I quit my corporate job and moved to Lisbon, Portugal. I’m happier now I’ve abandoned the American Dream.


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This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Delyanne Barros, a 40-year-old investment coach. The costs and Barros’s visa have been verified by Insider. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I’m a financial coach and run my seven-figure business full-time from Portugal, where I moved in May.

I graduated from law school in 2008 with six-figure student loans, which ballooned to $150,000 by 2019. I worked as an attorney in corporate America and was resigned to paying the minimum – $1,000 a month – for as long as possible.

In 2019, I’d been working in law for over a decade but I was burned out and exhausted.

I was keeping all my money in a savings account to buy a home in New York City. But changed my approach in 2020 when I learned about long-term investing with index funds.

I realized if I was debt-free, I could use the money that previously went to loan repayments to invest aggressively and grow my wealth instead.

Taking the $100,000 I had saved by 37, I put $30,000 into the stock market, kept $20,000 in a savings account, and used the rest toward my student loans.

Then, I started sending $3,000 to $4,000 a month to my loans and began simultaneously investing in index funds and individual stocks. I quickly realized the latter was too risky for me.

I’m Brazilian and I speak Portuguese. I’d dreamt of moving to Portugal since visiting in 2018 but thought it wouldn’t be possible until I was 60 and retired. However, after starting my journey towards financial independence, I planned to retire by 45 and move sooner.

Sharing my financial journey online became a business

Shortly after I started sharing my journey online about paying off the loans and discovering investing, the pandemic happened.

I thought the government’s freeze on loan repayments during the pandemic would only last a few months, so I took advantage of the zero interest rates and paid back as much as possible. If I’d known the freeze would last three years, I would’ve prioritized investing.

The pandemic meant people had time to think about finances and became really interested in my content.

Since 2020, my Instagram following has grown from 17,000 to 197,000 and from zero to 334,000 on TikTok. I have 6,700 students enrolled in my “Slay the Stock Market” course and over 57,000 subscribers on my email list.

I became debt-free in August 2020. I quit my job in March 2021 to run “Delyanne the Money Coach” full-time. By then, my business had been making around $100,000 a month for at least five months.

I made $200,000 a year before taxes as an attorney, so quitting was a no brainer.

I don’t think of my investments the same way as I do about a paycheck or my business. Investments are there to fund life after I retire, not while I’m still working.

My remote business meant I was location independent. Starting that and becoming debt-free sped up my dream to move to Portugal.

The move was both a push and a pull
As an immigrant, I fought to become a US citizen and make America my home. But I always felt like a square peg in a round hole.

Moving to Portugal felt more aligned with what I wanted and who I am in terms of culture, language, climate, safety, and affordability.

I could also bring my mom to Portugal through the family reunification process since I support her financially.

The dividends I get from my investments and the interest from my high-yield savings account were the combination that made me eligible for Portugal’s D7 passive income visa.

It has lots of requirements, like earning at least 780 euros, which is about $850, a month in passive income. I earned well over that.

I can stay for four months on the visa, and will soon have a follow-up appointment to get my residency of two years that I can renew. At the five-year mark, I can apply for Portuguese citizenship, which would allow me to live and work anywhere in the EU.

Moving to Lisbon, my biggest expense was my rental
I’ve moved house many times in the last 20 years. The moves were often arduous because they were done as cheaply as possible. I’m very conscious of what I spend money on, and I wanted my move to be comfortable.

My Lisbon rental is the priciest place I’ve ever lived. I want to buy property in Portugal, so this one-year lease is to adjust and acclimate quickly.

I paid the landlord 16,500 euros for three months of rent upfront and a one-month deposit of 5,500 euros, around $18,300 and $6,100.

I used a broker for peace of mind but that’s not a must. I paid them one month’s rent, too.

My rent is still less than 15% of my monthly income after taxes.

The average rent in Portugal is around $1,000 and Lisbon is one of the most expensive areas – you could find lower.

The second biggest expense was hiring an immigration attorney for $4,600. This wasn’t essential, but I didn’t want to deal with the bureaucracy. Some people do it themselves using online resources.

My first-class flight from San Francisco to Lisbon cost $5,800. Twelve hours on the plane was worth the splurge.

My smaller expenses included:

Movers and shipping $1,400

  • Pet customs $50
  • Visa application $160
  • I made $16,200 selling my Peloton, iMac, bike, and furniture, which helped offset costs.
  • I broke even selling my car for $12,400.

You don’t have to have your own business or be wealthy to move to Portugal
If you’re a remote employee and can work abroad, you can apply for Portugal’s digital nomad visa. I recommend talking to an immigration attorney, even for a consultation.

If you were to do the visa process yourself, fly economy, and find an affordable rental, you can relocate for $5,000.

People think Lisbon is very inexpensive for Americans, but that’s not always true. I didn’t move to save money or avoid paying high US taxes – I still have to pay them.

Portugal has a buzzing tourist culture, so it can get pricey. If you go to a nice restaurant in Lisbon, you’re going to be paying 30 to 40 euros a plate.

Issues like housing shortages, inflation, and rising mortgage rates exist in Portugal too.

You have to take someone’s experience of a country with a grain of salt
How people experience a country will be shaped by their own cultural and personal experiences.

As a Brazilian and Portuguese-speaker, whatever shortcomings the country has – because each one does – I feel so connected with Portuguese culture that the positives outweigh any negatives.

I want to add something and become a part of Lisbon.

Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/i-have-abandoned-american-dream-moved-portugal-2023-6

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