Top tips for a mid-life overseas move

Teaching abroad isn’t just for the twenty-somethings. Here one teacher explains why anyone can teach internationally and gives advice on how to manage your affairs when you do.

Christopher Barnes

Family relocating

When I went overseas for the first time, I didn’t appreciate how easy it was for me to take up my new job. I was 26, single, living at home and in many ways, all I had to do was pack a suitcase, get on the plane and go….then come back each summer without the worry of rent, food etc. It was a carefree life.

Now, there are more logistics to consider. Seventeen years since that first sortie overseas - nine years in Russia and eight years back here in the UK, we as a family are about to head off to Malaysia. ‘We’ being me, my wife - who’s not a teacher - and our four-year-old daughter. Our second child is due in a few months’ time.

Despite the lack of ties to the UK first time round, my decision certainly raised some eyebrows. “You’re doing what!?” “You’re going where!?” “Why don’t you stay here and get a [proper] job?” I imagine that some of you reading this had similar reactions when you announced your international move.

While we haven’t been met with the same level of incredulity this time around – friends and family know that wanderlust is a given with us – when you are in your early forties with a partner, house and children, moving overseas comes with a few extra complications.  

While international relocation requires some work, it isn’t as difficult as it first seems. Here are a few things to consider if you have a family and you like the idea of spending a few years overseas.

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Get your house in order

Our home is under full property management with a local letting agent, who will be looking after everything for us. It’s useful to decide whether you’d want to let it out unfurnished, part or fully-furnished (if unfurnished, consider what you would do with your furniture!) The agent will advise you what potential tenants would prefer in your area, based on the clientele for whom they cater.

There will be compliance certificates to obtain: gas safety, PAT testing for electrical items, legionella etc, and then pass on to the letting agent. They will have contractors that they may ask you to use or you could source your own.

You’ll also need to obtain ‘Consent to Let’ from your mortgage provider and change your insurance from ‘Household’ to ‘Landlord’. For tax purposes, you will need to register with HMRC as a non-resident landlord and declare your income. If the house is in joint names, and depending on the monthly rent, a substantial amount of it would be covered under each person’s personal allowance (£10,000 per annum at the time of writing).

Council tax, utilities, TV license, etc are all taken care of by your tenant, and the letting agent will request details such as account numbers so that payments can be transferred across.

Decide what you really need

It’s a time to be ruthless and ask yourself: Will I really want or need this where I’m going? If not, where will it be kept? We used four destinations: family and friends, for the valuables that we did want to keep and wouldn’t take up much space; charity shops, for items in good condition that could be donated and resold; eBay, for anything that was worth reselling; and the tip - sometimes there is no other option!

There’s an amazing feeling of ‘light’ afterwards as well. The chances are that you will accumulate items overseas so going with less than you need is a good thing.

Scan as much documentation as you can and keep it in cloud form - Dropbox, Google Drive or similar. If it doesn’t legally have to be in paper form, keep it as a PDF.

Limit your financial liabilities

Similar to the above, this is a good time to have a ‘deep clean’ of your finances. Your mortgage and insurance will be covered by the rent for your home, so what else do you need coming out? Make sure that you cancel your TV licence, car insurance and vehicle tax - you should have some refunds for all of these.

It’s worth registering for Class 3 Voluntary NI Contributions so that you are covered for any healthcare needs whenever you are in the UK. It also goes towards your state pension.

Put your mobile phone on a low-cost, long-term deal. As many things here will be tied to your number, making sure that you keep it (as you’ll want it when you return) is important. The SIM card won’t work if you are outside the UK for more than 6 months but the number can be transferred to a new card upon your return.

Christopher Barnes has taught for twenty years in international and UK independent schools. He is the incoming Head of Year 6 at Crescendo-HELP International School, Johor Bahru, Malaysia. He tweets at @MrBarnesTweets

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