Posted by Robert on June 14, 2010
I mentioned in a previous post that I plan to move my family to Hong Kong. The natural question that arises is: Why? The answer has little to do with personal finance. In fact, there are two ways to make decisions that involve money. First, we could ask, “how does this decision affect my money?” This is the perspective of personal finance. Or, we could ask, “how does money affect this decision?” I believe most “real-life” decisions are made from the latter perspective.
My wife and I have made many of our decisions, as outlined previously, based on their impact on our finances. But there are many decisions where money is secondary. Some examples are: programs for our children, including pre-school and swimming, family vacations and outings, food and activity and community involvement. What do all of these things have in common? I would call it “quality of life,” but it’s difficult to be precise with such an abstract idea. These are decisions that affect our health, either physical, mental or social.
At the (still young) age of 33, I don’t yet have the answers to the big questions in life. One such question is how to be happy. (It may be a secret.) I suspect that the answer is not the same for everyone, which works out well, since there are seven billion of us, all trying to be happy. People wiser than I have suggested that happiness comes from finding meaning in life. Randy Pausch suggests that happiness is found in fulfilling your childhood dreams, and in helping others fulfill their dreams. It may be that we each have a purpose, or calling, in life. It may be that when we live in alignment with our purpose, our life has meaning and we are happy, despite life’s daily struggles.
After getting a taste for living and working abroad, in France and Switzerland, it has been my dream to continue living overseas. When I lived with my wife in Taiwan for two years, we were happy. I had no revelation that this was my purpose in life, but I certainly enjoyed learning the language and the culture and being involved in the education of young children. In moving overseas again, why choose Hong Kong? My wife’s mother is from Hong Kong and she still has family there. What makes it even more appealing is that Hong Kong (in my mind) is like a blend of East and West. While it is exotic and Chinese, it is accessible to English speakers and offers some familiar culture and opportunities in the large ex-pat community.
Moving to Hong Kong also fits with my goals for raising my children. I want my children to be exposed to how others live. I want them to identify with our family, and with Canadians, but I also want them to see all human beings as valuable and worthy of respect. So when we were casting about for how to create meaning in our lives, my wife and I settled on becoming teachers (which takes care of the money) and moving to Hong Kong.
I can’t explain clearly why I believe that becoming a teacher in Hong Kong will make me happy. I suspect that it coincides with my calling in life and I know that, so far, working toward this goal is satisfying. What one goal, big or small, would improve your quality of life? Have you found your purpose and, if so, how did you recognize it?