I’ve been serving abroad for a lot of years now. I’ve lived in multiple countries, served with multiple organizations, and I’ve made multiple financial mistakes.
While it is unpopular for teachers, nonprofit workers, missionaries, etc. to talk about money, I thought that someone might as well try to make an intelligent guess at the right money moves for those of us living and serving far from our American homes on a shoe-string budget where financial mistakes can hurt us, our families, our organizations and our beloved donors.
I’m not a CPA, RIA or anything of the sort, though my mind is sometimes MIA. I’m not giving advice, I haven’t considered your personal situation and I’m no one’s money model. I don’t claim any financial expertise other than that of having made more mistakes than most. Like what?
I wish you hadn’t asked, but I personally have over-funded an IRA, was cheated out of an investment in a fly-by-night company, have invested in high cost mutual funds, inadvertently failed to pay required taxes abroad, made an ill-timed IRA conversion that cost me thousands in tax, and accidentally paid double-tax on part of my own income to a foreign country because I didn’t understand the difference between a Box 12dd and a Box 12e on a US W-2. Need I go on?
I make no promises, but I’d like to help you avoid a pothole or two. As I get older and wiser, earn reasonably, save harder, and invest better, I am starting to feel the lightness of heart that comes with winning financial freedom.
I’m feeling what it means to be able to give generously, to provide decently for my family, to not be a burden on my organization or donors in retirement, and to possibly one day even self-fund my own ministry!
We, the US expat missionaries and humanitarian workers, don’t make the wages of the executive expat, aren’t offered the expensive advice of well-heeled international law firms and sometimes don’t even have another colleague who can help us fill out an expense report let alone a foreign tax form.
So, send me your advice, suggest your favorite websites, tell me your favorite tricks for saving money or recycling used items and learn from my mistakes and a few of my successes.
I’ve seen too many friends and colleagues leave their service behind because they came to the field with a ton of debt, didn’t pay their taxes, didn’t know how to save money for and on college or simply decided to live so inexpensively on the field that in time they could no longer afford to stay. This is a passion project for me. I’ll be working on it on top of my own ministry abroad because I want to serve you so that you can serve others.
For security and privacy reasons, which all US expat missionaries and nonprofit workers understand, I can’t use my real name on this blogsite, but I am really here, trying to help, and willing to hear your thoughts and advice. I promise to read every email I receive, but can only answer as my fulltime ministry allows me time.
Whether you’re a humanitarian aid worker serving for the sake of loving others or you’re a missionary like me serving for the sake of Jesus Christ, I pray…I really do pray…that this little blogsite will help you or a friend stay on the field to show your love for God and your love for others.
Your friend, colleague, and commiserator in the world of finance.
A Long-Term Vagabond
[Using a pen name for reasons of privacy and security.]