In today’s gig economy, work is no longer confined to the cubicle. As long as you have a laptop and reliable internet connection, you can work from anywhere at any time.
It’s no surprise that more and more people are becoming digital nomads. In fact, 50 percent of the workforce will work remotely by 2020. But before you make the leap into the nomadic life, there are a number of things to consider. Where will you live? Can you earn enough to keep your budget balanced? How will you get expat health insurance?
With careful planning and determination, you can ditch the 9-to-5 and make the world your roaming office. Here are three of the most important considerations to keep in mind.
Figuring Out Whether You Can Afford It
You may be ready for the digital nomad lifestyle, but are your finances? Though you’re likely to be giving up fixed expenses like housing costs, utilities, gas and car payments, living abroad means trading those expenses for other ones, for instance the cost of hotels, hostels or short-term rentals, potentially higher food costs and, of course, travel.
You’ll also give up a steady paycheck. So you’ll have to decide if you’ll be able replace that income up to the level you need and what you’ll do about the benefits you would get from a traditional employer, from a 401(k) to health insurance.
If you have savings, this money may be able to support your nomadic lifestyle until you find regular work. But many digital nomads also try to line up remote work before they set off, whether that’s offering freelance graphic design or writing services, consulting, virtual tutoring or teaching English.
Determining Which Countries Are Freelancer-Friendly
Because cost of living is such an important factor for digital nomads to consider, determining which countries fit your budget should be a crucial part of your planning.
Your savings and freelance income, for example, may go a lot further in Thailand than they will in Norway or France.
In many countries, you’ll also need a work visa — and some places are more freelancer-friendly in this regard than others. Cambodia, for example, has a flexible visa system that allows expats to extend their business visas for a small fee. And Germany offers visas specifically for those who want to pursue self-employment or freelance work in the country.
So before packing your bags, spend some time looking not only into which countries have lower costs of living but also which have fewer restrictions on obtaining a work visa and staying in country. This can help you narrow down your choices.
Getting Quality Health Care Coverage
Health insurance is one of the most important considerations for digital nomads.
If you plan to live the nomadic life for less than a year, it may be a good idea to maintain your American health insurance as your primary plan. This can offset medical costs if you get seriously injured or need medical care while abroad and have to return to the U.S. Be sure to call your insurance company before you leave to better understand what international health benefits are included in your plan. Ask about gaps in coverage and whether adding a supplemental policy can help keep you protected.
If you plan to work abroad and travel for a longer period or indefinitely, you’ll need expat or international health insurance. These plans may cover a range of health services, like preventive and routine care, hospitalization, medical evacuation, doctor’s visits and emergency care.
Getting expat health insurance can significantly reduce your out-of-pocket costs if you need medical care. Premiums and deductibles for these health plans will vary depending on what level of coverage you need.
Do your research and call your current insurer to find out if they offer an international health plan. You also can work with a qualified insurance agent to shop around and compare rates. Once you find a policy that offers the right benefits for a monthly premium, deductible and copays you can afford, make sure you have a policy in place before you hit the road.
Living abroad and traveling as a digital nomad could be the experience of a lifetime. Take the time to prepare so that financial worries won’t keep you from getting the most out of it.