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How British Expatriates Can Invest Using Index Funds in Singapore

Author’s Note:  Many of the comments below will no longer apply to this updated post.  Because of U.S. estate tax rules, I created the model portfolio on this post utilizing ETFs (indexes) that trade on the UK market.  An expatriate living outside of the UK would not have to pay capital gains on such products, and would not have to pay U.S. Estate Taxes either.


“The investment business is a giant scam.  Most people think they can find fund managers who can outperform, but most people are wrong.  You should simply hold index funds.  No doubt about it.”
Harvard University’s Endowment Fund leader, Jack Meyer

British expatriates in Singapore are finding a way to bi-pass expensive financial services. They’re figuring out how to invest cheaply and simply with low cost index funds:

  • It’s the method endorsed by Warren Buffett
  • It’s the method endorsed by a slew of Economic Noble Laureates
  • It’s the method endorsed by Charles Schwab, (the owner of the world’s biggest brokerage)
  • It’s the method endorsed by a myriad of Ivy League Financial professors, ranging from Yale University’s David Swensen to Princeton’s Burton Malkiel.

Every financial study done comparing the long term results of actively managed mutual funds (which most people are sold) to low cost index funds (which financial service companies dislike) reveals that over a lengthy period of time, the odds of success are far better with low cost indexes.

Most financial service companies break the golden rule of investing—failing to keep fees low.

They sell actively managed investment products that are better for the firm they represent, but less effective for investors. Buying actively managed funds with high expense ratios and sales charges, like those offered at FundSupermart.com , Friends Provident or Zurich International ensures a far lower likelihood of success.  It might make your salesperson/advisor happy, but you could be crying in your oatmeal, years from now.

Sadly, despite overwhelming evidence, most financial advisors recommend actively managed mutual funds and unit trusts—because it helps them make their own Mercedes payments.
…read my post

After sales fees and advisory costs, their long term odds of beating a diversified indexed account are slimmer than a goldfish’s odds in a tank of Piranhas.

So how can a British expatriate buy indexes in Singapore?

First, a warning:  There are companies here selling index funds, but they charge unreasonable fees ensuring the mathematical likelihood of only making half of what you deserve. The industry loves high fees.  Investors should embrace low fees. … read my post

Here are the steps you can take to beat the professionals at their own expensive game

  • Open a discount brokerage account at Saxo Capital Markets, and tell them that you’d like the option to trade stocks on the UK exchange.  Don’t worry.  You won’t have to become a stock trader.  This is just the supermarket you’ll be buying your indexes from.
  • When you make indexed purchases from this account (the products you’ll buy are actually called ETFs) you’ll need to transfer money to the account first.
  • These are the ticker symbols and allocation samples for a 40 year old investor 




Expense Ratio


iShares UK Gilts 0-5 yr UCITS




Vanguard UK FTSE 100 Stock Index




 iShares Global Stock Index ACWI UCTTS (SSAC)




Vanguard FTSE All World ETF
















Making the purchases

You’ll need to figure out what price each of these indexes (ETFs) is trading at so you’ll know how much to buy when you place your order.

Going with ETFs, you’ll want to make sure that you’re investing at least $3000 at a time.  After all, minimum costs are 20 GBP (or equivalent) to make a single purchase, so it might as well be worthwhile.

Prices can be accessed on the links above.  So if the price of the British stock index is $17, and if you’re investing $3000, then you divide $3000 by $17 to see that you can buy 176 shares of the index.  Just to be safe, when placing your order, make it out for 170 shares, in case the price goes up the next day.  You need to have enough money for your purchase, and the price you pay could be higher or lower than what you see.  It will be based on the market price at the time your order goes through.

If you’re investing every quarter or every month, make sure that it’s at least $3000 at a time, so you don’t pay Saxo Capital Markets too much in commissions, relative to your purchases.  Trading with larger sums is relatively more economical.  For example, trading costs are 0.15%.  So those investing 100,000 GBP would pay just 150 GBP in commissions.  

When making purchases, select “Market” order, not “Limit” order.  Many traders would cringe at this.  But few traders make much money, long term.  Most eventually blow their brains out, metaphorically of course.  Going with a “Market” order means you will accept the market price for the shares.  Going with a “Limit” order means you can enter the maximum price you wish to pay.  Doing so can be foolish.  If the markets rise, you may have to pay a much higher price later.  I prefer placing the order, and having a guarantee that my order is filled….rather than worrying later about whether it was filled or not.  

And while you’re making your purchases each month, allow your purchases to rebalance your portfolio back to the originally desired allocation.  For example, if your world index has underperformed the others, for that month, then buy the world index.  If your British index has underperformed for that month, then buy that one.  By bolstering up the laggards, you’ll ensure that you invest, using Warren Buffett’s motto:

Be greedy when others are fearful.

For a description of how to make purchases with Saxo Capital Markets, please visit Sean McHugh’s screencast on youtube.

Author’s Note:  Many of the comments below will no longer apply to this updated post.  Because of U.S. estate tax rules, I created the model portfolio on this post utilizing ETFs (indexes) that trade on the UK market.  An expatriate living outside of the UK would not have to pay capital gains on such products, and would not have to pay U.S. Estate Taxes either.

Andrew Hallam

I’m a financial columnist for Canada’s national paper, The Globe and Mail, as well as for AssetBuilder, a financial service firm based in Texas. I’m also the author of Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School and Millionaire Expat: How To Build Wealth Living Overseas. My mission is to educate, motivate and inspire people on basic retirement planning and best practices for investing, using evidence-based strategies. I'm happy to comment on your questions.

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763 Responses

  1. Ben says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for all the great advice. I came across your web-site when looking for guidance on how to go about investing while based in Singapore. I had already settled on the index / ETF approach but was (and to a certain extent, still am) confused as the best way to go about it. Hoping you could clarify a couple of points for me:

    In most of your articles you suggest buying ETF’s from US stock market (or occasionally from your home country stock market) and I am just wondering why not buy some of the ETF products on offer on the Singapore stock exchange? Would this not be more tax effective since you pay 30% tax to Uncle Sam on any dividend income you receive on stocks / ETF’s from US and you would not have to pay any tax on an ETF such as the DB X- tracker MSCI world TRN ETF which is purchased on Singapore stock exchange? (That is my understanding anyway. According to the DB X-tracker prospectus: “Individuals resident in Singapore will be exempt from Singapore tax on all foreign-sourced income received in Singapore on or after 1 January 2004, other than income received through a partnership in Singapore. Accordingly, individual investors should generally be exempt from Singapore tax on dividend distributions received from the Fund.”)

    I understand there are negatives with the SGX ETF’s when compared to the products available in the US (higher fees, less of a selection being the main ones) but I am just wondering if you (or anyone else) has done the exercise of weighing up the potential tax savings versus these negatives?

    My second question is, assuming that buying ETF’s from US market is the way to go, why not use an Online broker in the US instead of a Singapore broker such as DBS Vickers. The transaction costs are much less and they will automatically re-invest dividends for free?

    Perhaps I am over analyzing things and the effect of tax on dividends would be relatively small? Or maybe I am missing something altogether?

    Best regards


    • Hey Ben,

      I have seen ETFs on the Singapore market, but when looking into buying them, I found that their liquidity was so low that they weren't really practical.

      As for taxes, the quote you gave from the prospectus suggested no Singaporean taxes would be levied. That didn't suggest anything about U.S. withholding tax, which the IRS takes "at source". If you purchase a U.S. stock of any kind, through any avenue (whether it's through a mutual fund/unit trust or an ETF) Uncle Sam will still take 30% withholding tax if you're not a U.S. resident. In the case of a fund, you just won't see it come off the top. But it will.

      If you learn anything to contrary, I'd be keen to learn what you find out.

      Unless things have changed, pertaining to using online brokers in the U.S., non U.S. citizens can't use them. Again, if you've found anything different, I'd love to hear about it. I did recently see an advertisment at a bus stop in Singapore for lower commissions via a U.S. discount brokerage that TD Waterhouse owns (gotta love how the Canadian banks are scooping American banking assets)

      Please let me know what you find out.

      Thanks Ben,


  2. Carlos says:

    What is the best off shore account to trade for a Canadian Expat living outside of singapore?

  3. Hey Carlos,

    I guess that would depend on where you live. Where are you currently?

  4. Carlos says:


    Thanks for taking the time to respond! I'm sure you get a lot of messages.

    I'm currently in Belize, Central America. I'm investing through a Canadian account which seems really stupid as I'm not taking advantage of being an Expat. At the same time I can't invest with the new TFSA either!

    Is DBSvickers a good option for expats outside of singapore? I've also looked at HSBC and Internaxx. All of the companies seem to charge a lot per transaction compared to the discount brokerages.

    I am trying to buy and hold although I'm relatively new at all of this. I have been following the "dividend growth investor" blog quite religously. Your idea of just investing in the index's seems interesting as well! It does seem weird that it is so hard to beat the "averages". You would think there were quite a few good stocks above average!



    • Carlos, I’m replying after two years. My apologies for missing this. I think you should give TD international a try, based in Luxembourg. You could wire money there and build a portfolio of low cost ETFs from there. Unlike with Singapore, there’s no test to take before opening the account.

      Sorry for missing your comment!

  5. Alastair says:

    Hi Andrew

    I really enjoyed your book and recent talk at the American Club.

    As a British expat in Singapore I am looking for a cost effective way to buy index funds or ETFs from here. You suggest buying the British Stock Market ETF in the US in US dollars. However, this would give me currency transaction costs and, I assume, potential currency risk. I'd therefore prefer to trade in UK sterling.

    I approached Vanguard in the UK but they only accept UK residents. Is there any way that you know of to buy UK sterling index funds from here?

    For ETFs, I've looked at DBS Vickers but their fee for UK stocks is 1%, plus they don't allow internet transactions ('phone only), which is more hassle. Looking on the web I see that Saxo Capital Markets allow non-residents to register in the UK, and they are also here in Singapore. Their rates are much better at only 0.1% for UK stocks, although I need to investigating them further.

    Do you have any other suggestions?



  6. Frank says:

    Hi Andrew

    Thanks for all your sensible, well argued advice on this site. As a clueless (50-year-old!) novice in investment matters, I could ask dozens of questions, but for the moment I'll ask just one.

    In the post above, you state that "If a British citizen is eventually going to go back home, at some point, they may prefer to have the bulk of their money in British pounds, which is why they may want to consider having a full 50% of their stock market money in the British stock market index." My question is: why should the currency matter? If I invest, let's say, 60% of my savings in the total world market and the remainder in bonds, am I disadvantaged in some way if I retire to the UK ten years later?

    • Hi Frank,

      Here's a scenario. The Canadian dollar recently surged tremendously over the past five years or so..against the Euro, the pound and the U.S. dollar.

      If I were repatriating back to Canada last year, and the bulk of my money were in U.S. and International stock indexes (denominated, of course, in non Canadian dollars) then the account value, in Canadian dollars, could be worth less, even if the other markets had risen slightly.

      I just like to know that a crazy rising Canadian dollar, upon my retirement, isn't going to shrink the total value of my account too much–based on a CDN dollar perspective. I'm actually pretty conservative though Frank. I can't control everything, but I like to put some of the control in my favor, if possible.

  7. James says:

    Hi Andrew

    I read this post with interest as I'm a Brit working over here in Singapore, I'm just working my bond / equity ETF allocation after reading your excellent book and posts on your website. I'm not sure if I will want to move back to UK in the near future, and am happy in Asia for now, especially as I am also have HK PR status.

    If you were in my position what would you recommend? I was thinking of EWU, VT, ISHG and a Singapore index like ES3, would you bring any HK index into this portfolio?

    I'm really excited to get a portfolio started but there some hesitancy on my part to get the perfect balance (which I'm sure doesn't actually exist), but I'm happy to recently escape being sold a Zurich product!!

    Many thanks

  8. James says:

    Hi Andrew

    I read this post with interest as I'm a Brit working over here in Singapore, I'm just working my bond / equity ETF allocation after reading your excellent book and posts on your website. I'm not sure if I will want to move back to UK in the near future, and am happy in Asia for now, especially as I am also have HK PR status.

    If you were in my position what would you recommend? I was thinking of EWU, VT, ISHG and a Singapore index like ES3, would you bring any HK index into this portfolio?

    I'm really excited to get a portfolio started but there some hesitancy on my part to get the perfect balance (which I'm sure doesn't actually exist), but I'm happy to recently escape being sold a Zurich product!!

    Many thanks

    • Hey James!

      First of all, I'm absolutely thrilled that you escaped Zurich. Was it expensive to get out?

      As for your allocation mix, here's the long term beauty: you don't really need to sweat much about your specific allocation. If you rebalance your chosen allocation with fresh purchases (and/or annual rebalancing if need be) you will do very well.

      I wouldn't bother with the HK index or the Singapore index myself. Those are tiny markets, and you will already own the world and your home country index. That should be more than enough.

      • James says:

        Thanks for the advice Andrew.

        I was actually going to buy in to the Zurich Vista product, but I decided to do some reading up before committing to anything and came across your book and website, this stopped me dead in my tracks! Thanks for saving me from some heavy charges, I also read from your recommendation another great book The Four Pillows of Investing, I advise anyone out there thinking of investing to read this and Andrew's book.

        I now feel ready to put my money somewhere which I know in the long run will produce a nice steady return!

        Again many thanks…

  9. Hey James,

    I'm so happy to hear that you were able to access my Zurich article before investing with them.

    And I'm really happy that you liked my book.

    If you have time, would you mind posting a short Amazon review? That would be awesome!

    Here's the link, if you have a few minutes: http://bit.ly/mtreviews

    Thanks James!


    • James says:

      Sure I'll do that, I'm just hoping a few more investors read it before committing themselves to fund horror!

      Just one more question about US withholding tax (been searching on the website for advice) is that something I need to worry about on my investment? Won't it make a big dent? 30% sounds a lot….



      • Thanks James,

        if guys like us spread the word about high fees, more people will avoid costly mistakes.

        As for U.S. witholding taxes, here's the scoop.

        Any account investing in U.S. stocks of any kind (including offshore accounts like Zurich) will be required to pay 30% witholding taxes on dividends. On the Zurich site, in fine print, it mentions that cost as "minimal" and in the big picture, I think it is.

        But with DBS Vickers (or another Singapore brokerage) you will see the fee on each statement where you received dividends. It's fully transparent.

        You won't have to file a form with the IRS; the money will come off at the source so there's no filing necessary.

        Assume that your world index increases by 10% in a year. Roughly 8% of that would likely come from capital appreciation and roughly 2% from dividends. The 8% would be capital gains free, and 30% of the 2% would be deducted, courtesy of the IRS. So instead of a 2% dividend, you would receive a 1.34% dividend.

        So your after tax profit would amount to 8% plus 1.34%, for a total of 9.34% after all taxes. It would be tough to find a deal that great anywhere. As non American expats investing in Singapore, James, we get a screaming deal!

        Thanks again for offering the book review, and let me know if you have other questions.



  10. Dennis Lewis says:

    Hi Andrew

    I'm really enjoying your book "Millionaire Teacher". I'm a Canadian teacher who's lived in the Gulf region for over ten years and has seen his fair share of "financial advisors" – in particular those peddling Zurich and Generali insurance scams.

    I’m currently teaching in Qatar. I’m interesting in building a Global Couch Potato portfolio, but I'm not sure what would be my best low-cost options for doing so while living in Doha.

    Is DBSvickers a good option for expats living in Qatar? If not, what are my other options?



    • Hi Dennis,

      I don't know what you have regionally available. You could have multiple options right at your doorstep. I don't know.

      Is there a brokerage there that will give you access to stocks on the New York or Toronto stock exchange? If so, then you can buy ETFs to build your portfolio. If you have access to the UK stock market at a brokerage there, you could something very similar.

      But if you don't have access to these markets, you may want to consider taking a trip to a country that doesn't charge capital gains on equities, and open an account there. Singapore would work. You would have to physically come to Singapore, however, to open the account, and then you would have to wire your money here when you want to make new investments. There are overseas teachers who are already doing this.

      Please spread the word among your fellow teachers. The Zurich group (and others like them) really get around….unfortunately.

      • Dennis Lewis says:

        Thanks Andrew for your quick response.

        As you suggest, I'll dig around to see if I can find a reputable brokerage here which will give me access to the New York, Toronto, and UK stock indices.

        If I have any luck, I'll let you and your readers know.

        Thanks again,


        • Thanks Dennis,

          You would only need access to one of those market exchanges. When you find it (if you find it) give me a shout and I'll help you with the ETFs. Ticker symbols and products are different for each of those exchanges (Toronto, New York, UK).

          • Dennis Lewis says:

            Hi Andrew,

            After doing some research about the availability of a Doha or Gulf-based brokerage account which would give me access to the Canadian, US, or UK stock exchanges, I was left a little bit frustrated. I found several brokerages in Doha, Dubai and the Middle East region, but unfortunately they did not seem to offer the low-cost account option I was looking for. They seemed more interested in steering me towards pricey trading accounts. As for the brokerages in Doha, they did not seem to be as helpful and transparent as I'd hoped they'd be.

            I tried a couple of online international brokerages which have offices in Dubai, but again they tried to steer me towards a trading account.

            One possibility was an account with Internaxx Bank: they don't offer direct links to indices as such, but some of their ETFs are index linked.

            But I finally opted to apply for a low-cost Direct Investment account with RBC, my bank back in Canada. I work for a Canadian college based here in Doha, and my salary is paid directly into my RBC account. Initially, I'd been wary of exposing my savings to the possible scrutiny of the Canadian government, but since tax on capital gains depends on my tax residency, it seems to make better sense for me to stick with RBC. This means that I won't have to worry about expensive fees for transferring funds. I was told by RBC that as a non-resident I'm restricted from mutual funds, but I have full access to the US and Canadian stock exchange indices. Anyway, I'm still in the process of setting up my RBC investment account.

            I'll let you know how it goes.


          • Hi Dennis,

            That certainly would be a simple solution, as long as you won't be jeapordizing your non residency status. How you spoken to a Canadian accountant who specializes in non residency cases about this?

          • Dennis Lewis says:

            Hi Andrew,

            Thanks for your warning. I phoned Revenue Canada about this matter and also consulted Revenue Canada's document "Residential Ties in Canada". According to that document, an investment account would amount to a significant economic tie with Canada. So, I guess RBC is out.


          • I'm glad you double-checked that Dennis. I had a feeling that was the case.

  11. ck tan says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I came across your website while searching for stuff on ETF and i must say its been very helpful! I am a Singaporean, used to investing on my own. But as retirement nears, I am trying to reduce volatility, and management fees. I use DBS Securities on line. I am mostly invested in stocks in Singapore and US but I also have some invested in Dollardex. They have slightly lower fees than fundsupermart, but I am looking at reducing fees to minimum.

    I first thought of Vanguard, but then they do not entertain retail investors in Singapore. so I became very interested when you wrote that we can invest through their ETFs. I was wondering how does it work when a person buys into, say, Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund as against its ETF. Is one disadvantaged when buying its fund versus etf, or vice-versa?


  12. Dennis Lewis says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I'm opening an account with TDAmeritrade. They welcome clients based in the Gulf, offer access to all the major stock exchanges, have a wide range of ETFs with no commission charges, and are generally very reasonably priced.

    This is the allocation I was originally planning to go for:

    30% US Stock Market Index (Vanguard Total Stock)

    30% International Stock Market Index (Vanguard FTSE All World)

    10% US Bond Market (Vanguard Total Bond)

    30% Canadian short-term Bond Index

    But with reports that the bond market is likely to go bust, a friend has suggested I substitute a small capitalisations index for the US bonds and opt for long-term Canadian bonds. What's your take on this?

    Thanks again for your advice.



  13. Ben S. says:

    Hi Andrew

    Love what you are doing with the book and blog. A quick question, would love your comments on my situation:

    -I am a UK national resident in Japan

    -I have a stock trading account with my UK bank, and have been buying dividend stocks through that

    -I have also opened a cheap Japanese stock trading account in my (Japanese) wife's name in which she will be investing regularly (we're thinking dividend stocks and J-REITs)

    I really like the idea of having a dividend-based passive income. We're in a position to invest around 3000 USD per month, and hope to do so for at least the next ten years or so.

    Given all that, do you think we should also build up an index/bond portfolio or is it incompatible with our approach? Japanese brokers charge very high (3-5%) opening fees when selling funds, so opening an account the next time I'm in Singapore would probably be a better option.

    Anyway, would appreciate your thoughts if you get a moment.

    All the best

    ben s.

    • sendaiben says:

      Hi Andrew

      Since posting my ill-considered question above, I have finished reading your book and the interview where you talked about moving from stocks to a complete index-based approach. Things are much clearer now 🙂

      I think we are going to go with a mostly index-based approach 80%+ while still giving me the chance to gamble our money/learn valuable lessons with the remainder.

      Looking forward to learning more as I go on (Reading a Random Walk Down Wall Street as we speak).

      All the best

      ben s.

  14. Angela says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I just finished reading your book. I loved it because it gave me a better picture of what I should invest in.

    Did Dennis Lewis ever figure out how a way to open up a low cost brokerage account overseas as a nonresident Canadian?

    Like Dennis I am a Canadian non-resident. I have lived overseas for 10 years now. I currently work at an international school in Prague.

    The banking system is Prague is not great for regular banking so I would be hesitate to do any investment banking with them. I have already checked with Vanguard in London, they require at least 100 000 pound investment which I can't do.

    If you know of any European investment firms, let me know.

    Thanks for your help.


  15. Hi Angela,

    I'm really glad that my book was useful to you. To answer your question, if a British account is an option for you, then HSBC offeres some wonderful opportunities to build accounts with index funds there. Unfortunately, you may have to travel to the UK to open it. You don't have to have a crazy amount of money to buy the funds and the expenses are very low. Alternatively, if you can find a brokerage in Prague that will give you access to stocks on the New York Stock Exchange (my guess is that you could fund such a brokerage) then you could buy exchange traded funds through that account, much the same way that I do. If you have access to the New York stock market, through a local brokerage, you could buy the Canadian stock market ETF (EWC) as well as a world stock market ETF (VT) and top it off with an international bond market ETF (ISHG). In brackets, I have given you the respective ticker symbols you would need to identify and buy these exchange traded funds. Please let me know how you make out.

  16. Tony says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I read your book earlier this year and have now implemented the approach you suggest for a British Expat living in Singapore. Thanks very much for all the advice. I wonder if you could give your views on the following:

    1) I've been looking at an internet trading company called Internaxx, based in Luxembourg and wondered if you knew anything about them. As I don't know how long I'll be in Singapore and may move before and certainly after retirement might this be an option for investing in index funds that I could stick with if I leave Singapore?

    2) I have approximately 30% of my portfolii in ISHG with the rest split between VT and EWU and was wondering if it might be worth investing some of the bonds percentage into Corporate Bonds in an effort to increase the income. Any thoughts?

    Thanks for all your advice.

  17. Sean McHugh says:

    Can you recommend a Bond ETF for British Expats?

    You say above that "If a British citizen is eventually going to go back home, at some point, they may prefer to have the bulk of their money in British pounds, which is why they may want to consider having a full 50% of their stock market money in the British stock market index."

    But investing through DBS Vickers means we have to purchase in USD, so it's not in British pounds… Is it? Or is there a way to do this with DBS Vickers?

  18. David says:

    Interesting to read the advice you offer. I would value your advice on a couple of points-

    As a Brit what taxes should I consider when investing using your strategy?

    I have heard that some of the investments you don't like (like Zurich and Friends Provident) offer tax planning advantages for me should i return home – is this true?

    • Tax planning strategies aren't worth giving up 50% of your assets over David. As an expat Brit, you won't pay capital gains taxes in the UK, so depending on where you reside, you could have a sweet deal. And when you repatriate, you won't owe a penny to the UK government. You will, however, need to transfer your money to the UK when you repatriate, and from that day forward, you will have to pay taxes on gains from that date of your repatriation. You will not, however, have to pay "back taxes"

      The best advice I can give you is to wipe Zurich and Friends Provident from your memory bank. They will generally fleece you.

      • David says:

        Thanks for this Andrew. I live in Singapore, having moved here from the UK recently, and will stay here for a total of 4 years before returning to the UK. How does this affect your advice?

  19. Dennis Lewis says:

    Hi Andrew and Ben,

    I just read your message Ben. Your questions are very good ones, and these were precisely the questions I had to weigh when I was considering which brokerage account to apply for.

    I'm a British-Canadian dual citizen working in Qatar. I could not find any satisfactory low cost brokerages in Qatar. After careful consideration, I eventually decided to open an account with the discount brokerage TD Ameritrade in the US (they're actually part of Canada'sToronto Dominion Bank family).

    As you correctly state Andrew, TD Ameritrade charges me a stiff 30% withholding tax on dividends. This is in spite of the fact that I'm a Canadian passport holder (and Canada has a tax treaty with the US which entitles Canadians to a 15% withholding rate). However, since I'm resident in Qatar, I just have to lump it. I do not like this.

    But on the other hand, TD Ameritrade offers me a wide range of low-cost, commission-free etfs, they have a Sweep policy in place (by which dividend earnings and interest are automatically swept into a money market account which they have set up for me), they do not charge any custodial fees for holding my earnings, they have a number of excellent, easy-to-understand trading platforms, they charge a low fee for trades ($10), they have a transparent, easy-to-understand fee structure, they have excellent and free educational and research resources (frequent webinairs, etc.), they have a very user-friendly website, accounts are protected by the FDIC, and they also offer very good and timely help (via email and phone) when asked.

    And so, on balance, I'm pretty happy with my TD Ameritrade brokerage account.


  20. Dennis Lewis says:

    Hi Angela,

    Please see my answer to Andrew Hallam and Ben above (Oct. 15, 2012).


  21. Hi Tony,

    Have a look at the taxes in Luxembourg before making the decision to invest from there. I don't know what the capital gains taxes are, but a friend of mine lives there and keeps his Singapore based DBS Vickers account open. Another friend lives in Amsterdam (a Canadian) and took a special trip here to open an account with DBS Vickers. Perhaps, if you have an account in Singapore, you can keep it open.

  22. Hi Sean,

    I know that ISHG trades on the New York exchange and you could buy it through DBS Vickers. However, it's an international government bond index. I could be mistaken, but I do think that Standard Chartered offers access to the British stock market. If that's the case, the bond fund you would want is called the FTSE All Stocks Gilt Fund. Yeah, it has the name "stock" in it but it's a British bond fund. You can access all ETFs available on the British market through this link: http://etf.stock-encyclopedia.com/category/etfs-l

  23. If possible, Dennis, always keep your bond maturities short, not long.

  24. Tom says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for all the great info. I am a US citizen, used to be an exec in a US firm and have lived in Thailand for the last ten years. I am 57 years old, on a retirement visa and plan to stay in Thailand. I have well over a million USD in a taxable long terms savings account and having just read your book, am wondering if now is the best time to invest in Vanguard or IShares ETFs as a retirement investment strategy? My main concerns are the price of bond ETFs and the impact of elections and the Fiscal Cliff on the market in the coming months.

    I read everywhere that bond ETFs have performed really well in the last year but are now relatively expensive. The low interest rates can only go up and if people panic sell the funds the funds yields could decrease dramatically. I don't really understand how these bond funds with 5% coupons returned 10% + in a year but it doesn't seem likely they will do it again next year. What bond ETFs would you recommend at this point and what percentage of my portfolio?

    Also, everyone seems geared for a substantial stock market correction in the end of 2012 or early 2013. I am wondering if its best to just sit in 3.25% 5 month fixed deposits in Thai banks for a while or even stay in cash until the market correction allows me buy in?

    Having said all that, I do like the idea of a long term strategy that leaves me worry free about my retirement income. I like the idea of dealing with my investment portfolio on a monthly basis at the most, what equity ETFs would you recommend now?

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts.


  25. AJ says:

    Hi Andrew

    Having read your book a few times over I am now ready to start my couch potato fund rolling.

    I am an Brit expat here in Singapore, I have a kick start lump sum and will then be making purchases 2 or 3 times a year.

    Would you still recommend the 3 EFTs from the start of this blog from November 2010 (EWU , VT & ISHG) or should I look at others and should I use DBS Vickers ?



  26. Sean says:

    I really can't bear the thought of going through the whole rigmarole of applying for a new brokerage account with Standard Chartered, so instead what I am doing is transferring the funds using TT to my current account in the UK and from there I invest in the UK Index in the HUKX.L ETF (one you recommended) using TD direct investments in the UK, a lot cheaper than DBS at £8 per transaction!

    The only catch there is the tax situation, what I am going to get around that is I put my ETF investments in an ISA with a TD direct ETF ISA account which allows me to invest about £11,000 a year tax free, and the same for my wife.

    Better than nothing, when I have maxed out my ISA in the UK I will be using the remainder of my investment funds that year in the US ETFs that you have recommended, obviously making sure that I keep a balance as you so wisely advise.

    • Tony says:

      Hi Sean,

      Your strategy sounds like a good idea but I was under the impression that you have to be resident in the UK to be eligible for the ISA tax free allowance. As such I have stopped contributing to ISAs while I've been overseas. Please do double check but I suspect you may not be able to pay into an ISA while you're overseas.

