There is an old poem by Brian A. Chalker which poses the observation about relationships: "People come into your life for a reason, for a season, or for a lifetime."
Although the poem is specifically about friendships, you might find it helpful to think about your expatriate life through this paradigm as well. As a with relationships, you can see three distinct time frames that we move through, each with its own unique circumstances. And as a financial advisor, I find there are specific banking and investment considerations that go along with them:
Individuals with a short-term assignment abroad can place specific boundaries on their foreign exposure. Ideally, you should be able to identify your budget, in as much detail as possible. This would include not just housing but also food, entertainment, and travel. The temporary resident may want to consider opening a local bank account, but there exist options for saving and spending that do not require this. Ultimately, you want to consider options that help you to spend your money, but not invest. And you want to ensure that it will be easy to eventually close this off and move on.
A "seasonal" stay lasts longer but will eventually end. An example of this would be an open-ended work assignment or a trial move. Some "seasonal" experiences begin with the expectation, or hope, of a lifetime, but it is important to identify the potential that this move be made temporary.
Para sempre… Forever is a long time. A long-term move – one that lasts a lifetime – can bring you joy, aid your growth, and teach you more about yourself and the world around you. If you can sustain the commitment, there also are important financial benefits that become available to the savvy "lifer".
As you let go of your "over there" relationship, with your mother country, you may ultimately decide to move the rest of your assets with you as well. But should you?
In this instance, you may have a unique opportunities. If your home country, such as the United States, has an extremely mature and diverse investment culture, then you may find it beneficial to leave a significant portion of your investment with home.
There are many benefits of maintaining a truly global portfolio. With a foot in two worlds, you now have a degree of freedom which can be uniquely empowering, and which few others can lay claim to. Positive, healthy economic cycles can sometimes exist in one country while the other languishes in less positive cycles. While this would ordinarily be an unavoidable "concentrated risk", your new "lifetime" home can give you important, and new options to consider.
It’s said that everything that enters your life does so for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.
Regardless the length of your assignment, being intentional about the commitment, namely your length of stay is a crucial element of a well-planned expatriate life. Shorter assignments will bring less permanent infrastructure and banking needs. Longer term life changes will require you be thoughtful about the inherently less predictable aspects that life brings, and you will have to be thoughtful about the way new long term opportunities play out.
Ultimately, no matter how long it lasts, a change can always bring you something positive — even if it’s just a lesson in how to deal with new challenges and unfamiliar environments.