I’m spending my first election year abroad, and while I’m physically outside the United States, I can’t escape the political zeitgeist even in east Asia. Watching the economic and political situations unfold from across the Pacific isn’t as difficult as one would think — especially with the reach of the Internet. I still read the same news sources as I did while in the States, such as the (admittedly liberal) Huffington Post and BBC. I’m also following the debates by downloading them or watching them on YouTube.
The U.S. political and economic situation, despite my being 13 time zones away from home, is of great interest to me, mainly financially. The effect of the Wall Street crisis has been felt all over the world; the nation of Iceland is facing bankruptcy and, more importantly to me, the Korean economy, tied tightly to that of the U.S., is flailing as well. The current exchange rate is more than 1,400 KRW to the U.S. dollar; when I arrived in Korea, I could only get 1,040 KRW for my dollar. In that time, my paycheck has lost about 25% of its value, and there doesn’t seem to be any relief in sight.
Since I’m living in Korea, earning and paying won, I’ll have to make only a few lifestyle adjustments. I’m not, however, going to be able to save nearly as much money as I had hoped before I came here. I’m in a real quagmire: do I cut my losses and invest as many dollars as possible, or do I send home minimal amounts to pay bills and hope for a recovery?