but with ages already in their early-to-mid 70s, no one is getting any younger. To wait another 4 years to make this move would push the elder grandparents closer to their 80s. Besides, I think they are excited to have a new place to visit their kids and grandchildren as well.

Why Spain?

Because our twins are in their third year of a Spanish-English dual language immersion program at their school, it’s only logical that we seek out living in a Spanish-speaking country. This experience should cement their fluency in the language.

While we have several target countries in mind (most of which are in South America), Spain remains #1 on our list.  I spent some time studying and working in Madrid nearly two decades ago and my wife and I have been back a couple of times since. There is something about the Spanish lifestyle that appeals to us and I suspect it has something to do with siestas, jamón serrano, and the nearly 3,000 hours of sunshine that pours down on southern Spain every year.

How?

You know how most personal finance blogs at one point or another always mention the word ‘freedom’ that financial independence brings?

While we aren’t yet financially independent, we’re taking advantage of the freedom that our savings has enabled. We’ve fully funded our tax-advantaged retirement and are diligently saving almost everything going forward in cash to be able to qualify for the needed visa. More on this in the next section.

To get into some specifics, we have about $90K in taxable investments and another $50K in cash that is more than enough float us for a year or two while abroad.

As long as we don’t end up in one of Spain’s larger cities (Madrid or Barcelona), it appears that living in Spain may actually be cheaper than our current location in the U.S. Rents in Andalucía appear to be reasonable and my goal is to live in a town/city center where we can walk or bike as part of our daily routine without the need for a car.

Next Steps

At this point, we have a lot more questions than answers and are glad to have the better part of 9 months to put a plan in place and make it a reality. The following are the most immediate to-dos at the moment.

  • Visas – Figuring out the needed visas is the first priority. We’re leaning toward applying for a non-lucrative visa. This is a one-year visa typically granted to retirees who have ample savings (or passive income) to support themselves.  This visa does not allow you to work in Spain. We’ve done our best to save enough money to live on for a period of time that I’m hoping we can qualify.

While I haven’t found it spelled out in black and white, it seems the magic number is around $85K in savings plus an additional $15K needed for each dependent. If my math is correct, that means our family will need to prove a savings of around $130K to be able to qualify for this type of visa.

  • Schools – Apparently there are three main options when it comes to schooling in Spain:  public, semi-private, and private. We need to determine which option we can afford and which is going to be best for our boys given our goals (to learn the language and culture).
  • Immersion – Even though we have the luxury of not working, I still think it is important that my wife and I find ways to become part of the community. To this end, I’ve found several programs that hire native English speakers to be part-time language assistants in schools around the country. I’m thinking this may help us get some immediate contacts in the area that may be more difficult to obtain on our own.
  • Stuff – What are we going to do with our house and all the stuff it contains? Since we plan to return back to the U.S. at some point, the current thought is to rent out our house and put anything we want to keep in storage.

Fears

As with anything new, we have our list of fears and unknowns. Will we miss our friends? Will we hate it? Will we love it? Will we ever come back? (That last one is my mom’s fear and not necessarily mine).

Admittedly, this prospect “terrifies the bejeezus” out of my wife (her words). But at the same time she is up for the challenge and equates her fear to the nerves and anxiety that our children regularly have to face, but which we avoid as adults. It seems only fair that we should also be put in uncomfortable situations in the name of growth and new experiences.

Thanks for reading. If there is anyone out there who may have a bit of advice for us about Spain or any other Spanish-speaking country that you think should warrant our time in research, please comment or reach out to me directly via the Contact form on my blog. ¡Muchas gracias!

Pretired Nick here again. Well, what do you all think? Is Buck on the right track? Any advice for him as he plans this move? I was in Spain a couple years ago and also fell in love with the country. When I researched a move to Spain I found very challenging visa issues and a barely functioning bureaucracy to complicate matters even further. Buck has a lot of these issues figured out already and I know I can’t wait to read the posts when he packs up and makes his move to Spain!

Also, for anyone else considering a move to Spain, I do highly recommend the book Moon Living Abroad in Spain (affiliate link). I read it from cover-to-cover when I was seriously looking at making the same move. Although my plans to move to Spain are on hold, I still highly recommend this book.

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