A Rant-A-Thon From a US and a Canadian Expat: Bureaucratic Contortions

Sagres, Portugal

A few weeks ago my Canadian blogger friend, Frank, at The Travels of BbqBoy and Spanky  reached out to me with an idea he had for a collaborative post called, “The Absolute Worst Thing About Being a Fulltime Traveler,” comparing our different perspectives.  What made his idea intriguing was that our worst experiences actually have nothing to do with traveling full time or with being an expat, he in Croatia and myself in Portugal.  This turned into a rather fun and enlightening rant-a-thon by both of us, so I thought I’d reprint parts of Frank’s post here with his permission. 

 

The US Perspective  By Anita @ noparticularplacetogo.net

Six years ago I decided that I wanted the life my husband had: early retirement. We’d worked hard over the years and, lucky for us, weren’t hit too hard by the great recession. We had savings, our home was well on the way to being paid for and we’d had a recent epiphany that life was short. The lifestyle that I was working for (house, cars, stuff) was no longer important to us.

Rant 1 Exorbitant Healthcare Costs. We quickly found out that the US isn’t set up for middle-class people who want to retire early. The biggest problem that we ran into right away was how to pay for our health insurance. My employer picked up half the cost of an excellent health care plan but I was still paying $800/month for the two of us. We solved that problem by deciding to leave the country and “going naked” (that’s what people from the US say when you don’t have health insurance) except for traveler’s insurance policies. We took a year to sell everything, leased out the house and became nomadic expats in 2012, slow-traveling through countries where healthcare was affordable.

Rant 2 Capital Gains Taxes. About three months into our new life we knew that we’d never live in Texas again and probably not in the US either. Deciding to sell our home wasn’t difficult but the whole *when to sell* decision was taken out of our hands. Rather than waiting for the best time to sell our house, we were forced to sell between years two and three of our travels in order to avoid paying hefty capital gains taxes on a place that was no longer our primary residence. (Not that we had any residence at that point!)

Rant 3 Transparency. We consider ourselves to be fairly honest. However, having a US street address is important for so many reasons we’d never considered. In fact, it seems that you need an address to prove your very existence. And so, we use my sister’s address. Simple things like keeping our money in a US bank, having domestic and international credit and debit cards, keeping our US driver’s licenses current, paying income taxes, remaining active voters, etc., all need a US street address. We’re not quite comfortable with the deceit but …

Rant 4 And speaking of honesty and transparency: Be careful to whom you mention that you reside outside the US. Banking and investing places seem to equate opting to live abroad with offshore wealth, tax havens and money laundering. If you want to avoid needless hassles and make your life a little easier, you might opt for, “We’re living out of the country for a while …” not, “Hell no, I’m never coming back!”

Rant 5 Taxes. Aren’t taxes always worth a good rant? And yes, we’re still paying them, on time and every year. We have an accountant who keeps us up to date on changes. All to stay law-abiding US citizens with piss-poor representation and absolutely no benefits.

Rant 6 Banking. It was fairly straightforward to open a bank account in Portugal where we live now unlike a lot of other countries that are refusing to open accounts for US citizens because of onerous reporting requirements and paperwork. However, we had to present our social security cards to open our accounts (who carries those when traveling? Or anytime?) and we’re careful to maintain our account balance under $10,000 to avoid complicated paperwork. (Try paying for a car using your debit card!)

Rant 7 Healthcare. And we’re back at where we started. Richard now qualifies for Medicare and we pay $110 each month for that luxury. However, Medicare is only good in the US and the insurance is not something you can cancel and pickup at a whim when you’re in between countries. So, he has “cheap” insurance (by US standards anyway) and I have none for the occasional visit back in the US. Our solution, should I ever get sick during a visit, will be to hurry up and get the hell on a plane and anywhere else before we’re bankrupted.

Our expat life has been all about minimizing what we have and simplifying where we can. Seems that our country of birth could be a little easier on us too and make the hoops to jump through just a little closer to the ground!

 

The Canadian Perspective By Frank @ bbqboy.net

Three years ago, after 20+ years of working in Quebec (Canada), paying a shitload of taxes every year (Quebec has the highest tax rates in North America) we decided we wanted to leave our 9-5 lives to travel.

It’s not that we didn’t enjoy our lives or didn’t love Montreal, Quebec or Canada. We were getting older and we just wanted to see more of the world before we died.

When we left to travel, we continued paying Canadian taxes. No issues with that, we’re Canadian, we’ll pay our taxes just like we suffer through 6 months of winter. But paying a shitload of taxes doesn’t mean we get any of the benefits that come with been Canadian.

Rant 1 Health Care. Two years into our travels we were no longer eligible for Canadian Health care. We’ve used up our “exception year” (I wrote about Canadian health care/insurance in detail here). Ask any Canadian why we lose our health care after 6 months out of the country and they’ll just shrug. Nobody seems to know. So we ended up getting expat insurance which, at 50 years of age, costs us about $3,000/year Canadian between the 2 of us. Basically we’re double paying because as Canadians our taxes are supposed to cover our health care coverage. That sucks.

Rant 2 Capital Gains Taxes. So we’re into our 3rd year of travelling, loving it, we don’t want to come back to Canada.

After renting out our Montreal condo for the last 3 years, our tenants decide they want to move, they want to start a family in the suburbs.  After weighing our options (rent? sell?) we decide that we would face reality – we love our lives travelling and have no plans to return to live in Canada.

So we put our condo on the market. It takes 2 months to sell but we’re happy when we find a buyer. Great!

