Becoming an expat was the best decision I ever made

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I had a bit of a housewarming party a few days ago with a pretty diverse group of friends, many of whom had moved here to Chile from foreign countries.

One girl that I know is a tattoo artist from New York.

Now, back in the United States, she has a great reputation as a phenomenal tattoo artist.

But in New York, and in the US in general, she is a phenomenal tattoo artist among many other phenomenal tattoo artists.

Down here, however, she is far and away the BEST tattoo artist in the country.

The quality of her work is unparalleled, especially compared to the local standards, so she commands astronomically high rates. And locals here are happy to pay.

Her rates are so high, in fact, that she can earn an entire month’s worth of living expenses after just a few days of work.

This is one of the things I like best about living abroad.

It’s not all cookies and unicorns overseas; there are frequently surprising, petty challenges to deal with.

But on the balance, being an expat is fantastic.

There are substantial tax benefits, for one. Living overseas often means that you no longer have to pay tax in your home country.

Even US taxpayers can earn over $100,000 tax free by living abroad through the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, plus tens of thousands of dollars more at very low tax rates through the Foreign Housing Exclusion.

(If you’re married, your spouse can also use the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, extending your benefit to $250,000 or more.)

The lifestyle benefits of being abroad are also substantial. The cost of living is often much cheaper abroad. High quality medical care can be very inexpensive.

You can become proficient at another language; and for younger children in particular, they can learn the local language to an almost native level.

It’s also a really nice feeling to be completely insulated from all the nonsense in your home country.

I’m completely disconnected from government fear mongering that terrorizes citizens over men in caves, or angry teenagers in the desert armed with weapons provided by the US government.

Living abroad can mean no more gut-wrenching pain as you watch your freedom vanish at an astonishing rate.

Nor is there any BS propaganda crammed down your throat.

But even above all of those reasons, I still find the most compelling benefit of living overseas to be the opportunity.

And my tattoo artist friend is a great example.

As a foreigner living overseas, you’re different.

Almost by default, you have a level of skills and talents that simply don’t exist in your adopted home, especially when you live in a smaller, less developed country.

You know what good service is. You know how an efficient operation should look.

And whether you realize it or not, you’ve been exposed to countless business models that work.

I know a local Chilean here who went to university in California.

He saw the rise of peer-to-peer lending platforms in the US where websites like Lending Club and Prosper match up lenders and borrowers.

In Chile he knew the demand for such a service would be very high– banks can charge absurd rates of interest for something simple like a car loan.

He didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. All he had to do was copy and paste the exact same business model and bring it to Chile.

This even applies to things that aren’t anywhere near as high-tech.

Recently I was joking with an entrepreneur friend that if you start a restaurant here that has bad service and mediocre food, you’re slightly above average.

And while I made the comment in jest, it’s clear that there’s an opportunity for good quality, reasonably priced food accompanied with great service.

Back in our home countries, that’s pretty much the standard. But many places overseas just haven’t reached that level yet.

This creates significant opportunity. And it’s everywhere.

Whatever your skill, whatever your background, there are likely many ways you can earn a very comfortable living while reaping in all the other tremendous benefits of living abroad.

We talk about having a Plan B all the time: take rational steps to protect what you’ve earned, and everything that you’re going to build in the future.

There are far too many risks in the world (bankrupt governments, borderline insolvent central banks, overleveraged financial systems, etc.) to NOT have a Plan B.

We’ve talked about owning physical cash and precious metals. Holding a portion of your savings in a stronger banking system in a jurisdiction with minimal debt.

All of these steps are important components of a Plan B.

But there’s another side to Plan B. Because while there are a lot of risks that need to be addressed, there’s an abundance of opportunity as well.

And it’s not just Chile either. There are plenty of countries where these opportunities exist (I’m quite bullish on Colombia as well).

There are wonderful business, employment, investment, and lifestyle opportunities that go far beyond your home country.

And tremendous benefits are waiting when you start to expand your thinking to the entire world.

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