Money Options For Expats
I got a question from a reader today who has e-mailed me several times before and, like many of us here once did, is struggling to make the decision to move here. While I'm always very eager to point out Argentina as a great place for people to choose to live or retire, I certainly don't want to do that if people aren't going to be comfortable financially here.
Hello. I've come across your site many times. Anyways, I am an American/Argentine girl with so much confusion, 35 years old, been back and forth and need to decide something. Sometimes I just want to do it - [move to Argentina] and let whatever happens be. What makes it so hard is that I have had ups and downs here and there. I wish I had all the money in the world - you can do whatever, clean up after after any mistakes, try something else, not have to plan.
Money Options For Expats
Your case is a little different than most expats because you're Argentine, bilingual, you have a DNI, and you don't need a visa to come here. For most people, however, when they decide to come here, one of the first things the Argentine government is going to ask them when they apply for a visa is how they're going to support themselves. Basically, the entire Argentina visa process is designed to let in people who are going to contribute to the economy and keep out people who are not.
You should ask yourself the same questions. When I applied for my visa, I was given three options, which are pretty much the same three options that will apply for you as well.
- You can support yourself with an income from abroad. I did this with my small IT consulting business. Others do it by telecommuting, working as some kind of consultant, or simply living off the income generated by their investments. For those lucky retirees out there, you can support yourself with an income from social security, annuities, or a government / private pension.
- You can start a business in Argentina. The government requires that an immigrant have $40,000 USD to invest in a business to get a visa, but since you don't need a visa, you wouldn't necessarily have to invest $40,000. You'd only need to invest enough to make enough profit to support yourself.
- The final option is to simply get a job. Unemployment has fallen dramatically since 2002 and the economy is growing at 10% annually. Companies are hiring again. For most expats, they're limited by the language factor. If you don't speak Spanish, you're pretty much limited to teaching English, working in tourism or some other job focused on foreign English-speaking clients, or else you're being relocated here by some Fortune 500, in which you're being paid in dollars and money is not an issue.
However, you're a little different than most people who are moving here. As a bilingual Argentine who's been living in America for a long time, you should have no problem at all finding a job in the local market. Unlike the rest of us who are limited by our knowledge of Spanish, you have no such limitation. You could probably do whatever you're doing in the U.S. here. Maybe it'll take you a little longer to find a job, since you don't have a lot of contacts here, but there's no reason to believe you couldn't work here successfully.
Considerations For Workers
If you're going to be working in the local market, remember that you'll be earning a salary in pesos now. There are a lot of fully bilingual Argentines that you'll be competing against for a job and even though you've lived in the United States for a long time and perhaps have acquired some extra skills that put you a step ahead of your peers here, you won't be able to command a huge salary from an employer.
There is, perhaps, one exception to this rule. If you have good contacts in the U.S. and you can bring-in business for a company here, you can probably be paid well as a sales person. Barring that, I don't think any American expat should expect to earn anywhere near what they did in the U.S. when they're here.
You should ask yourself whether you're OK with that. Remember that it will also be much harder to return to the United States someday if you take a job in the local market here. Realistically, you're probably going to be earning one-fifth or less of what you earned in the United States for doing the same work. Suppose you worked here 10 years. You'd lose out on 10 years of Social Security credits, 401(k) or pension contributions and you'd save a lot less money. It may put you in a difficult position if you intend to retire in the U.S. someday.
Sure, you'll be building-up an Argentine pension, but as much as I don't trust Washington politicians to follow-through on their Social Security promises, I sure as hell don't trust the ones here. They've already cut pensions and retirees are given a pittance. At 35, the worst-case scenario for you with Social Security is that you get your benefits cut by a third.
My recommendation for anyone thinking of coming to live here for a significant amount of time (who is not independently wealthy) is that you try to have a job that pays you in dollars. Barring that, make sure you have a nice retirement fund and enough credits to quality for Social Security. You don't want to jeopardize you're retirement to come here. I certainly wouldn't want to end up being forced to work as a Wal-Mart greeter at 85 because I don't qualify for Social Security.
Good luck and I hope you're able to figure out a way to come to Buenos Aires!