Until the government bureaucrats get involved. “You’re a non-resident. This complicates your file. You will need to obtain an accountant in order to obtain for the provincial and federal governments a certificate of disposition. Furthermore, we must put a hold on the sale price in our in trust account until we have received confirmation of these certificates and the payment of the required taxes”.

Exact words with bolds and underlines cut and pasted.

Lucky for us, we have an excellent tax accountant who took care of this. It helped that a few years ago he made us fill out a form stipulating that our condo was never intended as an investment property and that it is still our primary residence and exempt from capital taxes.

Note: Just because you have an overseas address, that does not mean you are not a resident of Canada. As long as you stay a fiscal resident (ie. pay your taxes) you are still deemed a resident (although, as I say, without some of the most important benefits).

What would we do without an army of tax accountants and lawyers dealing with this bureaucratic shit?

Rant 3 Home Insurance on the rented property. When renting out our Montreal condo we had to get “renter’s insurance”. I specified to the company that we needed the insurance because we wanted to travel and rent out the property while doing so. Easy enough. But when year 2 came TD Insurance kept calling me, asking me when we would be coming back to Canada. Our renter’s insurance depended on it they said. By year 3 they said they could no longer cover us because we were out of the country too long. WTF? It ended up being another factor in the decision to sell.

Why would I get renter’s insurance if I came back to Canada? I’m renting out the condo because I don’t live there…

Rant 4 Needing a fixed address. We found out that you need a fixed address for everything: banking, investments, anything to do with government… Everything. In the first 3 years I used my condo address. Now I’m using my son’s address. You’d think in this day and age, with more and more people working remotely, that businesses and governments would keep up with the times. They haven’t. In fact, if you don’t have a fixed address or telephone number you realize pretty quickly that you are a rare species (I’ve had people look at me, wondering if maybe I was a vagrant…). It took full-time travel to bring home to us how totally non-existent you are as a person if you don’t have a permanent address and fixed telephone number.

Note: I should have used my son’s address as my address when selling the condo (Rant 2). Would have saved me and my accountant a lot of hassle.

We don’t mind paying Canadian taxes, Canada is still ‘our’ country. We have Canadian passports, Canadian driver’s licenses, Canadian bank accounts and investments, Canadian credit cards. I have Canadian family living in Canada. And I pay Canadian taxes. But why is the government taking away our benefits (notably Healthcare) or trying to screw us over with Capital Taxes? And it’s not just us, I know older Canadian friends who are not entitled to the GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement) because they chose to live overseas (where they can get by with less money. Some can’t afford to come back to Canada). It just doesn’t make sense.

I wish the Canadian and Provincial governments would have a more modern and open approach to how people live today. With more and more people working remotely from overseas it would be nice to see a little more flexibility in the system.

One last thought.  For those of you thinking about making the jump to becoming either full-time travelers or expatriates, maybe this post will address some questions you haven’t thought about yet.  As for me, and I think I can speak for Frank too, I feel just a bit better now that I’ve done some ranting and raving about the bureaucratic contortions we go through to live outside our respective countries.  And despite all the hassles, it is, without a doubt, worth it.  It’s a whole ‘nuther world out here!

 

Lagos, Portugal

 

79 comments

  • Very interesting post, I have read it also on Frank’s blog. Your countries have not made your life as an expatriates very easy. It is such a shame since these are both modern, first world countries that are supposed to be a model for the “free world ” yet it tries to keep it’s citizens captive into all this red tape nonsense. In the UK we have free health care as residents, but we do pay hefty taxes for the privilege. I am yet to find out about the implications of travelling for long periods of time, but for now we have decided to keep a home base here in the UK😄

    Liked by 1 person

    • It would be interesting to do a comparison sometime between the taxes paid by other countries which include healthcare and the taxes US citizens pay plus health insurance costs plus co-pays plus prescription costs. I have a sneaking suspicion that the US still comes out the loser all the way around. And yes, there are some hoops to jump through when one decides to live a lifestyle outside the norm but we’ve found that it’s been worth the extra effort. Even with the extra hassles, life as an expat still feels simpler! I’m looking forward to seeing how your retirement plan evolves, Gilda. There’s all sorts of variations and one or a blend of a few is going to be exactly right for you. And having a home base will make traveling infinitely easier. Here’s to the anticipation and putting your retirement plan in action!

      Liked by 1 person

  • I agree with all these lists. Healthcare costs and figuring out how to still be recognized as a person with no real US address is the tough part. You’re right on!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Full-time travel and living in a foreign country present their own challenges which we were expecting but we hadn’t anticipated how difficult it can be to maintain certain ties in the US in order to get things done. A couple of years ago I’d compared us to square pegs in round holes and we still feel that same way. Trying to find solutions amid the bureaucracy takes some effort but living in a foreign country you love with endless places to explore is worth it!

      Like

  • Thanks for this post Anita. We don’t know what the future holds for us and living outside the U.S., but the direction our country is headed, it is a distinct possibility. I’m glad we sold our house several years ago and don’t have to deal with that issue. Great post…rant on!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The ranting was rather cathartic LuAnn and it was interesting comparing some of the similarities and difficulties we’ve encountered between the US and Canada as expats. Like you, we’ve never regretted selling our *dream* house and have enjoyed the freedom of having fewer ties and a feeling of not being committed to a place. I can definitely empathize with your thoughts of leaving and can tell you we know of several others weighing their choices also. We were lucky with our timing and perhaps the distance has helped as we follow US politics from across the Atlantic. And, the upside of living in a different country is that we can follow other politics as well. Here, they seem to make a lot more sense!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am certain the ranting was cathartic. We are definitely weighing our options as the months progress. What is decided on healthcare could tip the scales for us on where we decide to live.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Along with itchy feet, healthcare was one of the biggest driving forces for our decision to leave the country in 2012 (before the Affordable Care Act was implemented). And, impossible as it seems, affordable healthcare is still in jeopardy. The current ugly, divisive climate made it easy for us to decide that we don’t want to even visit the States this year as much as we love our country. What’s happening there is far worse than anything we’d imagined and heartbreaking …

          Liked by 1 person

          • Every time we share comments back and forth I feel like I’m speaking to a long lost friend. You and I seem to share the same values and the magnificent wanderlust. I hope to meet you some day Anita.