      • Sean says:

        Hi Tony,

        Good point, when I checked up on this it turns out to be a lot more complex than it seems, there are actually several different types of residency, so I contacted the Inland Revenue to determine exactly what kind of residency I have. It turns out that I am "ordinarily" resident because I do intend to return permanently eventually. There are some other qualifying criteria like a home address in the UK, returning to the UK every 2 years (or more) and an employment contract which employs me as a UK resident and returns me at the end of contract. So as someone who is "ordinarily resident" I am able to avail of some of the things that are classified as residents only in the UK – which is a lot of things, surprisingly for example included is national health cover when my wife had to return to have my son.

        I hope that helps,


  27. David,

    As an expat you coud invest here and not pay capital gains taxes. Or you could keep your accounts in the UK, and transfer your money to HSBC's tracker funds. Considering that you'll only be here for four years, the decision should be a personal one. HSBC's tracker funds are indexes that charge expense ratios of roughly 0.2% per year. They're lovely products, and you could read more about them here: http://andrewhallam.com/2012/05/millionaire-teach

    Let me know if you have other questions….after reading through the comments/suggestions above.



  28. CJ says:

    Hi Andrew, I have around US$200000 invested in various mutual funds with companies such as Franklin Templeton HK, citibank HK and Barclays. they have been sitting stagnating for at least 10 years in most cases. The only present investment i make each month is into a Prudential Wealth Builder in HK which invests into mutual funds. I think it must be time to stop that and switch everything over to Index Funds.

    But I cannot figure out how to do that. I am an International school teacher and have been for the last 21 years. I am a UK citizen but am currently residing and working in the Philippines. I emailed Vanguard UK but since I am not resident in the UK I cannot use them. I have bank accounts in HK with Standard Chartered.

    Do you have any advice for people like me who are International teachers and who will be moving from one country to another every few years? Would HK be my best bet?

    I've just read your book after a recommendation from a friend. As a married 44 yr old father of two daughters under the age of 5 you can imagine my wish to get busy building a portfolio of Index funds and short term govt bonds as soon as possible,

    Thanks for any advice and for opening my eyes with your book!


  29. Kiat says:

    Hi Andrew

    I have purchased your book and have thoroughly enjoyed reading it many times over! I have a couple of questions.

    1. I like the idea of purchasing the lagging index each month / each quarter, but (my apologies if I sound a bit naive) I was wondering what we should do if we find that the equity indexes, both domestic and international, begin to go on an extended bull run lasting many months if not years. In this scenario would we still be adding to the bond indexes every month / quarter thereby maintaining our desired allocation to bonds (in my case 37% = age in years)?

    2. If you were me and you had a lump sum of 90,000USD to invest in (33% of my total portfolio) would you go in all at once today, splitting it between 67%equities, 37% bonds?

    • Hi Kiat,

      During an extended bull run, I would do the same as with an extended bear market: just buy my asset classes that will ensure that I maintain my allocation, whatever those asset classes may be. To answer your second question, I would invest it all at once. But I may be wired differently than you. I don't care what my investments do over a short time, so if the markets fell after I put in the $90K I wouldn't care. If that would bother you, psychologically, you could put $10K in each month for the next 9 months.



  30. Chris says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Did you get any further with your research into Saxo? I see that I can open an account in Singapore and in Hong Kong; HK would be more easy for me to manage I think. I'd be interested to know what you figured out about their rates. Thanks.


  31. Chris says:

    Hi Dennis,

    How is it going with TD Ameritrade. They seem like a great option for a non-resident Brit like myself. The fees are about as cheap as I have seen but my concern is with Capital gains tax. Is this something we would need to worry about; I understand we pay a small amount on dividends but should that be it?



    • Dennis Lewis says:

      Hi Chris,

      I still have a brokerage account with TD Ameritrade. As mentioned in one of my earlier posts, they do withhold 30% on dividends and interest from all US earnings. But that would be still be the case if you were to buy US indexed etfs via a brokerage in another country.

      Residents of certain foreign countries (such as Canada) may be entitled to reduced rates under a tax treaty between their country of residence and the US.

      And yes, you're right – this withholding does NOT apply to capital gains made from the sales of securities.

      There are other good, reasonably priced online brokerages out there (Scott-trade, e-trade, fidelity, trade king, options house, interactive brokers, etc.), but I chose TD Ameritrade because of their transparency, the clarity and ease of using their platforms, their educational and research resources, and the fact that they have pretty good support services.

      Initially, I thought I'd have trouble opening an account with them because I'm not a US resident. But they had no problem with me applying from Qatar. Since you're a non-resident Brit, you might also want to check out TD's UK site, though I'm not sure if you'd have to be resident in the UK to open an account with them.

      I've also heard good things about Saxo Bank, so you might want to explore that possibility. Internaxx, you've probably heard of, but I think they're a bit too expensive.



  32. Hi Tom,

    My apologies for not responding to your questions earlier. The trouble with market forecasts is that they are usually wrong. If people expect a particular crash at a particular time then those people have already sold. Market prices are based on supply and demand. The markets don't just crash on their own. We crash them when we sell far more than we buy. It's that simple. Predicting the markets has very little to do with predicting the economy. It has to do with predicting human behavior. And most pundits have a terrible track record doing that.

    As a U.S. citizen, you could buy inflation protected securities via Vanguard. https://personal.vanguard.com/us/funds/snapshot?F

    These are bonds (you could buy them as an index) that would ensure that your money will beat inflation each year. You could put about 50%-60% of your money in these, with the rest of your money in a U.S. stock index, and an international stock index. If the stock markets do fall, you can sell some of your inflation protected securities and re-balance your portfolio.

    Again, my apologies for not responding earlier.



  33. Hi AJ,

    Those indexes would work nicely. And you could use whatever brokerage that you are comfortable with, as long as they give you access to the New York market, which is what you would need to buy the ETFs above.



  34. Hi CJ,

    Many others in your situation have found that they can open an account with DBS Vickers in Singapore without having to actually come to Singapore. Once you do this, you will be able to wire your money here and build your money online, regardless of where you live. Once you repatriate back to the UK, of course, you should remove the money from DBS Vickers and invest at home, via Vanguard or the tracker index funds at HSBC. If you call DBS Vickers and you receive information to the contrary (suggesting that you can't open the account) then keep pressing. You can! There's a thread on my blog where a variety of other folks have done this very thing, and they have discussed it on my blog. I couldn't find the original thread (sorry, I got lazy looking) but this might help somewhat: http://andrewhallam.com/2012/10/expatriate-invest



  35. Scott mackinnon says:

    Hi Andrew

    We spoke last week, since then i have read your book and it was excellent. I knew nothing about investments really and this was clear and worded in layman terms. Thank you!!

    Your book was very insightful. We were going to invest in a Zurich vista plan but your book certainly opened our eyes. As I mentioned we are Brits living in the UAE as teachers. We want to start investing as per your book ( UK stock market index, international stock market index and government bonds ). Based on your book we were thinking 70:30 split.

    My question is we don't know where to start. We are rookies at this thing and are looking for companies that don't charge huge fees (UK or UAE based I suppose) who we can use?? We are Brits living in Dubai.

    Having looked at your previous threads I saw the term tracker fund get thrown about. You recommended HSBC within the UK who do one.

    Can i ask what is the diff between a tracker fund and a stock market index ( we are rookies so apologies) .

    Are they any tax implications for when I return to the UK on any profits I make while investing abroad??

    Many thanks for the great read Andrew.

  36. PJ says:

    Dear Andrew and all

    UK Expat, always paid in the Green Back working in S.E. Asia

    No real plans to return to the UK to live is it still worth holding LSE top 100 Fund or best to stay away or look at it through an offshore platform. Any reccomendations would be welcomed.

    I was hours away from setting up an account with DBS Vickers Singapore until I read recent bloggs/ comments.

    Plans are 40% Bonds, 30% International Fund, 30% maybe NYSE S&P 500 or the UK LSE. 150,000 USD to kick off and 2 to 3000 USD a month re-balance/ top up

    Is DBS still a good bet or should I be considering elsewhere?.

    I have read a few positive blogs in regard SAXO Bank anyone have any experience how do they compare to DBS or Standard Chartered (thailand or Singapore)?:

    Fees:not find anything on initial fees, Bonds are of 0.25% p.a. charged on a monthly basis and Stocks held in custody a flat fee of 0.35% p.a. will be charged subject from 1st April, 2012. The custody fees for Stocks will be calculated and charged on a monthly basis and the offsetting trades will be minimum 2 per month.

    Any suggestions.. Thanks

  37. Hi Scott,

    I don't believe you will face tax implications on the money you made abroad, but you may want to check with a UK -based accountant to be sure. And yes, tracker funds and index funds are the same thing.



  38. Chris says:

    Hi Denis,

    Thanks for all the info. I've just set up an account with TD Ameritrade and am now trying to decide what allocations to go for. I think that you're Canadian; I'm a Brit so perhaps our holdings would focus differently.

    My question for you, Andrew and anybody who might be able to help goes like this!

    I'm an International Teacher Brit in SE Asia for the foreseeable future. If ever I do go back to Europe to retire it would more than likely be to France (can't see it ever being the UK).

    So first of all have I made the right decision opening up an account based with TDA in the US in US dollars? I did so with TDA as there transaction fees are low (USD10 a go) with no commission. There is the 30% withholding tax on dividends but from what I've read here that is nothing much to worry about and to be expected on any account investing in US ETFs.

    If I'm good with TDA I'll go for Bonds and an International Fund. I'm not sure what to do then. If I do not plan to go back to the UK, but do plan to go to France to retire should I then still invest in the UK market? If so must that be in UKPounds to be to my benefit? I think with TDA it would have to be all USD. If so as I have UKPounds in the UK is it best to open another brokerage account there and buy a UK market ETF in sterling? I hope that all makes sense. Thanks for any help.



  39. Chris says:

    Hi PJ,

    I seem to be in the same boat as you; UK expat….in the Philippines at the moment…moving to KL in July. Will perhaps retire to France rather than the UK one day in the unforeseeable future!

    I was going to open an account with Saxo bank in HK (you dont need to actually go there to do so) but opened one with TD Ameritrade in the US (didn't need to go there either). I made my decision based on the fact that TDA have USD10 per trade charge and no commission which seemed a bit cheaper than Saxo or anybody else for that matter.

    I'm about to buy my ETFs but am not sure what to get to go with the bond fund and the international fund. Does it make any difference whether I go with UK exchange or US exchange if I'm going back to Europe one day (but not UK). Also if I do buy a fund trading in the UK exchange does it need to be in Sterling.

    Thanks for any help.



  40. Chris says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I just opened an account with TDA in the US; I'm a Brit in SE Asia.

    I had a look at buying the EWU ETF (iShares MSCI UK Index Fund) but noticed that the Management Fee is 0.53%. Isn't that rather expensive compared to other ETFs?

    Might Vanguard have a UK Index Fund that has lower fees. If so would it be a better bet to go with that? I know that you've recommended the EWU. Thanks for any advice.



    • Chris says:

      Hi again Andrew. I just noticed that I can get EWQ (iShares MSCI France Index Fund). If I plan to retire to France rather than the UK one day should I be going with that? Management fee is again 0.53%.




      • Yes Chris, that sounds like a good idea. It's important to have a healthy investment in the denominated currency that you will eventually be paying your bills in. Although it trades on the NYSE, that ETF is certainly representing the French market, denominated in Euros.

        • Chris says:

          Thanks for the quick reply Andrew!

          last question for a while I hope…..I'm itching to get buying ETFs but they seem to be highly priced at the moment. Should I just go for it and get in there and buy (stock and bond), or buy my allotment of the Bond Index Fund and wait before Stock Index ETFs go down in price before adding them?




  41. Scott MacKinnon says:

    Hi Andrew et al,

    Can anyone recommend a good brokerage in Abu Dhabi/Duabai ??

    I am a UK citizen.



    • Adam Zargar says:

      I have just opened up a Saxo Bank account (5000USD to open and put extra 1300USD) and am working out how to invest it. What do you recommend? I am a brit living in Dubai but plan to stay here in Middle East indefinatelty as getting married here to a girl born here.

      Also I have put 27k USD in a skandia managed pension. I put 825 USD a month in it and have 17 yrs left. The value is 26 now and surrender 7…what should I do.

      I have tried to get a hold of you on various blogs and email as really want to start my own pension plan and start investing my saxo funds.

      Background: Brit
      Live in Dubai, UAE
      Trading with saxo bank
      Age 33 (34 in Jan 2014)

      Thanks, Andrew
      ps-i put a review of your book in Dubai’s largest paper the other day (be published in Sept)

  42. PJ says:

    Hi Andrew currently based in Myanmar .. (Condo in Bangkok… where I plan to rest my hat although in the longer term I will likely be somewhere closer to the beach)

    Any advice on my initial post would be great…. also is UK LSE worth including in the portfolio if not returning and paid in USD.

    Regarding Brokers SAXO Bank, Standard Chartered options, but now I read that Schwab has a 0.09% TER for the SP 500, but in a 2012 Blog… I read If I open an account with a US Broker such as Schwab I assume I will incur US holding tax for all trades/ funds both those on NYSE and International, Bonds etc…

    Many options, considerations….Headache!

    Many Thanks


  43. Dave says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I am a British citizen and Singapore resident. I receive most of my salary in GBP. I would like to invest in ETFs. Is it possible to invest using DBS vickers as outlined aboveusing GBP? I dont want to take currency exchange risk when I return to the UK.

    Maybe I have missed something. Sorry I am new to this!



    • Hi Dave,

      If you bought a British stock ETF (as mentioned above) you would not be taking any currency risk relating to British pounds.

      Let me try to explain. Assume that the British stock market stays flat for the next ten years. Assume, also, that the U.S. dollar gets cut in half over the next ten years, versus sterling.

      In this case, the British market ETF that you bought off the New York Stock Exchange would actually double in value because it's denominated (priced) in U.S. dollars. So even if the British market doesn't budge, and the dollar drops, the value of the index (in U.S. dollars) would double in value. In sterling, it would reflect the return of the British market. In this hypothetical where the British market flat-lines for a decade, case, zero gain

      This UK market index is not exposed to the U.S. dollar at all. In fact, if you bought the international stock ETF (VEA) and the international bond ETF (ISHG) and a British stock ETF, you would have ZERO exposure to the U.S. currency, even though you purchased these products in U.S. dollars and even though they are priced in U.S. dollars.

      I hope that makes sense.



  44. Chris says:

    Hi Andrew,

    My brokerage is TD Ameritrade in the US. I'm a Brit in SE Asia and I imagine am returning to Europe (UK or more likely France) one day in the distant future. For my "home index" I split 50% of my total equally between EWU and EWQ. But the expense ratio on those iShares is 0.53%.

    I'm considering switching out of EWU and EWQ into Vanguard's VGK (MSCI Europe ETF) which is 50% UK/France and 27% Germany/Swiss and the rest other Europe. VGK's expense ratio is only 0.14%.

    How does that sound? Enough exposure to the UK and France? Thanks for any advice. Cheers


  45. Tony says:

    Hi Andrew,

    As a Brit working in Singapore, I read your book almost a year ago and now I'm following your advice, ionvesting in EWU, VT and ISHG. I am wondering what you think of spreading the bond allocation between ISHG (yield currently only about 1.36%) and EMB a US$ denominated emerging market bond fund (yield 4.31%)?


    Thanks for a great book – I've recommended it to many colleagues.


  46. Mike says:

    Hi Andrew

    Recently went through your book after a near-miss with one of Singapore's ubiquitous Managed Fund salesmen. Am planning to kick off my ETF investments from this month.

    I use Standard Chartered's Equity Trading platform and am having trouble finding appropriate ETF stock codes (the ones you quote for Vickers are not there). I'm British living in Singapore so was planning on investing in (1) UK FTSE Index, (2) Global Equity Index and (3) International Bond Index (see, I have been listening).

    Wondered if you or any of your contributors are able to advise the appropriate stock codes I can look at on the Stan Chard platform.

    Thanks and best of luck all


    • Hi Mike,

      You can use the stock codes above for the British market, if you choose the New York or U.S. market as your exchange with Standard Chartered Bank.

      If Standard Chartered also allows you access to the British stock exchange (which I believe they do) you could use a UK based ETF via Standard Chartered.

      Here's the ETF for the FTSE 250, providing access to 97% of the UK stock market: http://etf.stock-encyclopedia.com/MIDD-LSE.html

      And here's a global stock ETF trading in Britain: http://etf.stock-encyclopedia.com/IWRD-LSE.html

      If you have access to the London Stock exchange via Standard Chartered (which I believe you do) you could use these above, and find an appropriate bond ETF as well, through one of the site links above.



  47. sendaiben says:

    Hi Andrew

    I'm a UK national resident in Japan, and am planning to fly to SIngapore this month to open a DBS account, but am having trouble getting straight answers from their email support staff with regards to necessary documents etc.

    Do you know if I need anything other than a passport to do this?

    It would be great if you could run a step-by-sted post for non-residents looking to set up accounts in Singapore 🙂

    Love the blog -keep the articles coming!

  48. Brendan Miller says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Your original article was written back in 2010. I am wondering if you would still suggest the same ETF's or if you would recommend something different such as those found here https://www.vanguard.co.uk/uk/mvc/investments/etf



    p.s. Just posted of the forms to cash in my FP Premier plan. Now waiting to see how long until they pay up and how much I get.

    • Hi Brendan,

      If you are living in the UK, then you could certainly buy the HSBC tracker funds or the Vanguard indexes you listed. If you live overseas and you don't want to pay capital gains taxes, then the ETFs I listed would be more efficient.

  49. RJB says:

    Can I bump this thread to ask for similar help to Sendaiben? Options for residents of Japan are extremely limited, so I'm also looking into flying to Singapore to open an account at DBS Vickers.

    It would be very helpful to hear from someone in Singapore who is familiar with DBS requirements for non-residents, or from a resident of another country who has gone through the process of opening an account there. Anybody?

    • sendaiben says:

      Hi RJB

      So far what I have heard from DBS Vickers email support is that:

      1) I can open a trading account by mail if I have a Singapore bank account

      2) I need to go in person to open a bank account

      3) I only need a passport, BUT accounts are opened at the bank's discretion

      I'll be there next week so will post back with my experiences.

      All the best

      • RJB says:

        Hi Ben,

        Thanks for the info. The discretionary part sounds a little worrying but hopefully it's just a formality.

        Looking forward to hearing about your experience.

        Good luck

  50. Hi Tony,

    My apologies for missing your comment. Emerging market bonds (and corporate junk bonds) have proven, historically (based on what Burton Malkiel has suggested) to be worth the risk if they're diversified, which your ETF would be. So yes, I think the option you ask about would be a good one. Developed, plus emerging could be a nice combo.



  51. Karl says:

    ETFs All in One Vanguard Basket?


    I have opened a DBS Vickers account and am following Andrews's strategy by holding EWU, ISHG and VT with my age percentage in ISHG. However I also have opened a trading ISA in the UK which allows me to invest 11,000 sterling a year in the UK stock market free of capital gain tax. This was an easy process through TD UK and declaring myself to be 'ordinarily resident' – which as far as I can work out is what I am.

    I am now looking for 3 ETFs to buy from the UK market following Andrews formula. Like Andrew I want the least hassle as possible and Vanguard UK seem to have a simple 1,2,3 for the funds I need.

    My question is this: Is there any danger in choosing ETFs from the same company? Does it make more sense to spread your risk so e.g. HUKX (HSBC) for a UK market index, IGLT (iShares) for the bond index and VWRL (Vanguard) for the Global index.

    I like the idea of just buying all 3 from Vanguard as Andrew speaks highly of Vanguard USA in his book but is this a foolhardy approach?

    Many thanks


    • sendaiben says:

      Hi Karl

      Are you resident in Singapore? If not, could you talk a bit about how opening accounts and things went?

      If you declare yourself normally resident in the UK, are you not then on the hook for income, capital gains, dividend, etc. taxes?

      All the best

      • Karl says:


        I am working in Singapore and have been for the last 4 years. I own property in the Uk and as a result I make an annual tax declaration which generally means I end up paying some income tax.

        Opening the accounts was very easy as far as TD UK were concerned. I did the whole thing online but I think having a UK debit card to credit the account made things easier.


  52. Dennis Lewis says:

    Hi Chris,

    Sorry for not getting back to you before this. I haven't visited this site for a while.

    I'm not sure if Andrew got back to you about your account. Obviously, he'd be the guy to answer all of your questions.

    In my case, I'm a Brit-Canadian who's working in Qatar. Because it's likely that I'll retire outside of Canada, my index ETF allocations are:

    CIU – iShares Barclays Intermediate Bonds

    VTI – Vanguard Total US Stock Market

    VEU – Vanguard All ex-US Stock Market

    SDY – SPDR S&P High Dividend

    You ask if you made the right decision re- a TDA account in US dollars. They do have a currency trading platform, but my understanding is that with a regular equity/bond trading you are only able to open a TDA in US dollars anyway. Even though you don't live in the UK, I wonder would you have been able to open a non-resident account with TDA in Britain?

    As you rightly say, TDA's fees are quite attractive. The 30% US withholding tax on dividends is standard for all accounts which trade US stocks. Andrew makes it clear that you'd pay the same if you opened a brokerage account in Singapore. But significantly, as a foreign holder of a TDA account, you do not pay any capital gains tax.

    I'm not sure how to answer your question about whether you should still invest in the UK market if you're not planning to retire in the UK. Since you said you were planning to go for an international index, you would get some exposure to the UK market and the rest of Europe anyway. But I'm sure it would also be possible to get ETFs more focused on the UK or Europe. You mention having a sterling account in the UK; it might be an option for you to simply open a UK brokerage account (see my question about TDA in the UK above).

    All of these questions are for someone far more knowledgeable than me – Andrew. :)))

    I'd be curious to see what you opted for.

    All the best,


    • John Cordwell says:

      Dear Denis,

      My daughter (28yrs) lives in Qatar for the next three years, then she will move somewhere else outside the UK.
      She is a British citizen.

      I have advised her to save for a pension etc.
      But we are having such a job finding a broker.

      In the UK one has to be resident.
      She isn’t resident!
      So they don’t want to open up a brokerage account.

      Now Andrew Hallam says open a brokerage account in Singapore.
      But is that just for Singapore residents?

      Please , please give us some advice as how to open up a brokerage account from Qatar.
      My daughter would want to regularly buy ETF’s on the US stock exchange, I think.

      Thank you for your help.

      John Cordwell
      Frankfurt, Germany.

  53. Brendan says:

    On a slightly different note, can you or one of your readers recommend a good insurance policy? Basically I want my wife and kids to be looked after incase I get ill or kick the bucket. Due to my having inherited the Y-chromosome I do silly things such as scuba dive (safe), ski (also safe), race motorcycles (not so safe) and fly hang gliders (I'll let you decide). So how can I ensure that they will be looked after in case of an accident? Also what about a will? Is there such a thing as an international will?

  54. RJB says:

    I came across this site http://the-international-investor.com while searching for an international brokerage account.

    I was all set to open an account at TD Direct International (Internaxx) but they no longer accept applications from Japan. In fact, information on the site I linked to suggests that they are also forcibly closing existing accounts held by residents in Japan (and some other countries). Looks like I dodged a bullet.

    Anyway, the international-investor site has a lot of good information on international stock brokers (especially in Singapore and Hong Kong) for UK and US expats, along with comparisons, recommendations, and procedures for opening accounts.

    Maybe some people here will find it useful.

  55. sendaiben says:

    Hi RJB

    Thanks for posting the international investor site. It was extremely useful.

    I ended up opening two accounts, just in case, one with DBS Vickers and one with OCBC. They were both very smooth, and took around one hour.

    For OCBC, you should go to their office on Church Street:

    OCBC Securities Private Limited

    18 Church Street

    #01-00 OCBC Centre South

    Singapore 049479

    Open a securities account first, then they will help you open a bank account (the bank is next door). You just need your passport as a non-resident. You will have to deposit 1000 Singapore $ ASAP (not necessarily in cash).

    For DBS, you should go to their office on the 3rd floor of Marina Bay Financial Centre, Tower 3. Again, open a trading account first, then they will help you open a bank account. You need to maintain a balance of at least 3000 Singapore dollars to avoid paying fees.

    I was able to do both comfortably in one day. They fill out most of the paperwork for you, and you really do need just the passport.

    • Kelly says:

      Hi Senaiben,

      I’ve been in contact with DBS Vickers a few times about opening a brokerage account with them. I have tried (with no avail) to do it without flying to Singapore, so I am planning to fly there in a few weeks (which is fine because I love Singapore!)

      I have a few questions for you. Why did you open a bank account with DBS Vickers? I was under the impression it wasn’t needed unless you plan to trade on the Singapore market. Or are you using as a medium between your bank account in Japan with your brokerage account? I am unsure about how to actually get my money from the UAE (where I live and work) to Singapore. And the answers from the DBS people aren’t that clear. So it would be great if you could tell me how you do it 🙂

      And it’s good to know you just need the passport. One rep I spoke to told me I needed proof of my address. All my mail comes to a PO Box and my housing contract is in Arabic. She told me it needed to be in English… Poses a problem! lol She also said I needed a bank statement and a payslip to open a bank account. Did you need to make a cash deposit to open the account?

      Have you started trading with DBS Vickers? Is it easy enough?

      Thanks in advance for your help 🙂

  56. RJB says:

    Hi Ben,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m glad everything went smoothly.

    It’s very helpful to hear a first-hand account from somebody who has gone through the process.
    I’m hoping to head over there myself soon.

    Thanks again.

  57. Brendan says:

    Hi Andrew

    I have recently set up a DBS Vickers account and bought EWU, VT and ISHG as per your recommendations.

    My question is, should I just hold these or should I perhaps try to emulate Asset Builders portfolios and buy a range of stocks?

    I was thinking of either trying to copy Asset Builders couch potato portfolio called Five Fold, or their model portfolio 08. Any advice?



    • Hi Brendan,

      You could just keep it simple, if you prefer. The model portfolio (for Americans) that I set up for teachers at SAS has performed as well as the closest Assetbuilder equivalent. But if you would prefer to mix things up, by all means. My personal portfolio is very simple, more aligned to the sample you have than the Assetbuilder model. The biggest asset you have won't be the indexes you choose, but how dispassionately you can handle the ups and downs.



  58. Thanks for this Sendaiben


  59. Tuula says:

    Thank you Andrew for a good book and hands on advices to expats on personal finances. It’s funny, I knew most of the theory, but never really realized that you can buy indices as a private investor too. That’s how much they teach in business schools!

    My husband and I are now starting the process of moving our investments to index funds/ETFs. We have also decided to get rid of our Zurich Vista plan in the process!

    However, I still have some questions about choosing the right indices and brokerages. Most of the advices you have given are for American, Canadian, and British expats, but I haven’t seen anyone here from the euro zone.

    We’re a couple in late 30’s from Europe (The Netherlands & Finland), currently living in Singapore. We have no exact plan on how long we’re here in Singapore (or somewhere else), but eventually the plan is to return to Finland. Most of our expenses are currently in Singapore dollars, but future expenses most likely in euro.

    Some questions:

    Brokerage firm: I have understood that we should open an investment account here in Singapore to avoid paying tax on capital gains. Right? Do you have any general rule on how to find a best brokerage company? Earlier you have mentioned DBS Vickers, but they don’t give access to European stock exchanges. There’s also some online brokerages advertised, but is there any disadvantage in using them?

    Investment allocation: Do you have any rule of thumb on choosing the indices/ETFs in which to invest in? How do you know which ones to pick? And what about the allocation between the currencies?

    For example, we would be looking at 40% short term bond index fund, 60% stock index funds (eur and international). Would we be able to go with a following split:

    40% Euro bond index (Eur)

    20% Euro stock index (Eur)

    20% international stock index (US dollars)

    20% U.S. stock index (US dollars)

    Or should we forget the US dollar indices, our future expenses will most likely not be in US dollars? And how do I choose the right indices/ETFs?

    Maybe your next book should be about “how to make your portfolio in real life – a hands on guide”, as all the indices, ETFs, brokerage fees, taxation etc. can drive a person crazy 🙂 . Looking forward to your comments!

    • Tuula,

      If you want access to a European exchange, you could use Standard Chartered bank's brokerage. Without going online and digging up ETFs on European exchanges, I would not be able to help you find appropriate ETFs. I hope you don't mind!

      I am, however, familiar with the New York Stock Market, and I know that you can buy any ETF you want from this market. I have an account with DBS Vickers. This would work for you as well. So would Standard Chartered, of course.

      If you google for low cost European stock ETFs off the NYSE, you will find some. Go for the one with the lowest expense ratio. It will be priced in USD, but it won't be valued based on USD. It will be valued based on the value of the companies in Europe. You will have zero exposure to USD when buying a USD priced ETF off the New York Stock Market.

      Hope that helps,


  60. Phil says:

    Hi Karl,

    I'm in a similar situation owning UK property and completing a tax returrn but living in SG. Just a comment but I'm happily not ordinarily resident in the UK. 🙂

  61. Stephen Maine says:

    I have a question about the ultimate goal of index investing. Is the idea that you eventually sell the ETF's and Bonds and reinvest elsewhere. Where does the eventual income come from so to speak once you retire?

    Also if you eventually move back to Canada or the UK and then sell your ETF's in Singapore are you not liabale for capital gains tax on the sale of the overseas asset if you are once again resident in canada or the Uk.



