Raising A Traveling Tribe: Social Security Tax Issue

by Tina on January 27, 2014

in Denmark, family

traveling mama vintage suitcase

Word is starting to spread and we have been receiving quite a few e-mails, so we thought it was time for us to come clean about some of the big changes coming our way for 2014.  I think I have been avoiding making this decision public because it somehow makes it more real and I have been in denial for quite some time.  If you have heard the rumor going around that we will be leaving Copenhagen then you heard right, but the good news is that it will not be a permanent move.

As two American citizens living in Europe, we do not have the same rights as an EU citizen would.  Both countries have their own Social Security systems and for American citizens who want to one day retire in the US, the US government and each of those in the European Union had to come up with a solution to the Social Security Tax Issue.  They couldn’t very well let us pay partially into both systems but expect full benefits from the US, right?

That part I do not know so much about, but after quite some lengthy discussions with our international tax lawyer, we realized that we would have to leave Denmark every four to five years for six months.  The interesting part is that we can spend those six months anywhere but Denmark, including somewhere else in the European Union, which was a very tempting proposition.  We have spent many long nights chatting about a stay in Paris, or even just a hop over the bridge to Malmo, but in the end we have decided to go back to the US and spend some quality time with our family and friends in Atlanta.

We looked into obtaining my Greek citizenship to avoid all of this because it all felt so confusing and unpleasant to be uprooted but that only seemed to add to an already complicated situation.  And to be perfectly honest, guys, I need to spend some time with my family.  I want my kids to know their grandparents and their aunts and uncles and their cousins.  I want them to know the sound of a marching band at a football game and the crack of a baseball against a bat, besides other things that make them Americans.

Of  course this brings up all kinds of logistical questions, such as where we will live, where our kids will go to school and how we will work while being displaced.  This is one of the main reasons why international companies choose to give expats their assignments abroad for 3-4 year increments.  It is a tricky thing and for those living in certain countries, such as France or Germany, it could mean being displaced for an entire year rather than Denmark’s six month requirement.

So what will we do?  First, we have decided to keep our house and our car here in Denmark.  We have some friends that will be caring for both in our absence so that we can come right back to our home and start right back up where we left off.  The same will happen for the kids’ school.  We have already spoken to their teachers and will be making arrangements for homework assignments in Danish while we are away so they can come back to the same school with their same friends and everything.

We have not made a final decision regarding the children’s schooling while we are in the US, but we are most likely to homeschool them since it is such a brief period.  (I think this decision will probably require it’s own blog post in the near future.)

As far as our work, it will be hard to leave our studio and our home, but we are very fortunate that much of what we do travels well.  We are excitedly planning city tours for many of the places we plan to visit, have already booked quite a few weddings and portraits sessions plus I cannot wait to be able to create new DIY’s and Home ideas with so many craft supplies readily available!

So, despite feeling very conflicted about leaving Denmark from July through December, we are really getting excited about spending six months in the USA!  I am tearing up just thinking about “Hotlanta” and air conditioning, dips in the pool and burgers on the grill and long strolls through Target… and most of all, I cannot wait to hug my Dad and spend hours playing with my nephews and hear face to face about everything we have missed these last four years… Oh, yes, and being home for Christmas!



Photo: Tina Fussell

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

thenewdiplomatswife January 27, 2014 at 2:29 pm

being home isn’t always easy when you get used to being away, but it’s oh-so-important. It won’t always be the same but it will always be worth it in the end – you’ll have a blast in your own way and so many new things to discover and re-discover in the US – something to look forward to!


Tina January 27, 2014 at 9:25 pm

You are so right. I know we will learn a lot about ourselves and we are totally stoked about rediscovering our own towns with a bit of a tourist’s eye!


JODI January 27, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Good luck. I know this hard, but I agree with you, having the kids be with cousins and grandparents is important. You will make the best of it, and the kids will have a blast. I can’t wait to take a stroll through Target too….and eat Chick-Fil-A.


Tina January 27, 2014 at 9:28 pm

Yes, we are all so excited about being with family… and we always stop on the way home from the airport for Chick-fil-A! :-) (There is one with a Target in the same parking lot, but you have to save something for the next day! LOL!)


Lindsay January 27, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Wow! As someone who has a serious case of wanderlust I can’t help but share in your excitement. I’m sure there will be lots of effort put into making this 6 month transition a smooth one for your family. Best wishes to you all.


Tina January 27, 2014 at 9:30 pm

You are so right. It’s not the travel that causes me stress, but the worry over helping everyone transition. My littlest doesn’t remember the US at all (we were there for a few months before moving to Denmark when he was a baby). I’m a little concerned that he is going to be very homesick… but I think his grandparents and all seven of his boy cousins will help him!


patrick January 27, 2014 at 3:35 pm

The reverse culture shock will be painful…why not just walk away from the US?


Tina January 27, 2014 at 9:32 pm

That is an interesting point that we have also talked about a lot. We are not in the place to become citizens of Denmark or gain permanent residency right now, but we have growing concerns for what will happen if our children decide to stay in Denmark. Our daughter is already talking about becoming a teacher here, so that will make future decisions very interesting for us. We’ll see!