            Like

  • Pingback: Random Rants about My Country of Birth | Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua

  • Very interesting post, Anita, as well as the discussion following the post. I’m going to head over to Frank’s site and read that other post he linked to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So glad you enjoyed this post, Doreen as well as the discussion that’s followed. I’ve really had fun reading about so many expat experiences as well as picking up more useful information that we can use and share. And I’m so glad you visited Frank’s blog which is always informative and entertaining. The Travels of BBQ Boy and Spanky is one of our favorite travel blogs!

      Like

  • For me, your experiences take the romance out of becoming an expat. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had to laugh when I read your comment, Carole and you’re right – this post does take the romance out of the expat experience! Before we took off to travel full-time, we watched “House Hunter’s International” and read several online travel/expat magazines (I’m thinking specifically about “International Living”) that definitely painted a rosy picture of living in a foreign country. We found the reality to be far different than imagined and, while we enjoyed the adventure, checked a lot of those “romantic” countries off our list because they were far more expensive than we’d been led to believe, too dangerous or the infrastructure and services were less than we needed. It’s better to provide facts that will help people make informed choices rather than painting a rosy-hued picture that might do more harm than good. Sadly, there are lots of stories about people believing the dream in some of the expat publications and finding it turning to a nightmare.

      Like

  • Many of your rants about the US are familiar to me, having lived in the Netherlands for the past 20 years. I got Dutch citizenship and eventually, reluctantly, renounced my American nationality because the regulations had become so onerous and intrusive. In your case, since you travel from place to place, it makes sense to keep your US citizenship, but for expats who move somewhere else and stay, it’s different. Since the US bases its taxation on citizenship, and everywhere else bases taxation on residency, you can end up paying twice in some cases. And why should you pay taxes to the US when you receive absolutely no services from them?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I thought about you several times, Rachel when I was writing my part of the rant on taxes and the long arm and intrusive arm of the US into its citizen’s lives who choose to live outside the country. As we watch the US news unfold daily, I’m pretty sure that the banking and tax regulations haven’t greatly impacted the very rich who seek ways to avoid paying their full share or those who will undoubtedly find new ways to launder money. However, it’s made the lives of law-abiding travelers and expats infinitely more difficult. As you’d mentioned a few months earlier in another conversation, foreign banks are becoming more and more reluctant to open accounts for US citizens because of onerous reporting regulations. And, at this point, there’s no getting around paying taxes and receiving no services. We’ll avoid double taxation for 10 years due to an agreement in place between Portugal and the US where we’re exempted but after that, who knows? Like I said earlier, who would have thought that choosing a simpler lifestyle could be so complicated?

      Like

  • Interesting! I’ve thought about being nomadic or semi-nomadic and there is a whole raft of things to think about. There don’t seem to be so many hoops to jump through for those of us in the UK but access to healthcare and the need (or not) to have a permanent address are certainly considerations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Preparation (we spent a year preparing before we left in 2012) has been key to making our nomadic and expat life a success. Of course, you can’t anticipate everything and in many cases we didn’t even know what questions to ask so we kind of winged it. Luckily, except for a handful of mistakes that cost us extra money or time, we’ve managed and the whole experience has been amazing and way beyond what we first envisioned. As a UK citizen, it does appear that you have fewer hoops to jump through (at least until Brexit), especially since you don’t need to worry about time limits traveling in and out of the Schengen Zone. You could try a semi-nomadic lifestyle, Karen and see how it evolves from there!

      Like

  • Great insights. At present, we travel 4 mos/year. I would love to travel full time or at least try it. My husband is not game. Maybe someday. Thanks for sharing; it helps when considering options.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Traveling full-time has it’s challenges but, in our opinion the positives far outweighed the negatives during the three years we slow-traveled. We especially loved the time we had to get to know a place and finding what we needed for daily living (ATMs,markets, the bus station) and a chance to absorb the culture and feel like we’d truly “lived” in many of the places we traveled to versus visited. Not planning more than one or two months ahead also gave us the luxury of extending a stay when we found places we especially enjoyed like Antigua, Guatemala and Granada, Nicaragua. Four months at a time sounds like a way to enjoy travel and just enough to whet an adventurer’s appetite. Maybe someday!

      Like

  • A great post. Creating a new lifestyle, no matter where you live, has to be a huge undertaking. I can’t even imagine doing it.
    Of course, maybe when we get through 3 childrens’ weddings in the next 10 months (sandwiched around our 4 month South America trip) I might reconsider.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Steven! Sure you don’t want to run away before all those weddings? HaHa! One thing we’ve kept in mind as we traveled full-time and then choose Portugal as our home base, is that everything doesn’t have to be done in a day or even a month. I often think of my experience at university where you take one class and then another and over the years things coalesce and finally, voilà, you have a degree. Perhaps the biggest character skill needed is patience and just proceeding a step at a time. Following the path and seeing how things evolve is terrific fun and we don’t want to get to the end too quickly! As for your South American trip beginning in just a few weeks, I hope your time is truly amazing! I’ll be looking forward to reading about your adventures!