    • Hi Stephen,

      When corporate profits of public companies grow, their share prices and dividends grow as well. Over time, there will always be a one to one correlation between business earnings and stock price growth, for the markets as a whole. When the stocks of these companies pay dividends, we can choose to reinvest those in new shares, or just take the profits.

      For me, I now have thousands of shares of my respective exchange traded funds. Their prices will continue to grow over time, the dividends will increase, and I will continue to buy more shares. As a result, my portfolio will continue to grow.

      When I am ready to retire, I will sell 4% of my holdings in the first year. For example, if my portfolio were $1 million, I would sell $40,000 of my holdings. Each year, I would sell another $40,000 (with upward increases to cover inflation). If my portfolio can keep growing during the time I'm retired, it will likely be the same size upon my retirement as it would be at my death….assuming it would grow by roughly 7% each year. In this case, I would be able to bequeath the ETF proceeds to charity, family or both.

      As a non resident of Canada, if I choose to repatriate and sell my Singapore based ETFs (before doing so) I won't pay capital gains tax on the profits because Singapore is a capital gains free zone. I would (If I chose to repatriate) bring the money with me, by transferring it to a Canadian brokerage, and then proceed to buy the same products again. From that date onward, I would pay realized capital gains taxes, but only from that date forward.



  62. Lewis says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I've read your book and, along with it being a great read, it has really made me want to invest in stock and bond indexes.

    I'm a 20 year old university student in Britain, also living in Britain, and was wondering where do I start? How do I go about creating an investment portfolio and who do I talk to first?

    Thanks for your time and help.


    • Hi Lewis,

      HSBC (in the UK) offers tracker (index) funds for the British stock market, European market, U.S. market and the British bond market. They're cheap. You could start there, but don't let them convince you to go with active unit trusts.



  63. Nikster says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Your book was recommended to me by a friend and I finished it in a couple of sittings. It is probably the best book on personal finance that I've read.

    Could I ask a couple for questions?

    I am a 36 year old Brit currently living in Malaysia but my salary is paid into my UK bank account and I continue to pay UK tax. I will almost certainly return to the UK at some point in the next ten years but as my wife's Australian, we could end up there in the long run.

    I want to set up a portfolio as per your recommendations with a mix of stocks and bonds. Am I better off doing this through someone like Hargreave Lansdown in the UK and if so, which index trackers would you recommend? Given my circumstances, is there any benefit in me popping down to Singapore and opening up a DBS account?

    I will initially be depositing £2000 with the same amount available each month. Should I go for ETFs or simple trackers? Presumably I should keep the first £11,000 in an ISA.

    Thank you so much in advance

    • Hi Nikster,

      If you're going to be in Asia for a few years, I think it would be worth opening a brokerage account in Singapore. If you invest in the UK, you'll pay capital gains taxes on the growth. But Singapore is a capital gains free zone, so you could legally dodge taxes by investing here. Once you repatriate, you may want to buy HSBCs tracker (index) funds. They're a great, low cost option for UK residents. Or…if you want something cheaper, you could build a portfolio of low cost ETFs that trade on the UK exchange.

      • Nikster says:

        Thanks for replying so quickly. I think we'll be in Asia for another two years and then possibly to Africa.

        With that in mind, I guess it's better for us to invest in index trackers in the UK. Would you mind giving your recommendation for which HSBC trackers to go for?

        I think if the investment is in an ISA, it isn't subject to capital gains and between my wife and I, we could put in £22,000 a year.

        Incidentally, if we repatriate funds to the UK from overseas, would they be subject to tax on any gains made?

        Sorry for these rookie questions. And thanks again.

  64. Anna says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I really enjoyed reading your book and I'm going to take your advice and invest in index trackers.

    But I'm a bit nervous about doing that when the FTSE is at such a high level. Do you recommend waiting or jumping in? I want to invest a lump sum of £2500 and perhaps a little each month.


    • Hi Anna,

      If you wait, you'll be speculating. Markets rise, on average during 2 out of every 3 years. This means that they're always hitting new highs. Plus, the UK market is much cheaper than it has been for much of the past fifteen years. Expensiveness should be measured by earnings (remember my analogy about the dog and the leash in my book?)

      The sum you are intending to invest might look large to you now, but it isn't. Build a diversified portfolio with it now, and keep adding. Then, as you add money over time, hope the markets fall…..regularly and often. But don't try to time the market.



  65. Karl Wilcox says:

    Eggs in One Basket?

    Is there any danger in investing with just one investment company. Vanguard UK have a very neat 1,2,3 for the Intl, National and Bond ETFs but is it more prudent to spread your investment across 2 or 3 investment groups. I bought all three from Vanguard due to recommendations here and because I am the ultimate lazy investor but I’m wondering if I should have shopped around a little more e.g. take iShares IGLT UK bond ETF instead of the Vanguard VGOV.



  66. James says:

    Hi Andrew
    British Investment “V” about to take the leap with lump sum investment…. Dilemma!!
    [I am paid in USD].

    I have recenly set up a Schwab US account (n the US) plan is to transfer US$150,000 for US Market ETF and Bond Fund then plan top up/ balance monthly with $5000 USD.

    I would like a UK Stock Index, I do not presently have plans to return to the UK, (but feel best to do this just in case!),

    I note your advice on HSBC Funds, I have offshore HSBC account so as advised I have no problem in setting up an share account . Plan is for a further 50,000 USD to invest.

    My dilemma, am I just as well setting up a UK Stock Index through Schwab or considering the initial 30% tax applied in the US, set up a HSBC Fund?

    Look forward to your guidance

  67. Mark says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I recently read your excellent book as a colleague had sent me a link to your website. Timing couldnt have been better as I was about to dive into an Actively Managed Fund!

    I do havea couple of questions that I cant seem to find the answer to and was hoping you may be able to help. Bit of background, I am British but am living in Singapore and intend to remain here in the short to medium term.

    I intend to build a portfolio using a combination of EWU, VT, ISHG

    Following your advise I am in the process of opening a DBS Vickers account here in Singapore adn this has thrown up a few questions that DBS cant seem to give me a clear answer to:

    1. The funds I want to invest in are all on the NYSE and hence I presume all priced in USD. How do I most efficiently convert my SGD to USD to make this purchase? Will DBS take a commision to do this? I have spoken to two differnet employees at the bank and neither could give me a straight answer to what seems a simple question. One suggested I had to open a US dollar account first which seems unnessary

    2. I want to invest in EWU as it is my ‘home’ fund (UK). As it is priced in USD am I not opening myself up to exchange rate risk between GBP and USD?

    3. What is the most efficient way of regularly investing in my portfolio. I want to invest around 5-7k SGD a month but noticed the minimum commision for the US markets is 25USD per transaction or 0.28%. If I put 2k in each of the 3 funds, I will pay 75USD which works out at almost 1.6%. Is there a better way of doing this or do I need to be investing bigger sums so I am paying the 0.28%?

    Thanks in advance for your insight, it has been invaluable so far.

    • Hi Mark,

      To take a crack at these questions:

      1. Banks are in the business of making money. They will automatically convert your SGD to USD when making any purchases, and you will lose roughly 1% on the currency spread. If you bought a fund through a fund company, and it invested in U.S., UK or other global stocks, you would pay the same kind of thing, but you wouldn’t be able to see under the hood. It’s the nature of the banking business. If you opened a U.S. dollar account and transferred U.S. cash to your account, the exchange rate can be (no promises) slightly more favorable. But I haven’t bothered to do that myself.

      2. There’s no exchange rate risk. Assume that the UK market stays stagnant for ten years. Assume that the U.S. dollar plunges by 50%, compared to the pound, during that decade. Your ETF would then have doubled in price (denominated in U.S. dollars) despite the fact that the UK market didn’t really budge. In UK dollars, you wouldn’t have made money, of course (if the UK market didn’t budge) but you wouldn’t lose anything from the plunge in the U.S. dollar. Many people ask this question, so I’ll have to be sure to address it in my next book. Thanks for the reminder.

      3. I wasn’t aware that DBS charged lower commission rates for larger invested sums. They certainly didn’t a few months ago, when I made my last purchase. When purchasing an ETF, to keep commissions down, don’t buy more than one each month. Each month, you could buy a different one as you build your portfolio. If you invest $10,000 USD equivalent on a U.S. market ETF, you’ll pay 0.35% commission, or roughly $35. There’s a minimum commission of about $35, however, so buying 3 ETFs with $10,000 would cost you much more.

      Hope that helps.


      • Mark says:

        Thanks for the replies Andrew, appreciate you taking the time!

        Will explore the foreign currency accounts a little further but it doesnt sound like there is an easy way to avoid the spread!

  68. VEEZRRAH says:

    Hi Andrew,
    I have your book. It`s a great one. Anyway I`m from Malaysia interested to invest in stocks and bonds market. Pls advice me how to start on that.


    • You’ll need to open an account with DBS Vickers, in Singapore. But you won’t need to fly to Singapore to do so. It would have to be a brokerage trading account, and you’d need to take a Securities quiz (info is all online) in order to open the account. If you take that step and have other questions, I’m here.



  69. Mark says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I was hoping to get your updated thoughts on the Bond market. I know you have a chapter on bonds and the strategy associated with them in your book but as the markets keep changing I was hoping you could let us know your latest views.

    As mentioned in an earlier post I am currently in the process of following your advise and creating an index fund based portfolio using a mixture of international bonds, UK index and International index.

    Despite your constant reassurance not to look at prices in your book I am still a little spooked by the number of articles discussing the immenent bond price collapse! Is this something I should be concerned about? I am also not 100% sure why bond prices should be a concern at all as long as the bonds are kept to maturity then surely I will receive my initial stake + the coupon rate. Would the fluctuating price only be a concern if I was to sell a bond? I appreciate that macro factors will impact the coupon % but is there any risk to the initial investment?

    I dont think i really understand how the bond index works and what the risks are so if you could provide any more detail (in laymans terms!) that would be great. I will also re-read the chapter in your book this evening.

    Thanks again


  70. Pelle says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I read your excellent book a few months ago and got started on index investing. I am a Danish expat in Singapore. I have no plans for where to retire, but like you I kind of have faith in the US market so decided to spread my investments between US and Europe and perhaps I’ll add Singapore in case I stay here. Anyway, after having put a fair amount of money into a selection of Vanguards ETFs listed on NYSE (I think) via Saxo Singapore I was feeling happy about that. I then recently came across a tip on an index investment forum, which pointed to this article on US estate tax which scared the hell out of me: http://www.aicpa.org/publications/taxadviser/2012/november/pages/moore_nov2012.aspx.
    If I read it correctly, the article says that if I as non-resident Alien have US-listed stocks worth more than 60,000 USD and I die, my successors could be liable for 45% tax on this!
    That would make a very big dent in the portfolio in that case…
    What do you think about this issue? I know you are also investing is US indexes, so perhaps you know about this.

    thanks in advance for your comment,


  71. Marc says:

    Pelle – thanks for raising that, it hadn’t really registered with me either. I would be interested in understanding how everyone gets around this or if people are simply taking the risk?

    Also my trading account here in Singapore is a joint account with my wife. Would the above still apply? Surely if I passed away, my wife could simply liquidate the assets without requiring my signature and hence not have to pay the above or would this be tax fraud?

    Not sure where to go for advise on this so would appreciate anyone elses thoughts

    • Pelle says:

      Hi Marc,

      First of all, I think it would be great if we have someone with the expertise to confirm whether my interpretation is correct. If it is, then I suspect a lot of people simply are not aware of this – I certainly wasn’t.

      Andrew – when you see this – what are your thoughts?

  72. Mark Holmes says:

    So, if it $25 per transaction and you are setting up some kind of couch potato portfolio (the kind of thing you recommend), how do you feed you world index, country of origin index and bond index? After reading your book I assumed I would be purchasing all of these each month, but clearly at $75 a month, that’s not going to work. How do you feed three indexes regularly without incurring a lot of costs?

  73. Adam Zargar says:

    I have just opened up a Saxo Bank account (5000USD to open and put extra 1300USD) and am working out how to invest it. What do you recommend? I am a brit living in Dubai but plan to stay here in Middle East indefinatelty as getting married here to a girl born here.

    Also I have put 27k USD in a skandia managed pension. I put 825 USD a month in it and have 17 yrs left. The value is 26 now and surrender 7…what should I do.

    I have tried to get a hold of you on various blogs and email as really want to start my own pension plan and start investing my saxo funds.

    Background: Brit
    Live in Dubai, UAE
    Trading with saxo bank
    Age 33 (34 in Jan 2014)

    Thanks, Andrew
    ps-i put a review of your book in a Dubai magazine the other day (be published in Aug/sept) Aquarius magazine : )

  74. adam zargar says:

    Saxo bank said ‘ Please note that bond trading is only available offline, and there are specific minimum nominal amount when trading bonds. Please see below link for more information’


    The minimum is 50K I think….I have not got that much so what do I do?

    • Hi Adam,

      You don’t need to trade specific bonds. You just need to buy a bond ETF. As far as the brokerage is concerned, a stock, stock ETF and bond ETF are all the same thing: just ticker symbols on stock exchanges. The Pension you bought, unfortunately, is very costly. Likely, it will cost you up to 4% per year in fees, compared to something like 0.2% in fees for the discount brokerage account of exchange traded funds. What’s more, with the ETFs, you can sell at any time, rather than being forced to be locked in. I heard one industry insider suggest that in Hong Kong, nearly 75% of investors get wrapped up into ILAS products, such as what you’ve bought. If you have any idea why so many get involved in these products, please shed some light on the mystery.
      As for the ETFs, my article above lists ETFs you could use if you have access to the New York Stock Exchange, including a bond ETF with the symbol ISHG. I’m sorry you had troubles getting in touch with me. Perhaps your email went to my webmaster. I try my best to respond to all of my online comments. And of course, I hope you liked the book!


      • Adam Zargar says:

        I think people like me get hit with ILAS products because we panic that we have no penison and “successful people” tell us they have a great FA that can help us. When we meet them they tell us lots of infor and promises and because we have no knowledge and get embarrassed we sign on the dotted line. I have since removed the advisor, he did not seem bothered so proably means he has his commission already from the sale.

        Quick questions:

        Do you think i should
        a) Stay with Skandia for the next 17 years and lower my premium from 825USD/month to 525USD …the lowest I can and take the penalty on that b) Stay with Skandia and stick with what the shares the Financial advisor gave or try to get close to your portfolio balanced spread as possible.
        c) Quit skandia and take the 20K USD hit and invest the surrender 7USD in my saxo trading portfolio.

        As a 33 year old Brit who does not think he will be going to UK to live (but who really knows if it will happen) and plans to stay in Dubai, what spread should I use?

        Thanks buddy and it goes without saying I love your book! I tell all friends and clients in Dubai and UK about it!

        • Kelly says:

          I agree with you Adam – we see other people investing in these things and figure it must be good, because they seem financially wise and they surely researched the products before investing with them!

          I live in the UAE too and nearly got sucked into an actively managed plan, mainly because my collegues (who talk like they have financial/investing knowledge) have all signed up with companies like Royal Scandia, Generali and Friends Provident.

          I had no knowledge of investing until I stumbled across this blog while researching Friends Provident, which they were trying to sell to me! But thankfully I saw this blog before I signed on the dotted line. I’ve read Andrew’s book and regularly follow this blog, and am now preparing to take a trip to Singapore to open an account with DBS Vickers.

          I did not know about Saxo bank, what made you choose to trade with them?

          • Adam Zargar says:

            Look into saxo bank as you only need 5000USD to open it and it has low etf fees. I will invest quarterly or twice a year. They are very helpful and if you go to difc they will show you how to do it.
            I go through the head office branch in denmark and they been fab on phone.

        • Toby says:

          Hi Adam,

          I cancelled a Zurich Vista plan with 20 years to run. I lost $10,000 so I know what it feels like. For me the decision was made by calculating the numbers as the calculation came out better for me if I cancelled the plan and took a $10,000 loss. In addition I resented (very much) sending them money every month and could not fathom even sending the minimum to those oxygen bandits for another 20 years so I cancelled the plan.

          I took the opportunity to learn more about investing and have set up a simple ETF portfolio. I have the following ETFs on the US exchanges
          40% in the Vanguard short-term bond index, Symbol BSV
          30% in the Vanguard US Total market, Symbol VTI
          30% Vanguard International Developed Markets, Symbol VEA

          I am thrilled with the decision to cancel the life sucking Vista plan. I feel much more in control of my finances and my account is going up noticeably faster (though I wish the ETFs would drop in value more so I could buy more at cheaper prices). I enjoy sending money to my account now rather than resenting it. I understand exactly what the fees are. Very importantly I can sell my shares any time I feel like it. I don’t need to fill out forms and contact my financial advisor. I just sell. Easy as pie!

          The decision to cancel your Skandia plan is yours only. I am not a financial advisor, rather I am relaying my experiences to you which I hope will help you.

          I ran a quick calculation on the numbers you quoted using the compound interest calculator at http://www.moneychimp.com and found the following: paying the minimum for 17 years at 6% return (including your initial $27,000) you end up with $261,110. If you opt out of the plan, take the $20,000 loss and start an ETF portfolio with $7,000 and send the same amount annually $6,300, you end up with $316,356 at 10% return. The situation is pretty clear and I know what I would do in your situation. I would take the loss and invest in ETFs setting up a simple three ETF portfolio like I outlined above. That is what I would do and to say again that it is your decision only and not mine. I am not a financial professional. I am just showing your my experience and how I view the situation.

          My calculation is a simplification. I am assuming fees in the Skandia plan of 4% (probably not far off the truth). With an ETF portfolio you need to pay transaction fees and perhaps custody fees too. These fees are on top of the expense ratio of the ETFs. Another bold assumption is that the stock market will return 10% per year on average (which it may not).

          I agree with your comments on why we sign onto these plans.

          Now I am thrilled with my portfolio and have Andrew Hallam to thank for blazing the trail before me.

          I hope that helps you.



          • Adam Zargar says:

            Many Thanks Toby! It surely gives me a lot to think about. Surrendering 20K USD in the short term may be hard but you right might be ok in end. Will post my exact skandia details and see if Andrew agrees.

  75. Adam Zargar says:

    This is how my Skandia managed funds are after just one month short of 3 years:

    After looking at this should I :

    A) Surrender and take the hit
    B) Change to minimum contribution of 525USD but continue for 17 years
    C) Keep it as it is in exact same funds the FA gave me
    D) Keep in Skandia but change to a balanced fund
    Valuation date: 13 Aug 2013
    Premiums paid: USD 27,778.00
    Current value: USD 26,398.10
    Surrender value: USD 8,232.90


    Fund name Unit type No. of units Bid price (USD) Bid value (USD)
    RS USD First State HK Growth Regular Accumulation 1,419.6298 2.1020 2,984.06
    RS USD HSBC GIF Thai Equity Regular Accumulation 1,538.2360 1.9300 2,968.80
    RS £ Lloyds TSB Con Strat USD Regular Accumulation 3,063.1025 1.8490 5,663.68
    RS EUR Parvest Eqy Wld Mat USD Regular Accumulation 6,328.5993 0.8200 5,189.45
    RS USD Kotak Indian Mid Cap Regular Accumulation 7,854.3328 0.5450 4,280.61
    RS GBP JPM Emg Mkt Inv Tst USD Regular Accumulation 1,086.4176 4.8890 5,311.50
    Total bid value 26,398.10

    I have given myself this week to gather knowledge then make a decision and then not look back. Regardless I have opened up saxobank for some balanced investment as well.

    Your thoughts guys would be gratefully accepted!

  76. Adam Zargar says:

    I know you can’t tell me what to do but what would you do Andrew in this position. Imagine you have 17 years more left, and the FA has you in these funds…

    Valuation details

    Valuation date: 13 Aug 2013
    Premiums paid: USD 27,778.00
    Current value: USD 26,398.10
    Surrender value: USD 8,232.90

    Fund name Unit type No. of units Bid price (USD) Bid value (USD)
    RS USD First State HK Growth Regular Accumulation 1,419.6298 2.1020 2,984.06
    RS USD HSBC GIF Thai Equity Regular Accumulation 1,538.2360 1.9300 2,968.80
    RS £ Lloyds TSB Con Strat USD Regular Accumulation 3,063.1025 1.8490 5,663.68
    RS EUR Parvest Eqy Wld Mat USD Regular Accumulation 6,328.5993 0.8200 5,189.45
    RS USD Kotak Indian Mid Cap Regular Accumulation 7,854.3328 0.5450 4,280.61
    RS GBP JPM Emg Mkt Inv Tst USD Regular Accumulation 1,086.4176 4.8890 5,311.50

    Would you keep it as it is?
    Would you lower the monthly to 525USD form 825USD and get the 8% fare difference charge?
    Would you exit and take the surrender minus the exit fee?
    Would you kill the FA who sold you this? LOL
    Would you just balance the portfolio to as close as recommended by the book if at all possible…?

    I want to make a decision today and just go with it without complaining and looking to the past. My future starts now… : )

    • The decision is yours to make Adam. I’m amazed, however, how poorly your investments appear to have performed. The world stock market index has gained 11.37% annually over the past three years. You can see by this link: http://sg.finance.yahoo.com/q/pm?s=VT

      And the U.S. market has done a heck of a lot better than 11.37% over the past three years. Is it true that you haven’t made money during this time period? If that’s the case, fees aren’t the only problem with these fund selections. Fortunately, it’s still a relatively small sum of money. I think you already know what I would do if the money were mine.

    • Toby says:

      Hi Adam,

      A couple of more points from me after seeing your exact portfolio above.

      I don’t like the asset allocation of your portfolio and it is too complicated for my tastes.

      Bonds – You have no bonds so you do not have a source of funds to buy equities when equity prices decrease. All the great financial experts such as Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffett, John Bogle and Andrew Hallam strongly advise having bonds in your portfolio (Bogle says your age in bonds and Graham says not less than 25%).

      Emerging markets – You have nearly 50% of your portfolio in three emerging markets funds: Thai, Indian and Emerging Markets. I have completely avoided any allocation to emerging markets because I don’t want the exposure. With an ETF portfolio you can control your allocation exactly.

      Increase in account value – Your account values look like my account values in my Zurich Vista account, not really increasing that much. To give you a comparison with my simple 3 ETF portfolio (which I outlined in a previous post) is up 10.2% with dividends in the last 11 months. That is after the fee for buying the shares and the safe custody fees. Check out how much your account is up over the last 11 months and compare it to mine to see which one returned the most.

      Feeling more positive – I save more money now and live a happier life than I did before I closed the Zurich Vista account. I control my portfolio completely. My account value us growing before my eyes. I want to save more because the account is transparent and is getting much better results. I enjoy reading many many books and blogs about the stock market and really enjoy the investing experience. The thought of going through the next 20 years without this feeling is anathema.

      Well done on going through this decision early on. Think about the situation you would be in if you had started questioning the account after 16 years of payments.

      To cancel or not is your decision only, not mine. I am giving you an overview of my situation and experiences because we have been in similar situations and I hope that my experiences will help you.

      You know what I would do if I was in your shoes.

      All the best.


      • Thanks Toby, for checking out the breakdown of Adam’s portfolio. No wonder he hasn’t made any money.

        Adam, as you know, this “advisor” is just a salesman, and appears to know nothing about “global capitalization risk”. If you do choose to keep some or all of the money in this account, force the sales rep to make some changes to this portfolio. A home country bias is OK, but other than that, you should have the rest of your assets spread globally in portions that represent the global capitalization of those specific countries. This portfolio, as outlined by Toby, is nuts.

    • Toby says:

      The intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham (the edition with comments by Jason Zweig is best) is a fantastic book. The following quote is taken from chapter 10: The Investor and His Advisers. I think it is an insightful piece of writing given my experiences and your experiences Adam with financial advisors.

      “If the reason people invest is to make money, then in seeking advice they are asking others to tell them how to make money. That idea has some element of naïveté. Businessmen seek professional advice on various elements of their business, but they do not expect to be told how to make a profit. That is their own bailiwick. When they, or nonbusiness people, rely on others to make investment profits for them, they are expecting a kind of result for which there is no true counterpart in ordinary business affairs”

  77. Roger says:

    Andrew – I’m seriously looking into this strategy now as I have a chunk of change coming online soon.

    I had invested into wrapper type products but find the charging structures too hazy – in fact it looks like they are engineered so that you have little to no clue how you are being charged.

    I have found that compared to a few index etf’s reits and individual stocks it has been performing worse than my own handpicked offerings available on the SGX. That is not including the dividends that have been payed out.

    So I’m looking at going this route 100%.

    Here’s a few of the things I’ve been pondering.

    1) I don’t like the Singapore bond fund. The cost of getting in & out + management charges make it look like a dead investment. Any rise in interest rates is also going to decimate it.

    Holding bonds directly where you can determine the maturity and yield maybe a better alternative. I would only consider short term bonds at the moment. Whoever has been buying 10 years at 3% needs their heads examined IMHO.
    So where is a good place to buy bonds directly? I’ve talked to a few banks and they generally don’t seem excited at all by the prospect.

    2) Singapore SGX based ETF’s don’t have a huge amount of cash based ETF’s.
    The ones there are seem to replicate each other in pairs or triplets.
    I like the current STI ETF (e3) as it tracks the STI, management fund is negligible and deposits the collected dividends twice a year directly via electronic transfer.

    What are the implications of buying ETF’s on a foreign exchange like the US for capital gains tax and dividends. I want a transparent & peaceful life!

    3) As a Brit living in Singapore for the past 10+ years & having almost zero chance of returning back I’m also wondering about what to do about protecting the wealth I have built here from our scrounging govt back home who think it’s perfectly acceptable to make a grab for 40% of my estate even though none of it has been earned in the UK.. It would seem you are punished for being financially responsible and rewarded for being feckless.

    Is there any simple way of setting up trusts for my wife and children? Or is throwing the passport the only option? changing my UK domicile status looks almost impossible.

  78. Ok says:

    Hi Andrew should I be reinvesting my dividends automatically thru the brokerage or credit my account and reinvest to rebalance my portfolio accordingly

  79. Hi Andrew

    I just finished your book and have been doing the rounds of internet research on index fund investments. I’m living in China, a British citizen planning ultimately to return to France. I’m looking for a one-stop solution to building a portfolio following much of your advice. I’m tied into a managed pension fund through ABG using LaMondiale, but looking for a way out of it. My question is who to use. I’ve been looking at Alliance Trust in order to access some of Vanguards products, but also TD Direct Investing. Would you have any specific advice for my situation? Should I be using a stock and share ISA for the UK, or a SIPP?

    I really appreciate your taking the time to follow up.

    Many thanks for waking me up from my ostrich-like head-in-the-sand approach to my financial future!

    • Hi Scott,

      You could buy exchange traded funds through TD International, based in Luxembourg. As long as you stay in China, you won’t pay capital gains taxes. When in Europe, of course, you will have to, but not on the money you acquired while living outside of Europe. Here’s the account you could open. http://int.tddirectinvesting.com/


  80. Hi Andrew

    I just finished your book an your blog and am keen to rouse myself from my usual head-in-the-snd appraoch to me personal finances.

    My situation; 45 yr old British expat in China, planning to return not to the UK but to france.

    I have a managed pension through ABG held with LaMondiale which I’m trying to get out of, or at least stop contrubting to.

    I’ve looked into Alliance Trust in the UK with their ISA Stocks and Shares account, as well as TD Direct Investing. The UK option requires me to be a UK resident, which can pull of but would rather not. Would you have any specific advice for my situation?



  81. Peter Powell says:

    Hi Andrew,
    I read your book – excellent, informative and clear. Rarely the case with finance books. I am an expat English teacher working at IST in Tanzania. I am British, my wife is Canadian. The school pays 13% and we pay 13% into a pension fund but it must be a retirement type fund to satisfy the Tanzanian tax authorities.

    I would like to pay into an Index Fund but I am not sure how to do this if I am not currently resident in the U.K. I do not want to give any money to the vultures out there..

    Any advice would be appreciated.

    Thank you.


    • Hi Peter,

      It’s unfortunate that your school supports an expensive scheme. Someone investing $10,000 per year and paying 0.2% in fees will build a bigger portfolio than someone investing $20,000 per year, but paying 3% in fees over a lifetime of investing. It’s the financial math problem I give my personal finance students to solve.

      You could ship your money to TD International, based in Luxembourg, and invest in low cost ETFs from there. Then you could get fees down to 0.2%, and you would have full flexibility to withdraw without penalties (just a commission to sell, which wouldn’t be much) compared to the long term deal with the devil. It sounds dramatic, but the catalyst for the expat book I’m currently writing for John Wiley & Sons was to educate people on the pension schemes that bleed people and shackle them for long durations, not allowing them to sell early without taking a huge penalty.

      I hope this helps.

  82. David Fox says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Been trying to catch up with all the latest.

    I’m a British Teacher currently in Indonesia and was looking into opening an account with DBS in SG. It’s unlikely I will return to the UK anytime soon. Possible I will retire to SEA.

    Reading between the lines you seem to have cooled on advising ‘novices’ to go with DBS and have mentioned alternatives like TD IN Luxembourg. I have noticed that DBS have a branch here in Jakarta but no idea yet if I could open an account that way rather than going to SG. Also seen refs. to doing it online.

    What do you advise at the present time for someone in my position.?

    Thanks Andrew and great work with the book – the word is spreading rapidly!


