I am an ABC (American Born Chinese)
I am an American Born Chinese who was born and raised in Rockland County, NY in 1964. Rockland County is a middle class suburban county located 24 miles north of New York City. I am of Cantonese Chinese ethnicity and I am the youngest of 2 older brothers. My paternal grandparents immigrated to NYC from southern China in the early 1920’s. My maternal grandparents immigrated to Honolulu, Hawaii from southern China in the 1910’s. My father was born and raised in Brooklyn, NYC and spoke some Cantonese. My mother was born and raised in Honolulu and also speaks some Cantonese. We did not speak Cantonese Chinese in our home nor did I actively seek to speak Cantonese Chinese. It simply wasn’t needed being where I was born and raised. Our family was probably the 1 of 3 other Chinese American families in the entire Nanuet, NY school system at the time. I graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas College with a B.S.in Accounting in Sparkill, NY in 1986. I was a Corporate Tax Accountant for Time Inc/Time Warner Inc from 1987 to 1994, Viacom Inc in 1995 and with Hess Corporation from 1996 to 2014. My wife is a Taiwanese born Chinese. She is a U.S. citizen as well as a Taiwanese citizen. We were married in 1989 and have 2 children, a 25 year old son and a 23 year old daughter.
Monday, January 28, 2013 was black Monday for me. It was the day I saw my writing on the wall and I knew that after 17 years with Hess Corporation, an integrated exploration and production, marketing and refinery oil and gas company, and after 27 years overall in the corporate tax accounting world, the end of my career was going to be over at the age of 49 years old. Hess Corporation announces publicly they will get out of part of their marketing and refining business by selling the oil terminal networks and the oil refineries. A couple of months later, the Corporation also announces they will get out of the marketing and retail gas business for which my responsibilities in the Corporate tax department included supporting the income tax planning and compliance side of the marketing and retail gas business.
The Ghost from Christmas Past
Wind the clock back 5 years earlier to December 2008. The U.S. was in the midst of a financial crisis dues to failures of the country’s large financial institutions, due primarily to exposure of securities of packaged subprime loans and credit default swaps issued to insure these loans and their issuers, which rapidly devolved into a global crisis resulting in a number of bank failures in Europe and sharp reductions in the value of equities (stock) and commodities worldwide. I had just finished interviewing a job candidate for an open position below me. My boss walked in after the interview to discuss the candidate and we immediately both shook our heads in aghast. The candidate was probably 55 years old, overqualified for the position but obviously was seeking any job just to continue to support whatever financial situation he was in. The candidate was pale as a ghost and you could sense his urgency in trying to secure this job, any job. We both said he looked like the ghost from Christmas past and it reminded us just how grateful that we both had a job. My boss and I predictably said this candidate will be us in a few years. We had just interviewed our own ghost, the grim reaper. The job candidate was here to tell us our time was coming up. The trend in the corporate world now was downsize and outsource. Jobs were being eliminated, 401 k’s were rapidly losing value. Nobody was hiring.
“Could We Really Live Here in Taiwan?”
End of my career over at the age of 49 years old? You mean I can’t find another job at this age? Not at the salary I was making and I would have to prove myself all over again and work 3 times as hard doing it. This corporation divestiture announcement was the firecracker in my ass that I had been waiting for years now. I had contemplated changing my vocation many times before but didn’t have the courage. A preplanned 2 week vacation to Taiwan in March of that year turned into a due diligence trip to see if my wife and I could relocate here and start a completely new life. Could we really live here in Taiwan? A life free of the corporate world and a chance to pursue a vocation of my own? We said yes. But this was going to be on our terms, our choice of how and what we were going to do for a living. You see I was an accountant by choice not by passion. The 1980’s were the Yuppie years, the Corporate years, the T&E years where money was made and spent freely. Instead of not following my natural passion for people, for the arts, I chose where the money was. Not as a NYC police officer or a graphic artist, which were my first choices, but as a boring tax accountant grinding out numbers in an office every day. It was a great run while it lasted. It was a means to an end. My wife and I raised 2 beautiful kids and put them through college and we did it just hitting the ages of 50. My advice to our children was don’t do what I did but pursue what ever dreams you have of becoming. There is no better job in the world then to be doing a profession you love and also getting compensated for it. Both of them love to help people and both of them set out to achieve the job of their dreams. Today my son is married and a police officer. My daughter is a recent college graduate and just secured her first job in her career in hospitality.
It Was Meant to Be
The day we returned to NYC from the March 2013 Taiwan due diligence trip, we set the wheels in motion. Taiwan was going to be the 2nd chapter in my life. 2014 was going to be the year of change, I just knew it. The stars were aligning right because in April 2014 it was going to be our 25th wedding anniversary, and in September 2014 I was going to be 50 years old. It was all meant to be. There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to be terminated from my job, it was a just a matter of when. So the plan was to put myself in a position to sell my home before my severance package was to begin. I sat down and itemized a list of what needed to be done before I was terminated and slowly checked off each one. That way we could move immediately to Taiwan without using any of my severance package waiting for the house to be sold. Because my wife is Taiwanese born and she retained her Taiwanese citizenship, by virtue of certifying our U.S. marriage in Taiwan, I am also eligible for medical benefits under her National health plan. Relocating to Taiwan became a no brainer. In March 2014, I was officially told my last day would be August 15, 2014. We sold our house in July, 2014, On October 13, 2014 we officially relocated to Taiwan to begin the 2nd part of my life with my wife and 3 dogs…