      Like

  • As far as healthcare, our decision hinged on where we would get the best. We thought we had to stay in a US place to get settled with a family physician who looks at us once a year. 8 years of fulltime RVing was not good healthwise for us. And we have continued to rent out our three condos because in of the dive real estate prices in 2008.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are so many things to consider, Carol, when you decide to ditch normal and opt for an alternative lifestyle! And I can definitely understand that 8 years of patching together services to meet your health care needs might not have resulted in the best care. It’s definitely a weighing of the pros and cons. However, looking at the experiences you’ve had traveling around the US, Canada and elsewhere, it’s easy to see that there are ways to travel and expat no matter the age and even with health challenges.

      Like

  • As long time travelers too, we can certainly relate to this post and yes we do moan every year when we have to pay taxes even though we don’t live in the U.S. And yes, we use the address of a family member in the U.S. for all the numerous times we have had to have an address…. It does seem rather archaic. I never thought of it as deceit before, mind you….. haha.

    One of the benefits of living in countries with good health care and relatively low medical costs is that one does not necessarily need health insurance. Our first year of living in Nicaragua we bought health care from a private hospital there, which cost us $500 for the year each. However, we quickly realized that if we ever needed medical attention it probably would in most cases cost way less than that. And since we have been living in Asia we have no health insurance. We do our best to stay healthy by eating mostly plant based, w no processed foods, minimal sugar, dairy, red meat. We go to yoga as often as possible and so far, so good. Should we need medical attention, the costs in Sri Lanka where we are now based are a fraction of the costs in the U.S. I just replaced a chipped crown at the dentist and it cost me $300 here compared with $1,500 in the U.S.

    Very interesting post. Rant on!!!

    Peta

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure you and Ben have tons of traveling/expat stories to tell and I’m looking forward to the day our paths cross! We also checked out Managua’s private hospital & insurance plan as Granada was on our radar for a long time as a home base. (I had a root canal and bought a crown there for total of $550!) I have to admit, with my experience/background as a hospital pharmacist, we were both concerned about finding quality healthcare outside the US but quickly came to realize that it’s as good or, in many cases better, than what we were receiving for a fraction of the cost. And, unlike the US, we’ve been able to get into a Dr. when we needed to and have always been treated with courtesy and concern. In fact, in Ecuador, we had one Dr. show up at our home because he was concerned about Richard. (I know, amazing!) And, like you, we’re much more aware of the importance of eating healthy (very easy to do in Portugal) and getting our exercise. It’s never too late to start, right?

      Like

  • Thanks for another great blog post. Healthcare remains a big issue for us, but we cannot wait to sell it all and explore!

    Liked by 1 person

    • So glad you liked this post, Meg! And obviously, healthcare isn’t an issue that concerns travelers and expats only from the US. As baby boomers (therefore not belonging to the age bracket that takes health for granted) we thought about how we were going to deal with our healthcare long and hard when we were preparing to travel full-time in 2012. In many countries, it’s easy to “go naked” and pay out of pocket for minor injuries and illnesses with a travel policy for major emergencies. But the best tip we can recommend is to continue to read travel and expat blogs. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve found answers and discussions about things we hadn’t even considered! Good luck and here’s hoping you don’t have too long before you can start exploring! 🙂

      Like

  • I’m in Guatemala now after traveling to many countries looking for my fit .
    Thanks much for all of your info ,,,interesting and helpful. Im out of the states and don’t plan on returning there, nor Europe.
    The plans for depopulation, etc. in these countries are horrendous and as the world moves towards it new world order chaos I choose to be as far away from that mess , its only going to get worse . Were living in an ever changing world now , more evil than its been in a long time as you all can see.
    Simplifying and having the balls to move forward is only for few , its not easy , but we all have our own races . Peace and Light to all of you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We have some fond memories of the 6 months we spent in Guatemala, mostly in Antigua although we traveled around the country and we can nod our heads to your statement, “looking for my fit.” Throughout our 3 years of full-time travel, we tried to find the answer to the question, “Can we live here?” There are as many reasons as to the why people leave their native country as there are knowing what draws people to places they feel most comfortable. However, you’re right – simplifying and deciding to live in a foreign country isn’t for everyone. There are challenges to living in a foreign country and challenges (like the ones Frank and I talked about here) to suggest this lifestyle isn’t for dilettantes. For us though, it’s been one of the best decisions we’ve every made. Sounds like it’s been the right solution for you too, Heidi.

      Like

  • It is interesting that expats and full time RV’s are presented with the same issues! the federal gov’t considers an RV a residence (upheld in court). So it qualifies for all the tax credits ans such…but how do get a house that moves around the country (and even out of the country) to be an address?!? Turns out one state has it figured out!!! South Dakota!!! to be considered a resident of SD you are only required to spend one night every five years within the state! There are mail forwarding services that have capitalized on this and offer ‘real’ addresses (PO boxes don’t count). Some will even scan it and you can tell them to shred/hold/forward for each and every piece of mail!
    There are solutions…. did I mention that SD does not have personal income tax? And no Capital gains tax either?!? Sounds like my place to ‘live’!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is interesting Stephen as we hadn’t really thought about RV travelers having some of the same issues. I remember reading a few years ago that Florida and Texas also had mail forwarding/scanning services but the big issue of course is figuring out that residence address for the government. Great suggestion and, while South Dakota isn’t on the way to anywhere, meeting the one night every 5 years requirement wouldn’t be too difficult. Also, the fact that there’s no state income tax is an important consideration along with the absence of a capital gains tax. You’ve definitely done some homework and your suggestion is one we’ll pass on. In real life though, we’ve both been to SD and, while it has some great places to visit (Mount Rushmore and the Badlands come to mind) it’s winter’s are wicked cold. ‘Living’ there as a virtual resident would be the only way we could do it! 🙂

      Like

  • HEALTH INS. I did a search on all the Canadian Provence’s a few years ago and Manitoba was the only one
    where returning expats were covered immediately–most are 3 months wait.
    Some Prov. let you stay out longer than 6 months

    Liked by 1 person

  • Anita and Richard,
    Had to smile while reading your post as we can totally relate. You captured our rant feeling perfectly and your last paragraph is sound advice. You covered a very important topic that is difficult to get information about on the internet.