    • Thanks David,

      Opening with TD in Luxembourg is easier because you won’t have to take an online test. The account can also be opened online, and telephone assistance (I have heard) is excellent. I still use DBS Vickers, but I’m going to open an account in Luxembourg as well, so I can speak about the brokerage with experience, before my book on Investing For Global Expatriates is complete.



  83. David says:

    Hey Andrew,

    After a bit more research, are those TD transaction fees not rather high?

    How about Charles Schwab International Account? I believe this is specifically for non-US residents. Minimum opening balance of $10 000 and $8.95 for most transactions. (second hand source so needs confirmation).

    Found this today too.


    • The problem with a U.S. based international brokerage is the higher tendency for your family to be strapped by U.S. estate taxes when you sell. I’m considering recommending just non U.S. domiciled ETFs for this reason. The Toronto stock exchange is a good place for this.

  84. Greg Saunders says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I have read your book and I have a few questions
    regarding setting up a passive portfolio.

    I am based in Thailand and will also retire here.

    I am thinking of

    30% VT
    30% TH100 or TDEX (Thai ETF)
    40% ABFTH or ISHG

    Would it be too much of 30% in Thai stocks?
    It is a very volative markket.

    Best regards,


    • Hi Greg,

      Putting 30% in the Thai stock market would be referred to as a high global capitalization risk. It’s better to diversify stock assets globally, with a bias (if you’re going to have one at all) in your home country market.

      • Greg, considering that your home country market would be Thailand, you may want a slight bias in that direction. But considering its volatility and small global impact, you may want to cap it at 20% of your total.

  85. Paul k says:

    Hi Andrew
    Iam uk expat working in S.E. Asia with schwab US broker.

    Given that Iam not domiciled in the US, completed the mandatory forms in confirmation of same, and We are taxed directly prior to dividend payments.

    Then why would my family or beneficiaries be liable to estate tax.

    my goal to live forever is unlikely, as such should I be considering moving my investments to a S.E.A broker ?

    Forgive my naivety


    • Hi Paul,

      Your portfolio will usually have to be well over one million dollars, but yes, if that applies when you die, your family will have to pay U.S. estate tax, even if you aren’t American.

      • Paul K says:

        Hi Andrew thanks a sobering thought considering limiting impact to my nearest and dearest.
        I live in Thailand, no plans to return to UK

        My portfolio is far from $1M, but that’s the plan over next 10 years (if only I had read your book sooner)

        Would I be exposed to estate taxes in Singapore?

        Also would same apply when holding US ETF stocks and bonds thru DBS Singapore?


        • Hi Paul,

          There wouldn’t be estate taxes to pay in Singapore. And as long as your net worth doesn’t exceed $5 million, you shouldn’t have to pay estate taxes. If you’re concerned about that, however, you could always buy ETFs off the Toronto stock exchange, via DBS Vickers. No issue with estate taxes there. You would still need to buy your Thai ETF off the U.S. market, but if the rest were Canadian based (Check Vanguard Canada ETFs) you can diversify across international and U.S. via Toronto (via Singapore!)

  86. David says:

    Thanks for your replies and insight Andrew.

    So, to clarify, let’s say i was unlikely to reach that magical million figure whereby i become liable for estate taxes. In that case, is the Shwab option a better one financially than the TD option? Any taxes with TD?

    And, are there any other little pitfalls and surprises I need to lookout for when choosing a broker and ETF’s?

    Thanks again Andrew.


  87. Iumma says:

    Hi Andrew,

    You helped me out with advice on how to slowly build my portfolio on a different thread. Thank you! I’m still deciding whether to go with DBS Vickers or Standard Chartered but will probably go with DBSV. I was excited to find this thread, as a British expat in Singapore (who will probably retire in the UK).

    I have another couple of questions though!

    I initially thought I would invest $5k each quarter into VT index, then UK index (EWU) and then a bond index (ISHG). But I wondered what you thought about investing most of our roughly S$60k savings, plus about £10k in our UK bank accounts? I think I am scared to as I am a full time mum so it feels risky as we only have one income…

    Also, I see on this thread you discussing pension plans and my husband and I both have pensions with Aviva, with Hargreaves Lansdown. Would you recommend investing that too??

    Would love to know what you think!


    • Hi Iumma,

      I’m not a fan of expensive pension platforms. As for risk, the biggest risk is when we run out of money in retirement and lose to inflation each year. Such would be the case if you put retirement money into a savings account. If you are very conservative, you may opt for a high bond allocation: perhaps an international bond ETF (ISHG), a Canadian one (VSB) and a U.S. one (SHY) then adding the other half of your portfolio and buying VT and the UK stock index. This would be a fairly conservative portfolio and although it would still dip from time to time, odds of running out of money upon retirement would be less likely than with the savings account option.

      • Iumma says:

        Hi Andrew,

        Thanks very much for your thoughts. I’m definitely going to stick with just the 3 funds:

        UK (EWU) 35-40%
        Global (VT) 25-30%
        Bond (ISHG) 35%(I am 34 years old).

        I was really wondering if there was a general rule of thumb for how much to keep in the bank ie to cover 3 months of spending. I thought i had read something like that somewhere but i have been looking and cant find it. I want to get started on investing but am trying to figure out how much of our roughly $60k to invest in the different parts of the portfolio.

        I have another small query. Just out of interest, how come you advise buying the British stock index from a US supermarket?

  88. ZK says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Highly appreciating ur site!!!

    British citizen, living in Dubai and was about to sign up for a Friends Provident International Premier Advance. Given I’m only looking for Index Based funds, I agree that ~3% fees and ILAS inflexibility appear unsuitable for my needs.

    While I’m sure all those living in Singapore appreciate the recommendation of DBS Vickers, do u hv any recommendations for Global Nomads. I’m an expat moving countries every few years. Consequently hv bank accounts in a number of countries inc UK, HK, Australia, Sweden and Dubai (if this matters).

    In short, some questions which I’m sure would be applicable for others also:

    1) Is there a Exchange Traded Index Funds platform that can be established/traded irrespective on locality – one that may be suitable?

    2) How does one go about finding a non ILAS trusted financial adviser given geographical locality/movements?

    Many thks!

  89. chai says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Another British expat (teacher) over here in Kazakhstan. I recently read your book and found the advice clear and easily digestible – I know what I need to do in order to get my finances in shape. Unfortunately the situation is complicated by my expat status and finding the best platform for investing is proving a challenge. I have an address and bank accounts in the UK however I’m non-resident for tax purposes and keen to keep my investments as tax efficient as possible while out of the UK. It’s possible (though not certain) I’ll return later so I may need to pay CGT when selling funds further down the line. For now I’m looking for low fee access to some reputable index funds. TD in Luxembourg seems to be an option, but I wonder if there are any other recommendations?

    Many thanks!
    (and looking forward to the next book!)

  90. Scott Langston says:


    I’ve been on quite a learning journey since reading your book, followed by a number of others on ETFs in particular, and have come up with this strategy following broadly from the Canadian Couch Potato, but as a 46 year old ex-pat Brit, living in China, investing through a TD Direct account (LUX), planning to retire in Europe:

    Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF (BND) 40%
    Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF (VOO) 20%
    Vanguard Total International Stock ETF (VXUS) 20%
    Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI) 10%
    iShares MSCI Socially Responsible ETF (NYSEMKT: DSI) 10%

    I’d be interested in your take on this portfolio.
    Thanks again for getting my head out of the sand!

    • Hi Scott,

      This portfolio looks good, but there’s some overlap you won’t need. If you buy the total U.S. stock market index, roughly 70% of that fund is comprised of the S&P 500. Stick with the total U.S. stock market ETF and you’ll own the whole U.S. show.

      You may also choose to invest in two bond indexes: a short term U.S. bond index (SHY) and a short term first world government bond ETF (ISHG). I’ll admit, the bond allocation in this portfolio you jotted down is a U.S. one, which puzzles me somewhat, considering that you aren’t American and don’t plan to reside there. If you truly do want a U.S. government bond representation, buy a short term bond index (as mentioned). The reason for this can be found in my book on page 86. This next part might sound callous, but I may be inclined to skip the socially responsible ETF. Whose ethics is it based on? Yours or some fund manager’s? Socially responsible funds tend to be very poor performers, and this is a large percentage of your net worth (at least, at 10%, it will be as your portfolio grows over time). I would skip this index and donate to a cool, ethical charity of your choice. You’ll be able to do so, based on the increased profits you’ll generate from not having this ETF in your portfolio.


      • Scott Langston says:

        Hi Andrew

        Thanks for that. Yes, I’ve heard much the same about the iShares KLD 400 Social Index Fund (DSI), the iShares KLD Select Social Index Fund (KSD) and the Europe MSCI EAFE ESG Index ETF (EAPS), and they also have higher fees associated. What you say about investing to donate makes sense.

        As to the US bent, this is not necessary and ISHG seems to fit the bill better. I like the iShare ETFs though and a short term US index makes sense to me.

        I’m doing this through TD in Luxembourg – I now have the multiple currency accounts. Given that I’m paying bank transfer fees and currency conversion, would you recommend purchasing everything through the dollar account in US markets, or ought I to invest through euro purchases? When I run ETF comparisons in the TD website, i get sent to the Australian Exchange for some funds – is this purely a function of what’s open and trading at the time?

        Taking on board your comments, my portfolio would look something like this:

        BONDS 40%
        iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bond (SHY) 15%
        iShares 1-3 Year International Trs Bd (ISHG) 25%
        STOCKS 60%
        Vanguard Total International Stock ETF (VXUS) 15%
        Vanguard Small-Cap ETF (VB) 5%
        Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI) 30%
        Vanguard Small-Cap Value ETF (VBR) 10%

        Thanks for your insight, once again.

        • Scott,

          Again, with this portfolio you would have a very significant U.S. bias. Is there a preference for this?

          My portfolio (if I were you) might look something like this:


          Just two simple indexes. VT is a total world equity index.

          If I wanted a British element, I would do this:

          Then split the rest between a global index and a British index.

          But much of this is dependent on the individual, of course. I guess that’s why “Personal” is linked with finance.

          That said, such a huge exposure to U.S. equities makes little sense when the U.S. market comprises just 45% of global equity exposure.

          • Keith says:

            Hi Andrew
            I’m a New Zealander teaching in Oman, non-resident for NZ tax. After reading your site, I’m looking to get Vanguard world share ETFs.

            Before signing up for a brokerage account though, I’ve been trying to figure out how to minimise tax – capital gains tax if any, dividend withholding tax, and whatever else there is.

            I have three questions:
            (1) Does it make a difference where your brokerage account is – whether you trade via TD Luxembourg or TD Ameritrade in the US? Will one location mean more tax than another?

            (2) Does it make a difference what exchange you buy your EFT on – whether the London exchange or the NYSE ARCA? Will the Brits tax you if you buy on the London exchange?

            (3) Does it make a difference what currency you buy the EFT with? For example on the London exchange, you can get Vanguard EFTs in sterling, $US, or Euros.

            Be most interested to read your thoughts while Millionaire Teacher is on its way.

          • Hi Keith,

            Currency doesn’t matter when building a global portfolio of ETFs. If you open a U.S. account, your heirs will likely pay U.S. estate taxes upon your death, so I don’t recommend that. Swap based ETFs off the Canadian market (offered by Horizon) would be capital gains free if you use TD International at Luxembourg. Plus, you wouldn’t have to pay dividend taxes. This is a subject for my next book–my apologies for not having time to explain in full detail here, but I hope I’ve given you enough to dig.


  91. Paul K says:

    Hi Andrew when is your new book due to hit the shelves? I am waiting with baited breath.
    Uk national living in Thailand. 43 years old and staying put paid in USD current holding with Schwab US.

    I have nearly completed setting up DBS trading account, a lot more effort than I thought compared to my current US schwab account.

    Which ETFs and Bonds would you reccomend please from the DBS portfolio?

    My Initial investment is $250K USD, would this be automatically converted to S$? and then converted again to USD when purchasing ETF S&P 500 or the like?
    If this is the case considering I will be continually reinvesting in USD would I be just as well maintaining the scwhab for US markets and utilizing Dbs for global, other international and emerging market ETFs? (Even with the inheritance tax concerns)


  92. John says:

    Hi Andrew
    Fantastic site, I found it by accident while trying to find a solution after discovering I wouldn’t be able to continue investing in my UK index tracking ISA’s.
    I’m a Brit in Singapore for the last year and a half. I’ve finally gotten over the expense of property rental here and managed to save up enough of an emergency fund that I’m feeling comfortable to invest. We had a second child during our stay here so have been a bit busy with that too…
    I only discovered your site yesterday and I’m waiting for delivery of a copy of your book but I’d like to ask a few questions. I apologize in advance if these are covered or in the site some where that I’ve not been able to find.

    I plan to use Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) and I have a sterling account in the UK. Would there be a benefit to using sterling to invest in the UK stock exchange to avoid SCB exchange rate or/and converting to the appropriate currency before giving ti to SCB?

    With the 30% US withholding tax on dividends is their a way around this by buying different ETFs through different market…? I presume not or you’d be doing it.

    Given changing expense ratio do you have any new recommendations for the basic couch potato set for a Brit?
    I also though of a couple of things I would like to try and I wanted to ask your opinion
    Bond Index, (I thought I would look at a european bond index as I’m a fan of the euro and more importantly the determination of governments to keep it)
    World Index (I wasn’t sure about the overlap between this and the UK Index and was thinking to have a split of a US index and an Emerging Market index instead)
    UK Index

    Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.


    • Andrew Hallam says:

      Hi John,

      Some newer brokerage options have come available in the past few years since I opened this account. You can bi-pass U.S. withholding taxes by avoiding all ETFs off U.S. exchanges. You may want to try Saxo Bank in Singapore. Commissions are lower for larger purchases than they are with DBS Vickers, and I believe they would give you access to UK domiciled ETFs. I’ll soon be switching over my U.S. ETFs to Canadian domiciled ones to reduce withholding taxes and avoid estate taxes–in the case of my death. That’s one are where the Americans are hard-core, and I’m sure if I were hit by a bus tomorrow, my wife would be royally peeved if the U.S. government came after some of our money. If you own shares in a U.S. company and die, U.S. estate taxes need to be paid if you have more than $65,000 in U.S. equities. See what you can find available from iShares UK, when searching for your ETFs. Oh, and here’s the Saxo link: http://sg.saxomarkets.com/about-saxo-capital-markets/ I believe you can buy UK domiciled ETFs from them. A word of warning though. They may be initiating a 0.2% annual platform charge, which would be brutal. Based on the rep I spoke to this morning, this isn’t a sure thing. But if they roll it out, you many want to move your money elsewhere. Tell them this when you open the account. They were going to roll this charge out in January, but then shelved it. We should pressure them to keep it on the shelf, or toss it in the bin. They’re a fairly priced brokerage, without that fee. I’m glad you ordered my book. I think you’ll learn a lot and find it somewhat entertaining. I’m also writing a new book specifically for expats, which should be available in November 2015.


      • Toby says:

        This is an interesting and alarming post which made me think of two questions:
        Is that 60% tax only on profits made or on profits made and principle added?
        What happens if you change your account to a joint account and one you dies. Surely the remaining person can still withdraw money without suffering the estate tax?


        • Hi Toby,

          I don’t think I said anything about 60% tax. But if you die, your spouse still has to pay the estate tax if your equities are domiciled in the U.S., regardless of whether you buy them via Luxembourg or Singapore.

      • John says:

        Hi Andrew
        Thanks for the advice.
        One last question do you ever do seminars or hit a pub in Singapore.
        Definitely owe you a beer.


        • Hi John,

          I have given seminars at schools and at a few workplaces.

          Thanks for the kindness, just pay it all forward. Talk about money and investing with people you know. Ignorance is the reason so many people get wrapped up in expensive, inflexible offshore pensions.

      • John says:

        Hi Andrew
        have another question, I had planed as you’ve suggested to invest in VTI but Vanguard have recently introduced what I understand to be a UK domiciled variant VWRL.
        Long term It would seem sensible to invest in pounds sterling, however the expense ratio is higher at 0.25% versus VTI at 0.05%
        Even so with currency conversion losses later and possible estate tax issues (though hopefully not) I think this would be more sensible. What do you think?

        Thanks again


  93. Mark Holmes says:

    Hey Andrew

    My school has been contacted by this firm http://www.sovereignoffshoreltd.com and the school may possibly be arranging a visit for ‘one on one consultations’. A quick look at their products immediately rings alarm bells, Royal Skandia, Generali, Zurich International. I have expressed my concerns to my principal (you know her, she’s in Cairo) and VP. What are your thoughts on this company? I’m pretty sure I know what you’ll say, but I’m looking for confirmation of what I think I already know.

    Trying to save my colleagues a whole heap of money and pain.


  94. Wade says:

    I am a retired American living in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
    I would like to invest in a Vanguard Fund and have the account in my Thai wifes name.
    Is this possible?

    • Hi Wade,

      Only Americans can open accounts with Vanguard. Having said that, your wife could open an account with Saxo Bank Singapore, after a notary verifies her identity. At that stage, your wife could buy Vanguard exchange traded index funds off (for example) the Canadian market. She could buy an international index and a bond index. She could even buy a Thai index, but would need to do that off the New York exchange, via Saxo’s brokerage. She may want to avoid buying exchange traded index funds off the U.S. exchanges because she’ll likely not want her heirs paying estate tax to the U.S. government. Contact Saxo Bank’s brokerage in Singapore if you are interested in opening an account. You won’t have to travel to Singapore to do so.


    • Wade, I should also add that your wife could also buy a U.S. exchange traded index fund off the Canadian market (via Saxo) as well.

      Thanks for asking the question. I’m writing a book to explain how expats can do this, and your question makes me realize the size of the global community that needs answers to questions such as these. I’m writing as fast as I can.

      Thanks again,

  95. Andy says:

    Hi Andrew;

    I have purchased your book recently and I am enjoying the read plus the sound advice contained within.

    To date I have usually purchased the Irish An Post Savings Certificates and Savings Bonds. Here in Ireland they are usually tax free which can make them attractive. However I believe that here in Ireland we do not have access to Vanguard Index Funds; and for the moment I do not know of any other provider. Indeed it seems to me that the companies here are packaging these Index Funds within a Mutual Fund “type” structure that includes the usual add-ons such as yearly management fees, entry fees and exit fees. An example would be the Rabodirect offerings.

    I am wondering if any other Irish people have contacted you looking for advice? Because of the financial problems here in Ireland currently due to the Bank Bailouts and also with High Unemployment there are a lot of people that no longer are assured of Pensions at retirement age; hence the importance of now been able to look after our own Financial Health!

    Regards, Andy

  96. Maxim says:

    Hi Andrew!

    I am French and now resident in Singapore now since almost a year. I just finished you book and really enjoyed it!

    As a 34 year old French living in Singapore for the next 4/5 years does it make sense to open my couch potato fund in Singapore? And so my allocation could be :

    35% international government bond index
    25% French stock market index
    20% international stock market index
    20% Singapore stock market index

    Do you find it suitable for my situation? Or should I open this in France since in 5 years or so I might go back home?

    Finally looking at most stock markets closing the year with record high does it make sense for now to start my allocation with more bond to prevent any future drop? (The dog might be far away already ;))

    Thanks much and happy end of year!


  97. iumma says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I finally opened my DBS Vickers account and entered the details in the order form for EWU but it said it has been reclassified from a SIP to an EIP:

    ” Effective 4 January 2013, the list of Overseas-Listed Investment Products as set out in Appendix A – the “Reclassified Products” – will no longer be categorised as Specified Investment Products (“SIPs”). Instead the Reclassified Products will be categorised as Excluded Investment Products (“EIPs”).”

    I filled out the form again for VT and then ISHG but it said the same (all for US market). Is this something I should be concerned with? Or should I just go ahead after agreeing to the risks on their form?

  98. Tony S says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for the great website – I will be buying your book. I’ve looked through the various website comments and researched via the web, but have been unable to find an answer to my specific question. Apologies if it’s covered somewhere else and I’ve missed it.

    I’m a UK citizen currently expatriated to Australia. It’s likely that I will be expatriated to other countries over my career, but ultimately I expect to return to UK. I’m currently non UK resident for tax purposes.

    I’m very keen to invest in the HSBC FTSE all share index tracker, but have hit barriers each time I’ve attempted to do this. UK fund supermarkets don’t appear to do business with non-residents and similarly HSBC won’t sell the fund directly to me as a non-resident.

    Could you advise some potential ways of investing in the HSBC or similar funds as a UK expat in Australia? I’ve seen some mention of companies such as DBS Vickers and TD International in comments relating to expats in Singapore, but am unclear on how suitable these would be for my situation. Are there other alternatives?

    Many Thanks,


    • Hi Tony,

      If you are living in Australia, it’s my belief (although I don’t know for sure) that you will need to invest like an Australian…paying Aussie taxes etc. As such, you could use Vanguard Australia. If you leave, you could open an international brokerage…but much depends on where you end up living, as to whether you will be allowed to do so. For now, check out Vanguard Australia. My book has a section on this, in the 6th chapter.

      • Tony S says:

        Thanks for the prompt response. I have ordered your book and will read the chapter you suggest.

        I’ve done a little more digging and confirmed that although permanent Australian residents are taxed on worldwide income, temporary Australian residents (such as myself, on a working visa) are taxed on Australian income and capital gains, but not on foreign income or capital gains. There doesn’t seem to be anything that precludes or disadvantages offshore investment (or investing back in a home country) for a temporary resident.

        I’m paid in GBP by a UK company – they keep me whole on tax and exchange rate considerations relating to my employment income but not non-employment related income or investments. I’m reluctant to privately invest in Australian funds because the GBP/AUD exchange rate has been at an all time low, but has turned recently. GBP seems to be strengthening and/or AUD weakening. As my longer term future is likely to be in UK, I’d like to avoid carrying the exchange rate risk.

        I’m currently progressing an application with TD International and keeping my fingers crossed. Based on the above, are there any other international brokerages I might consider should this fall through? Some possible future destinations include: UK, Italy, USA, Canada and Africa.

        Many Thanks,


  99. Roger says:

    Hi Andrew

    I’m in the process of setting up a ETF portfolio.

    I am long term based in Singapore with little chance of ever going back to the UK.

    I already have a stock portfolio with iOCBC – which tend to charge a little more than the likes of Saxo but do hold the securities in the CDP.

    My problem – I’m going to invest more in the coming weeks. I prefer cash based ETF’s. I prefer them to be listed on SGX for simplicity sake. Unfortunately there are not many, cover only specific parts of asia only & largely illiquid leading to large spreads.

    I don’t have any strong reserve about using foreign exchanges – it’s just that the tax position here in Singapore is crystal clear.

    • Hi Roger,

      If you use Saxo, you can buy off the Canadian market, and you won’t pay capital gains taxes. Dividends will be charged at 15%. Check Vanguard Canada for ETFs that would suit you. None are synthetic.


      • Roger says:

        Thanks Andrew – will be looking more into this tonight!

        Does Canada also have the nefarious estate tax as our US cousins?

        I am really going hard at now producing a fee efficient diversified portfolio via ETF’s. Just need to figure out the pitfalls.

        I did think of using the HKex – but the range of ETF is more limited than I thought.

        It’s a shame that ETF’s haven’t really taken off in Singapore.

  100. Adam Zargar says:

    Hi Andrew, hope your new book is going well! Just a quick note on Saxo Bank. Are they still a good brokerage to go for. I have been with them since August and they keep sending through new rules/fees e.g have to now do a trade every 4 (i think) months or you get a penalty. Might be wrong but think thats what I read/heard. As many are doing a couch potato 6 monthly or yearly trade is it still worth going with them or leaving to another? DId they start implementing the 0.2% annual fee too?


    • Saxo in Singapore said they are going to introduce a 0.2% fee, but if you have an account above a certain sum and you threaten to leave otherwise…I will let you fill in the rest.

      • David says:

        Hi Andrew,

        There seems to be quite a few pitfalls with the brokers recommended for British ex-pats.

        Saxo seem to have ongoing uncertain fee issues; TD Lux are refusing to take people from places including Indonesia and Vietnam that I know of, and you can no doubt add other countries to that list (anybody any idea why some ex-pats of these SEA Countries are denied?) ; DBS don’t trade on the UK Stock market I heard?

        Any advice you can give on us Brits trying to simply invest our money into ETF’s as you recommend? I’ve been going round and round with this forever just wanting to put my money somewhere and let it do the rest but it appears not that simple as first impressions give.

        Also Andrew could you advise on this: I am paid in US Dollars and likely to continue that way. Would you therefore still recommend for someone in my position the ETF’s of the UK market ,World Market and Bonds given I would have currency conversion issues buying and selling UK stock. II am currently in SEA and honestly have no idea if I will ever return but it will not be anytime soon.

        Cutting through all the tangled tape, who would you go with in my position ? Cheers Andrew and look forward eagerly to the next book.

        • David,

          I think you’re looking for difficulties that don’t likely exist. I don’t have fee issues with my Saxo account, and TD International has issues with some developing countries (a minority) mostly based on their concerns that they don’t feel they can properly verify the identities of the account holders. In other words, they don’t trust when a notary from Indonesia says you are who you are.

          Switching from one currency to buy an ETF in another costs a tiny bit, but it’s peanuts compared to an extra fee of 0.5% on the total portfolio each year. You may not realize that, but let’s pretend there’s a 5% commission on currency exchange (and there isn’t, ever) you would be better off paying that than being charged an extra 0.5% annual account fee somewhere else. The math is a matter of a one time fee on each purchase, versus a constant drag on the entire portfolio value each year.

          Regardless of the salary you are paid in, build a global portfolio. Whether you pay for it in CDN, SGD, GBP means nothing if it’s a truly global portfolio of ETFs. It will be worth the same thing, just denominated in a different trading currency. No value change would exist.


  101. David says:

    Hey Andrew,

    Thanks for getting back so quickly and clearing a few things up for me. It’s clear I’m no expert in personal finance and investing he,he.

    OK, I get the currency issues now but could you expand more on the 0.5% extra fee you talk of as I want to avoid that obviously when I eventually do find a suitable broker. Is it something to do with converting the currency first yourself and then depositing this into your brokerage account to buy the shares as opposed to them exchanging the currency? (forgive my ignorance).

    One other thing Andrew with the currencies in mind: Would you advise me to have an offshore dollar account for transferring funds into ETF’s? Like I said I’m likely to be paid in dollars more often than not and like yourself I’m an Int. School Teacher so therefore move around quite a lot. I do have a local currency account and an account in the UK but with being paid in dollars have issues with either opening a dollar account or transferring the dollar savings back to the UK pounds account.- bearing in mind my intentions to invest most savings back into ETF’S. I’m trying to balance the costs/losses associated with either opening a dollar account against the costs of transferring salary savings to the UK with associated currency conversion costs again to buy ETF’s. Again, forgive my ignorance.

    Regarding the problems I mentioned with the brokers I may be over thinking them but I think some are very pertinent for hundreds if not thousands of teachers in developing countries Andrew. Myself and several colleagues are in countries at the moment in SEA (and many more will be in a similar position in the future) which are denied by TD LUX. Others have opened accounts to then move jobs and be told they need to close their accounts with them so I think Int. Teachers need to be wary of issues with TD LUX. Saxo are mentioned on this thread several times regarding threatening to introduce further charges are they not? (My apologies if I’ve got this wrong). DBS now have a test you need to get through to open an account with them. Also, can you trade UK stocks online with DBS? I certainly don’t want to look for problems Andrew, they just seem to be real hoops I’m experiencing and hearing about and therefore trying to also foresee. I do hope you can put my mind at rest on some of these.

    Thanks in advance for your time and patience.


    • Hi David,

      The 0.5% fee was something I made up, just to prove a point.

      DBS Vickers doesn’t have a UK trading platform.

      The fee that Saxo charges is peanuts. I should be very careful when talking about such fees because those unfamiliar with investment costs may misinterpret them. To put this in perspective, Saxo Capital Markets has instituted a 0.2% annual fee on the account value each year–and this fee is negotiable. For example, I won’t have to pay it on my account, based on conversations I had with the brokerage. Most offshore pensions cost 18X more than this, charging more than 3.5% total costs each year. If you buy a typical unit trust at a bank in England, you would pay nearly 10X what Saxo Capital Markets charges per year in account fees. I should be far more careful about what I say, pertaining to fees, because inexperienced investors may start considering them expensive. Keep in mind, I might complain paying $60 for a pair of shoes, when it’s normal to pay three times as much.


  102. Harry says:

    Dear Andrew,

    Looking for advice as the thread has become quite confusing. Im a British Expat Teacher working in Singapore.
    I was literally juts about to sign on a Zurich 25 year saving plan for a pension plan.
    However, reading here it seems I am better to invest myself.
    I understand the DBS Vickers was a recomendation of the past.
    Can you give a brief guide as to what you would recommend now.
    Where to open an account.
    How much to invest per Quarter.
    Which %indexes to purchase to give a balanced portfolio.
    And of course how all this will be affected by taxation when I want to start withdrawing the Interest to form a pension when I retire.

