Geo-arbitrage: 5 steps to 6 figures
You may be wondering, “what’s geo-arbitrage”? Geo-arbitrage is a simple concept discussed by Tim Ferris, author of the 4 Hour Work Week. Basically, you leverage differences between geographical markets to generate a return. That could be anything like moving to another county to increase your pay, or moving to another country to decrease your cost of living.
A simple example could be taking a 6 month vacation in Mexico, where the cost of living is significantly cheaper. But, in my case, I used my income to increase my freedom fund and made big strides to early retirement.
In 2010, about 9 months after I started my first engineering job in Boston, I was finally able to take my first international assignment. I was thrilled to travel overseas and experience a new culture. There was a select group of people in our office that were able to travel, and an even smaller group that actually did. I knew that travelling overseas could be a financial gain, but it wasn’t until I was overseas that I realized my income hit 6 figures. Positioning myself to go overseas took hard work and a strong desire to learn. If you’re looking to do some geo-arbitraging, I’ll show you how I positioned myself for 6 figures and my path of success.
Step 1: Seek out opportunities
There are so many opportunities these days to gain financially, endless opportunities! If you never seek them out, though, you’ll never find them. As a young engineer in Boston, I was anxious to learn as much as I could. I would continually volunteer to go to meetings, luncheons, and stay late at work. During one of the meetings, I offered to help another engineer prepare some reports. In our casual conversation he mentioned that he was going overseas for a couple weeks and asked if I had ever been. I said no and we continued on. A few days later I asked who I would need to talk to in order to go overseas. He mentioned the specific group that went overseas and the kind of background I needed to have to be a valuable contributor.
Step 2: Challenge yourself and continually learn
I eventually talked to the manager and asked how I could join his team. He gave me a laundry list of tasks I would have to perform before I could even make the switch to his group and then asked if I was still interested. I was ambitious so promptly answered “yes, I’ll do it”. There weren’t any engineers my age overseas, mainly because of the training / expertise it required. There were plenty of meetings, training, and late nights that I spent at work making sure I felt confident in my ability as an engineer.
Step 3: Engage others
It wasn’t all about how much I understood or how strong my technical background was. There was an element of team work that I needed to grasp before I could make the transition overseas. As other engineers would come back from being overseas, I would engage them to understand the ins and outs of working and living overseas. I offered my time and expertise to help them and knew that to be a successful, travelling engineer, I had to demonstrate my effectiveness of working in a team.
Step 4: Be prepared
Shortly after, I was selected to take an international assignment. I had demonstrated that I was a hard worker, team player and had the desire to learn. I was prepared to take advantage of the opportunity when it arose. The opportunity literally came up in a split second. During our Friday meeting, one of the managers turned to me and asked if I could be on an international flight on Monday, to which I quickly responded, I’ll be there.
I had already planned on going overseas so I had mentally prepared myself to experience a new culture, new food and a new way of life. Whenever opportunity presents itself to you, make sure you’re prepared, or it could pass on to someone else.
Step 5: Live simply
After I worked overseas for a while, I did not change my consumption habits. Even though I was making 6 figures, I kept my expenses low. I didn’t get the nicest car or apartment with the best view. And although it would have been easy to, I didn’t go eat out every day. I kept my expenses low and invested into my freedom fund.
This is a hard step for some people; money doesn’t change people, it just makes us more of what we already are. If you’re a high consumer, whether you make $30,000 or $100,000, you’ll spend however much you get. Decide to live a simple life. Find joy in experiences rather than material possessions. Live below your means. Invest the difference.
I had some amazing opportunities throughout my international travels. Whether it was watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham palace, walking through the Vatican or eating lunch on the Acropolis steps, I am extremely grateful for them all. There will be times in your life that opportunities will present themselves, understand when they come and you could set yourself up for endless possibilities.
That’s my experience for 5 steps to 6 figures. Your experience could be moving to a new county to take advantage of a better paying teaching position. It could be speaking up in a meeting to take on more responsibilities that later leads to a promotion. Whatever that opportunity is, believe in yourself.
What does “geo-arbitrage” look like for you? Are you challenging yourself at work? Are you strategically positioning yourself for opportunities?