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Kelly Cheek
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Free Man in Paris

Throughout this whole process, our dreams and research about moving to Europe have continued. But it’s a constantly moving target. One day, we’re focused on Lagos or Faro in southern Portugal’s Algarve region, the next, it’s Pau in the south of France. Various towns in northern Italy have captured our attention, and even little Estonia is on our radar.

Various things contributed to the ambulatory character of our goal. Most often, it had to do with taxes.

One of the main things we’ve been considering is buying real estate. My writing and Linda’s music lessons may not always be steady, so we thought it would be wise to have rental income to help fund our venture. But Italy, for instance, charges a “wealth tax.” If you own more than one property, not just in Italy, but anywhere in the world, you’re subject to a sizable taxation of your income.

Linda has looked into other investment options, like teak wood farming in Panama, truffle farming in Spain, and hydroponic tomato farming in Thailand. All of the opportunities had attractive qualities, but they all had downsides, as well. We don’t have a ton of money to work with, so we can’t afford to risk it. Therefore, as of this writing, we’re still looking.

There are some countries where, if you play your cards right, you can live virtually tax-free. We’re not looking to do that. We believe in paying for goods and services we receive, and supporting the country we live in. But we don’t want to overpay, either. Unfortunately, those countries are, generally, not ones that attract us as much.

Panama happens to be one of those countries. It has a stable government, a burgeoning economy, and we wouldn’t even have to worry about the currency exchange rate. They use the American dollar.

But Panama is near the equator, and has a tropical climate. It’s usually hot and humid, and neither Linda nor I can tolerate those conditions well. Maybe when we get older and our blood becomes a bit more sluggish, but for now, we need a more temperate climate.

So we’re examining those countries that do attract us, looking at the pros and cons, trying to determine which one’s list is more pro-heavy. And, again, the cons usually have to do with taxes.

Turns out that, among developed nations, America has the lowest tax rate in the world. Who woulda thunk? However, it ranks fairly low where healthcare is concerned, both in general quality of care and cost. This is something that’s on our minds as we get older. As the only developed nation in the world without some form of universal healthcare, we’re looking at a potential outflow of many thousands of dollars as our bodies start to break down.

Several sources have said that finances shouldn’t be the deciding factor in determining our destination. Choose a place that pulls you, then work out how to make it happen. Well, that’s what we’ve been trying to do. But when you don’t have a lot of money, it’s difficult to keep that from being a main consideration.

I guess I better start making some serious money from my novels!