    Hope you can help, I am just finding all teh speciific in and out gettinga little confusing and I was hopig you coudl clarify for us again.
    Many Thanks

  103. Harry says:

    HI Andrew,
    Thanks for the responses, however although I got them sent through to my hotmail, they don’t appear on the message feed in the mian bulk of your website, there is also no change to the original post about opening a DBS Vickers account although when I briefly saw last night you had updated to guide people through the SAXO opening and what would give an average balanced portfolio.
    Dont know if there is an error on thew ebsite or a problem with it Caching on computers.
    Anyway just thought I would make you aware.
    Have bought the book and am busy reading – Im just deciding whetehr to plumb for DBS or Saxo and then which funds to buy, thinking I might go slightly less bonds as I am only 30.
    ON the guide you indicate buying British and USA funds would you not advise Sinagpore as that is where I live now and plan to work for the next 10-15 years?

    • Hi Harry,

      You can’t buy British based ETFs off DBS Vickers. But you can off Saxo. Britain is just the exchange you are using. Via the British market, you could buy a British and Global stock index, plus a British bond index. With them domiciled in Ireland, you wouldn’t pay capital gains taxes on them. Those in the links provided are Irish domiciled. Singapore is a tiny market. You won’t be paying future bills in SGD, so you shouldn’t want to expose yourself to its stock market…other than the sliver of exposure you would get with the global stock index.

    • Harry,

      This link seems to work to show the ETFs required. If you haven’t read a book on index investing (mine or someone else’s) be sure to do so before buying any of these products.



      • Harry says:

        Thanks Andrew.
        Downloaded the trial of Saxo but can’t seem to locate the uk vanguard ETFs you recommended?! They have many funds but not the ones in your guidance.
        I was then again looking at td lux and hargeaves and landsdowne.
        Any chance you can just summarise your opinion on all three brokerages (cost wise and ease of getting the right funds) and which do you feel us best for a young, novice investor starting out searching for the vanguard uk funds you state in your example?
        Sorry to be a pain I just want to start off on the right foot and set myself up well.

        • They’re all available. Call the brokerage. In some cases, they are purchasable in USD off the British exchange, which might be the hangup. Give the brokerage a ring. I promise you can buy every one of them via Saxo.

  104. Andrew says:

    Hi Andrew; I have finished reading your book; its excellent as well as this website and commentary.
    However I would welcome some discussion and feedback with regard to the security of Nominee Stockbroker Personal Accounts, and also the CREST Personal Stockbroker Accounts. Here in Ireland the High Court ruling “Morogh Ruling” has declared that monies in Nominee Accounts can be used to pay receivership creditors if a Stockbroker goes bankrupt.
    Also the area of fraud needs to be highlighted – what happens if somebody in a Stockbroker steals monies from peoples savings? The compensation schemes are usually only up to around £50,000!! Following your advice recently I have setup a Nominee Account which is what was offered to me in order to start saving with the Vanguard S&P500 Index which has a TER of 0.9% as well as 0.5% Yearly Stockbroker charge. But I am concerned about long-term security of Nominee Stockbroker Accounts; so I would be interested to hear what other people have to say about this area of security; and what steps if any are open to the personal investor!!
    Andrew, Dublin, Ireland

    • Hi Andrew,

      I can’t answer your question about nominee accounts, but I am surprised by how much you are paying in fees for your S&P 500 index! You are paying nearly 1.5% per year to invest in it? Yikes. You don’t need to pay a 0.5% annual brokerage fee, or a high 0.9% expense ratio on such an index. What brokerage are you using????

      If you are going to invest in indexes, you can get such costs down to 0.2% or less….total.

  105. Andrew says:


    Davy Select. Here is the link to the S&P 500. Apologies the TER is 0.09% and Annual Management Charge is 0.09% not the 1.5% which I stated. But there are other charges as well such as the Trading Charge every time you purchase funds as well as the Quarterly Account Fee which I think is €20. So that’s €80 Annual Account Fee.

    Link – http://www.davyselect.ie/etfs/etf-research.htm

    Day Change

    Total Expense Ratio

    Annual Management Charge

    Inception Date

    Exchange Name

  106. Andrew says:


    Irish Independent article explains the significance of this High Court Morrogh Stockbroker’s ruling here in Ireland.

    Link – http://www.independent.ie/business/personal-finance/bombshell-morrogh-ruling-puts-nominee-investors-at-risk-if-broker-goes-bust-25931223.html

  107. Harry says:

    Cheers Andrew,
    Nearly finished your book. Still having trouble seeing all 208 comments on this feed, depending on which link you click, or numbers under comment box or feed at side it jumps between the old dbs post and the new saxo advice. Might be a glitch our end but partner has tried on work computer and is doing the same. As soon as you add an additional comment it jumps and shows all comments?! But otherwise the comment conversation get stuck with dbs vickers and David’s comment on May 6th at 11:50.
    No need to moderate so this appears on the feed just letting you know that there does appear to be a problem when accessing on iPad, Mac and even an old toshiba laptop.
    Right now back to the book!
    Thanks again

  108. John says:


    The demo account is outdated and just a demo – I had the same problem. The live account has them all. Only The FTSE 100 (VUKE) and Total Bond index (VGOV) are available in GBP. All the rest are in USD. Other than the 0.5% commission on the exchange rate, I don’t think there is any harm in buying the FTSE All World ETF (VWRD) in USD, as USD is the ETF base currency anyway. Even if you bought it in GBP, the base currency of the ETF is USD, so it would have to be converted. Other than a fairly small commission (5 pound in every 1000 pounds), it doesn’t really matter what currency you buy it in, as it all balances up. Correct Andrew?

    • That’s correct John. One thing about buying ETFs off a discount brokerage is that you can see everything beneath a transparent hood. This isn’t the case when buying expensive unit trusts off a broker, and it’s even less so when buying (ludicrously) expensive offshore pensions. There’s no way to see what currency conversion spread costs go on beneath the veils of such products.

  109. John says:

    Based on the latest update above, if you want to buy the Vanguard FTSE All World ETF off the London Stock Exchange through Saxo Bank, the ticker symbol is VWRD not VWRL.

    If you type in VWRL, you will have two options, buying it euros off the NYSE Euronext or in CHF off the Swiss Stock Exchange.

  110. Brendan Miller says:

    Regarding the use of DBS to purchase UK ETF’s;
    Dear Sir/Madam
    Is it possible to purchase ETF’s from the UK stock exchange?
    I would be looking to purchase some of the following:

    I look forward to your reply.
    Brendan Miller

    and their reply was as follows;

    Dear Mr Brendan Miller

    You have to call our hotline at 63272288 to place UK order.

    UK commission is 1% of trade principal or minimum GBP50 (whichever is higher).


    Best Regards
    Investment Service Centre
    DBS Vickers Securities (S) Pte Ltd
    Hotline: 63272288
    Fax: 62268068
    Email: info-sg@dbsvonline.com

    DBS. Living, Breathing Asia
    We will strive to attend to your email as soon as we can. For time-critical matters, please call our Hotline on +65 6327-2288 immediately.

    • Brendan,

      If they are offering the UK market, that’s news to me. It must be a new thing. That said, the cost of such transactions (if we can assume their email information is correct) is far higher than you could pay elsewhere. A 1% fee, true, is a lot cheaper than an offshore brokerage like Alexander Beard (5%) or an Americans Funds class A mutual fund (5.75%) but it’s still more than you should be paying to buy a UK domiciled ETF. Check out the platform at Saxo Capital markets. My guess is that their trading commissions will cost you about a quarter of that.


      • Sean says:

        Yes, they’ve been offering the phone option for some time. I never mentioned it because it is so ludicrously overpriced. I remember it was actually cheaper for me to send the funds back to the UK using TT, and purchase the ETF using my UK broker (TD Direct). When I asked about the crazy costs they justified it by saying that trades through their website platform don’t incur the additional cost of phone support. Which is ridiculous when you consider that you cannot use their online to purchase UK stocks.

        The other reason they gave is that they cannot do the trade themselves, so they are, in effect, actually passing on the trade to a third party broker which is why the costs escalate. I bet they’ll allow you to trade VWRL in Sterling though, anyone listing … Saxo???

        Talk about pricing themselves out of business.

        Now with Saxo in town here really is no good reason to try to trade in the UK via DBSV.

  111. I believe Standard Chartered’s brokerage has offered UK market trading for some time now as well: https://www.sc.com/sg/ways-to-bank/online-trading.html

  112. PJ says:

    Anyone know what are the costs for US ETFs through DBS Vickers … is it comparable with UK funds? at 1%

    Spent months trying to set up with DBS Vickers account just received the Passwords now seems SAXO would be better option for UK Funds and concerned could be in same position for USA market exposure…

    Welcome advice

  113. Sean says:

    Well, I just finished Andrew’s book in one sitting. Not only was it immensely informative, but also very eloquently written and enjoyable to read. I’ve told my friends about it and will continue to do so.

    Just returning to the theme of British expats investing using index funds in Singapore – is it only Brits who can do that? What about Irish expats in, say, Dubai? Yes, that’d be me – but I feel it’s important to mention people like me, because we use euro rather than pounds or dollars. For example, If an expat should hold a “national ETF”, in the case of eurozone citizens, can the “national” ETF be in Amsterdam or Berlin, even if the account holder is, say, Irish? In other words, is it the currency that counts?

    Also, as an example, how would a European UAE-resident, who invests, via Singapore, in an index fund such as Vanguard’s Amsterdam euro index, fare from a taxation point of view?

    The way I see it, if I’m not mistaken, is that the invested money is earned/sourced in the UAE is sent to Singapore; and, from there, it is invested in (for example) Amsterdam, before going back to Singapore and ultimately Dubai. And then, when it’s time to repatriate, the money is being taken back to Europe. Am I understanding the concept correctly?

  114. Tony says:


    I’m also a UK expat in Dubai – can i set up something similar or do I need to be in Singapore?

    Things are confusing as I also have australian citizenship and will likely end up back in Oz …. one day.

    Should I go the SAXO route or is something else a better route for me?


  115. Frank says:

    Congratulations, Andrew, on finding the freedom to travel and enjoy your savings. And thank you for sharing your insights with others.

    I am about to start index investment, adopting a 50:25:25 (Bonds:World:UK) plan. My question arises from the fact that I have a substantial sum ready to invest as a result of selling a house and collecting the residue (!) of an actively managed fund.

    If I’ve understood the “dollar-cost averaging” principle correctly, that implies that I should invest my assets gradually, month by month, over the next year or two. But surely the downside of this approach is that a lot of money is left sitting in a bank account earning nothing? It does seem like a risky time to enter the market (I’m a total novice, but I get the impression that both stocks and bonds are high at present?) so I would certainly want to avoid committing a huge lump sum at just the worst possible moment. Any thoughts on how to handle the unusual luxury of having a pot of gold right now rather than just the leftovers of a monthly salary?

  116. Matt says:

    Sean and Tony,

    I can’t help you with the “national ETF” part (I’m Canadian), but Saxo has a Dubai branch now.

    Go to the Saxo website, select the Middle East region and click on contact us, it should provide all the info.

    I hope that helps.


  117. Simon says:

    Andrew, I made it through your excellent book last week, and left it a comment on the kindle website. I’m a Brit in Singapore and have been here for over 12 years and unfortunately got suckered into Zurich, Skandia, and Generali (Full house anyone?) when I panicked after drinking everything I earned during 5 great years in Hong Kong.
    Anyway, I have seen the error or my ways after reading your book and cashed in the Zurich and the Skandia, luckily I had had a little bit or foresight and only had 10 year terms. I lost 10% on Zurich over 8 years and broke even to get my contributions back on the Skandia over 9. I’m treating it as forced savings and trying not to dwell on the lost time that my money was doing nothing.

    So, to the present day, I now have S$150k and US$50k to invest in cash, I do already have a DBSV account, but today just opened a SCB Priority account that took under and hour for a SGD current, credit card, USD and equity trading with 5 currency settlement accounts that should all be ready in a week. I was tempted by their fees and no minimum charges with a 0.2% charge on foreign markets and 0.18% on the SGX as well as them having 13 markets to choose from. To me it seems to offer more for less than DBSV and Saxo and will serve me well when It comes to small monthly contributions, which I hope to continue at around 3k a month.

    I was planning to go for NYSE ETFs maybe in bonds and trade Stock ETFs in SG, but your latest comments on US taxes is a little scary, so I guess they are out. The original reason for this plan was to avoid currency exchange fees and keep the currency mix I already have. At the moment I have no plans to return to Europe/UK and have no assets there, I do have other assests in the region and might end up in any country around here in future, and I hope the SGD will remain as strong.

    The split for a portfolio I would look at 40% bond, 30%US or UK index and 30% first world stock index as you lean towards in your book and website.

    For me, I guess I am looking for the best option at not being tied to a Country/Currency and which exchange should I look at, and currency to use based on what I have. Should I change over to GBP/EUR, convert all to USD or play it local in Singapore or mix it up. The only bit I don’t understand in Singapore is you suggest Bonds may be ok, but that there is not a lot of liquidity in the SG stock indexes. If I got it the right way round I don’t really understand you comments on that one, could you enlighten us?

    And again, great book, 10 years ago it would have been fantastic for me!

  118. IUMMA says:

    Hi Andrew and anyone else who has some advice,

    I opened a DBS Vickers online trading account in March but I have just read that the advice is that opening an account with Saxo is now a better option. I have read on a different blog that it’s better to just sell up all your DBSV shares and start from scratch with Saxo, rather than transfer them to Saxo as it costs $50 per counter. Is this what you would recommend too?

    Also, I read that Saxo has an exchange rate of around 2% and a 180 day inactivity fee. What are your thoughts on this, compared to DBSV?

    Would love to hear what you think, esp on the transfer issue as the less complicated it is the better!!

    Thanks very much.

    • Sean says:

      If you have less than $60,000 USD worth of US stock ion your DBSV account there’s no rush, if course once it grows over that you need to consider the implications of the tax Andrew has already described above.

      Saxo’s fees are competitive, but you are best asking them directly abut their fees, certainly 2% sounds like exaggeration, I believe they charge 0.5% for currency commission. Yes they have an inactivity fee, but if you’re not trading at least once every 180 days you are not a ‘couch potato’ investor, every couple of months is a better plan.

      All of these Brokers are out to gouge their pound of flesh as well, they just gouge a lot less than companies like Zurich. DBS Vickers are now charging a custodial fee of $20.50 SGD per quarter, unless you make 6 trades per quarter or more… no ‘couch potato’ investor does that. They quietly introduced the fee last June. The $50 per counter is a standard fee all brokers will charge you to transfer your assets to another broker.

      If you have < $60,000 in US Stock, leave what you have in DBSV, an continue trading in Canadian, SGD or HK dollars instead. If you want to trade in other currencies in non US Stock, like GBP or Euro etc, stop using DBSV and start using Saxo instead.

      I trade in GBP, a quick comparison:
      DBSV only over the phone, costs a minimum of £50 no currency commission. Custodian fee of $20 SGD per quarter.
      Saxo, trade online, costs a minimum of £20 + 0.5% currency commission. No custodian fee (yet).

      Saxo argue that while they charge 0.5% in commission, that DBSV, just use a less competitive exchange rate and so actually when you compare, DBSV are still charging you a commission fee, they're just doing it by using an higher exchange rate – very sneaky.

      Bottom line, these fees, though annoying, are not really a major consideration, they are one off and don't hamper your investment like the kinds of fees Zurich et al charge that are ongoing and take a % hit on your entire account balance, every month/year – a monkey on your back.

      In relation to that the flat $80 SGD/annum that DBSV charge is not that bad = < 0.1% on a $100,000 account balance.

      • Thanks Sean,

        Despite Saxo’s claim, Saxo’s exchange rate spread plus their currency exchange commission will cost more currency spread (overall) than with DBS Vickers. But DBS Vickers hammers clients on the trading commissions. Don’t accept every fee they want to stuff down your throat either. I have negotiated to make a few of them disappear. Don’t be afraid to try that.

        Long term…..don’t sweat over these tiny niggling fees. Your behaviour and your fund expense ratios will determine your success—-your behaviour more than anything. If a disciplined couch potato investor paid a 50% commission on every purchase, and a normal person paid 0% and they bought the same indexes, the disciplined person would come out ahead of the typical investor. I explain this in detail (with facts, figures and studies) in my new, upcoming book.


  119. rjb says:

    Is anyone else having problems viewing recent posts in this thread (and others)?
    I can’t seem to view any posts later than May 25, but the sidebar shows a number of posts more recent than that.

    • Dave D says:

      Hi RJB,

      Between the end of comments and the “Leave a Reply” section look for numbers — which are links to each page of comments. It should look something like this :

      « Previous 1 2 3 4 5 Next »

      That will enable you to go back and forth between the pages of comments.

  120. Vig Lacera says:

    To rjb,

    Yes, I am constantly having problems viewing Recent Posts on this site. I’ve tried different computers, different browsers — and still have problems. The site keeps tossing me between Desktop and Mobile versions of it.
    (I wonder if a certain interest group that relies on hefty commissions and the ignorance of investors has hacked the site?)


  121. Ramona says:

    Yes, Since the new format began it has been difficult to find threads and follow threads. Sidebar shows recent but the main window is challenging to follow.

  122. Dave D says:

    Hi Vig & Ramona,

    there was a mobile version which has been removed. After the removal it appears it didn’t clear completely/properly from the cached version of the website, so the mobile version would re-appear intermittently. The cache has now been cleared, so hopefully this issue will no longer occur.

  123. Michael says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I recently opened a saxo account in Singapore (where i am currently based). I opened the account in GBP. I am now looking to invest about 25% in UK bonds EFT and the rest split equally between UK stock index and world index. I was looking at the vwdr index but Saxo does not have it in GBP. I would imagine that I should invest in GBP funds only to avoid exchange rate fluctuation and additional fee. Is my approach correct?


  124. John says:

    How do you buy ETF’s when living in Doha, Qatar? I have a bank account in the UK, but am not allowed to open up a brokerage account in the UK because I am not a resident there, even though I am a UK citizen. The UK is were I would prefer to have my money and regularly send my savings there. Has anyone got an answer to this conundrum of needing to invest ( my savings account gives me 1.5%) but your hands are tied because you are not a resident. Is the answer to cheat, and give a UK address, with all the difficulties of proof with electricity bills etc. My money is losing value every day, and I am so annoyed. What I would give to live in Singapore!

  125. Sean McHugh says:


    Ask about the term ‘ordinarily resident’, many doors that are closed to ‘non residents’ magically open if you utter the aforementioned words. Of course you should check with the Inland Revenue to make sure you really are ‘ordinarily resident’ but chances are that if you’re reading this then you are. The criteria is a little wooly, but includes things like: return to the UK at least once every 4 years, a home address in the UK, a UK bank account, UK property, a contract that identifies you as a British citizen and flies you out from, and back to the UK.

    For more on the status of being ‘ordinarily resident, click this link:


    If you’re classified as ordinarily resident, and you have cash sitting in a bank account in the UK, you should think about opening and using your ISA allowance – now upgraded to £15,000 a year, per person, any money/investment in an ISA is tax free. Nice.

  126. Mark says:

    Hi Andrew,
    Quick question, I see you are recommending VWRD which is denominated in USD. I noticed on the Vanguard website that there is also an ETF denominated in GBP (VWRL). It has the same expense ratio.

    Can you explain the difference between these as they both have a ‘base currency’ of USD on the prospectus



    • Hi Mark,

      It’s actually the same index. But some brokerages will only allow you to buy one or the other. I believe you cannot buy VWRL off Saxo Capital Markets, for example, but you can buy VWRD. If this bothers you, give your brokerage some pressure. I can see it benefiting an expat, for example, who gets paid in British pounds and doesn’t want to pay the conversion charges to USD just to make an investment on a market that’s clearly representing their home currency anyway. I have noticed Saxo Capital Markets offering things I have asked for, so it can’t hurt.


      • Tony says:

        Hi Andrew,
        I’ll be buying either VWRL or VWRD in a couple of weeks through TD International in Luxembourg to replace my holding of VT with DBS Vickers in Singapore. Although they seem to track the same indexes their performance figures are different. In fact VWRD seems to have done better. Do you know the reason why? I’d rather use VWRL as my other investments are in GBP. Could the variation in performance work either way?
        Looking forward to your new book.

  127. Tony SP says:

    Hi Tuula,

    Being also european (Spanish), I wonder if you have done any research in any interesting ETF’s for Europeans. It would be great if Andrew could make another section in “Expats Investing” about Europe, but I guess, it means lot of work.

    I’ve just started building my portfolio and I’d love to know more about other Europeans and ETF/Bonds they are working with.


    • Sean says:

      Hi Tony,

      I’m a European too (Irish) and regard euro as my domestic currency. The way I see it is that the euro gives us an advantage. If I were British, I’d want to have UK ETF for currency purposes. As an Irish person whose currency is the euro, I feel that I can invest in any ETF that has the euro as the base currency. For me that will boil down to VEUR, traded of the Amsterdam exchange, the base currency of which is euro.

      I will also buy either VTI from the New York stock exchange or VUSA (S&P 500) from the Amsterdam exchange (base currency US dollar).

      In addition, I’m probably going to buy BND (Vanguard Total Bond Market) as my proportion of bonds.

      I get paid in UAE dirhams, which is dollar pegged, but I don’t want to be overly exposed to the dollar. I don’t know whether I will ultimately settle in Europe, but I’m assuming that I will, so I set my Saxo base currency as euro. I will have to suffer a Saxo conversion fee when buying VTI and BND, but at least VEUR has the euro as a base.

      That’s my current thinking anyway. If Andrew happens to be reading, his perspective would be enlightening!

      • Sean McHugh says:

        Hi Sean, I’m another Sean, half Irish/half English though, so I can play the options.

        I’d avoid VTI and anything else that means you investing directly in the NYSE, due to the US death tax, as Andrew posts at the top of this page:

        “Many of the comments below will no longer apply to this updated post. Because of U.S. estate tax rules, I created the model portfolio on this post utilizing ETFs (indexes) that trade on the UK market. An expatriate living outside of the UK would not have to pay capital gains on such products, and would not have to pay U.S. Estate Taxes either.”

        Some other ETFs for that are based in Euro, even though they are domiciled in the UK, their base currency is in Euro, they are worth considering are:

        iShares Euro Government Bond 1-3 yr. UCITS (IBGS.LN)

        Vanguard FTSE Developed Europe (VEUR)

        and a non US domiciled World ETF like VWRL/VWRD, but I haven’t seen any of these based in Euros.

        It’s always worth remembering with this though that the costs of currency conversion are minuscule in comparison to the sums you will hopefully have nested over the next 10 years. Of course if we can avoid paying fees then why would we not? But the important thing to remember is that those kinds of fees actually fade into insignificance in the large picture.?

        The bottom line is though that you don’t have to invest in euros in order to be an effective investor, your primary goal is for your money to grow, to that end the currency is not a major consideration, the economy you invest in is. Worst case scenario you invest using US dollars (not in US assets) or in GBP and then one day you will have to convert that into euros when you want to spend it… That is what I’m going to have to do with a lot of my USD investments anyway. Those Currency conversion fees are tiny in comparison to the growth that you are expecting on achieving compounding over the next five to ten years, hopefully more.

        • Sean says:

          Hi Sean,

          Thanks for the post. I agree that VEUR would be a good ETF for any investor whose domestic currency is the euro.
          I would like to get good exposure to the US market, so I propose to buy VUSA from the Amsterdam exchange. VUSA comprises the same stocks as VOO, so its base currency is the dollar; but because you buy it off the Amsterdam exchange, you should escape the US death tax and the only tax you should end up paying is the dividends tax at source. At least, that’s my understanding! In addition, its TER is 0.15%.

          In fact, VWRL can also be bought off the Amsterdam exchange in euros, though the base currency is US dollars.

          I find your suggestion about bonds interesting. I initially thought about ISHG, but it’s not doing very well. BND is a mixture of government, corporate, US and international bonds, but the breakdown is very reliable, with the big majority have AAA ratings. In addition, the performance is pretty good. The thing I don’t like about is that it’s US-domiciled, so, as you say, estate taxes would be a concern. What is your opinion on BND versus the bonds you’ve suggested?

          I have opened a joint Saxo account with my wife, so if one of us bites the dust, the survivor isn’t vulnerable to the estate tax. If we both go, then yes.

          Thanks for the comments! I plan to invest around 20k euros in late August, so have plenty of time to plan which ETFs to invest in. All suggestions and perspectives are welcome.

          • Toby says:

            The comment you made about joint accounts is interesting. My understanding was that the estate taxes would apply to joint accounts when one of the account holders passed away leaving the remaining account holder to pay the taxes. The death of the other account holder leaves an estate which is taxed.

            I hope you are right and I am wrong.

            Can anyone shed some more light on this?

          • Sean McHugh says:

            I stopped purchasing ISHG as it’s all subject to the death tax—about which I’m planning on a few things:

            Not dying before I spend my US investments
            Assuming they won’t ‘know’ the second I draw my last breath
            My wife accessing my DBSV account and selling off al my US assets, before the funeral!

            US assets will be the first I sell when I rebalance, then I will use the proceeds to rebalance using UK domiciled assets instead.

            Like Toby mentioned below, I wouldn’t rely on the joint account option…

            As for Bonds, I’m buying IGLS, I doubt I’ll be repatriating to the smily farm in Ireland, my wife is English, and not keen!

  128. Tony SP says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for your wonderful site and book to open our eyes on how to invest wisely. Looking forward for the publishing of the second one.

    Being Spanish, I wonder if you could suggest some ETFs/Bonds for Europeans (Not Brits). I miss a section in the “Expats Investing” about Europe, but I guess, it’s lot of work… and so for, you’ve been doing an amazing job.

    I am a teacher working in Singapore (38 years old) and with an account with Saxo Bank. I will start my portfolio this week, but I haven’t decided yet which ETF/Bonds to buy. Based on your guides, I will put 38% on Bonds and 62% in ETFs, but still confused if I should use the British guidelines or try to explore some European Bonds/ETFs. Any suggestions?

    My concern is about how it will affect me in the future if I follow the British plan, as I plan to go back to Europe, and my main currency will be Euros no Pounds.

    Thanks for your help and hope you have a great time cycling around SE Asia.


  129. Stephen says:


    If I open an account with Saxo to trade on the UK index should my currency of choice when I open the account be UK pounds?

    Thanks for your advise

  130. Sean says:

    Hi Toby, good question. You might be correct. Still, imagine the following scenario, which I put forward speculatively:

    Imagine that my wife and I reside in Singapore and have a joint account with Saxo. We have used that joint account to build up 700,000 dollars in the VOO ETF., which is US-domiciled. One day out of the blue I keel over and die. What is to stop my wife from simply logging in to Saxo, selling the 700k immediately, and simply buying a non-US-domiciled ETF instead? Why would the US government even need to know about my death?

    I’m not suggesting this as a course of action, but I am curious as to whether the scenario is plausible and realistic.

  131. Sean McHugh says:

    Sounds like a question for Saxo, but that’s what I do.

    All funds that I transfer in are automatically converted to GBP, I make sure that any ETFs I purchase are ETFs that allow me to use GBP to purchase. This has only been a problem with VWRL, which for some crazy reason Saxo ‘cannot’ provide a way to purchase in GBP, so you’re only way to buy that one is use a different broker, purchase SSAC instead, or create a secondary Saxo account in USD and use that to purchase VWRD, the same ETF in USD.

  132. Alex says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I read your book recently, great read! However, being a UK citizen living in the UK i was a little disappointed to not see any advice on how/ where to buy Indexes as a UK resident. I looked through Vanguard’s UK website but it appears that there is a minumum investment of £100,000 for their funds and no other apparent way of buying Indexes directly from them. This has left me a little confused as to how i can invest in UK indexes without having to pay fund supermarket fees etc. I was wondering if you could give any clarification as to where would be best to buy indexes (assuming it isn’t possible to buy directly from Vanguard UK) as i am weary of hidden costs/ transfer fees.



    • Alex,

      You can open an account with a UK-based discount brokerage. From there, you can pay small commissions to purchase low cost ETFs via Vanguard UK, much the same way Keith (the Canadian I profiled in my book) did with a Canadian brokerage. They are amazing products.Do a google search for “Vanguard UK ETFs) and you will find the listed products. Then find a brokerage that will charge per transaction. The ETFs have even lower expense ratios than Vanguard UK’s index funds. And it’s the expense ratios (not the commissions) that have the most long term impact.

  133. Marc says:


    Does anyone know any easy place to get the dividend history for the 4 ETFs listed in the article? It was easy to get the US based ones (EWU, VT and ISHG) but I am struggling for an easy source for these (especially VUKE)

    Any ideas?

  134. Sean says:


    I use TD Direct, they charge £12.50 per trade, which is a lot less than expats pay to trade with brokers overseas. You should make sure the account is linked to an ISA, TD Direct have a ‘Trading ISA’ to make this easy. That way you can trade £15,000 per financial year tax free. I’m able to trade in all the ETFs Andrew recommends for Brits. You need to make sure you have at least £4000 in the account or they will charge you a fee.

    Another option is to check out an index tracker which is similar to an ETF but allows you to work with smaller monthly sums, I know Legal & General offer some, but there are others.

  135. Lee says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I’m a British teacher working in Oman but currently on holiday back in the UK and looking to set up a couch potato fund while I’m back.

    Over the years I’ve been saving hard for my retirement but when I arrived in Oman I got duped into buying into Friends Provident and 18 months and $18000 later I managed to get out. An expensive lesson and one I’m keen not to repeat.

