If you’ve read any of the guest posts or features I’ve done you’ll see the headlines saying I’ve paid off anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000 in debt. But truthfully, I haven’t stopped to add it all up in awhile and I have been hesitant to share those numbers. But as I switch my focus to retirement I really want to be transparent with all my numbers and share my journey on my own platform. So here it goes. Here is the breakdown of how much I’ve been able to save or pay off since moving overseas.
Before moving overseas I really tried to acquire everything I thought I had to have to live the American dream. Enter two condos. I purchased two condos, one of which I lived in and the other which was an investment. When I moved overseas I rented them both out and made it a goal to pay them off as soon as possible. I paid off one over three years ago then about two years ago I paid the second one off in full. Between both condos I paid just over $200,000 total. And I can honestly say I struggled to make any progress towards that debt while living in the US.
I ultimately sold one of my condos as soon as it was paid off. It was a complete headache and had been vandalized to the tune of $50,000 so I was ready to let it go. But I used the money from the sale to put a sizeable down payment on a larger house in Puerto Rico.
Although it pained me to make these payments and education really should be free, I also started making larger student loan payments as soon as I moved abroad. And I did so, aggressively. When I sold my house I used some of the proceeds to make a large final lump sum payment to knock out that student loan debt once and for all. In total I paid off about $70,000 in student loan debt. Luckily I was able to get one smaller loan forgiven, otherwise it would have been about $10,000 more.
Now here is where I wish I was able to make more progress. And if not for so much debt in the first place I am sure I would have made more progress. But still I have to take some pride in the fact that even with so much debt I have still been able to save $59,500 towards retirement.
Getting Back Into Debt
My husband and I are big believers in investing in real estate as part of our retirement strategy. He owns two homes and I own two homes, and we have just purchased a home in Singapore together. But this strategy involved us taking on more debt. As I have stated in previous posts, one of the major perks of being on an expat contract is that your employer takes care of your housing. So we figured why not take that perk and rather than give it to a landlord every month we can put it towards our own mortgage. We are very happy so far with this decision and have already accumulated a good sum towards our principal, but we had to be creative with the downpayment. Singapore is not like the US where you can sometimes find 100% financing. Instead we had to come up with a 23% downpayment. 23% of about $875,000 Singapore dollars to be exact. So while we are able to chip away at the principal every month with just what we would normally pay for rent, we are also having to pay off a huge debt towards the down payment which we creatively managed to come up with. We also paid a pretty penny to renovate it, which I won’t include in these numbers. Hopefully, the renovations have increased the value of our home. It has not been a year yet and we have already paid $39,748 Singapore dollars or roughly $29,350 US dollars towards the debt. And this number does not include any of the money we have gained towards the equity of our home, which already is about $15,000. It has all gone toward the down payment.
Who knows how many tens of thousands of dollars I have spent in interest? I haven’t counted, nor will I. I know it’s a lot, but I know without the debt I wouldn’t have been able to go to college or buy a home. In the future I want to be more conscious of the amount of interest I’m paying, but I know that sometimes it is a necessary evil. That being said, there is some debt I’ve sworn off forever; for example credit cards and car loans.
While I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do financially since becoming an expat, this is no where near what I wish I’d tucked away. But what I will say I’m pretty proud of and what I’ll call the “expat factor” is how much I was able to travel while also paying off this debt. In the past 9 years I’ve saved/paid off a grand total of about $358,850 USD and have done all the traveling listed below. In this time I’ve been blessed to go on safaris, a cruise, have two destination weddings, island hop, scuba dive, surf, spend summers traveling with my family and just genuinely enjoy life. I haven’t really had to cut back or go without.
Even though I want to be able to say I’m financially ready to retire, I’ve already had life experiences that people work and wait their whole lives for. I’m not sure where the future will take me travel wise, especially with a baby joining our family any day now. But I hope that in another 9 years I’m fully prepared for retirement and to actually move into one of these vacation properties to enjoy it and enjoy the fruits of our labor. It’s a big goal, but hopefully I can share the journey along the way. Thanks for reading!