Extra cash for the US expat

You’ve created a free account at Personal Capital to track your net worth for free. Great! But you notice that your net worth is stagnant or dipping downward. What do you do?

The first step we’ve recommended is seeing if you can increase your paycheck. You should never be ashamed to earn a reasonable but modest income. However, let’s say you’ve asked your organization for a bit more cash, but your salary seems doomed to remain what it is for awhile.

Personal Capital
My ultimate favorite tool. If outside the U.S., you might need to use a VPN the first time. If you have problems or want a $20 discount, contact Mark! (Note: We receive a small, one-time payment if you sign-up.)

There aren’t a whole lot of other options on the earnings side for nonprofit workers and missionaries, but you might see if any of these fit.

Get a Part-time Job

This is always radio finance personality, Dave Ramsey’s answer: “Get a job delivering pizzas!” That makes a lot of sense in the US. If it is an option for you and will keep your hand to the plow overseas, go for it!

Spouse Gets a Job

I’ve known spouses to get part- or full-time jobs in the local community where it was allowable. Nursing and teaching, especially teaching English as a foreign language, are often very transferable careers.

Of course, with “job” options there is the negative impact that it takes away from time in service to the community. On the other hand, there are few better ways to immerse yourself in the language and culture than to work in it! I’ve seen great cultural and relational growth in colleagues who spend some time working (or even volunteering) at a local coffee shop or public high school. Even if it doesn’t solve the financial problem, it still offers the tangible cultural reward.

At-a-distance Employment

If working locally isn’t going to work for your family, perhaps you can add a little income by finding some employer online in the USA. Or, perhaps you could create some sort of “side hustle,” as they like to call them. There is a myriad of websites that are dedicated to these types of entrepreneurial endeavors. Usually, this is a type of weekend or after hours work that has something to do with one of your personal interests. You can teach English by video chat, do online surveys that pay, proofread, write an ebook, and so on. Of course, one of the most popular suggestions is…you guessed it…creating a blog! That’s exactly what I’ve done here! I’ve created a blogsite in my area of personal interest: Helping missionaries and nonprofit workers stay on the field through the wise use of their finances. The only difference is I’m not planning to make any money with this! That’s fine by me. I’ve added a few affiliate links on my Resources Page to services I like. The links won’t cost you any money, probably won’t make me any, but the little bonuses they pay me hopefully will be enough to pay for the minor costs of the website. If something looks interesting to you, click a link and sign up. I’d appreciate it. But, frankly, Vagabond Finances is my gift to you. The costs are minimal, and I’m truly honored if I can help you in some way.

Investment Earnings

Investment Growth

Though investing has now come into the mainstream of American society, a lot of nonprofit workers look at me rather curiously if I mention it. Dividends and capital gains start out very small at first, but those who invest regularly and sacrificially usually see those numbers grow significantly over 10, 20 or 30 years of contributions. This sort of income creates a few tax complications, but it should always be a pleasure to have to pay taxes on investments. Why? Because it means you got some passive money put into your pocket! Please read carefully the articles and posts about investing. You may be surprised that you are already investing and didn’t even realize it.

Rental Income

This is a common one among overseas workers, many of whom owned a house before leaving “home.” Renting out that home can augment your income, pay for property taxes, pay down the mortgage, etc. It is a great option for a lot of people. It is not without its problems, however. The obvious problems of bad renters, no renters, property damage, etc. are common to any rental owner. Some of the problems that may be particular only to expats, however, can be significant. In some countries, there are tax issues. Several countries tax you on your rental income even on properties abroad and/or tax you on the value of your US home. At the same time, they may or may not allow you to deduct payments toward your mortgage.

When sending a child off to college, renting a home in the US can make you appear more wealthy than you really are. Afterall, you own a home in which you are not living. It is technically, therefore, a second home and at least some years that looks like a luxury for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid There are sometimes ways to rectify this with the help of College Assistance Plus and of the individual colleges themselves.

Finally, some humanitarian aid workers, missionaries and the like use the fact that they own a home in the USA to make the case that their tax residency is in the US rather than in the foreign country in which they live. Most experts seem to think that this was always a tenuous argument at best. Worse, there have been some recent reports that indicate that US homes that are rented to others are not “available” to the owner and therefore not a basis for US residency.

This is all very complicated. Homeowners and prospective homeowners need to look into the details on owning and renting.

Royalties, Sale of Collectibles, etc.

These are, of course, more unusual forms of earnings. You can find more options and ideas, but most are pretty obscure.

Earnings are in many ways the basis of personal finances. Yet, many of us aren’t earning enough and struggle to find additional earnings on our path toward Winning Financial Freedom and the chance for Reckless Generosity.

I’ve always said, US expat missionaries need to do more with less to reach Financial Freedom.

Mark Mason

Missions is my calling. Finances is my hobby. Helping you is my pleasure. "Mark" is my ultra-ego.