Editor’s Note: APYs listed in this article are up-to-date as of the time of publication. They may fluctuate (up or down) as the Fed rate changes. CNBC will update as changes are made public.
Buying a house is a major milestone that can be both scary and fun — getting a mortgage can be complicated, but there’s a lot of joy in owning your own place. But buying a house in another country takes this experience to a whole different level, as you navigate new financial systems and different laws and real estate customs.
Expats Amon and Christina Browning know the highs and lows of this experience first hand. The couple moved with their children to Lisbon, Portugal in July of 2019 to enjoy early retirement and life overseas — and a year later they bought a home there.
The Brownings rented an apartment for a year, while they searched for the perfect home and learned the ins and outs of establishing residency in their new country.
This summer, they found what they were looking for: A two-story, move-in-ready house on 1 acre of land with a garden and covered terrace.
Step 1: They committed to a long-term goal
To many, the Brownings’ life seems idyllic. Yet, the couple stresses that achieving their dream would not have been possible had they tried to keep up with the expectations of others.
Instead of trying to compete with “the Jonses,” the couple wrote a fictitious break-up letter to those imaginary neighbors: “The Brownings will no longer be keeping up,” reads the letter they posted on their blog. “We have more important things ahead of us — like financial independence and retiring early.”
For the past decade, the couple didn’t drive expensive cars or buy designer clothes, even as their income increased. Instead, they saved up $2 million, which they stashed in a variety of accounts, including an Ally Online Savings Account, a money market account and various brokerage accounts.
By age 40, they had saved enough to fund their expat life without having to borrow a mortgage or use credit cards (except for their rewards). This was their definition of financial freedom.
For eight years, the couple embraced what others might consider sacrifices to reduce their cost of living. Looking back, the Brownings don’t see their choices as a hardship, but rather decisions that align their goals.
Step 2: They increased their earnings with side hustles
Though the Brownings had stable government jobs with healthy salaries and good benefits, they found additional ways to increase their monthly income.
They lived in the Bay Area, where the rental market was profitable, and since they love to renovate houses, the couple got into house flipping and rented out rooms on Airbnb.
They also started a blog and a YouTube channel to document their process, then sold courses on how to invest so others could learn from them.