One of the many reasons we left Taiwan, specifically and life abroad generally, was the desire to have a sense of permanence that we didn’t feel we had where we were living.
We wanted a home. A physical and emotional place that we knew would be there whenever we returned from where we had been. Taiwan provided that, but there was always this undercurrent of uncertainty and the feeling that despite our best efforts, we might forever be considered “honoured guests.” We had an extensive social network there, were involved in the community, and knew the place better than perhaps this Island we again call home.
I knew the costs of leaving. I had access to my mother’s finances and knew the cost of living here was much higher. Amongst many things, we would likely have to forgo the luxury of cheap fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat and fish. My mother was always amazed that we could comfortably afford to eat salmon and steak regularly at breakfast and dinner.
Other places in the world had a lower cost of living and much better health care, but none could compete with the desire to return home after over 20 years abroad.
We created spreadsheet after spreadsheet to help plan for the move. Was it possible to live the lifestyle we were accustomed to? Not entirely, but it seemed close enough. Most of our decision-making has little to do with numbers and more to do with emotion. In work and life, I have always preferred qualitative measurements vs. Quant.
None of our thinking or calculations could have foretold a pandemic and the rocketing cost of housing.
When we finally realized there was a housing supply problem, we considered buying a house sight unseen. But we have become risk-averse, and most places we saw were houses, not necessarily homes. We never really understood the Canadian obsession with real estate as an investment. So we decided to wait.
Since then, houses we might have bought before have doubled in price. Some tripled. And with nothing in the way of upgrades that might justify such a lofty valuation. We have terrible timing.
We are now in a position where we are ready again to buy a home. Where we live now has served us well financially, but I get the feeling that no matter where you rent on the Island, you will always face with some regularity neighbours who seem hell-bent on making other neighbours’ lives difficult. That’s been our experience.
But I am faced with a question. Is it worth it? If we are fortunate to live so long, over the next 20 years, we could spend over $500,000 to live in a small house on the Island. That’s a heady increase over what it was just 3-4 years ago. And with the high cost of living and lack of health care, it gives me pause.
I don’t have a definitive answer to that question. The quant side of my brain says no. The qualitative side is unsure.