    One other rant, and something that took us by surprise:
    We had our retirement funds with Morgan Stanley for over 20 years. When the powers that be at MS got wind of us living in Panama they gave us notice that we had 90 days to move our funds as they were no longer going to handle expat accounts! Nice…they fired us! In checking around very few firms are no longer handling retirement accounts for expats.
    We moved everything to Charles Schwab International Account. The paperwork and copies of various items we had to send them were unbelievable. It took a few weeks but we successfully moved our accounts. It was actually a blessing in disguise as the service and investment advice from Charles Schwab so far is outstanding.

    Thanks for your post. It should prove very helpful for a lot of folks.

    Cheers,
    John and Susan

    Liked by 1 person

    • OMG John & Susan – we can totally relate to that as we received the same notice from Waddell and Reed with whom we’d done business with for 20+ years, earlier this year. (Hence my caution not to tell certain people you’re living overseas!) They had no problem handling our accounts online and by mail when we moved around the US but now that we’re in Portugal, there’s been a change. We were told, “we could keep our money there” but they would no longer be able to give us advice. WTH? This also happened to a friend of ours who is in the process of moving to Portugal and was told that his financial advisors, Edward Jones, would no longer be able to handle his account. We’re actually in the process of consolidating our accounts with an independent advisor we’ve used for years. However, I’ll definitely explore Charles Schwab International if we run into future problems as we also have accounts set up there already. From what we understand, it’s not that the US accounts held by US citizens residing outside the country are illegal. Rather, it seems to be that the regulations placed upon finacial advisors have become so onerous that they’ve chosen to ditch the small percentage of their clients living overseas. It’s a hair-puller for sure and your comment is timely. One of the best things about belonging to a blogging community and sharing info back and forth with other readers is that we all benefit!

      Like

  • Who needs healthcare? Minor injuries and illnesses are not expensive to deal with outside the USA etc. I have had any for the last 30 years, of course one could say I am damm lucky! In my opinion if you have some serious illness maybe your time here is up and you should just accept it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right Dean to say that you’re damn lucky to have your health and we agree that healthcare outside the US is so much more affordable with quality at least comparable to what’s provided in the US. However, we’re fortunate to be living in a time when medication and proper treatment can prevent and cure illnesses and disease that used to be death sentences. Why should someone die from pneumonia, an abscessed tooth or appendicitis when there are cures and treatment available? Healthcare immeasurably adds to quality of life and is a major concern to the majority of Americans (and it appears Canadians too) who depend on it whether they live with chronic disease or in the event of an accident or illness. And, for those of us lucky enough to have our health now, there’s always the fear that it may not always be.

      Like

  • Reblogged this on Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua and commented:
    Sorry I have been neglecting my blog, recently. But, I must reblog Anita’s post on a rant-a-thon on bureaucratic contortions. Instead of adding my rants as a U.S. expat, I will write another post about them. Thanks, Anita for inspiring me to pick up my blogging again. Instead, I have been agonizing over the state of my beloved country. 😦

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the reblog Debbie and I’ll be looking forward to reading your rants about being a US expat, especially since you’ve been doing this expating gig longer! And I’m glad that you’re writing again. However, we both understand the angst you’re experiencing as we too obsessively subscribe to and read several online newspapers daily. Perhaps watching the events occurring in the US from afar is easier but I’m not sure… It’s frightening to see how fast things we once took for granted are being questioned and trashed.

      Like

  • I’m glad you republished this on your site Anita, you’ve already gotten some great feedback from readers.
    I saw Tom’s comment at the top – my mom (who’s living in Mexico) told me about the Mexican bonds and sounds like a great investment that actually had me thinking…but then I thought of possible problems with tax authorities and just decided it wasn’t worth the hassle.

    Frank (bbqboy)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your collaborative post was an awesome idea, Frank and the comments/discussion have been fascinating as there seems to be such a variety of experiences. The Mexican bonds do sound like a great investment but I can understand your dilemma when thinking about the hoops you’d have to jump through to appease the tax man. I’m not sure if Canada has quite as long an arm into foreign bank and investment transactions but, like you said, the problems that might occur might not be worth it!

