American Expat FI

Working towards financial independence abroad

About Me

On the Dutch Isle of Texel

My name is Sara and I’m a 30-something American living in the Netherlands. I’m a strong supporter of financial literacy and am aiming to retire early, through building wealth abroad.

Building My Life Abroad

I’ve been living outside of the United States for the past 9 years, initially moving to London in the UK for a Masters Program. I studied and worked there for 2 years and then sadly had to move as a working visa proved to be too difficult to obtain. After 3 months back home in Pennsylvania, where I found a short Project Management Contracting gig to earn some money, my travels led me to Ireland next. I moved to Dublin without any job lined up on the Working Holiday visa (most nationalities under 31 are eligible for this visa). Within 3 weeks, I found a great Project Management job right in the heart of the city and had already begun renting a room in a house near Croke Park with some locals.

Around this time was when I reconnected with a guy I had met 6 years previously in British Columbia. He was a tall Dutch man, who lived in the Netherlands, and it wasn’t long before we were travelling back and forth nearly every weekend to see each other. We traveled throughout Ireland and Europe as well, seeing Budapest, Belfast, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, and quite a few other cities. He even came home with me to the US for Christmas to meet my family. It became obvious to us both that we wanted to be together for a long time and needed to figure out how to make that happen.

By April 2017, we decided together that I would move to the Netherlands to be with him. By June of that year, we made it a reality. I left my contract job in Ireland and quickly found a new one in the Netherlands, at a company I was really excited to work for. It was yet another IT Project Management role, but the company was located in Amsterdam and I had just moved to the North Brabant region (1 hour train + 30 min tram journey from Amsterdam). Needing to be in the office 3x per week, I knew this was going to be challenging, but the company helped sponsor my visa and made that process so easy that I couldn’t say no.

After 6 months of travelling nearly 4 hours 3x per week, I was at a breaking point. Trains would be delayed, strikes would happen, and I’d have days where I spent over 6 hours travelling. I nearly quit, but instead asked my manager if I could travel into the office only when needed – maximum 2 days per week. He agreed and things improved, slightly. I got into the habit of staying either in a cheap hotel or staying with a coworker overnight to get those 2 days in per week, without quite as much travelling. It worked, and although I’ve never loved any corporate job I’ve ever held, the situation was fine and I was happy to make good money (for European standards).

Losing my Father & Discovering FI/RE

In late 2019, tragedy struck my family back in the US when my Dad was in an accident and slipped into a coma. I didn’t even hesitate to pay for an incredibly expensive same-day plane ticket home so I could be there with him and my family. Sadly, he passed away 1 week later and our lives were forever changed. We lost the heart of our family; the jokester, the mechanic, the do-it-yourself master, and the glue that held us together. It was a difficult time for us but I was lucky to receive 70% of my pay through short-term family care leave back in the Netherlands, while I grieved with my Mom and helped her get things in order. My dad had just retired 18 months prior to his passing, and this reality struck me hard. I realized that a long life is not promised, and I did not want to dislike a job (as my Dad undoubtedly did) for 35+ years just to *maybe* get to enjoy a few years of freedom afterwards. This is when I relentlessly and obsessively started researching and pursuing ”F.I.R.E.”

What is F.I.R.E? It stands for Financial Independence Retire Early. You can read more about it here, but a brief explanation is as follows: To achieve FIRE, one must have enough money saved/invested to sustain them for the rest of their lives, as long as they withdraw and use only 3-4% of their financial assets. There are multiple types of FIRE, some of which rely on passive/semi-active income from Real Estate, dividends, part time work, etc. Take a look at the link for more on this.

I decided FIRE was exactly the goal I needed in my life. It was something aggressive that I could go ”all in” on and would serve as both a good distraction from my grief, and a way to honor my father. I know he would be happy that I’m so financially literate and have a plan for my future.

I initially thought regular FIRE would be my ultimate goal, so I could stop working altogether and simply do what I want with my time, but my thoughts on this have evolved. Firstly, its difficult to save massive amounts of money each year on the significantly lower salaries offered in Europe – compared to the United States. My FIRE goal of $875,000 (USD) is more than decade away, and I want control of my time sooner. We do get generous amounts of annual leave here in the Netherlands, and at my company (6 weeks per year), but its still not enough. The fabricated corporate urgency and constant office politics make me want something better, far sooner than 10+ years down the road. As such, I’ve been exploring the options to move to a part-time role and have started to explore side income outside my 9-5 (this blog being one).

Follow along on my journey as I share expat stories, financial tips, and resources for you to build wealth abroad right alongside me!