7 Questions to Ask Yourself When Planning a Move Overseas

As a wise man once said, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first few steps, and that’s particularly true when it comes to making the move overseas. Those first steps are all about learning: learning what you want out of your move, learning what you really need to do to get there, learning what your courses of action should be, and learning where the edges of error lay.

I’m often asked, “How soon can I move my life abroad?” I only have one answer, “It depends.” I don’t mean to be flippant, but it truly does. It depends on how entrenched you are in your U.S. lifestyle, on what your particular situation is, and on what obligations you have to tie up in the U.S.

For most people, this process can take between one and three years to do effectively. It’s not that you can’t move quickly—people do it all the time. The easiest way to make a quick move overseas is to have as few connections as possible in the U.S. and take nothing with you but a fat checkbook. However, most—if not all—of the people I work with are unable or unwilling to do this, so additional time is needed for planning and arranging the details.

To that end, what follows are just a few of the questions that I ask people when they want to know how quickly they can move abroad. Use these questions to help you decide what a realistic time frame is for you.

From what U.S. state are you leaving?
Before you move abroad, you may want to consider a move to a no-income-tax state (there are seven). This will effectively eliminate any state income tax issues and requirements. (I outline these states in more detail in the Quarterly Wealth Advisory. (Find out how to gain access to that exclusive resource here.)

Are you moving alone or are you moving with a partner and/or family?
If you are moving overseas with one or more people, make sure to take into account that their needs and obligations may be different from yours. Additionally, every level of decision-making is extended with each addition of another person who will be moving with you. Plan your time accordingly.

Do you have a house or business you need to sell?
Take an interest in the local property market. Are properties selling in your area or will it take you some time to find a buyer for your place? If you have a business, does it need to be wound down or sold, or can it be managed in your absence? Get the answers to all of these questions as soon as possible. Don’t put yourself in a position in which you settle for less by putting a time pressure on the process.

How involved are you in family issues?
If you have grandchildren that live nearby, you might want to wait to celebrate certain holidays with them or personal milestones before you make the move abroad. Or, if you have children, you may need to wait until they complete their school year before you can leave the country.

What is the status of your financial world?
Most people operate on a very loose organization of their financial world. When you are moving, you have to touch each investment, bank account, credit card, life insurance policy, health and medical account, asset registrations, title deeds, etc. If you have to hunt down each item’s source documentation every time you need it, you may be caught abroad without access to your most important information. Take the time to get organized while you have everything at your fingertips—it’s much easier to do it now than once you go.

Will you be funding your life overseas with investments?
Reviewing and restructuring your investments for an overseas lifestyle can take some time to arrange. A licensed financial professional can help you review and revise your investments before you go overseas. Consulting with your tax advisor before restructuring can also help you avoid unnecessary taxation. The best combination is a tax advisor that is also a licensed financial professional. In that case, you receive holistic advice and direction in managing the process.

Will you be working overseas?
Do you already have work abroad? How long can you last financially if you don’t have income right away? If you have an employer lined up, do you have options about how you are compensated? Knowing the answers to these questions in advance can save you a lot of stress and unnecessary financial strain down the road.

Editor’s Note: Get more expat advice on second citizenship, banking privacy and offshore investing in our offshore section.

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