      Like

  • Two years ago we made the move from the U.S. for good. And “for good” says it all. We don’t regret being gone at all as our life is richer, more fulfilling, and simpler. Well simpler except when having to deal with the U.S. government and specifically the IRS. We feel this most of the time at tax reporting time but also anytime we are wanting to get our money out of the U.S.
    We opened an investment account in Mexico within two months of moving here to keep some emergency funds here. But because we earned such good returns on the money we decided to increase the funds we have here. We tried two times to wire the money and each time it failed as there are so many precautions to catch money laundering. Well, I don’t know how effective the processes are on catching money launderers but they certainly made it impossible for us to get our money out of our U.S. banks. So we are bringing it down in small amounts via ATM withdrawals and on trips.
    In addition to the hoops you need to jump through to wire money we also have to report our funds held in non-U.S. accounts because they are greater than $10,000 USD. This means an extra form sent to the US government each year. Since we have access to CDs and government bonds in Mexico that are paying 7% annual return we’ve decided that it is worth to add the additional IRS tax form that is required if the funds are greater than $50,000 USD. The thing that really burns about this is that we pay taxes on these funds to the Mexican government – a flat 6% on the profits. The bank makes the payments for us each year and indicates it on our statement. We don’t fill out a form or have to buy special software or hire an accountant to figure it out. It is so very easy since it is a flat rate and is handled by the financial institution. But to satisfy the U.S. government we have to either hire an accountant or buy special tax software (all at our expense). Even though we don’t owe taxes to the U.S. on the funds as we pay the taxes in Mexico, we have to report it.
    Aside from these hassles from the U.S. we have a wonderful life with great friends in a part of Mexico that is calm and beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, we hear you Tom, when you say becoming expats has made your lives “richer, more fulfilling and simpler.” Perfectly said. And, except for dealing with the various taxes and bank regulations, the simpler is almost accurate! We too, have had various money/tax challenges crop up now that we’ve established residency in Portugal that weren’t a problem while we were traveling full-time. For now, as we said, we’re keeping our bank accounts in Portugal under the $10,000 limit and accessing our money through a Charles Schwab debit card which reimburses the foreign transaction fees. However, last fall when we were back in the US we talked to our bank and set up a way to transfer larger amounts directly from our US account to Portugal in case of some unforeseen event in the future. We did a trial transfer last month and were totally shocked at the fees (no warning either!) tacked on by the US and then the fees tacked on by Portugal. And we can certainly commiserate with you on how difficult it is to move your money to where it will work best for you. We too have our doubts as to the success in preventing money laundering but they sure do make life miserable for those of us law abiding citizens who have found foreign homes. Thanks for your great comment and we hope you continue to enjoy beautiful Mexico!

      Like

      • Thank you for the reply and the warning about the “simpler” way to transfer funds that seems to be a way for banks to add fees. When preparing to move I looked at all the different options for banking and decided on Charles Schwab High Yield Checking Account, too. It has been wonderful. The one time there was a problem with ATM access to our funds (only once in more than 3 years) they were very responsive.
        As I said in the original reply to your post, we tried to transfer $25,000 USD to our account. One of the attempts to transfer the funds was through Schwab. It failed just as the other attempt. Even when we tried to move the $25,000 to another US checking account in our name it failed. So we transferred $5,000 to the other checking account and began taking out the daily max from the ATM from the Schwab account. We did this for a little over a week almost every other day. We amassed over $6,000 and used this to fund a CD that is returning 7%. We’ll do this again at the end of this month and buy another CD and keep doing this for a total of six months to have something of a CD ladder. It is not as easy as transferring all the money but will work for us and we’ll not have to do this again as the money will be here. The other nice benefit to doing it this way is that all our ATM fees are reimbursed so instead of pay either $25 or $40 USD (the charges the other banks were imposing when we tried to wire the money) we will get it here without any surcharges. The reimbursement for my ATM charges from Schwab in July was $30. Normally it is around five or so but the increased withdrawals does make it add up.
        Of course if we were in the US we could go to the bank in person or (as they suggested) have a check sent to us in the mail. I must say not getting mail on these matters is a big pain as that is the way institutions like to handle your problems – send you a letter. Having a relative to sort and scan your mail is a great benefit. We have a mailbox that gets our mail and will scan all the contents if we ask them to and open and scan a letter if we request it. We just had to do this regarding a letter from the IRS regarding a trust from a friend who died two years ago. There is no way we could know when the IRS is going to send us documents related to the trust so it is quite a challenge on top of having to deal with the death of a fried and lingering consequences of a poorly written will. So let me say that in our situation having to deal with mail sent to our US address is another pain but does not rank anywhere near the level of frustration when dealing with US financial institutions and government agencies and their regulations that target those who are not physically present in the US.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I had to nod and smile at your solution to finally obtain the money you failed to transfer previously by using your debit card and withdrawing the daily maximum until you had enough. That’s exactly how we ended up buying our car here in Portugal and, as you pointed out, Charles Schwab reimbursed the foreign fees at the end of the month. We currently rent and I’m not sure what we would do if we ever wanted to buy property here. I’d guess there are workarounds and creative solutions but it’s indeed frustrating to be subjected to different rules and regulations as citizens living outside the US.

          Like

  • Yeah, I remember many of these hoops. In BC we got a couple of years out of the country without losing medical coverage, but then we just made sure we were in BC for the required 5 months per calendar year. We used a friend’s address from the start. It is something of a relief to be back, and to have a home again in Canada and to be doing things in a “normal” manner. We never intended to become expats, but neither did we rule it out. It just happened that after 5.5 years travelling we never found any place else we’d rather live.
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    • We thank my sister every few months for playing guardian angel and allowing us to use her home address and screen and scan what mail still comes to us. It’s made our lives infinitely easier as you guys would know. It’s funny that you say, “We never intended to become expats” because, for us we never intended to become nomads. Everything just evolved and for us, it eventually became a kind of quest to find a place we loved and felt at home in. And I think it’s awesome that the universe happened to place you in a location that you loved. I’ve often wondered, Allison, what your ideal place to live might be and now I know! Looking forward to that time when you get a traveling itch again and still hoping that our paths will cross somewhere!

      Liked by 1 person

      • We will no doubt have a travelling itch as soon as I’m healed enough to travel. I’m way better than I was, and I think another couple of months should do it. We can’t wait to travel again. We’re not done by a long shot!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m so glad to hear that you’re feeling better and on the road to recovery, Alison. Traveling is stressful in so many ways and schlepping around with suitcases or backpacks, walking along cobblestones or uneven stairs and rocky paths, carrying groceries, etc. can all take their toll. Our own choice to set up a base and change the way we travel has also been influenced by health issues. However, I’ll echo your sentiment as we’re not anywhere close to be done either!