    I’ve read that you recommend keeping your age in bonds and the rest in equity, which would put me at a 40-60 split and as such I’ve found a product (LifeStrategy 60% equity fund) by a company called Vanguard, which seem to be very well respected and have low AMC/TMR costs at 0.29% and an initial purchase cost of 0.1%. Can you give me your thoughts on this product? It seems to have done well since its inception in 2011 averaging just under 8% per annum.

    I have a lump sum to invest and will then be looking to make purchases every quarter.

    I really am your typical couch potato when it comes to this and would be looking to not have to touch this money for at least 11 years.

    Thanks for your time


    • Hi Lee,

      The product is superb. But check out my section for British expats in the blog. By keeping your money out of the UK, you can avoid capital gains taxes. You could invest in the same kind of products through an international brokerage in a capital gains free zone.

      • Rachael says:

        Hi Lee

        Have you found an online brokerage platform outside the UK that would enable you to invest in the Vanguard LifeStrategy products?

        I am an expat living in Singapore and have an account with Saxo but annoyingly, they don’t offer this product. I couldn’t work out why, until I read on another investing site that mentioned Vanguard products are not offered on many platforms due to their reluctance to pay commissions: http://monevator.com/cheap-vanguard-index-funds/

        There is more on the LifeStrategy product here: http://monevator.com/vanguard-lifestrategy/

        If you find an international online platform that allows investors to purchase the Vanguard LifeStrategy products, will you please share?



  136. Lee says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for the very fast reply.

    Can I buy that exact product through an international brokerage and not have to pay CGT or as the product (rather than myself) is domiciled in the UK would CGT automatically be taken? I’m quite keen to invest in what I hope is a relatively stable market (the UK) and in what seems to be widely regarded as a good product. If I can do this can you recommend a brokerage?

    However, if I do that rather than dealing with Vanguard direct (I have sufficient funds to be able to do this) would I not have to pay additional costs?

    Thanks again for your advice and the blog is a great help.

  137. Rachael says:

    Hi Andrew.

    Thanks for all your great advise. Your book has been a life-changer for us and has redirected us onto a much clearer investment path.

    I have a quick question – you mention here that opening a Saxo Capital Markets account is a good idea for British Expats in Singapore, however you’ve also previously mentioned in another post that HSBC in the UK offers a good solution – do you mean HSBC’s InvestDirect platform is a good solution, or their ETFs http://www.etf.hsbc.com/etf/uk/retail? If you’re recommending their ETFs, I assume one can purchase these through Saxo.

    Thanks in advance.


  138. Rachael says:


    A follow on to my previous question:

    As a British expat in Singapore, would I benefit from keeping my investments offshore (ie through Saxo Capital Markets in Singapore), rather than investing through HSBC in UK, or, is the fact that I’m living in Singapore and am therefore no liable the UK Capital Gains tax enough?

    Thanks again!


  139. Sean says:

    I think you can assume that any funds that are onshore, in the UK will be liable to UK tax. For that reason it would make sense to keep as much off shore as possible, A possible exception to this is if you put the funds you trade into an ISA, but you would need to do this in the UK using a UK broker. As you are in Singapore this really does not make any sense unless you have a load of funds in the UK that you need to invest.

    So keep your funds offshore which you will do by investing in Singapore using a Singapore based broker like Saxo. I think Andrew’s comments about HSBC refer to one of their ETFs which I have also invested in called HUKX.L, but you really don’t need to bother with that as the vanguard equivalent, VUKE, is actually more cost effective, and pretty much does the same thing.

  140. Phil says:

    Hi Andrew,
    I was under the impression UK CGT on stocks is payable if you are UK resident regardless of where the brokerage is located and non UK residents don’t pay CGT. You pay your CGT in your tax residency. I am not a tax expert though…

    From HMRC:

    Capital Gains Tax
    In general you will not be liable to pay tax on capital gains if you are not resident in the UK but there are exceptions. Read more in the section ‘Tax on capital gains from assets in the UK’ later in this guide.



  141. Lee Mulliss says:

    Further to Rachel’s comments I tried TD International but they don’t deal with that particular Vanguard product either. I’m hearing different things regarding UK tax laws but know that as a non resident I don’t pay tax on my savings accounts. I’d hoped it would be the same for CGT but like you I need a definitive answer before I invest. I’m going to contact Vanguard on Monday to see if they can offer any suggestions. I’m sure they must have come up against this in the past so I’ll post their response hopefully later that day.


    • Lee says:

      Update on Vanguards LifeStrategy 60% equity fund……

      I contacted Vanguard and they only deal with UK residents so we can’t deal direct with them even if you have the minimum they require for direct investment, which is £100k . They suggest a number of different brokers who deal with their products on their website but I found that the ones I contacted or researched also only deal with UK residents. The exception being Guardian shares ( http://www.guardianshares.com/ ) who will deal with expats but don’t offer this particular product. One of their advisors suggested that it might be possible to trade in most if not all of the Vanguard products/funds listed in the Lifestrategy fund but it would have to be done on an individual basis rather than having just the one product, which defeats the purpose for me.

      Another alternative was SVS ( http://www.svssecurities.com/ ) who advised me that although they don’t trade in this particular product they are looking to offer unit trusts but this will be towards the end of the year and he also couldn’t give me an idea of costs although they are one of the cheapest when it comes to trades currently.

      All in all quite frustrating and not very productive. If anyone comes up with any other suggestions please let me know.

  142. Tony says:

    Hi, does anyone have any thoughts on IGLO which invests in bonds of the G7 countries? I’m thinking of this instead of IGLS which invests solely in UK Gilts. Same expense ratio but better yield (1.7% compared to 0.65%) and a spread of countries in case sterling crashes.

  143. julien says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I am a French citizen based in Singapore.

    I am about to start trading through Saxo Bank

    Looking for ETF’s for the French market,

    I have only come across this one


    Can you tell me what you think and if there are any better alternatives to invest in Euros?

    Thanks a lot for your book and all the work you do.


  144. Harry says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I have finally opened my Saxo account – I just wanted to check peoples opinions on the ETFS I was looking at – I was conscious of trying to keep the trading currency in UK POUND so as to not pay for exchange commission twice i.e Sing Dollar to my one currency option of GBP then purchasing global ETFS that deal in USDollar – or do you think we shouldn’t worry about this?
    Anyway as I am 30 I was thinking of splitting a bit further and looking to invest a bit in Emerging markets as well:

    Ishares UK GIlts 0-5 Years – GBP – 25%

    Vanguard FTSE 100 ETF -GBP – 30%

    Ishares MCIS ACWI UCITS ETF – GBP – 30% – chose this instead of vanguard because on Saxo you can tarde this in GBP or would you just stick to Vanguard glocabl 100 in USD??

    Then finally 15% in some kind of emerging market – europe? Global? USD vs GBP??? here is where I am looking for peoples’ opinion/suggestion as to what they have found on SAXO.

    Anyway hope some people can give some opinions on the above just so I can broaden my thoughts before I click BUY!!
    Right now back to my marking… millionaire teacher in Singapore here I come…
    Many Thanks.

  145. sunny says:


    Great article, realy enjoyed reading your blog. Two questions.

    First for Sean, are you sure you can invest into an ISA account in the UK when you reside and are a tax resident in Singapore? I was told I can’t, so at the moment I am unable to put additional money into my UK based ISAs.

    Secondly, is there an advantge to me being from the UK in using Saxo Capital markets to buy UK index funds over say using DBS Vickers to buy UK Index Funds and other stocks? I currently bank with DBS and it would be handy to do everything in the same place, but if there is a benefit then I will open a Saxo account.


    • Sean says:

      Hi Sunny,
      I can invest on the bias of my status as bring ‘ordinarily resident’ which os a but of a slippery definition, but if it lets me prepare for my eventual return to the UK I’ll take it.
      Unfortunately not many people in the UK, other than ex-pats and the Inland revenue have any idea what being ‘ordinarily resident’ is but its does open some doors.

      Of course you should check with the Inland Revenue to make sure you really are ‘ordinarily resident’ but chances are that if you’re reading this then you are. The criteria is a little wooly, but includes things like: return to the UK at last once every 4 years, a contact address in the UK, a UK bank account, UK property, a contract that identifies you as a British citizen and flies you out from, and back to the UK.

      For more on the status of being ordinarily resident, click the following link.


      If you’re classified as ordinarily resident, and you have cash sitting in a bank account in the UK, you should think about opening and using your ISA allowance – now upgraded to £15,000 a year, per person, any money/investment in an ISA is tax free. Nice.

      “ISA: (in the UK) an individual savings account, a scheme allowing individuals to hold cash, shares, and unit trusts free of tax on dividends, interest, and capital gains…”

      if you’re at all nervous about this, err on the side of caution and avoid investing via a UK broker like the plague, if your money is already off shore you might as well, it’s money that’s already on shore I tend to invest in my ISA.

    • Sean says:

      Sorry I skipped your second question, short answer yes, use Saxo. Trading in GBP is very fiddly (over the phone only) and a relatively expensive affair with DBSV, not to mention the custodial fees they introduced last year. DBS Vickers are now charging a custodial fee of $20 SGD per quarter, unless you make 6 trades per quarter or more… They quietly introduced the fee last June.

      Saxo, are far from ideal, as they have far too many ETFs that are unavailable to Brits, like VWRL, and IGLO, but are our best option in Singapore at the moment.

      It’d no more hassle really, I transfer to my Saxo account no fee, no hassle (now that it’s set up) and a better trading platform IMHO.

  146. Phil says:

    I believe the ordinarily resident concept was abolished last year which is a shame as I would have used that!


    • Sean says:

      Thanks for this Phil, news to me, but yup, looks like it’s history.

      If anyone else is interested here it is from the Inland Revenue:

      “Up to 5 April 2013, your tax position could be affected if you were ordinarily resident in the UK. However, from 6 April 2013, the concept of ordinary residence has largely been abolished for tax purposes.”


      So the grey area is history, but I’m guessing 2 things – the law is not applicable prior to 5 April 2013, so ISA investment gains prior to that date should be untouched.

      Any gains on continuing investments in the UK will likely be subject to the prevailing rate of income tax, but I guess that’s just as true of Capital gains Tax on property as well.

      Keep it offshore, the oldest and wisest advice prevails.

  147. sunny says:

    Hi Sean,

    Thanks for the reply. Im about to open my saxo account, is there anything special I need to do to get it based in GBP, or do I worry about that when I import funds into my account?

  148. David says:

    You just tell them you want a GBP account when you go through the process. That’s it as far as I can remember.

  149. Nicholas says:

    I just set up a free trial account with Saxo… but there doesn’t seem to be any way to have it based in GBP. I tried to recreate the sample portfolio at the top of this page, but made a huge error in forgetting that the imaginary $100,000 cash they gave me was in dollars not pounds so I overspent. Anyway, you can reset it.

    The video Sean made on YouTube is very helpful but the trial platform doesn’t look exactly the same… and it’s too much hassle to try to convert dollars to pounds especially when it doesn’t tell you what the exchange rate they’ll be charging you is…

    I’m in the middle of getting back the tattered remains of my money from Zurich Vista, and next summer I’ll likely back in the UK for a few years. I’m trying to decide whether in the meantime I should open a real account with Saxo and set up a basic portfolio (and then probably cash it in next summer and port it over to an equivalent thing in an ISA back in the UK), or go with Veracity who are suggesting I buy into some non-indexed funds and pay 1% in annual commissions…

    I’ve got about £30,000 after setting some emergency funds aside. What do you guys think?

    • Nicolas, I don’t know what Veracity has offered, but here’s a question. Is it a 1% charge on the total portfolio per year or a 1% commission on purchase?

      Let’s use a scenario with Saxo for a moment:

      Let’s assume you paid a 5% charge on currency conversion. That’s about 5 times more than you would ever likely pay, but let’s just play with that awesome amount for a moment. And let’s also assume you are charged a 5% exchange rate charge when selling. Ouch! I want to show you that many expats get way too wrapped up in exchange rate charges (which I see as inconsequential) compared to the larger monster that lies beneath.

      OK, so take two scenarios where you invest $50,000. Scenario 1, you get hammered with a 5% exchange rate commission, the money is then invested in low fee indexes (ETFs) costing 0.2% per year. You keep the money invested for 25 years, then you sell it all and get hammered another 5% on the exchange. Again, those exchange rate costs are over the top, just to dramatize a point.
      If the markets averaged 9% during this duration, here’s what your money would do:

      $50,000 invested
      -$2,500 for exchange rate hit (again, this kind of hammering would never occur)
      =$47,500 invested, earning 8.8% for 25 years. (Remember, I’ve assumed market returns of 9% minus index fees of 0.2% per year)
      Your total value would grow to $391,215.
      Now assume you sold it, paying an unrealistic 5% penalty on the exchange rate spread (again, this is more than 5X what you would actually pay, at most)
      This would leave you with $371,365

      Scenario 2
      Now let’s create a scenario where there’s no exchange rate hit on either side, but you pay a 1% fee on your total account’s value each year, and you pay roughly 1% more in mutual fund expense ratio costs each year because you have added some actively managed funds. If the markets earn 9% per year, you will average roughly 7%.
      $50,000 invested at 7% per year for 25 years= $271,371

      Can you see that there’s a $100,000 difference between the two.
      The math works out the same, whether you do a lump sum deposit, or whether you invest monthly.

      But of course, you would never pay a 5% currency spread when depositing or withdrawing. Worst case scenario, it might be about 1%. And that would be the worst case. Run the numbers again, paying 1% on either end, and it looks comparatively even better.

      Currency spreads when exchanging money from one currency to another are certainly irritating. But over the long haul, they have a negligible impact compared to adding an extra cost to the account of even 1% each year, thereby hampering the compounding.

      Does this help?


    • Sean says:

      Nicholas, You should contact Saxo directly (Yoo Loong?) and make them earn the money they will charge you for each trade, about £20 a shot (plus 0.5% currency exchange commission) they can set up your account to automatically convert funds to GBP, the costs associated with this are peanuts compared to everything else that will accrue I’ve the next 10-20 years or so, as Andrew has explained clearly in his response. Call them and bombard them with as many questions as you can, make them earn your money!

      If you invest via Saxo between now and the summer you can leave that chugging away. When you go back to the UK you can start a trading ISA (I use TD Direct) and do your best to use up your £15,000 annual allowance in the same (or very similar) ETFs that you purchased via Saxo. VUKE, VWRL and IGLS are all available for purchase she you’re ready. No commission, and £12 for each purchase. Of course you can cash in our Saxo investments, I believe they have a brace in London, where you can get that cash onshore, but bear in mind the ISA allowance is only good for £15,000 a year so I’d avoid that if I were you.

  150. Nicholas says:

    Long term the maths is very clear, Andrew, and I appreciate the time you put in to explain it to me.

    The advice I was given by a certain FA recommended on this very website, was that right now in the short term, there’s a case to be in actively managed funds as opposed to indexed ones.

    The fee he mentions is 0.3% for the platform, no charges at all to pay in or pay out, and he takes 1% of the value of the portfolio as commission.

    My problem, I guess, is that I am looking at it short term.

    One question I have: if I were to set up a portfolio as per your suggestions in the UK, can you continue to maintain it and pay into it if you leave the UK? I have read here that I can do that if I set one up with Saxo.

    • Nicolas, consider why an advisor will do whatever he or she can to keep you out of index funds. Whether long term, or short term, you won’t find that active funds provide an advantage. Here’s how the game works, every year: The return of the market (the index, if you will) is equivalent to that of all actively managed money in that market, in any given year. Therefore, if the British market earned 5% next year, it would mean that all professionally managed money in the UK earned 5% that year, before fees, because their returns constitute the market itself. Subtract fees, and you will have an advantage with the indexes. Run from anyone suggesting advantages for active management, whether they’re talking about 1 day, or 100 years. They are just hoping you don’t understand how it all works. And of course, this game is their bread and butter. Firms get kickbacks when they sell actively managed funds.

      Sean, thanks as always for your help.


  151. Nicholas says:

    Hi Andrew and Sean,

    You’ve helped me make up my mind. Thank you so much. I’m going to open an account with Saxo tomorrow.

    Quick question: if Saxo can’t or won’t offer VWRL, should I go for the iShares SSAC or the VWRD? Is it worth paying the slightly higher expense ratio for SSAC (I assume it’s the same stock index as the VWRD, just in pounds rather than dollars?) in order to be able to keep it in the same Saxo account as IGLS and VUKE?

    Thanks! (And I now have a copy of your first book, while I wait for the second to come out here in Singapore.)


    • Sean says:

      No problem, that’s exactly the quandary I have,

      Saxo don; offer VWRL or VWRD in GBP. So if you want to buy VWRD, you’ll have to ask Saxo to create an additional Saxo USD account, and use that for purchasing VWRD. That’s free, and not as much hassle as I thought it would be, but it does mean juggling USD and GBP, and letting Saxo know when you transfer funds in, which account you want it to go to. One day that probably means converting USD into GBP to spend it, with a currency conversion fee, but those charges are peanuts compared to the capital sums.

      So buying SSAC simplifies matters, as you can keep everything in GBP, but with a slightly higher expense ratio, but as Andrew would say, there’s not much point sweating these details, any of these expense rations are minuscule compared to the actively managed equivalents. I’m hoping good old competition will encourage iShares to come up with an expense ration closer to that of Vanguard soon…

  152. Nicholas says:

    Thanks again, Sean!

    I opened a pounds sterling account today, figuring it would be easier to have everything in one currency. I’ll ask about opening a USD account too, if it’s easy I may as well have the option.

    Basically I’m going to put in one lump sum then divide it into 3 funds. The representative there told me it’s a minimum £20 fee for every trade so I’m not sure how much impact on hat would have on dollar cost averaging in the future. What would a minimum amount be to reduce the commissions? Mathematically I think it’s around £13,000 (0.15 of £13,333 is £20???) I’m not rich enough for that sadly. So… $3,000 sgd?

    Also, the lady said that if you want to sell anything, (for portfolio balancing) you can only sell shares in the same amounts you bought. So if I only put in one lump sum then rebalancing becomes impossible.

    We tried it on their demo computer, buying 500 shares and then tried to sell 100 of them. Computer said no. Is that what you’ve experienced or was it a glitch?

    • Sean McHugh says:

      Hi Nicholas,
      I always make sure that the amount I purchase results in my costs being about 1% or less, so I would make sure I’m buying at least £2000 worth of any one ETF at a time, or $4000 SGD.

      If your lump sum is $12000 SGD or greater than that splits into 3 nicely, and each trade will cost you less than 1%.

      As for selling, I checked with my Saxo rep, and he assures me that you can sell what you want, as much as you want, whenever you want,

      “You can choose to sell partially if you want, and we will reconcile the position after reload on the next working day.”

      I have yet to sell through Saxo, so can’t advise you based on my own experience, I did sell off some local stock through DBSV recently and that was relatively painless, but couldn’t be done online.

  153. Simon says:


    Why not use SCB, you can buy VWRL GBP. I find the commission costs work out well after the initial investments for balancing also you can have multiple currency settlement accounts that you need as some dividends such as VWRL/VUSA are paid in USD whilst VUKE/IGLS are in GBP

    There’s no holding or maintenance fees and you can trade on 14 exchanges and currencies. It’s almost like Saxo/DBS are over complicated and expensive in the long run for balancing or topping up every month. I can balance every month or 6 month and only pay the same fee as it’s commission based. I used to use DBS but the fees for LSE are extremely high and no online trading.

    I top up/balance 2000GBP every month across 4 SI for 0.25% (5GBP), if I did this on Saxo it would be 80GBP


    • Sean McHugh says:

      Good question, short answer is, why not indeed? My experience is that every time I switch brokers (I use 3) I always discover less than favourable terms that were not apparent before I actually used the platform. I had a good look through the SCB site and noticed that the were very coy about actually costs, with one vague reference to am ‘Information Centre’ but no link?? That always makes me sceptical.

      Based on your experience though it sounds like a no brainer, if other people are trading though SCB and are pleased with it I’d love to hear from them, I would drop Saxo in second if I thought SCB would be a better choice. The problem here though, as Andrew I think has mentioned several times, is all this fuss about costs that are inconsequential in the long term.

      When I joined Saxo they were charging £8 per trade, that leapt to £20 within 3 months, whose to say SCB won’t do the same? So maybe I will switch to SCB, maybe I won’t, but I will be doing is snapping up as much stock as I can this week, considering the sudden drops that have happened – that’s what matters, not the commissions, and fees, as long as I can keep my costs below 1% for each trade I’m happy.

  154. Nicholas says:

    Well that is potentially very useful info, Simon. I’ll be transferring in pounds sterling, initially, so Saxo said likely there would be no bank charge and of course no currency conversion… But after that I’d like to carry on drop feeding in from my salary.

    From searching other threads here it seems the disadvantage of Standard chartered is a bad exchange rate. But how bad is it? Do you know? If you’re paying in in GBP then it wouldn’t affect you.

    • I believe Standard Chartered and Saxo charge similar exchange rate fees. I exchange my money at better rates elsewhere, then wire the money in the proper currency to my Saxo account.

      • Sean McHugh says:

        Hey Andrew, where is this ‘elsewhere’ you mention? Is it an online service? It would be really useful to explore this option I think.

  155. Dave says:

    Sean – that is nonsense. You can buy VWRD with a GBP account – I do and so do my friends. Yes there is a small currency charge of 5GBP in every 1000GBP invested, but that is pennies. Even if you could buy VWRL in GBP (which you should be able to – I don’t know why SAXO only have VWRD on the LSE), the value of a VWRL in GBP and a VWRD in USD would be the same. Why? Because the baseline currency of both funds is in USD. Therefore other than a small currency charge, you will have the same returns.

    • Simon says:

      Sean – Just tried, you can also buy VWRD on SCB as well as VWRL in GBP. VWRD does not show when you ask for a quote, but you can just purchase it in USD, you just need a quote from another site. Both pay dividends in USD

    • Sean McHugh says:

      I’m not sure what you calling nonsense – hopefully not what I said about Saxo, which I can assure you is the case. Both Andrew and I have have been persistently chasing them to try and motivate them to open up an option for Brits with GBP accounts to purchase VWRL in GBP – I do this with a different broker in the UK, no problem. I have been over and over this with Yoo Loong at Saxo, and he assures me it is not possible, as ridiculous as I find that to be.

      Maybe you’re paying to convert SGD to GBP, and then reconverting some of the GBP to USD so you can buy VWRD? If so you’ve doubling your (already excessive) commission costs.

      I know I can purchase VWRD through Saxo, but not in GBP, yes it’s all the same in the end, but if I’d rather avoid juggling two currencies, converting some to GBP, and some to USD… I’d rather keep it all in GBP, and eventually retire and already have my investments in GBP if possible.

      At the moment I think I might take a look a SCB if they will let me trade in VUKE, VWRL, IGLS, and IGLO, in GBP for a lower trading cost than Saxo, than they might have a new customer. From what Simon says that scenario is looking increasingly more likely.

      But then I’ll have to pay to transfer my holdings from Saxo to SCB, and that’s when I think, you know what, these brokers’ will extract their pound of flesh, so don’t obsess over the details, they are a distraction from the real business of investing in ETFs, and either purchase regularly and strategically to rebalance, or sell and buy once or twice a year – I prefer the former strategy.

      • Dave says:


        What was nonsense was you comment: “So if you want to buy VWRD, you’ll have to ask Saxo to create an additional Saxo USD account, and use that for purchasing VWRD”, which we both know is not the case. I agree with you though on the fact that it is ridiculous that Saxo only have VWRD in USD, not VWRL in GBP. If you have VWRL in the UK, surely you are paying an annual account fee of at least 0.25% on top of the expense ratios of your ETFs?

        What I find stunning at Saxo, is the fact that VUSA (S&P 500) is in GBP, yet the all world and emerging markets ETFs from Vanguard are in USD! How can a British expat build a portfolio on that, with out avoiding the currency fees – albeit low. Last year I looked at switching from Saxo to Interactive Brokers and the only reason I didn’t switch, was fact that their customer service is so appalling! A consequence of their low fees…I don’t know. I like the fact that with Saxo I can make a call and within 1 minute I am connected to an advisor who knows what they are talking about. It will certainly be worth shopping around in the next year or so.

        • Sean McHugh says:

          Thanks for clarifying, the actual terminology used by Saxo is ‘sub account’, here it is from Saxo themselves:

          “…you can open multiple currency sub accounts in Saxo. Hence if you are trading any instrument that is trading in the respective currency, you can choose the right currency (main/sub) accounts for your trading needs. Of course, you need to deposit funds into the right account for your trading needs. If there is any dividend payout from the company that you have an stake in it, the dividends will credit into the account where the share is being held in.”

          So we can quibble over semantics, like additional, vs sub, but the fact remains, you cannot use your main GBP account to buy VWRL, or VWRD, you will have to ask Saxo to create a second account for this, a subsidiary account, connected to your original GBP account, that account, for all intents and purposes, acts like a completely different account, when you transfer funds you have to designate the sub account, not the primary account, the funds in there are completely separate.

          I couldn’t agree with you more, Saxo’s basis for organising their ETFs is ridiculous, and seems to favour clients trading in CHF over GBP for some reason, even with funds held in GBP, trust me, they have had a lot of flak from me about this. If I’d known that at the start, I’d be with SCB now, and I’ll be suggesting anyone other Brits seriously consider SCB rather than Saxo, the only problem is I’m reluctant to whole heartedly recommend a brokers I haven’t actually used myself, as there is usually dingy elements that aren;t apparent until you actually use the platform.

          I’m glad you mentioned Interactive Brokers, and you make a critical point, when you are trading 1000s of £s, you do need to make sure the brokers can be contacted, I’d pay the higher fees just for that peace of mind. We are paying for a service here, and I have to say that Saxo do provide a magnificent level of customer support, personal, efficient and consistent, but perhaps, most importantly to me, on the ground, here in Singapore. Is SCBs as good? I have no idea.

          But as you say, “I like the fact that with Saxo I can make a call and within 1 minute I am connected to an advisor who knows what they are talking about.” the importance of that cannot be overstated of you ask me.

  156. Nicholas says:

    Forgive me for my ongoing ignorance, but if you had a sterling account, what would be the advantage of buying VWRD over VWRL?

    Do the dividends get automatically reinvested for you?

    And if SCB don’t charge such high commissions as Saxo, why would I go with Saxo over SCB?

    • Simon says:

      For SCB VWRD/VWRL the dividends just go straight into your USD settlement account, until you can decide what to do to with them, either re-invest USB or convert to GBP/SGD

      I don’t understand why you would pay the high minimum Saxo commissions (20GBP), unless you are always buying or selling high volume each time in a single fund.
      For SCB to cost 20GBP your trade would be 8000GBP for each buy/sell based on the 0.25% fee charged by SCB (0.2% as a Priority customer). Any less than 8K per trade and you are better off at SCB

  157. David says:

    Interesting comments Simon. Would like to hear what Andrew (and Sean) has to say.

    How easy is it to open a trading account and do they accept from any country? I remember Vickers wouldn’t look at some potential new customers due to the country they were living in. Can you purchase the options (VUKE, VWRD and IGLS) Andrew recommends?


    • Hi David,

      I explained the brokerage’s quirks in my book, The Global Expatriates Guide To Investing. http://bit.ly/globalexpat
      Some brokerages won’t allow investors of certain nationalities. Others are open, but the manner in which you open the accounts vary. Others still won’t allow you to open the account, regardless of nationality, if you live in a country they won’t deal with. I did my best to compile these details in my book. And it would take me much too much time to rewrite it all here. As for estimating my future dividends, I don’t bother. I prefer spending less than 60 minutes a year thinking about my portfolio. And that’s roughly what I recommend others do as well.

  158. David says:

    VWRD and VUKE dividends have been paid out for Sept. I’m seeing 1.8% and 4% respectively when you work it out assuming the remaining dividends for the year will be the same ( which I know they wont of course). Just a crude method of estimating the payout. Am I about right with those figures anyone?

  159. David says:

    . ‘As for estimating my future dividends, I don’t bother. I prefer spending less than 60 minutes a year thinking about my portfolio. And that’s roughly what I recommend others do as well.’

    Ha ha, blase but fair enough.

    When you are relatively new to investing the thrill and curiosity can get the better of you. Nothing wrong with showing a bit of interest in your portfolio, as I’m sure you did yourself in the beginning.

    • You’re right David. But I learned that showing the extra interest was counterproductive. I’m far too greedy to do that now, knowing how such activities can excite me into “doing something” with my money. Generally speaking, the less you do, the more money you will make over a lifetime. It’s hard to think of “lifetime” when you first start out. You want to see instant results. We know these factors for sure:

      1. We can’t control future dividends any more than we could control past dividends
      2. We can’t control the market’s direction
      3. We CAN control our investment costs, the most deadly of which, are ongoing expense ratio charges.
      4. We CAN control our behaviour (although I firmly believe many people can’t). In other words, when markets tank, we should be thrilled: selling bonds at the end of that given year to enthusiastically buy stock indexes.
      5. We CAN ignore the investment media and forecasts, the vast majority of which prove to be wrong and costly when acted upon

      Numbers 4 and 5 are the most important factors of all.
      The least important concerns are exchange rate costs and commission costs.

      Stay on course David. You might make money over the next five years. You might lose money over the next five years. But one this is certain. If you dispassionately rebalance a low cost, diversified portfolio of index funds, your results (whatever they end up being) will beat about 90% of professional investors during any ten year period. Those are nice odds to bank on.