Eva Enemark January 27, 2014 at 4:00 pm

I’ll try to keep up with what’s going on in your life by following your blogs as you visit family, and looking forward to see you again primo 2015. Blessings for the preparation and the time with your family!


Tina January 27, 2014 at 9:34 pm

Thank you. You are so sweet! We hope to stay connected before we go and will definitely be ready to jump back into things in 2015!


Laura January 27, 2014 at 4:05 pm

I have a lot of reading to catch up on, because I first found your blog a week ago or so. I enjoy reading about your traveling tribe, and how you manage to raise your kids far away from America etc – and also it’s really interesting to read about Denmark, especially Copenhagen, from another perspective. Since I’m Danish, I don’t question a lot of things, because they seem natural to me ;)


Tina January 27, 2014 at 9:38 pm

That’s so nice! Thanks so much for joining in! I always enjoy hearing how our Danish friends have found the States to be, perhaps with the same mentality. It’s so fascinating to hear how outsiders view your country! (PS. We love Five Guys!)


Laura January 28, 2014 at 1:22 pm

You’re right! It’s like an adventure in itself to hear about you’re own country from outsiders. And as “thenewdiplomatswife” wrote, you rediscover old things and discover new things. And about Five Guys – we definitely need to try it this year, when we’re visiting the States once again (fingers crossed)! :)


Tina January 29, 2014 at 9:29 am

Well, if you decide to come while we are there let us know and we can introduce you to Five Guys!


Belle January 27, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Wow, you guys! It doesn’t seem to make much sense to me, but then tax things rarely do. Thank you for sharing what has to be a bittersweet reason for an extended working vacation back to The States! We’ll miss you on this side of the pond!


Tina January 27, 2014 at 9:41 pm

Agreed. With taxes we just do what they tell us. :-) And I’m sure the time will fly by and we will be back before we know it!


Tiffany January 27, 2014 at 6:43 pm

Recently you told me in an e-mail that if I ever found myself in Copenhagen to let you know, and now the reverse is true – - – if you make it to Southern California during your stay in the States be sure to be in touch!

Best wishes to you and your family! =)


Tina January 27, 2014 at 9:42 pm

I will be certain to give a heads up on the blog before we head to a new city. I hope to connect with our American readers as much as possible- there’s another thing to add to the reasons to be excited about this extended trip!


simplystylishmom January 27, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Wow that sounds like a tough but exciting decision. The tax thing is funny for us too – we are not having to pay full tax on one of our incomes for the first 5 years and so we’ve decided to stay here until then and then see about moving or not (unless anything changes in the meantime), sad how big money plays a role in our life – but it’s the way it is! I really hope I can meet you before you leave :) – or after you return I guess!


Tina January 27, 2014 at 9:43 pm

It’s true, but then it opens opportunities that we might never have taken advantage of otherwise, right? We definitely need to meet up soon!


Niki January 27, 2014 at 8:18 pm

Wishing you all the best in your short stay in GA :) Will you still be hosting Craftenhagen nights before you leave?


Tina January 27, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Thanks and yes, I will be hosting events all the way through June. I love seeing everyone!


Leah S. January 27, 2014 at 8:31 pm

Best of luck with all of these plans and changes that will occur in the next few months.


Tina January 27, 2014 at 9:45 pm

Thanks so much!


anastasia January 28, 2014 at 8:23 am

Oh so much to think about…how stressful but I guess its like another adventure for you all..plus reuniting with family again will be wonderful for you and the kids!!


Tina January 29, 2014 at 9:28 am

exactly! I think it will be fun… at least I hope! :-)


Tracy January 29, 2014 at 2:57 am

It would be wonderful if you could give us a heads-up when you might be visiting various US cities. Wouldn’t it be fun to do coffee meetups with readers? I have a great patisserie for you to try in downtown Chicago…:-)


Tina January 29, 2014 at 9:27 am

I would love to do that and definitely will do that! I miss Chicago so much (I grew up visiting my grandparents there) so I would love to visit!


Christy Ennis January 30, 2014 at 1:40 am

How exciting for you to visit with loved ones! I live just north of Atlanta, it would be cool to meet one day! Safe journeys!


Laura February 10, 2014 at 4:58 pm

I am originally from Athens, GA. Love visiting Atlanta with my husband. “Home” is a place to return to.


Elizabeth Carter May 2, 2014 at 4:15 am

You guys should rent out your apartment for vacationers..like through Airbnb or VRBO. At least you could be making money while you’re away (saves some stress I’d imagine). It’s so cute, I know you could make enough to pay your monthly payments and probably then some. Just a thought. :)


Janice June 19, 2014 at 2:35 pm

WOW! Sorry I missed this post way back in January! But thanks for directing me to it now.
And God bless you and your family, for being so upbeat and positive. It’s just another piece of the puzzle for expat living, right? How wonderful that you can plan these 6 months, but also plan your return to C’hagen just as you left it… to your home, to your car, to the kids’ schools, friends, everything! You’ve been very wise in your thought process and decisions, and make everything seem like it’s just “routine”!
Do keep me posted on when/where you’re in SC. I know y’all probably have a long list of family and friends to see and visit, but I do hope we can catch a glimpse during your stay.
Best of luck in the coming weeks, and Godspeed!


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