Of Rogue Waves and Financial Well-Being…

A rogue wave chased me up the beach. I wasn’t paying attention… reading on my phone as usual… as my barefooted wife splashed along the sand, shoes in hand…

Portugal is known for its waves.

Up and down the coast, they roll in with size—even on a calm day.

On a stormy day, they can be downright dangerous—if not deadly.

This was a calm day. But still, the waves were a good eight feet high, some a bit bigger. And as I noted, I wasn’t paying attention, engrossed in some story on my phone.

All I heard was my wife Yulia calling to me, “Watch out!”

I looked up to see the remnants of a crashed wave running up the beach toward me—at speed.

I back-peddled with speed, successfully avoiding the water, but nearly pancaking a dachshund behind me.

I apologized to the dog’s owner, a petite sandy blonde who looked to be in her 80s. And in a perfect British lilt she told me, “No worries, hon. It’s Portugal.”

Honestly, no idea what she meant. But I was struck by her accent.

Yulia and I had spent much of the day running errands around Cascais, the beach town we live in just west of Lisbon. In our runnings, we’d heard American, British, Aussie, and Irish English more than we’d heard Portuguese. Russian, too. And Ukrainian, according to Yulia, who’s fluent in both.

Now that’s not uncommon, for sure. Lots of foreigners call Cascais home. It’s a lovely little community on the water, almost resort-like. And it lures oodles of tourists who want a beach holiday that’s convenient to the big city amenities of Lisbon, just 30 minutes away.

But on this particular day, all those voices resonated with me in a different way, particularly the American voices. By my unscientif estimation, I’d say Yank outnumbered the other accents by 2 to 1, or thereabouts.

Yulia comments on this all the time…

We hear an American accent nearly every day… whether we’re walking around the center of the city, or at the Cascais mall, or in a restaurant. My countrymates are everywhere.

“Why are so many Americans in Portugal?” Yulia often asks.

I used to give her a standard answer: It’s Portugal—a relatively short flight from the U.S. Lots of beaches. In many ways it’s reminiscent of California, so it feels like home. And it’s cheap, relative to so many other places in Europe.

But I’ve been thinking about my answer in light of several stories I’ve read recently, and in light of several Twitter threads and TikTok videos I’ve seen in recent weeks.

All center on the same theme: The inability to afford life in America nowadays.

Data shows that one-third of Americans now report feeling financially insecure, the highest level in more than a decade (basically going back to the Great Recession).

Rising living costs are driving people out of their apartments and making homeownership impossible…

And though inflation has slowed, prices are way up in the last couple of years. And they’re still rising (even if at a slower pace) off that now-much-higher, which is annihilating wallets.

Over on TikTok, I’ve seen numerous videos from millennials and Gen Zs now in the workforce, and they’re killing themselves trying to stay afloat financially. They’re working multiple jobs, living low-end lives, and they’re still struggling to cover rent and insurance and food prices that have all soared.

Frankly, I don’t see much difference between millennials and Zs and what so many Xers are dealing with too. Many Xers are not only caring for aged parents, they’re carrying their kids—those Millennials and Zs who are struggling to afford their own, often-diminished lives.

Which, I guess, leads us ultimately to where I wanted to go in the first place with this dispatch—a headline from a website called Thrillist:

More Americans Are Trying to Get a Second Passport Right Now.

Given the financial state of affairs for so many Americans, I understand the rationale: Get out while you can. Make a better life for yourself elsewhere.

Why work yourself to death simply to reach the end of the month with nothing to show for your life other than stress, anxiety, weariness, and a bank account that has not improved.

Can’t afford a house. Apartment rents are up 30% since the pandemic. Yet median income (real earnings growth) in America is up just 1.7%.

That math clearly ain’t mathing. 

Truly—what’s the point in living that life?

Work for the sake of doing it all again tomorrow? All without making any progress toward a better life?

Granted, chasing a second passport is not usually a move made by those struggling to make ends meets. Passports are expensive.

Residency visas, however, are not. Some can be had for a couple hundred bucks.

Which I suspect is part of the reason that American demand for residence visas in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Mexico, and elsewhere is on the rise.

Americans want a better life than they can afford to live even in secondary and tertiary American cities these days.

Moving out of America was the best move I’ve ever made.

My life is richer. My life is more vibrant. My life is relaxed. My life is far more balanced and enjoyable. My tax rates are lower. (I pay an all-in, global tax rate of less than 10% because of how I’ve structured my income.)

And my bank and investment accounts are meaningfully fatter than when I departed America in 2018.

As such, my sense of financial security is stronger than ever.

However… I do have to dodge the odd, rogue wave every now and again.

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