          Liked by 1 person

  • While I live in the US, I still hold my European passport. Last year, while visiting a friend in Europe – an American who has held dual citizenship and lived in Europe for over 40 yrs now – we had an interesting conversation about the pros and cons of dual citizenship. She advised strongly NOT to get dual citizenship because the US tax man will come after you for two reasons: 1. exit taxes for everything you own or co-own in the US should you give up your US citizenship; 2. even though her husband is European and works in Europe, he has to pay US taxes on his European salary because he is married to a US citizen (who holds dual citizenship). That just sounds vile to me. So I still don’t know what I’ll do…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, that’s really outrageous! We have no plans to give up our US citizenship but have talked about the obvious advantages of having a European passport and dual citizenship in Portugal. We’d never even thought about the cons of having dual citizenship before your comment (that’s if we could even pass the language requirement which is looking very doubtful at this point 🙂). The arm of the IRS is long indeed!

      Liked by 1 person

  • Your story is so similar to ours. We left the US for Spain a year ago; my husband is on Medicare, I retired early, etc. everything you wrote made me nod with understanding.

    We are in the US now visiting family but it is more clear than ever that Spain is home now and we can’t wait to get back!

    Liked by 1 person

    • True empathy, right?🙂 And I imagine that you, like us, just kind of bumbled along and tried to figure out some work-arounds. Before we first left the US in 2012, we hunted around the internet for expat blogs but there just weren’t that many and the few that were out there talked about the challenges of living in a foreign country, not the problems with leaving. Like you though, the longer we stay out of the US, the more apparent it is that when we visit “home,” the US feels more like the foreign country. And, hey neighbor, maybe our paths will cross on this side of the Atlantic!

      Like

  • I love this post and will reblog is with your permission. Plus, I plan on adding a few of my rants too! Speaking of Social Security cards, when we were in Fresno with our son, we were going to help him buy a car. He needed to establish credit so we wanted to be cosigners. We were going to put a hefty amount down on the car and he was going to finance the remaining to establish credit. The bank refused to finance him without showing proof that he was a U.S. Citizen. They needed his social security card. Like you said, who carries that around with them. The Subaru dealer said that his SS number was on the bottom of his passport, which he didn’t have with him. I argued with the guy saying that our passports do NOT have SS numbers on them and showed him my passport as proof. I ranted, ” Look. I gave birth to him! We are his parents. Here are our passports, here are our driver’s licenses.” Made no difference! The only thing we could do was to pay cash for the car on the spot! Which we did! Why in the hell did he have to prove that he was a U.S. Citizen? His passport was not sufficient, and neither was his driver’s license.
    I have a few more rants, too. But I will leave them for later.
    Thanks, Anita. This post is awesome! But, only people living abroad understand the crazy stuff we have to go through!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The SS# is required by law in the US when making a financial transaction of $10,000 or more so that it can be reported to the IRS. I assume the car was at least that much. One mans nuisance is another man’s crime.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the Reblog Debbie and we’re so glad (is that the right word? 🙂) this post touched a nerve with you! I have no doubt that you have some rants of your own and OMG, that’s a crazy story about trying to buy a car. PROOF to show you’re a citizen? And, yes, why would you have either your SS cards on you or passports. (Whenever we’re back in the US, we leave our passports in our suitcases and carry the gold standard ID, a driver’s license.) Totally nuts! You might remember the post where we wrote about trying to rent a car, which was affordable, and finding out how much the rental insurance was ($3000/mo) because we didn’t have an insurance policy? That’s (still) another rant and the reason we now have a car that lives in Georgia with Richard’s sister while we live in Portugal!

      Liked by 1 person

  • Sometimes, you just have to find a way to laugh it off. Congratulations for the persistence to make your life what you wanted! – Susan

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laughing and thinking of the stories we have to tell too, Susan! We’ve made some dumb mistakes, haven’t thought to ask the right questions and several times have spent more money than we’ve had to trying to figure out work-arounds. But yes, knowing what we want and where we want to be has made the prize that much sweeter!

      Liked by 1 person

  • Excellent (and enlightening) post Anita. But I must say, there’s one sentence that stands out loud and clear for me:

    “Hell no, I’m never coming back!” 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • HaHa Dyanne! We moved often during our working lives as opportunities presented themselves and our siblings are scattered across the US so there’s no real home base that draws us back. Our son and grandson live in Denver which is a wonderful place to visit but much too cold for us so that means, if we have to fly there, we can fly from anywhere. Our longest place we lived was Texas and, given the crazy politics there, that’s a big “Hell no” for returning! The sky’s the limit!

      Like

  • Such an interesting post as we’ve been ‘nomadic’ for two and a half years now and the only issue we’ve had is the address one. We have always used our sons address and it’s saved us a lot of hassle. Healthcare isn’t a problem in the UK as everyone is covered and no insurance is necessary. We’re UK taxpayers but earn below the threshhold so our annual tax bill is £0 each. Lots of things to look into though if you are thinking of living this life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Such a big difference between our side of the Atlantic and yours! Interesting, Frank told me he’d reached out to a UK resident to add to our rant and was told that he had no issues. Guess we were just born on the wrong side of the pond. 🙂 Sadly, the US has a long way to go before it recognizes healthcare as a basic right and, as we age, being prepared for our bodies to betray us becomes more and more important. You’re right, there are a lot of things to consider if you want to travel full time or try living in another country but it’s a wonderful experience and worth the hassle!

