How Getting Out of Our Comfort Zone Is 10X-ing Our Finances

My email subscribers all know that my family has recently relocated (that’s why you haven’t seen me around here much lately!). We’re talking about a BIG relocation…from the suburbs of Detroit to Shanghai, China.

And while we’ve lived abroad before (in South Korea and even in China for a short time), it’s been just as challenging, and possibly even more, this time around.

I’m pretty sure my comfort zone just stayed in Michigan and left me completely vulnerable and alone in a new country.


Even moving in the US to another state can be really difficult. This is true especially if you are moving away from family or a really close community of friends and/or coworkers.

Moving to another country, though, has a whole new set of trials:

  1. I’m now completely illiterate and can barely speak enough Chinese to get around.
  2. In many ways, the way they do things in China is opposite what we are used to. The culture is much, much different. And we all tend to think that the way we do things is the “correct” way. Culture shock is a real thing and it’s exhausting!
  3. We are fortunate that we know a few people from our previous international assignments, but we are mostly forging all new relationships. This especially difficult for our 3 kids, but also for us as well.
  4. 90% humidity at 90+ degrees. Polluted air and water. Cockroaches. Need I say more?

As an introvert and a trailing spouse, you could say that I’m way out of my comfort zone. I’ve left a lot behind!

The kids checking out Shanghai’s skyline

I’m excited to say, though, that we’re finally feeling a bit more settled after about 6 weeks now. So now, I’m ready to write about what a great move it’s going to be for our family and our finances (let’s be real…those first few weeks I wasn’t nearly as optimistic!).


It’d be a lie to say that I never asked myself this exact question: what the heck are we doing here?! It’d also be a lie to say that money wasn’t a big deciding factor in our move to China.

As expatriates, our housing, utilities, and transportation are all completely covered by my husband’s employer. We will be renting out our home in Michigan, which will leave us with nearly zero housing and transportation costs. We also receive some additional bonuses and allowances during the assignment that we wouldn’t otherwise receive.

On the flip side, imported food and goods are really expensive here, often three times the US price, so other budget categories have increased to reflect that. Asia is full of amazing places to visit so we spend considerably more on travel. We also have a part-time ayi (nanny/housekeeper) that adds some additional cost, but also considerable value to our lives here.

The net result in our personal finances? Our post-tax savings rate has gone from about 32% to over 60%.

And, I calculate that we will reach financial independence at least 8-10 years faster than if we stayed in the US.

This doesn’t even factor in the long-term effects on my husband’s career, which will likely boost his future promotions and earnings potential.

Nor does it reflect the personal growth that comes from meeting these challenges and becoming stronger and more confident. We simply won’t be returning back to the US as the same people that left a short time ago.


You may not do something quite as extreme as moving your family halfway around the world, but there are plenty of other ways to boost your finances by getting out of your comfort zone.

  1. Apply for a new job. This is a great way to get a salary boost.
  2. Push for a promotion or raise at your current job. Even if they say no, you can ask how you need to improve to make it to that next level.
  3. Start a side hustle. Financial Panther is a great example of taking on side hustles to earn extra money each month!
  4. Simply choose to live differently. It may be uncomfortable in your social circles to downsize your home, drive older cars and choose budget options when no one else is doing it. However, it’s totally worth it!
  5. Spend time learning. If your couch is your literal comfort zone (mine is very comfy!), it’s probably time to turn off Netflix, get up and take the time to learn a new skill and/or gain more knowledge. Financial education will provide value at a rate well-worth it for the time spent.

It all comes down to this: do something difficult that you know will boost your income, lower your expenses or provide financial value in the future. It will be hard. And you can do it if you put your mind to it!


Many times, I’ve wanted to pack everything back into suitcases and hop back on the plane. I’ve been frustrated by people not being able to understand me, not being able to find the food I’m used to eating and dealing with new routines and schedules that turn usually mild-mannered kids into devilish monsters.

And yet, I’m still here.

Some days are better than others, but I remind myself of my long-term goals. I get out of bed every morning and I just keep going. What I’ve given up is less than what I have to gain (the world!). And I have to often remind myself that it will be totally worth it in the end.

Checking out the Great Wall during our last assignment in China

If you’re having a difficult time getting out of your comfort zone:

  • Always keep the long-term goal in mind, and set intermediate goals as well to keep you motivated. A physical reminder, such as a picture or note is invaluable!
  • Get help from a coach, friend or mentor that will keep you responsible and encourage you.
  • Ultimately, keep powering through. Sometimes, it just takes a lot of grit and perseverance.

It’s so true that that growth comes only from stepping out of your comfort zone and facing challenging things. Do something hard today and your tomorrow will be easier.

Have you considered moving abroad? What else do you want to know about our experience in China?


5 Responses

  1. Wow, this is exciting! What does your husband do that takes you all to China? My dad was a metallurgical engineer and the family lived in Taiwan for a bit. Will you homeschool, or is there a local school available for your kids? This is definitely a big family adventure!

    Some friends of ours lived in China for a year, and each family member wrote posts on their family blog about their experience. The father wrote a book about traveling in another country with young children.

    Looking forward to hearing more of your adventures!

    1. Thanks for stopping by! My husband is in an engineer as well, and much braver than me to take on all of these adventures. We’re really fortunate to live right across the road from a great international school that goes from preschool to high school. Living abroad with kids is challenging, but totally worth it!

    1. I’m working remotely for the company I was working for in the US (plus my side projects!), so I don’t plan to search for a job here at least for the time being. But, we’ll see!



I’m Kathryn Hanna-wife, mother of 3 and a Certified Public Accountant. I love to budget (really, I do!) , build spreadsheets and spend money on travel, sewing supplies and good chocolate.


12 Month Financial Plan Sidebar


Easy-to-customize spreadsheets to improve your entire financial life from budgeting to tax and retirement planning.