In this guest post, Norman Viss, from Expat Everyday Support Center, describes some of the important financial lessons US expats can learn from Christopher Columbus.
Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ America. That’s how he has been presented to millions of US school children for decades, if not centuries.
Current reviews of Columbus the man, the explorer and the leader are mixed. He was a brilliant navigator and persistent in pursuing his dreams through every imaginable difficulty. Yet, he inflicted untold hardships on those around him, was in many ways unsatisfactory as a leader, and stubborn about believing his own truth, any evidence to the contrary.
Columbus neither ‘discovered’ America nor believed he had discovered America. In fact, he believed until his dying day that he had found the true Indies and Cathay.
Was Columbus an expat? Well, probably not in the modern sense of the word. But he certainly had financial issues to deal with, as all US expats do, and we can learn some things from how Columbus ran his life and his finances.
US expats should maintain links to financial services in home country
In order to make his journeys at all, Columbus was dependent on financial support from home – in his case, Spain and her King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella plus some private investors:
A consortia put together by a royal treasury official and composed mainly of Genoese and Florentine bankers in Sevilla (Seville) provided at least 1,140,000 maravedis to outfit the expedition, and Columbus supplied more than a third of the sum contributed by the king and queen. Queen Isabella did not, then, have to pawn her jewels (a myth first put about by Bartolomé de Las Casas in the 16th century).
And of course it was the idea that Columbus reward investors with Indian riches. In our modern world of economic crisis, more expats are cutting financial ties with the home country, especially if it is a western one. You might want to think twice about that. You never know where life will take you, and even if you make short trips back home it can be very helpful to have local bank and credit card accounts accessible. It saves lots of time and frustration when you can rely on a simple bank account and credit card when returning ‘home.’
Get good financial/accounting/tax advice from the relevant countries
Columbus always maintained that he had found the true Indies and Cathay in the face of mounting evidence that he had not. Perhaps he genuinely believed that he had been there; in any event, his disallowances of the “New World” hindered his goals of nobility and wealth and dented his later reputation.
Columbus made a few miscalculations when planning his journeys, and in doing so disregarded the opinion of knowledgeable people around him. We all have a tendency to think that our perspective on the world is accurate. Sometimes we are really convinced that we understand things correctly, sometimes we choose to live in a fantasy world for whatever reason.
That’s why it is very important to get good, professional advice about your finances, and take it seriously. You do not, of course, have to follow the advice you get, but don’t be a fool who receives no advice at all. You should have good financial advice from someone who is versed in your home country and in the other countries in which you live or have dealings.
Slow and steady – take the long-term view
Columbus had absolute faith in his navigational abilities, his seaman’s sense of the weather, his eyes, and his reading. He asserted that he had reached the outer region of the Earthly Paradise. The weather had become extremely mild, and the flow of fresh water into the Gulf of Paria was, as he saw, enormous. On this estimate, he was therefore close to the realms of gold that lay near Paradise. He had not found the gold yet, to be sure, but he knew where it was. Columbus’s expectations thus allowed him to interpret his discoveries in terms of biblical and Classical sources and to do so in a manner that would be comprehensible to his sponsors and favorable to himself.
Most people don’t know that Columbus made four journeys to the New World. He was nothing if not persistent, and his vision for what he wanted to reach drove him to keep going through financial, physical, mental and relational hardships. In today’s volatile economic world, you will need a long-term viewpoint to survive, especially when moving around the world. Slow and steady is the key; handle your finances wisely, be grateful for any success you find, don’t let loss cripple your spirit.
By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination. Christopher Columbus Columbus was right. Also when it comes to US expat finances.
Source: quotes are from Encyclopedia Britannica, online edition.
About the Contributor
Norman Viss is a coach at Expat Everyday Support Center and a long time expat. EESC helps expats connect to their worlds, using a unique online platform. Check out the website here.
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