    • You’re right David. But I learned that showing the extra interest was counterproductive. I’m far too greedy to do that now, knowing how such activities can excite me into “doing something” with my money. Generally speaking, the less you do, the more money you will make over a lifetime. It’s hard to think of “lifetime” when you first start out. You want to see instant results. We know these factors for sure:

      1. We can’t control future dividends any more than we could control past dividends
      2. We can’t control the market’s direction
      3. We CAN control our investment costs, the most deadly of which, are ongoing expense ratio charges.
      4. We CAN control our behaviour (although I firmly believe many people can’t). In other words, when markets tank, we should be thrilled: selling bonds at the end of that given year to enthusiastically buy stock indexes.
      5. We CAN ignore the investment media and forecasts, the vast majority of which prove to be wrong and costly when acted upon

      Numbers 4 and 5 are the most important factors of all.
      The least important concerns are exchange rate costs and commission costs.

      Stay on course David. You might make money over the next five years. You might lose money over the next five years. But one thing is certain. If you dispassionately rebalance a low cost, diversified portfolio of index funds, your results (whatever they end up being) will beat about 90% of professional investors during any ten year period. Those are nice odds to bank on.


  160. David says:

    Cheers Andrew and I totally agree.

    On that note: What is the best (easiest) way to keep up on what the markets are doing? i.e. When they tank!?



    • Hi David,

      You can use your account statement. Based on the strategies in my book, you will set an account allocation. Let’s assume it’s like this:

      40% British stocks
      40% Global stocks
      20% bonds

      Now assume that at the end of the month, when you are about to invest, you notice that British stocks only comprise 30% of your portfolio total. This would mean that British stocks have slipped. When adding fresh money, you would add to your British stocks. Each month, you would try to bolster up the under-performing index through a fresh purchase. At the end of a calendar year, if your allocation is still out significantly, rebalance your holdings to get back to the original allocation. You never have to look at the stock market. Easy peezy.


  161. Nicholas says:

    I’ll contact scb on Monday and see if I can get a comprehensive list of costs. Apart from my initial lump sum, I’ll only be paying in small amounts each month so scb definitely sounds like a better bet than Saxo. If time permits, I’ll try and post a comparison of their services here later.

    • Sean McHugh says:

      Thanks Nicholas,

      I am really interested to see how you find SCB if you use them, I’m seriously tempted to switch. It’s just the thought of paying to transfer my holdings (I think it’s $50 per ETF), and the uncertainty in terms of (like Saxo) possibly discovering within months of opening an account that there are aspects to their service that make me regret ever using them… Saxo’s price hike from £8 – £20 being a case in point, and their pathetic offering in terms of ETFs in GBP is another.

      • Nicholas says:

        Right, this is the info I’ve just got after 30 minutes on the phone to SCB. The rep was very helpful and answered all my questions clearly.

        Firstly, you need to open an “e-saver” account with SCB. This has no fee and no minimum balance and no ATM card and is operated online. Normally you would open this in SGD, though it is possible to open one in GBP (more on this later).

        Next, you can apply for a trading account. There is some kind of financial test they give you to see if you have enough knowledge to operate the trading account. If you have done more than 6 trades before, you can open the account. If not, you have problems. See below.

        Thirdly, let’s say you want to buy VUKE, VWRL and IGLS – you just transfer money from your e-saver account to your relevant trader account and buy them. NB. I don’t know what happens to the USD dividends you’d get from VWRL – maybe Simon can answer. Do you need to open a separate USD e-saver account to get paid them?

        The commission really is always 0.25% and the minimum lot is set by the stock exchange, not by SCB. This is excellent if you are only going to be doing regular small trades like of around £1,000 (or less, in my sad, empoverished state!) as you’ll only end up paying £4 per transaction instead of £20.

        I also asked about transferring ETFS to other brokers. Within Singapore, if the other broker is linked to something called CDP, you have to pay a minimum charge of $10.70 SGD per lot of 1000 shares, which is pro-rated up to a maximum of $107 SGD.

        If you are transferring money to a broker outside of Singapore there is no charge, except what the receiving broker might charge you. I’d like to know what this is because I might move this money to the UK while I’m living there and put it in an ISA.


        1. For a newbie like me, I have to pass this knowledge test. SCB said they are not as stringent as other banks but on the other hand they don’t accept the SGX knowledge quiz result, which Saxo do. They said it is up to the bank’s discretion. I will try and pass off my Zurich Vista instalment payments and see if they accept those. (When I was talking to another Financial Advisor here, he seemed to think they would be sufficient evidence to open an account with iFast, so I am hopeful).

        2. I want to transfer money in from the UK in pounds. To do this, I have two utterly crappy options. a) Wire the money to my current account (pay wire fee, pay receiving bank $10 which a UK bank doubles to £10 just for the hell of it – I’ve tried it). Then I have to convert the money AGAIN back into pounds at SCB’s no doubt dire rate. Option b) is even more ridiculous. I open a GBP account with them. Then wire the money in. Hopefully minimum bank charges apply. But then if I want to transfer this money to my trading account I have to pay them a “counter transaction fee” of 1.5%!

        So problems here mean choosing SCB over Saxo a bit more difficult.

        When I spoke to the Saxo rep at their place in Raffles, she wasn’t all that knowledgeable, unfortunately. She had to experiment on the system before working out how to sell shares, and then didn’t know what the real situation was regarding selling shares in the volumes you want to (rather than only being able to sell ALL of the ones you’ve just bought). Consequently I don’t trust her information on paying in money from the UK, where she said if I transferred it there was no fee at all (surely there would be bank to bank fees at a minimum). So next up, a call to Saxo to clarify this.

        It’s frustrating that this is becoming convoluted but you do want to get ensconced in a situation which is best for your circumstances. If I leave Singapore, to pay money in I’m going to be doing two currency exchanges every time.

        On the plus side, if you’re already in Singapore and staying long term and don’t get caught out by the new knowledge regulation tests, SCB looks good.

        Andrew mentioned earlier he uses a different currency exchange service to reduce those kinds of fees. I’d be very interested in getting more information about this. Personally I send money back to the UK using xe.com. You get a very good rate and there are no fees at all (I send to my HSBC account in the UK who impose no receiving fees; however sending money the other way does incur a £10 fee from the Singaporean side – it’s supposed to be $10 but as I said, it gets increased to £10 for some unknown reason.

        Sorry about the long post!

      • Simon says:


        Here’s a look at a buy trade today on SCB for VUKE.

        A couple of quirks with SCB –

        1 You cannot place a market order, they only do a limit buy order, but they will still buy at a lower price if the market drops, if it goes up you have to go back in and edit the order so I always place at just abbove the current buy price

        2 They show an estimated cost, (ie. they always show stamp duty at 0.5%). This is not charged and when you get your contract note it’s not included as it’s not valid on non domiciled ETF’s. I called them on this and they confirmed it will continue to show, as it’s an estimed cost, but would only be charged if the UK changed it’s law on ETFs, but this would be the same for all brokerages.

        So the only cost is the 6.25 GBP commission on a 2550GBP trade for 90 shares.

        My only concern is if it will drop any further and should I have bought whilst the sale is on !

        Instructions: Buy
        Exchange: London Stock Exchange (LSE)
        Lot Size: 1 share(s)

        Securities Trading Account: xxxxxxxx
        Securities Settlement Account: xxxxxxxx (This is from GBP settlement account, it adds this automatically based on the currency)

        Order Quantity: 90 share(s)
        Order Price: GBP 28.34
        Order Type: Limit Order

        Estimated Transaction Amount
        Trade Consideration: GBP 2,550.60
        Client Commission: GBP 6.3765
        UK PTM Levy: GBP 0.00
        UK Stamp duty: GBP 12.75

        Total Transaction Amount: GBP 2,569.7265

        • Simon and Sean,

          If you guys want to put both brokerages to the test, place an identical order at exactly the same time. Brokerages also make their money from bid/ask spread differences. Many worldwide brokerages may advertise low commission costs, but have higher bid/ask spreads on their purchases. In other words, if Simon places a trade at exactly 10am and Sean does the same, for the same dollar sum, one of you could end up paying $10.20 per ETF unit and the other could end up paying $10.15. I’m not saying this is definitely the case with SCB versus Saxo. In fact, it may be Saxo that charges the higher bid/ask spread. But Sean, choosing to switch brokerages before considering this could mean that you actually switch into the more costly brokerage.

          • Simon says:


            Don’t worry about the regulation test. When you apply, they tell you that you have to answer yes to one of the four questions, and “That it’s usually number 3!” the one that says, something like ‘Have you traded before, or do you understand the risk?”. Tick yes, sign the form and you are good to go !

            Here’s a list of accounts I ended up with from SCB

            bonussaver in SGD – A local Current account
            USD High – So I can transfer in from existing bad decisions
            You could also open a GBP account that I may do later
            SGD credit card

            An online trading account and 5 settlement accounts! one each for

            So I now to my day to day and wages go into the bonussaver, and use the USD account to transfer in from some previously held “funds”

            When you want to trade you transfer to the relevant settlement account from with the Saver or USD account, if the currency needs to be converted the rate is presented at that point.
            You then enter the online trading bit and buy, they are then settled about 3 days later from the relevant settlement account

            For Dividends these are always paid into the settlement accounts direct, so for say VUSA you need to have USD (Even though it trades in GBP), and for VUKE you need GBP. From the settlement accounts you can just re-invest or transfer back out to your normal accounts either same currency or exchange online again

            Andrew – The spreads at the moment look close, for instance I’m looking now at VUKE, bid is 28.630, Ask is 28.645. (If there was a difference between this and saxo I guess you could trade the difference!)

            The trading platform is simple and It does all you need for this type of trading, you can see a real time chart and last 5 recent trades showing quantity of shares and price. You can quote live then buy/sell direct from the quote screen

            Response is fast, I put a trade in, confirmed it and it showed “Filled” on the website within 2 seconds, but by that point I had already had an email and SMS confirming the order had been filled. Not too shabby really !

          • Simon,

            You wouldn’t be able to trade the difference without paying commissions. You guys are going to find that these local brokerage rates and circumstances will change. In the eleven years I have been investing in Singapore’s brokerages, I have seen many changes. In some cases, fees have risen. In others, they have dropped. I would settle in to your brokerage and relax. Sean, don’t think about jumping brokerage ships. Otherwise, the incentive to do so could switch if that brokerage’s fees rise or the other drops. Both brokerage options are good. Your biggest enemy won’t be fees if you invest in either platform. Your biggest enemy will be you. You will need to fortify yourself, psychologically, to invest dispassionately. I hope you can do it.


          • Sean McHugh says:

            Simon, thanks for this information, it’s really helpful. Like Andrew advises, this won’t mean i jump ship myself, but it does mean that when anyone asks me which broker to use in Singapore, I’ll be suggesting SCB over Saxo, and I’ll be advising them to have a look at your figures. Thanks for these, they are really helpful.

            That said, I’ll also tell them that regardless of the broker they use, they should manage their purchases to keep costs below 1%, sure you’ll probably be closer to 0.25% with SCB, at least for know, but who knows, in 2 years this could all change – and should you transfer all your holdings to the next broker?I don’t think theres any point, it’s the long haul, and rebalancing that is going to make the difference, not the relatively small amounts we are paying to trade.

        • Sean McHugh says:

          Thanks for this Simon, I’ll definitely be advising anyone looking to create a new brokerage account to consider SCB, before they look at Saxo, for the reasons you have so thoroughly described, much appreciated!

          • Nicholas says:

            Hi Simon,

            It seems the regulation test has become a lot stiffer. Saxo won’t accept my Zurich Vista payments as investment transactions and I’ve just tried to take the online test. It’s very difficult and I only flukily got 16/20. 18 is the pass rate! Nearly all the questions are about other forms of trading I have no interest in or desire to indulge in.

            I can keep taking the test but the questions will be different each time and I have to go through all the learning materials again…

            SCB said on the phone they only ask if I have traded 6 times in the past few years. They don’t offer the SGX test so I’m guessing if I apply they’ll turn me down straight. It’s madness.

            I could lie on the form and tick ‘yes’ but I don’t want to get into trouble 🙂

  162. Nicholas says:

    OK so this info is probably useless to most people but maybe there will be one person browsing who’ll be thankful for it.

    Having made the relevant phone calls:

    Saxo: I can transfer the money to them by wire from the UK. This would cost me just £10 with xe.com. No currency conversion at all. Whatever I send, arrives in full in pounds.

    SCB: a) I use xe.com to wire the money and convert it into SGD. This costs £10 and I end up with $50,312 SGD at xe.com’s current exchange rate. I then have to convert that SGD back into pounds sterling. Comparing with the full £25,000 I can transfer and keep with Saxo and SCB’s on the phone indicative currency conversion rate, I end up losing £165 on the rate xe.com provide. So after the exchange I’m left with £24,835. Option b) I open a GBP current account with SCB. I have to pay 1.5% fee and that would be around £375, so even worse.


    If you’re staying in Singapore long term and making regular deposits of less than £8,000, then SCB is much cheaper.

    If you’re not planning on staying long term, or might need to maintain the account by wiring in money from abroad, or you are happy paying higher commissions/paying in less regularly, then Saxo is better.

    I think. Anyone else care to comment?

    • Sean McHugh says:

      This is really useful, I’ve been paying over the odds to transfer money to and from the UK via POSB/DBS, and while it is very easy to do with internet banking, it is a rip off. I remember trying xe.com a few years ago, and having problems because I wasn’t Canadian??? Anyway, I’ll certainly have another look now.

      Anther service worth a look was showcased on the BBC recently (Click) – http://www.transferwise.com looks really good, but I haven’t had a reason to use it yet but I will, and if it rocketh the microphone, I’ll be posting on here to tell you all about it.

      Nicholas, if you’re going to be resident in the UK, even if only for a year, it’s worth taking advantage of the ISA, save the money you would waste transferring to Singapore, and converting currency, and invest in a Trading ISA, up to £15,000 a year, if you have a wifey, make that £30,000, I use a TD Direct ‘Trading ISA’, well, used to use it, now the ‘ordinarily resident’ rules are obsolete, i guess I wont be doing that until I am resident again. But if you are going to be living there, then you must qualify as a resident.

      • Nicholas says:

        I’ve just compared Transferwise and XE trade, the latter of which I have been using for about 5 years.

        XE.com gave me a rate of 2.0048 SGD per GBP.
        Transferwise gave me an estimated rate of 2.0417. Essentially they charge you 0.5% of any amount above £200, and a flat rate of £1 below that. The exchange rate they give you is the market rate.

        However… they don’t convert the money till they have received payment from you, and conversions are done during banking hours. So it is an estimated rate. Nevertheless, you stand to save substantial amounts of money if you send larger sums (nearly £600 versus XE.com if converting £25,000).

        That said, I just did a trial where I sent £250 which should get turned into $406.40 SGD and paid immediately online using internet banking. I got a reply from them within a few minutes saying they have received my funds. They should therefore convert them and send them in a few hours when the banks in the UK open.

        You can track the whole procedure online. It was very quick and easy to open an account and set up recipients. Online it says my payment will be delivered tomorrow and that is much faster than XE ever managed (on average it took them about 5-6 days I think, sending money to the UK from Singapore). Setting up an account with XE.com was also quite a hassle – they wanted a lot of paperwork I seem to recall.

        I’ll post again when the amount is received in my DBS account and see if there are any hidden fees.

        • Thanks Nicholas,


        • Sean says:

          Wow, this is really useful Nicholas.

          Has the Transferwise transaction gone through? Are you happy?

          Now forgive my ignorance here, (although I don’t think I’m alone in a simplistic trust/reliance on bank currency conversion fees) but do you have any idea how these costs compare to using a normal bank to do this? Looking here at my SGD bank (DBS) on 250GBP they’d charge me (I’m guessing, it’s been a while) a less competitive rate, plus a handling commission fee of 5SGD, plus a TT fee of 20SGD So, 25SGD to transfer – but TW and XE charge more in the region of 0.5% – 2%, eg $1.50 – $3 total?

          Here’s my attempt at understanding your numbers:
          Transferwise offered a better rate than XE, about 4c better per GBP exchanged, right? On 4000GBP, that could be a difference of 160GBP, vs XE … right?
          Only I don’t see why you’re only expecting $406.40 SGD, at a rate of 2.0417 SGD to the GBP, on 250GBP, shouldn’t that be about 510 SGD?

          If TW are charging 0.5% over 200GBP, then Saxo’s 0.5% on the spot rate doesn’t look so bad..?

          or am I missing something, I am aren’t I… :o/

          Saw your post below, yes, this is only really useful for us one way, at least for now… So you’d use XE for SGD to GBP?

          • Nicholas says:

            Sean, so sorry, my fat fingers!

            It wasn’t £250 I sent; it was £200! And it arrived yesterday, not sure exactly when, but my statement says yesterday. The amount was $406.57.

            So the amount was almost exactly what they said it would be, at a much better rate than XE.com, and it went through in less than a day.

            I’ve never sent money from the UK to Singapore using XE.com but sending it the other way does take about 5 or 6 days. This is mainly (I suspect) because Singapore’s banks are so damn slow to process transactions. I had one which took 6 days to move from one account in Singapore to another, also in Singapore!

            Conclusion: You stand to save a lot of money sending money if the currencies you want are supported by Transferwise. Unfortunately, you can’t convert money from Singapore dollars with them. I’ll keep looking for a local service for sending money the other way.

          • Seán McHugh says:

            Sounds like XE is the best way to send money from Singapore to the UK, and TW for UK to Singapore – brilliant.
            I’m trying to create an account now, but they won’t let me do that using my Singapore details, so I’m trying to do it using my UK details, but, they’re now worried about my domicile, (applying in Singapore, but using my UK info) so I’m having to do a lot of scanning and sending.

            Are you using an XE account you set up in the UK?

    • Sean says:

      Why not Interactive Brokers? Very easy to set up an account, the cheapest commissions I’ve seen, multiple currency support by default, and a very wide selection of ETFs from multiple exchanges in multiple countries.

      • Nicholas says:

        Hi Sean,

        I just tried to set up an account with Interactive Brokers. They require you to have had at least 100 (!) prior trades and “good/extensive” experience of the product. So unless I lie, it’s not so straightforward. 100 prior trades? That would take 8 years to accrue if you were doing monthly investing!

        How am I supposed to set up an account when all the brokers are turning it into a closed shop?

        I noticed the commission fee for Interactive Brokers is £6. This is half that of the TD Direct based in the UK that the other Sean recommended.

  163. Davo says:

    This is a resource I came across but have never used so I won’t give it any sort of recommendation. I’m putting it here as it may be of some use to readers, but to investigate further. This is the ‘blurb’ taken from their website about us page:

    “We created CurrencyFair because we believe that ordinary people, and businesses, should have access to the same great exchange rates for international currency transfers normally reserved only for banks and market professionals dealing in millions.

    Three of us are expats, so we’d experienced first-hand what a blatant rip-off international money transfers could be; both in poor exchange rates and high international wire fees. As three of us are also ex-bankers (sorry, sorry, sorry!) we felt that we had the knowledge, the experience, and the network to come up with a better system. So that’s exactly what we did with CurrencyFair!”

    more info here: https://www.currencyfair.com/features/

    • Nicholas says:

      You can only use CurrencyFair if you reside in the EU. TransferWise is better, see my reply to Sean just above.

      • Sean says:

        Incorrect. I reside in the UAE and use it.

        • Nicholas says:

          My apologies.

          When I looked at the list of countries it wasn’t that long and I saw mainly EU ones… but it is an odd list, containing countries and localities I’ve never heard of.

          You can’t use Currencyfair if you’re resident in the US or Singapore, for example, but you can if you’re in French Polynesia or Aruba???

        • Sean McHugh says:

          Wow, two Seans now that’s going to be confusing! Glad to see your name is spelled correctly! 🙂

          I tried to create a CurrencyFair account today, but I would have to do so as a UK resident, it won’t let me proceed using my Singapore details, Singapore is not on the list – maybe UAE is?

          Trying to create the account as a UK resident just led to a headache with forms required, like utility bill, bank statements and so on, Transferwise seems to be blissfully free of these kinds of complications.

          • Nicholas says:

            CurrencyFair detected my IP address was in Singapore and refused to let me use my parents’ UK address (I have some bank statements that go there.

            Transferwise only “require” a scan of your passport and a recent utility bill/bank statement. However, I proceeded with my test payment without them asking for these things. But I sent them just now anyway. Bizarre.

            One local payment service I just checked out to send money from Singapore is pay2home. They have a good rate but charge a flat $20 SGD fee for any amount you send. I’m not sure they are any better than XE.com, which allows you to send money to and from a vast number of countries. You can even use them to send cheques.

  164. David says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Forgive my ignorance: Do you mean I need to look at the current price of each ETF and multiply it by amount of shares I have to get an idea of the current balance/sum of each ETF? For example if I have a 40-40-30 allocation then that is not going change until quarterly dividends are received, right? And unless large sums are already invested then even those numbers are not going to change that much on your account until you build your account considerably .

    Take the above allocation for sake of ease: Let’s say you have $4000VWRD-$4000VUKE-$2000 bonds and only invest say twice annually then the numbers on your statement will not change until you have added substantially over many years, right? It will remain a 80/20% allocation value on your statement. So not really any need to re balance, just continue adding amounts?

    Am I missing your point?


  165. David says:

    ‘Forgive my ignorance: Do you mean I need to look at the current price of each ETF and multiply it by amount of shares I have to get an idea of the current balance/sum(allocation) of each ETF?’

    So the answer to this is affirmative?

    Cheers Andrew

    • No David, you wouldn’t need to do that. Your market value for each ETF would be on your statement. In other words, if you had $10,000 invested in a specific ETF, it would tell you so on your statement.

    • Sean McHugh says:

      I personally use a service like Yahoo Finance to track the value of my trades, although I’ve found Yahoo to be a bit rubbish when it comes to UK trades, with the whole pennies/dollars model of accounting, which seems to confuse poor Yahoo. So for my UK trades I’m using the Daly Mail *shudders* ‘Power Portfolio’ which is happy with using and managing the shifting values in real time of LSE/GBP stocks in pennies, not in pounds.


      That way you can easiily see what your stocks are actually worth vs what you actually paid for them when you’re making a choice about where to put your money next. Being a tad ‘OCD’ I transfer these figures into a spreadsheet and plot a pie chart so I can see how the real value of my stocks is currently balanced, and if one is down, compared to the others, I buy that, until it’s back in line. Like this month VUKE and VWRL have fallen of a cliff (YAY!) and my bonds are surging, so I bought up a load of VUKE. My OCD tendencies mean I do this every time I buy, but you can use this strategy any time you purchase, to help you determine where to make your next purchase. Hopefully (unless there’s a massive crash-YAY!) you can keep rebalancing by purchasing instead of selling and repurchasing…

      • David says:

        Thanks for taking the time Sean. Between you and Andrew, the PENNY has dropped. I didn’t realist that the current (or recent) value of my stocks were shown on my Financial Statements. I hadn’t looked deeply enough but it all makes sense now, cheers! I like the idea of the spreadsheet too which I might try myself. Really useful website too (Couldn’t find i shares UK Gilts tho. Any idea if they are on there?).

        One last thing: Do you have a minimum number in your head re. making a trade on an ETF with Saxo, given their trading costs?
        Ex: Think Andrew mentioned 3000(dollars) per ETF trade to make it cost effective?


        • Hi David,

          Ideally, you wouldn’t want to pay more than 1% of the purchase order on commissions. I don’t think I have ever invested less than $10,000 at any one time. Call me cheap and patient.


        • Seán McHugh says:

          No problem. IGLS is definitely available in the ‘Power Portfolio’ as ISHARES III PLC ISHARES UK GILTS 0-5YR UCITS ETF

          Maybe use the link below, and then choose ‘Add to portfolio’ instead of entering the IGLS ticker or Epic (as they call it).


          I rarely invest less than $6000, more often >$8000, but my wife are both earning now so that’s more doable of us. I wouldn’t spend less than $4000 just because of the % cost, over above 1% is a good rule of thumb I think.

          • Sean is right. If you don’t have at least a few thousand dollars to invest, it’s OK to wait until you do. Investing once a quarter is just fine. You would still be dollar cost averaging, 4 times a year.

  166. Nicholas says:

    One problem with Transferwise – SGD are not on their list of currencies you can convert FROM. So you can send money into Singapore, but not out of it.

  167. Shane says:

    I almost went the Saxo route but settled in Interactive Brokers instead — they are far, far cheaper and give you multiple currency support as standard, have good customer service and have more ETFs to choose from than Saxo, plus you can buy from many non-US exchanges.

    I have one concern about brokerages in general which I’d love to get Andrew’s input on. My concern is the guarantee you have that your investments will be safe if a brokerage goes bust.

    Saxo guarantee to 100k euro down to 20k euro in the event that they’re totally kaput. But what if you have 200k euro and Saxo goes down?
    Interactive Brokers guarantee 500k dollars through SIPPC.
    In the UK, guarantees are only 50k pounds.

    These guarantees are very low in my opinion for people with higher sums, or aspiring to have higher sums.
    How do we mitigate against the risk of our broker-of-choice going broke?

    • Hi Shane,

      In Singapore, these shares aren’t really under Saxo’s umbrella. They’re kept in a government depository holding tank along with shares owned by investors using DBS Vickers and the other local brokerages. This is why it’s so easy to transfer shares that you own from one brokerage in Singapore to another in Singapore. That said, I know people who feel much more comfortable using multiple brokerages. Based on how Singapore’s shares are kept in a central depository, they take things a step further. If you truly want this kind of diversification (hey, you never know!) you may prefer splitting your assets between a Singapore brokerage, TD Direct International (Luxembourg) and Interactive Brokers. I know a guy who actually does this. The same guy has a portfolio comprising 25 percent gold, but it’s not in ETF form. He owns it physically in a vault in Switzerland.

      The wealthier you get, the more prudent such diversification with brokerages may look.

  168. Dave says:


    You can use your GBP account to buy VWRD in USD – I have been doing it for over a year now and I just did it this afternoon at $65 a share. 2000GBP cost me 10GBP on the conversion to USD.

  169. Dave says:

    4 new Vangaurd ETFs now available on the London Stock exchange!

    FTSE 250 ETF: 0.1% TER Ticker: VMID GBP
    FTSE Developed Europe excluding UK ETF : 0.12%TER Ticker VERX GBP
    FTSE Developed World ETF: 0.18%TER Ticker VEVE GBP/USD
    FTSE North America ETF: 0.1% TER Ticker VNRT GBP/USD

    None of them are currently available on the Saxo platform, but I will be emailing my guy at Saxo to push for these to be in GBP when they get them.

    The one that interests me that most is the FTSE 250. This is a much more diversified index than the FTSE 100 and gives a better representation of the UK economy. 80% of the FTSE 100 is overseas and is heavily weighted in favour of a handful of companies in mining, oil and gas and banking. The FTSE 250 has also consistently beaten the FTSE 100 since its inception in the mid 1980’s. I will probably switch over in the next year or two.

    I would be interested to hear anyone else thoughts on the above ETFs.

    • Sean says:

      I noticed these. Naturally Saxo will only be able to offer them in one currency from the same exchange. For example, you can buy VUSA from Vanguard in Euros or Pounds, or VUSD (which is the same ETF as VUSA) in dollars. But because VUSA and VUSD both trade on the London exchange and share the same ISIN, Saxo’s software means they can’t trade them both – so you cannot buy VUSD from Saxo! Absolutely ridiculous.

      Anyway, I like these new ETFs but what I was really hoping for was a new bond ETF. Personally I was trying to decide between VUSD (S&P 500) and their new VDNR (FTSE North America). VUSD is cheaper in terms of TER by 0.03 and pays a slightly higher dividend than VDNR, so for this reason I’ll go with VUSD.

      It’s good that Vanguard are increasing their range and lowering their prices. Long may it continue.

  170. Sean says:

    Thanks Dave, I’ve flicked your point onto Saxo for clarification, but it looks like you’re doing what I want to avoid, paying already excessive currency commission, not once, but twice…

    I don’t know your situation, but in mine, here in Singapore, I have to pay automatically when I transfer SGD to my Saxo GBP account – at 0.5%, so on 2000GBP I will already have to pay 10GBP.

    Then if I do what you are suggesting, I will have to pay another 10GBP, so a total of 20GBP, or 1%, just for currency conversion, before I’ve even paid the 20GBP to make the trade, so I’ll pay 40GBP in total, which is way more than the 1% I’m prepared to pay to make a trade.

    If I buy VWRL via Saxo, it’ll be through my USD sub-account (that’s been Saxo’s advice to me BTW) then when I transfer my SGD, I’ll pay 0.5% commission, just once to convert to USD, then I can make the trade to purchase VWRL in USD.

    More importantly I need to find a way to cut down these currency conversion costs, from 0.5% to the spot rate if possible, or as low as I can go! That’s my job this week…

    • Nicholas says:

      Sean, that may be possible with Saxo, but not SCB.

      Saxo say that I can transfer pounds sterling from the UK direct to a pounds sterling account with them with no fees charged. (I’m guessing I’d have to pay around £10 for the wire fee).

      I *assume* if you had a dollar denominated account with them, you could transfer directly into that in dollars. So then you would use a service like XE to turn your SGD into USD and pay in that way, or from the UK, it looks like Transferwise give the best conversion rates.

