Grant Sabatier Responds to Retired Couple in Portugal with $2.2M

Dianne and Guillermo Rastelli retired in 2018 at the ages of 44 and 47, respectively, with $2.2 million. The couple decided to move abroad, first to Mexico and then to Lisbon, Portugal, where they currently reside.

They spend their days running a Youtube channel documenting their financial journey and constant search for a “forever home” abroad, which still leaves them plenty of time to enjoy their hobbies and take care of themselves every day Meet at 5 p.m. for happy hour

It’s a lifestyle that’s hard to criticize — even for Grant Sabatier, creator of financial website Millennial Money and author of Financial Freedom, a book guiding people to the kind of financial independence the Rastellis enjoy.

For one, he thinks the couple would be wise to move abroad to lower their cost of living, a move known in the FIRE (financial independence, early retirement) community as “geo-arbitrage.”

“Portugal is like cheating when it comes to FIRE because I think the cost of living is about 25% or 30% of what it is in the US,” Sabatier tells CNBC Make It. “So if they saved $2.2 million effectively means they have $6 or $7 million in US dollars.”

Sabatier also admires the Rastellis’ commitment to investing their savings. The couple’s net worth of $2.2 million in 2018 had grown to $2.6 million by June 2022.

“They ended up participating in one of the best bull markets in history,” says Sabatier.

Since then, the market has seen a sharp decline, making it difficult for retirees to live off their portfolio as any withdrawal from their accounts today means they are selling investments after they have lost value. One bright spot for the Rastellis: They’re enjoying rental income from three properties they own in Northern Virginia.

Before leaving the US, they sold the house they lived in for around $120,000, a move Sabatier sees as suboptimal. “It’s one of the fastest growing markets in the country,” he says. It would have been financially wiser to rent it out for as long as possible.”

Sabatier also wonders if the Rastellis were too conservative with their daily spending. By moving to Lisbon, the couple reduced their living expenses to $3,700 a month, compared to a $7,000 monthly budget in the US

“They have about 70 times their expected expenses depending on where they live in Portugal,” says Sabatier. “I guess they could have fired maybe three, four, five years earlier.”

Overall, however, they did everything right – “perhaps too much right”.

“I would encourage them to not rely too much on their spreadsheets and maybe take a little more risk in their lives,” says Sabatier. “Maybe spend a little more money if they can to see how it makes them feel.”

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