The alternative to your longevity and market worries: Sell Up, Pack Up & Take Off

Date  August 19, 2014 - 7:03AM

   Time to get away for good?: A new book could send us all scurrying to the airport.   Photo: Glenn Hunt

Time to get away for good?: A new book could send us all scurrying to the airport. Photo: Glenn Hunt

You’re in the thick of reporting season, flat out trying to keep up with the news, wondering if your dividend income will be enough to live on, concerned about what might happen to interest rates, if the best is over for your bank shares, worried about your longevity risk. Or you could be discovering how easy it could be to live in foreign luxury.

Are you old enough to remember the early 1970s break-through Qantas publication, The How, Why, When and Where of Here, There and Everywhere? It was written with cheek and style that would give the present Qantas management apoplexy.  Some young advertising writer called Peter Carey had a hand in it.

It was a perfectly timed and dangerous book, sending a generation of Australians abroad as the economics of aeroplanes finally overtook passenger ships, helping sink a 185-year tradition of the boat, starting a new tradition of ever-growing Australian international travel.

Stephen Wyatt and Colleen Ryan, journalists, authors and spouses (and friends of mine), remembered the book and set out to write something of a sequel for the How, Why, When etc generation. This, too, is a dangerous book and very nicely timed: Sell Up, Pack Up & Take Off.

The Qantas marketing effort provided reasons for young Australians to leave jobs, partners and parents and explore the world. The Wyatt & Ryan book provides reasons for those same Australians to leave children, grandchildren and the prospect of retirement communities to live more cheaply, more comfortably and more adventurously overseas.

More importantly, being former accountants and economists, they provide the knowledge to seriously start doing it – the visas, the cost comparisons, the property ownership, health and tax issues. The cost comparisons of Sydney and just about anywhere are invidious.

The dangerous bit is that the authors plant and nurture the seed of longing to escape again by making it seem like the entirely reasonable, responsible and cost effective thing to do. Any economic rationalist should indeed be living in a Bali villa, a Hoi An house or a Barcelona apartment.

Being the thorough journalists that they are, the couple have been forced to travel the globe, poor dears, to research their book, interviewing Australians who are already doing it – living large abroad without needing to work, or living quite well on modest incomes instead of pondering 101 ways with mince.

And they can write. Colleen’s most recent other effort being the brilliant Fairfax: The Rise and Fall. They’ve also spent many years living overseas in a variety of places and have forsaken Sydney to be based in Byron Bay, which is pretty foreign, too.

You’ve been warned, Sell Up, Pack Up & Take Off is a disruptive book. Could it do to the aged care industry what Qantas did to ships as public transport? It’s a much more appealing question to consider than longevity risk.

Michael Pascoe is a BusinessDay contributing editor.