No, You Can’t Quit Your Job and Move to Portugal and Never Work Another Day in Your Life

Unless you already have a lot of money.

Photo credit: Fran Villena, CC BY 2.0.

I don’t know where exactly we are in the “repeal the ACA” process—the House votes today, right?—and I don’t know what breaking news might appear in the twenty minutes between writing this and posting it, but I do know that a lot of us have probably thought “well, should we move abroad?” at at least one point in the past two months.

Which is why this Forbes article is making the rounds:

It’s the American dream! To… not live in America! And also to be able to afford it!

Except… the article uses the phrase “eight places where expats can get by on next to nothing,” and I’m not sure they know what “next to nothing” really means. Here’s Forbes’ cost breakdown for coastal town Carvoerio, in Portugal:

Total monthly budget: $1,150 per person (€1,069)
Rent: €650
Transportation: €37.50
Gas: 0
Electricity: €90
Water: 0
Telephone/Internet/Cable TV: €70
Entertainment: €96.50
Groceries: €125

$1,150 is not nothing. It’s not even next to nothing. If I moved to Portugal and stopped working, I could last for seven months on my savings—assuming I was able to do the entire move for free.

Also, those are only your basic overhead costs, plus $102/month on entertainment, whatever that means. If you’re planning on traveling, accessing healthcare, or running a small online freelance business so you don’t have to leave Portugal after seven months, you’re going to need more money.

As a point of reference, my monthly overhead costs for living in a one-bedroom in Seattle are roughly $2,000—and I’ve factored in items like health insurance and public transportation. I could refigure the numbers a little bit, pull out all of the stuff that Forbes doesn’t include on its list of monthly expenses, and get my overhead down to $1,500/month. (Still more expensive than Carvoerio, but not by much.)

Not all of the locations on the list are as expensive as Carvoerio. You can get by in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo for only $850 in monthly overhead, but you’d still need a lot of cash on hand if you’re dreaming of early retirement overseas.

You’d also need a permanent resident visa—although I know people don’t always do that—and I’ll go ahead and quote the first result I get when I google “Malaysia permanent resident:”

The first eligible category, which is through an application based on being a high net worth individual, is probably the easiest due to the least amount of requirements needed by the State Immigration Office. According to the Malaysian Immigration, those applying as a high net worth individual need only to open a fixed deposit account with a minimum amount of USD 2 million at any Bank in Malaysia, although it can only be withdrawn after a period of five years.

Good luck with that, American dreamers.