      Liked by 1 person

  • This was a great read. It’s interesting that healthcare is a major issue for both countries. I am a Canadian with no plans to become an expat, but my husband and I have spent winters away from home. With that and other travels, some years we have had to watch carefully the time out of country to ensure we retain our health coverage. I don’t understand the time limitation either.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So glad you enjoyed this, Donna and it is interesting that, for all the HUGE differences between the US and Canadian healthcare systems, Frank and I both ranted about it as an issue. I can remember how confused we were when Canadian friends told us about the 5 month requirement to qualify for Canada;s healthcare as it would seem the country would actually save money. Like you, they’ve had to balance their travel time in and out of the country keeping in mind their insurance. At this point, they’re talking about getting a Portuguese residency visa and will have to figure out anew how to address the problem. Looks like their choices are either to obey the 5-month rule or walk away!

      Like

  • Maria Lunderius

    Sorry for laughing, but it was funny in a “been there, done that” sort of way. Initially, when I early retired I left USA and lived in Central America, But being an insulin dependent diabetic I was concerned about quality of health care there, and nonavailability of meds, particularly in Belize. So, since I have a double citizenship, one of them being of an European Union country, so after a health scare I went “home” (where I have not lived for over 30 years) to Europe. And promptly landed in a hospital with a heart attack. I survived, no problem, and my budget survived, too, as a week in a hospital, all care and meds cost me less than a hundred dollars. So I stayed in Europe, though not in the same place, but living a year here and a year there, no matter that I have a pair of cats, which travel with me, and that’s not easy when you are a single traveler with two pets. I am enjoying what is left from my life, hoping that switching primary language every year and having varied adventures would keep my brain working and save me from dementia. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • “Been there, done that” and thank God we don’t have to do it again! 🙂 We can definitely understand why you wouldn’t want to live in Belize as a diabetic. That was the major thing that nixed the country for us right from our first visit there as it’s healthcare infrastructure is still primitive. As aging boomers, we’re fully cognizant that we need something in place now. And your story of how much a week’s hospital stay including medication costs is really unbelievable to anyone who lives in the US where getting the bill could trigger another heart attack. We’ve had the same thoughts too, about the benefits of traveling and moving to a new country. Lots of challenges but so many more rewards!

      Like

  • I hear you! I experience the same frustrations. Things that l try not to think about till tax time. Yeah, health care costs are astronomical in the U.S and we quickly realized l had to keep on working otherwise we would have to pay over a grand per month for coverage. We just got a new insurance plan here and total cost with no copay is €1632 for the both of us..and l was still grumbling..haha! since it went up an extra 9 euro per month for me :-). So spoiled now!!! There are a lot of hoops to jump through in other countries to get your papers but trust me, it’s way less than the hoops you have to jump through for your U.S papers. I know.. I did them years ago and can only imagine how much worse it is now. It keeps things interesting for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aw, those damn taxes! “Spoiled” is a good word Kemi to describe how we US expats feel about healthcare costs in other countries. And definitely appreciative. However, even if your healthcare insurance in Spain went up €9/month, it still sounds like a Cadillac plan to me! I’ve heard other expats grumble about Portugal’s bureaucracy and all I have to think about is that it’s much more convoluted in the US. I can’t even imagine going through the US visa and citizenship application process now . It would probably make everything else look like a cakewalk!

      Like

  • What a great post. As a resident of Panama, I always find it interesting to ask people what the drivers were for them to make the move out of the US or Canada. This was a fun read though a sad commentary.
    Suzi

    Liked by 1 person

    • So glad you enjoyed this Suzi and like you, we love to find out why people decide to travel and/or choose another country to live in. The answers are surprising and can lead to some lively discussions! I remember you writing about jumping through the hoops and some of the frustrations when you were working to get your cédulas from Panama so I know that you’re familiar with the bureaucratic contortions too. But I know you’d agree with us that the patience and stubbornness do pay off!

      Like

  • This post was so enlightening…and a bit scary. First, I knew healthcare in the US was expensive but $800 a month!? Secondly, moving from either country is so much more complicated than I ever imagined. I would never have thought about the need for a US or Canadian address! All of this information just reinforces the fact that you both have worked incredibly hard to make your move to new countries work. I take my hat off to you both!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Why thank you Jan! 🙂 And isn’t it amazing what US citizens are expected to pay for healthcare? It’s crippling and criminal and the reason we have so many people uninsured throughout the country. During our travels and now in Portugal, we are constantly amazed, impressed and thankful for the healthcare services we receive for substantially less money. As for moving to another country – A friend of ours recently made the observation that she doesn’t even know some of the questions to ask and that’s been our experience, too. It’s been a step-by-step process with some errors and stumbles and a lot of “Wish I’d known that earlier!” Perhaps what helped is that we were all full-time travelers before setting up a home base in new countries and had some of the framework in place already. And, like I said at the end of this post, figuring out how to make this lifestyle work is well worth some of the bureaucratic contortions and frustrations!

      Like

    • As someone who made the move from the US over two years ago and spent well over two years planning it, I want to speak to the “rant”. It isn’t that we worked hard but that the difficulty of it all seems to be without much benefit to anyone. It certainly doesn’t benefit us to have to maintain US addresses or pay into health insurance plans that we will likely never use at the sum as though we still lived in the US. I don’t think the US or Canada even benefits from the barriers they through up. It really seems as though we have gotten caught in barriers created without the consideration that someone would consider living outside of our home country. As we begin our third year outside the US we can see benefits to having the least possible ties to the US as the opportunities for health care, investments, needs of daily living, and long term care are greater and more reasonable obtained in our new home country than through the rigged US system.

      Like

We'd love to hear from you. Please leave a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s