Expat. Even the word sounds a bit appealing to you but for anyone to suggest that this title is easily attained would be misinformed. And for a small segment of the population, the decision could be quite costly. So what if you find yourself in a situation where you are ready to move on, travel the world and do all if the things you want to do in life? The blogs and magazines you have read for several years say it really is as easy as it seems or even the more simplistic, “You can do it too!” It has you chomping at the bit to throw it all to the wayside and make the jump. You have the money, you have the drive, but something is weighing you down. Fear? Maybe, but not the fear of the exit or of the moving on, but of what is left behind. A huge stack of cash and stability. Let the balancing game begin. Your life goals or stability. It’s a tug-of-war of life-changing proportions and not a battle easily won.

Best Interests in Mind?

Retirement. For many it’s a moment of dread and for others it’s the primary goal that  we all see at the end of the dark job tunnel. To get there our occupations offer us a slew of opportunities to make sure we stay on track and can ease into old age with some funds and preferably a whole lot of dignity. It’s quite hospitable of employers to look out for your best interests. But is that what’s really at play here or are we simply being lured into a feeling of security and complacency? The answer is of course we are. Security in the workforce is essential, not only for the employee, but the employer. The hiring and firing of employees is much more than just a process. It’s quite costly. The corporate world spends an enormous amount of time and money contemplating “what if” scenarios that include countless schemes and plans for retention.

The question really becomes, what can we offer the employee that is perceived as beneficial to them and even more importantly, cost saving to us. Most would be under the impression that benefit structures set for employees are high dollar investments that put a strain on the bottom dollar when in fact this amount of money is justified with comparison of training new employees. Most suggest that this training of a new employee to where they can grasp the job of the individual replaced could take up to a year, sometimes more. A lost year in the corporate world is significant as the trickle down effect from that one job greatly affects the status of the jobs that are directly correlated. No longer can companies simply replace employees freely and without repercussions.

Salary Pales in Comparison to Benefits

In the search for retention, salary is only a small part of the puzzle. The real draw and the real “sticky” benefit is what can be considered the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The 401K and the pension. The 401k allows employees to save money tax-free and have a much-needed supply line when retirement comes calling since “ye have little faith” in the social security system. By offering percentage matches, the employee can assure a certain dependence on the system when other job opportunities come calling. There is obviously a draw to this which would make employees consider and reconsider any changes to their lifestyle as they impact the portfolio. But with a 401K, the money is there for you. If you take another job or even quit your job, that amount of money can be rolled over into another 401K plan or even into an IRA for safe-keeping.

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But the REAL draw, the REAL ball and chain is the pension. Becoming a thing of the past, the pension almost becomes legendary in terms of status and attraction. A pension works to invest an employee in the company’s future by actually investing money on their behalf. Whereas you can reach a point where you are vested(enough time has been put in for loyalty), the real prize is if you commit yourself to the company all the way to retirement. Being vested simply means you’ve been a part of the pension plan long enough to take a lump sum of money equal to the amount of time you’ve invested in the company. While this can be a substantial amount, it in no way comes close to the amount of money you could reap by staying long-term with the company. By “sticking it out”, you suddenly may have the chance to equal your pay, even surpass it in retirement, and that doesn’t even include social security (maybe) or that nice 401k you have been kicking funds into for the last several decades.

Research Before You Cut The Cord

So how does this impact those free-the-chains-that-bind-me plan? Considerably! The factors that play into this can range from the simple, as in “will I have the funds needed to live according to my own strategy”, to the more difficult “I have kids to feed approach.” For those who are willing to forgo it all and make the leap, you have better be well-prepared. Just how much money are you willing to give up to live like the free-wheeling world travelers you read about? Is your goal to live on the resources presented to you or is a job hunt needed to meet your expectations? Most expats have battled these dogging questions and some suggest you not only do your research on your needs, but also on your losses. I’d be the first to suggest that it would be fun to release the responsibilities and time demands that dictate my life. To wait for retirement to make life-changing decisions, doesn’t seem life changing at all. As a matter of fact, it mainly falls in line with the strategy that the employers would rather you follow. Their intent and the intent of retirement packages in general is to delay and to force you to think.

What makes the situation more befuddling is that the very thing many prospective expats or world travelers have to face is of their very own making. We’ve been groomed to look for these safety nets, so why in the world would we be willing to give it up? A retirement plan that includes a pension is not only sought after by prospective employees, it’s considered a legitimate jackpot in terms of career.  But as they say with all jackpot winners, it comes with its own set of problems. You can get away and start all over, that’s for sure, but what you leave behind could be bigger. There will never be a right answer when it comes to the decision each person must make. Instead, it boils down to one word, happiness. It is and will always be the most important factor because a life without happiness may not be considered a life at all.  So yes, the pension can be looked at in two ways, a ball and chain or a balloon. It’s what I like to call a high-class problem, but a problem nevertheless. What do you think? Have you cut the cord?

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Live Within Your Means, Travel Beyond Them.


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