I thought of entitling this blog, “How I became a multi-millionaire?” But … :), By CPO, From the Far Side of the Planet
I thought of entitling this blog, “How I became a multi-millionaire?” But thought that maybe too precocious? Then thought of a more pragmatic title, “Financial Independence? How to build a nest egg as an international expat living overseas? Frugal necessity helps!” Hmm perhaps both titles are okay seeing there is an element of truth in both headings.
Student Debt – Climbing Out of the Pit
When I first came overseas, I had just finished a Master Degree and had a mountainous student loan. My parents had helped me out with student living costs and I did a lot of side jobs along the way from camp counselor for youths with disabilities to tutoring foreign students learning English, but I still had a sizable debt of around $20,000. I didn’t even have a song to my name …
Penniless in Asia 🙂
$20,000 dollars in debt? It may not seem large to you, and I had a friend with a $50,000 student loan debt, but to me it was huge. It seemed impossible to deal with the load with my initial salary, but I kept up with the minimum payments. I was quite frugal doing mostly local travel, had a housing allowance, and ate mostly in the school cafeterias where I worked. Then I snagged a position at a Korean university and my savings went into overdrive.
Sitting in the Rain Waiting for My Next Adventure
I flew into Seoul on my way to work at a university in the Taejon area and got dropped off part way in the countryside … waiting with my luggage in the rain in the middle of nowhere for a van to pick me up. After that intro to life on the fly, Korean university life was actually quite good, the food great and the people warm and friendly. If you ever have the chance to visit Korea, do it – the culture is amazing!
Overseas Bootcamp Life Had a Surprising Outcome 🙂
Looking back at my situation now, I can see how it was good for me. I had no financial background, but for survival purposes started socking away money as soon as I could. I couldn’t load up on toys and luxuries seeing I was moving around Asia via suitcases and this saved me money too. You see if you go overseas, at least in my initial context, there was no health insurance, or not much, no pension, no job security, no unemployment insurance and no air ticket home – unless you saved up by yourself for such things … and so I did.
Emergency Fund and Accumulation Phase – The Benefits of Frugalness
While I was quickly trying to pay off my student loan as quickly as possible, I was also trying to save up an emergency fund. Then if I had a medical emergency or wanted to fly home I could. The cash began piling up … I had just recently gotten married and moved back to my wife’s home country in Asia… We had free housing with the parent-in-laws, but after a job switch we had more and more cash. It was a great experience and we lived cheaply. Food was inexpensive, rent free, utilities free, and the mother-in-law cooked every night. In Asia living with the parent-in-laws is great if you like big families and I find it fun. Later they helped with the other costs of living, child care and the like. Now we even share the cost of our 2 maids (they are inexpensive here … I have a driver that takes me to work too … ) and it is very economical and we also save on nursing home costs seeing the 2 maids help with the father-in-law who is wheelchair bound now – so no nursing home is necessary. We didn’t spend much – but a bit on clothes, books, movies and the TV shows here are great … though I had to pick up some of the language. DVD’s are inexpensive here and now they have the equivalent to Netflixs here too.
Where to park the cash? Spinning Straw into Gold? Making millions? 🙂
I didn’t know about Index funds back then … like the S&P 500 Vanguard or the like… But I did know about stock investing from back home and real estate. So that is what we did. We started with pouring our savings into the local stock market and mutual funds and later invested in real estate rental properties … and other business. Fortunately it was just before the boom in property prices and now I am definitely FI, but still have decided to work for fun and the extra cash.
Millionaire Teacher? Expat Millionaire? Multi-millionaire – Financial Independence? – But You Still Worry? 🙂
Becoming FI doesn’t mean you worry less about things, because you still do. However, it does afford you the luxury of a buffer against troubles and the feeling of accomplishment from building your own safety net. It is cool not to need to work for the next 60 years, though I still choose to do so. It just goes to show it can be done without government or company pensions.
By CPO, From the Far Side of the Planet 🙂