      None of this is possible with SCB who force you to convert any foreign funds twice (which I worked out loses you around 1.6-1.7% of the original sum, even when using the best possibly exchange services, mainly due to the poor final rate SCB provide). Alternatively they allow you to keep a foreign currency account but you have to maintain a minimum cash balance of $1,000 USD or equivalent, and THEN charge you a 1.5% on top. Then the 0.25% commission.

      I’m thinking it’ll be easier just to open an account with TD Direct in the UK and fund it with my UK savings. I’ll try to open an account with SCB for paying in with SGD today, but there is absolutely no way of getting around their currency exchange fee.

      • Seán McHugh says:

        So it’s all swings and roundabouts, they all extract their pond of flesh somehow.

        So SCB have their own trading test, that is completely separate to the SGX one? Nightmare, the SGX was a pain, for the same reasons you have outlines, most of the materials were irrelevant to the strategy we use, I was able to open the test in several browsers, which at least made it an ‘open book’ test, even then I got two wrong. :/

        I have a UK based XE account now, it wasn’t too painful to set up, so thanks for the tip.

        On currency conversion, Andrew uses a ‘multicurrency account’ with DBS, I called them to day, and they say that they will allow me to change currency at spot rate without commission, and transfer directly into Saxo, no charge… we shall see…

  171. Nicholas says:

    Sean – I have just sent off my application to open an account with TD Direct in the UK. No tests to pass, just a few forms to fill in. I did have to get a utility bill and photocopy of my passport notarised though ($50 SGD, sigh).

    Since if you’re investing on the LSE you have to ultimately convert to pounds, it looks to me like a UK broker is the best alternative to Saxo, if you don’t mind your money being in the UK. (If you’re not a UK resident, what difference does it make though? And when you are, you can convert it into an ISA, I asked them. You can also transfer funds in from other brokerages for free).

    Saxo charge £20 whereas TD Direct charge £12.50. Saxo have the minimum trades per year requirement. TD Direct is free to use if you have £15,000 in the account. So assuming that XE.com get me a better rate than Saxo do for converting SGD to pounds, I’m actually better off with the UK broker, and I don’t have the annoying VWRL/VWRD problem either.

    SCB is definitely the best if you live long term in Singapore and their commission-based charges mean you can invest as little as you want as often as you want without any penalty.

    However, if, like me, you are prone to moving about from country to country, then SCB’s irritating 1.5% charge on using their pounds account or converting currency twice means it is just not worth it. I think I calculated converting currencies twice is going to cost you between 1.5 and 2%. So this is only worth it if you’re investing a very small sum so that your total commissions end up being less than the £20 at Saxo or even lower £12.50 at TD Direct.

    If ONLY, ONLY, ONLY SCB had a free pounds sterling account like Saxo, which you can pay into directly from another pounds sterling account.

    Addendum: SCB don’t have their own trading test. They have one section on the form where you have to declare you have done 6 trades in the last year. If you haven’t, you fail the test. You are smarter than I am: I only realised once the test had begun that the materials would get locked. I also assumed it wouldn’t be THAT hard, or that the pass mark would be 90%!

    I’ll take it again, with the two browser strategy, and see if I can use that to help me open an account at SCB. At least while I’m in Singapore I can contribute to that.

    • Sean McHugh says:

      I set up my TD Direct account while in the UK, (I go back twice a year), I was able to use my passport, and my UK bank statements, but I did have to get a form signed at my bank, in person, at least there was no charge. 🙂

      Their Trading ISA is great, but I’m pretty sure it’s only for residents, if you’re living in the UK for more than 180 days in one financial year, that’s probably a good sign that you are, if you’re not, you might find that your TD gains will be subject to taxation… And even if you are, you can only invest £15000 a year tax free, after that is taxable.

      So I think TD will be seeing a lot less of my cash I’m afraid, now that ‘ordinary residence’ status is history. Between transfer wise, XE, and a multi currency account I should be all set up to keep everything offshore in Singapore with Saxo.

      Your stats regarding SCB’s currency conversion fees are most enlightening, I wash;t going to switch, but I’m less keen on recommending them to people looking for a new broker in SG for trading in GBP now.

  172. Nicholas says:

    Sean – I just rang up to find out about the DBS multi currency account. So you can transfer in money in say, GBP without converting it. You have to maintain a constant balance of $3,000 SGD or equivalent or pay $.750 SGD monthly. There is also a $10 receiving fee for any sum transferred into any multi currency account.

    But then you mentioned you’re with Saxo. When I spoke to Saxo on the phone, they told me you can already do this with them. Your pounds account there can be directly transferred to from the UK without any minimum balance requirement. If this is correct, then you don’t need the DBS account.

    If you were referring to changing SGD to GBP, they just said on the phone they charge the normal bank rate for currency conversion. So that looks the same as doing it directly via Saxo, unless I completely misunderstood.

    As for TD Direct, I’ll have to call the taxman in the UK to check, but if you’ve been non resident for 5 years or more prior to returning to the UK (that applies to me) then you don’t need to pay any capital gains tax. But even if you do, you have an allowance of over 10,000 pounds of gains to play with before tax is due.

    SCB refused to let me open the account. The rep in the outlet said they give no credence to the online trading test. Then I told him the rep on the phone said it is up to the discretion of the bank. He said that is absolutely wrong and he can only go by the form. So then I quoted the actual law regarding the matter, which explicitly states that the bank can accept a written note from the customer saying that they are aware of the risks etc etc. He said they don’t accept that either. I gave up.

    • Seán McHugh says:

      Hi Nicholas,
      I reckon the possible low balance fee with multi currency account is still acceptable it can save me 0.5% on the money I transfer to Saxo.

      I’m quite disappointed with XE.com, just comparing their service to DBS on sending £3000 back to the UK:

      DBS $10 comm, $20 Wire fee
      rate 1GBP = 2.0706 SGD

      fees ??? – can’t see that without committing to the trade, but it looks like there will be wire fees as well as a poor rate.
      rate 1GBP = 2.1154 SGD

      XE’s rate is terrible compared to DBS… Am I missing something, or does xe suck as an option for sending money back to the UK?

      pay2home looks promising with a $20 flat fee, but I have to go there in person to activate the amount :/

      I used transferwise to send money from the UK to Australia, WOW, so impressed, if only I could use them in Singapore…

      • Nicholas says:

        Hmm that is really weird Sean. I just checked and I got the same quote from Xe. There aren’t any wire fees if you select delivery by EFT/ACH but that rate really does suck. I’m going to test it again tomorrow afternoon. Maybe they give worse rates at the weekend.

        I’ve been using xe for years so I really hope I haven’t been making a mistake. The whole point of their business is being cheaper than using a bank, not more expensive.

        Good news from transfer wise: they told me they are trying to set up SGD to other currencies conversion and hope to be able to announce that soon.

        As an aside, I just got told by TD Direct that they don’t accept applications from people outside the EU. This was a week after I rang them to confirm I *could* apply before paying to get my documents notarised. Their website still says you can apply from Singapore as well. Worst of all, despite me sending the documents by recorded delivery, they insist they haven’t arrived. I’ll have to wait and see how this pans out, but I’m pretty annoyed with them.

        • Seán McHugh says:

          Thanks Nicolas, I’m trying XE, as even though there rate is worse, I didn’t realise I could avoid wire fees, if they transfer without fees I’m still better off, can I assume that I can avoid wire fees by doing a bank to bank transfer in Singapore? It’s not very clear on their site.

          Great news about TW, I can’t wait.

          If you apply to TD as a UK resident you should have no problem, I just had to prove my ID, and I got my UK bank to sign a form for that (I had to go in person to a local branch). All done.

  173. Dave says:

    Just heard back from my guy at Saxo. Apparently the new ETFs from Vanguard on the LSE are going to be in USD, with the exception of the FTSE 250 and FTSE Developed Europe, which will be in GBP. This is very frustrating, as I would have considered swapping VWRD for the Developed World ETF, if it had been in GBP.

    Therefore I contacted interactive brokers again (they were very helpful this time) and found out that they have all the Vanguard LSE ETFs in GBP. They also have multi-currency accounts. Fees are 6 GBP per trade and 10 USD (6.25GBP) for every month you don’t trade. This actually works out pretty cheap – around 75GBP a year (cheaper than a SIPP/ISA in the UK), with the potential to buy every month. Four trades with Saxo would be 80 GBP and 5 GBP for every thousand on VWRD – in and out. To move ETFs from Saxo to another brokerage, it costs 50 Euro per ETF. I therefore have some questions which I hope Andrew or someone else can answer.

    Apparently South East Asia falls under the US jurisdiction/office for Interactive Brokers. Would I still be susceptible to the US estate taxes when I am a British citizen, buying ETFs off the LSE? I saw there was some comments regarding this earlier this year, but no one really answered this question.

    Also could anyone share their experiences of investing with interactive brokers? Positive and Negative.

    I will be buying the new book next week as well!


  174. Shane says:

    Dave: The new Vanguard ETFs are available in multiple currencies. For instance, the new Vanguard “FTSE Developed World UCITS ETF (VEVE)” will be available from purchase in USD, EUR, and GBP.

    For USD, the ticker is VDEV
    For GBP, the ticker is VEVE
    For EUR, the ticker is also VEVE, but you buy it from the Amsterdam exchange rather than the London exchange.

    The problem from the Saxo perspective is that all these tickers have the same ISIN code (IE00BKX55T58) and Saxo’s software can’t accommodate different ETF tickers and currencies that have the same underlying ISIN.

    This is one of the reasons I didn’t open a Saxo account but went with Interactive Brokers instead. You don’t pay estate tax if you buy from a non-American exchange. Don’t waste your time with Saxo – go with IB instead.

  175. Dave says:

    I have been doing some research this weekend and may have solved the FTSE All World problem. If we can take our Vanguard glasses off for a second, the ishares Core MSCI World ETF is available on Saxo in GBP at a TER 0.2%. That is cheaper than VWRD, but it lacks the emerging markets component, which is why it only has 1500 stocks. Dividends are accumulated as well. This is probably our best alternative at the moment. Any thoughts?

    Any word on the Interactive Brokers and US Estate taxes anyone? From a review of your new book Andrew that I read on Amazon, apprently you never cleared this up… I am guessing you didn’t know at the time it went to print and I am just wondering if you are any clearer on the situation?

    I’ll be buying the hard copy when I pass through Singpore airport in the next couple of weeks, as I did with Millionaire Teacher last year.

  176. Dave says:

    Shane – Thanks for the feedback. I have had a Saxo account for over a year now, but like Sean, I’m getting a bit annoyed with the currency conversion fees at Saxo and the fact that Saxo will have most of the new ETFs in USD. So I have a couple of questions for you;

    1) How sure are you that you don’t pay US estate taxes on non-us stocks? Surely when you die and they are sold, they go from the LSE back into an American held account, before you can collect them?

    2) Do you have this in writing from IB?

    3) What country are you currently living in? South East Asia and even Russia, fall under the American office.

    Any more information you have on interactive brokers would be great.

    The other alternative is to get add a USD account with Saxo.

    Thanks for the info.

    • Hi Dave,

      I can certainly answer one of these questions for you. Your heirs would most definitely not pay U.S. estate taxes upon your death if you held a non U.S. domiciled index. In Canada, we have been dealing with such products for a long time. Most of our U.S. stock ETFs trading on the Canadian market were actually Canadian entities with the U.S. ETF wrapped within them. There are NO U.S. estate taxes liable with products. Please rest assured on this one. Just because your ETF may be priced in USD doesn’t make it U.S. domiciled. And that should be your only concern, as it relates to U.S. estate taxes.


      • Dave says:

        Hi Andrew

        Thanks for getting back to me. My concern was with buying non-US stocks (LSE ETFs) through interactive brokers? Would I still be liable for US Estate taxes? No one really seems to have the answer to this.



  177. Shane says:

    Hi Dave

    As Andrew says, I’m sure that any US-tracking ETF I buy from a non-US exchange escapes estate tax. So even if I have a million dollars invested in various non-US-domiciled ETFs that I bought from a non-US exchange and I die, the value of these stocks would not be subject to estate tax. However, I don’t know what the situation would be if I sold all my stocks and had a cash balance of a million dollars and then died 5 minutes later. For this reason, just in case, I will never keep a cash balance of more than 60k dollars in my Interactive Brokers (IB) account. Most likely if I died, my heirs would be instructed to simply switch my holdings to another brokerage outside of the US and liquidate them there.

    But for sure, once your money is held in ETFs bought from exchanges outside of the US, estate tax is not due.

    I do not have this in writing because – as is the case with almost all brokers – they don’t make detailed comments on taxation matters. Instead, to cover themselves, they recommend you speak to an advisor and they provide links to IRS literature. On the related issue of Dividend Withholding Tax, I recently received dividends from my VEUR ETF. Vanguard paid a gross dividend (I rang them to confirm this) and I received a gross dividend into my IB account.

    I live in Dubai, UAE. I get paid in UAE dirhams (which is a dollar-pegged currency), but I’m a European with the euro as my home currency. I maintain a three-part portfolio.

    Every month I use my bank (Emirates NBD) to convert my dirhams to dollars (there is a fixed conversion rate for dirhams-to-dollars) and I transfer to my Interactive Brokers USD account. The fee for this entire process is around 9 dollars, which is great.

    If I want to buy the S&P 500, I use Vanguard’s Ireland-domiciled, USD-denominated VUSD, which trades on the London stock exchange (the fact that it is Ireland-domiciled and bought from a non-US exchange means you don’t pay estate tax).

    If I want to buy VEUR or my government bond ETF (I use CSBGE3, bought in euros from the Swiss exchange), I use IB’s forex and convert my dollars to euros. The conversion fee is around 2 euros and I instantly have euros with which to buy my euro-denominated ETFs.

    I should say that with IB, I can use around 15 different currencies if I like. Saxo would not let me use multiple currencies unless I had a balance of 100k or more. This, plus their high fees, plus the fact that they don’t offer VUSD, is what turned me off them.

    Needless to say, IB’s commission fees are paltry compared with Saxo’s. Last week I bought EUR 4,000 worth of VEUR and the commission charged was 4 euros.

  178. Dave says:


    Thanks for the feedback. IB is tempting, but I’m afraid, I just doing want to take the chance with the US taxes, which is effectively 40,000GBP – not much to reach a pension pot.

    I think I will just go with the USD account with Saxo. The when and if I live to retire, I can just withdraw the strongest currency that year – GBP or USD.

    Thanks again Shane and good luck with your portfolio.


  179. Nicholas says:

    I’ve looked at IB too. You have to pay $10 USD every month unless you make a trade. The LSE trades cost £6 so if you did one trade a month you’d clear that $10. The fees for USD and Euro denominated trades though are really, really low. 0.05 and 0.1%. It’s very tempting to open an account with them because even if I did no trades in a whole year it would only cost £72 or so.

    I’d need more clarity on the taxes situation though. As far as I understand it, you don’t need to worry about Estate tax if your holdings are on the LSE. Are there any other taxes?

    I called the UK taxman about capital gains tax. They said you only have to pay that if you dispose of, ie sell, anything. So if you just hold the shares then you are in the same position as if they were offshore and you were non resident. The lady also said that the government is considering applying the same rules to money held by expats in the UK as UK residents. As far as I can see, all you need to do is mice your money somewhere like Singapore if you want to liquidate it.

    Or am I completely barking up the wrong tree?

  180. Tim says:

    I have read the new book Andrew, a great read. Thank you. I do have a question. I live in New Zealand and it is complicated to invest in global ETFs. Your book says use the UK market and I notice the new vanguard etfs are domiciled in Ireland – problem solved.
    However is this making things complicated. I need to find a discount broker there. My broker charges 1% on all purchases. Unfortunately, the Australian Stock market which is next door and more convenient, have global ETFs but are US domiciled, except for one. SPDR World ex Australia which is domiciled in Australia. This has an ER fee of 0.42%. Is this too high.

    Advice appreciated.

    Thank you

    • Hi Tim,

      Have you tried Interactive Brokers or Saxo Capital markets? You would have to wire your money out of New Zealand, but you could purchase an array of non-U.S. domiciled ETFs through either of them.

      I’m really glad you found the book useful. Do you have 30 seconds to post an Amazon review? If so, that would be awesome. http://bit.ly/globalexpat

  181. Tim says:

    Thanks Andrew

    I see that Saxo Capital markets has offices in Australia. Do you mean use them from there to buy UK ETFs at 0.1% brokerage?



  182. Tim says:

    Thanks Andrew

    NZ investors are do not have a capital gains tax if they are long term holders. Would this make any difference?


    • You’re right Tim. It does make a difference if you can find a New Zealand brokerage cheap enough, and New Zealand based products that are cheap enough. But once you start investing in foreign countries (like Australia, from New Zealand) you had better have a firm grip on how the Aussies themselves might tax you.


      • Tim says:

        Hi Andrew
        Thanks for the comments. I have found a vanguard index fund in Australia that is managed from australia and not domiciled from the US. It is global ex australia.
        https://www.vanguardinvestments.com.au/ … ailISF.jsp
        It is a wholesale fund and I can access it from a minimum of $100000 not the usual $500000 with an MER of 0.18%.
        How do etfs compare to index funds?
        To get to 100000 I will need to borrow 50000. Is this acceptable.

        There is a global ex australia ETF domiciled in Australia on the ASX but has an MER of .42%.
        My alternative is to buy Etfs on the UK stock exchange which are domiciled in ireland as you have suggested. Gets more complicated and also you pay a .5% stamp duty.

        Any advice please

  183. Matt says:

    Hi Sean M,

    How’d you go with DBS? I’m curious to understand what their definition of spot-rate is for you.

    Do they compare to the rates they publish online?:


    My wife has a DBS account, and the rates I’m seeing a similar to the published rates on their site, which I wouldn’t consider spot rate. To me it looks at least 0.5-1.5% from the actual spot rate.

    Or do you need to call up to get the best rate?


    • Matt, call them to get a better rate. They’ll give it to you. Strange business, I know.

      • Matt says:

        Thanks Andrew,

        I’m currently with Citibank personally, so I’ll try calling them and DBS to see what rates they will offer for $10K+ conversions from SGD > CAD.

        Going by their published rates, I’ll be pleasantly surprised if they can do better than Spot + 0.5%.

        I’ve even heard of people taking cash to Change Alley, getting the best rate there, and then going back to their bank and asking them to waive the foreign currency handling fees.

        I think your next book will have to be about low-cost Forex!


  184. Simon says:

    Just for a change of subject from account types and forex has anyone looked at using High Yield Corporate Bond ETFs like the ones below to add a bit of flavour to their porfolio ?

    I know they are help in the US, but looking at keeping below the US tax levels. Even after this years problems with Corporates the yields have been stable due to Dividends


  185. rjb says:

    I don’t know if this helps with the currency exchange issue, but I’ve been using both HiFX (www.hifx.co.uk) and World First (www.worldfirst.com) to transfer funds from the UK to Singapore.
    I can recommend both, but HiFX are probably a better bet for transferring funds from Singapore as they have an office in New Zealand which handles clients in the Asia Pacific region.

  186. Nicholas says:

    VMID and VERX are now on Saxo in GBP.

  187. Paul in UAE says:

    Hi Andrew

    I only wish I found your excellently written and informative books months earlier! ( I signed up with Zurich 12 months ago), since then I have read your first book and I am just about to buy your second book! I have also been spreading your books title to my expat friends throughout Dubai like wildfire so hopefully you will receive some more business from the Middle East.

    I am a 30 year old British expat living in Dubai and there are quite a few of us in my situation…

    Here is my scenario

    I have circa a large lump sum tied up in Zurich – after 1 year its 0.01% up and if I take the money out now I will lose 4%
    I have another lump sum ready to invest and have just setup a SAXO account (setup via Denmark and Dubai)

    I am happy to cancel my zurich plan and index invest and I am comfortable listening to your principles!!

    I know timing is key as I have lump sums instead of regular savings , its a big step as I have a lot of cash to invest at once I was hoping for you advice

    thanks in advance
    Paul in UAE

    • Hi Paul,

      I’m glad you found that first book helpful. I think you’ll find my second one far more practical for you.

      As for timing, I don’t think that’s important at all. You likely don’t want this money next year, right? It’s for your retirement, correct? As such, just build a diversified portfolio today, if possible.


      • Paul in UAE says:

        Hi Andrew

        Thanks for the information and advice

        Look forward to reading the new book. good luck with it!

        As ever I will tell people about yous site and book

        All the best

  188. Shane says:

    Hi Paul,

    Shane here, also in the UAE. A friend and I have done a lot of research from the expat-in-Dubai perspective in recent weeks and we went with Interactive Brokers instead of Saxo. Much, much better than Saxo in terms of flexibility, price, currencies available, and ETFs.

    Youi’ll save a fortune on transfer costs if you use Emirates NBD. Convert your dirhams to dollars with Emirates NBD (fixed rate of 3.685) and send to Interactive Brokers. The total cost is a flat rate of just 36 dirhams charged by the intermediary bank. When your dollars reache IB 2 days later, use their forex to convert to pounds if you wish. Or just buy USD-denominated ETFs like VUSD from London Stock Exchange. My friend and I have tried other options through trial and error and this is the best value we could find. I don’t think anyone will find better.

  189. Seán McHugh says:

    OK, I’ve trialled a few options now, and I’ve ended up back with DBS as the cheapest way to convert SGD to GBP and wire it back to the UK.

    Pay2home, same rates as DBS, but charge $50, which was a surprise as their website only mentions a flat fee of $20

    XE.com, have very poor rates even compared to DBS, and even allowing for the fact that you can avoid wire fees completely, their rates are so poor, that you would end up the same or better off using DBS, that and their transfer is so sloooow.

    I looked at creating a multi-currency account with DBS, but they charge to receive foreign currency, they charge if your account average balance drops below $3000, and they charge you international conversion and wire fees to transfer GBP to another bank even if it’s a bank/account in Singapore (like Saxo).

    So, until Transferwise come up with a way to send money from SGD to GBP, DBS it is. Here’s a comparison based on $6000 SGD if you’re interested, no matter which I do it, (fees before/after exchange) DBS beats XE.

    Service SGD Fees SGD rate GBP
    DBS 6000 30 5970 2.0637 2892.86
    XE 6000 0 6000 2.0772 2888.50

    Difference + £4.36 DBS Better

    Service SGD rate GBP – Fee
    DBS 6000 2.0637 2907.40 15 2892.40
    XE 6000 2.0772 2888.50 0 2888.50

    Difference +£3.90 DBS Better

    • Nicholas says:

      Great research, Sean! Unfortunately I’m not sure if transferwise are planning on imminently updating to accept SGD – they had a competition recently where they asked their subscribers to choose between a variety of currencies from Brazil, the Philippines etc. But not Singapore. Anyway, I’ll keep an eye on it.

      I am really surprised a bank is offering better exchange rates than XE. All these years I didn’t even bother checking because I was so prejudiced against banks in general, I didn’t think they could possibly ever do anything but rip their customers off!

      XE does come out as cheaper than DBS for small amounts of money, due to the $30 SGD fee. The magic figure is £1800. Anything more than that, transferwise is increasingly cheaper, but less than that, it’s XE. Not a very large amount of money but I’m relieved somewhat because that’s about what I’d been sending with XE all these years, so not too much money wasted for me, luckily.

      • Seán McHugh says:

        Thank Nicholas,

        I’m sorry to say that I have found xe.com’s entire service to be nothing but one of extreme disappointment.

        Right at the beginning of the process I had a critical question to resolve, one that I attempted to get feedback from via their email service, even that took over a week for a reply.

        The main problem is that their rates are so poor even compared to the spot rate of DBS bank in Singapore who I normally use.

        I transferred 6000 Singapore dollars. Even factoring in that I don’t have to pay wire fees when I used their service, or separate commission fees as I do with DBS Bank, their rates are SO poor that when I convert the funds using their exchange rate compared to my banks, my bank’s rate means that I end up with a significantly greater amount in the destination currency then I do using their service. The difference is big enough to actually absorb the costs of the fees I have to pay the bank. Worse still, transferring funds with my bank means they end up at the destination within a few days, transferring funds with xe seem to take a couple of weeks.

        The only exception is, as you have stated, if you’re transferring small amounts, around $2000 SGD as you’ve intimated, then it does make sense, albeit, very slow. Anything => 5000 SGD you’re better off with the banks, and they are faster.

        So all in all, other than for small amounts, I cannot understand why anyone woudl use xe over the banks when their rates are so poor.

  190. David says:

    New Saxo charges as from Jan. Can those with more exp. than myself comment whether these charges are enough to consider a shift to Interactive Brokers? Furthermore, do IB have the ETF’s Andrew recommends at the top in US$ and/or pounds?

    Changes to fee structure from 1st January 2015

    For the purpose of ensuring a cost structure that reflects the client’s actual usage of the trading platforms, Saxo Capital Markets has decided to implement a new fee structure in 2015.

    Custody Fees for Stocks*, ETFs/ETCs and Bonds
    For accounts with Stocks, ETFs/ETCs or Bond positions, an annual custody fee of 0.12% with a monthly minimum fee of SGD 5 will apply. The custody fee will be calculated daily using the end of day values and charged on a monthly basis.

    Annual Custody Fee Monthly Mininum Fee

    Stocks 0.12% SGD 5
    ETFs/ETCs 0.12% SGD 5
    Bonds 0.12% SGD 5

    * Singapore Exchange Limited Stocks will be exempted from the above fees.

    Please be aware that the new fee structure and custody fees will come into effect on 1st January 2015.

    If you have any questions, please contact your Account Manager.

    Yours Sincerely,
    Saxo Capital Markets

    • David,

      I mentioned that this fee was coming, in my book. However, this fee is lower than what they told me they are going to charge. You can see the impact of such fees in my book’s comparative table, where I put Saxo, DBS Vickers and TD International head-to-head. Also, Saxo will charge this extra fee on a “case by case basis”. As I mentioned in my book, I quoted them saying account of $500,000 + would not be charged this fee. As for Interactive Brokers, you can buy anything and everything through them. But one of my readers engaged in a conversation with an international tax lawyer. And, as I mentioned in my book, the risk of U.S. estate tax with them is very real. In my book, I suggested that the risk could be there. This particular reader appears to have confirmed it.

      • Seán McHugh says:

        So Saxo join DBS Vickers in charging a custodial fee.

        DBS charge $25/quarter or $100/annum regardless of amount assets held
        Saxo charge $5 month or $60/annum, plus 0.12% on assets (so on a $100,000 thats already $120) PLUS 0.5$ for current conversion. So easily $180/annum, and costs rising as assets rise in value no doubt.

        Surely the question has to be now, are Standard Chartered Bank now the best deal in town? (And if so… for how long?)

        Just keep telling ourselves: “You can be sure they will all all find a way to gouge their pound of flesh—but remember their fees are nowhere near as excessive as those charged by Zurich et al”. *deep breaths*

        • Yes, it’s best to just pick your brokerage and stick to it. If we’re lucky, they might start fighting each other for business. This happened in North America. Much like a gas war, they all dropped their fees. But unlike a gas war, once they do so, they don’t increase them. Having said that, Singapore can be an odd little animal in this vein. You never know.

        • Nicholas says:

          I just called Saxo. They charge 50 euros per ETF to switch them to another brokerage. This cost is standard, no matter whether the brokerage is in Singapore or not.

          Standard Chartered don’t charge anything to *receive* switches, and the rep told me that it takes up to 14 working days. After that you get the same advantages we have spoken of before (no management fees, no minimum commission) and the same disadvantages (enforced double currency exchange if you are paying money in from outside Singapore.)

          Standard Chartered said that they do charge to switch brokers within Singapore (something to do with CDP? but the rep was unable/unwilling to elaborate on what this meant) but they don’t charge if you transfer to another broker outside Singapore (like IB or TD Direct/International).

          Slightly off-topic, but TD Direct, whose advisers told me on two separate occasion that people in Singapore can open an account with them, and whose website confirms this, have offered me £50 compensation for wasting my time and money getting my documents notarised. Given that their website STILL has Singapore on its ‘OK’ list and STILL directs anyone who tries to open an account with them to download an application form, I’m inclined to take up the matter with the financial ombudsman to see if I can take it further.

      • Shane says:

        Hi Adrew, you have said repeatedly that ETFs bought from non-US exchanges will not incur estate taxes. Why then the ambiguity over stocks bought from non-US exchanges through Interactive Brokers? Could you use your resources at Asset Builder to get some clarity for once and for all on the Great Interactive Brokers question? It really is a burning issue and I’m sure IB would be willing to speak with an online newspaper to address some of these issues.

        • One of my readers delved into that with an international tax attorney. This reader already used Interactive Brokers. But he wanted clarification on the risk. Apparently, according to the international tax attorney, the risk is there. He has since closed his account and moved to Saxo.

        • One of my readers delved into that with an international tax attorney. This reader already used Interactive Brokers. But he wanted clarification on the risk. Apparently, according to the international tax attorney, the risk is there. He has since closed his account and moved to Saxo. If there’s even a small risk, why take it to save just a small number of dollars?

      • Matt says:

        Andrew, you may be luckier than me but when I recently went to open a Saxo account they were quite explicit that they will not waive this custodian fee for any amount, and also there is no cap to it either.

        I’ve done up a table myself comparing Vickers with the revised Saxo schedule and over the long term that 0.12% will have around a 2% effect on your final balance. As you’ve mentioned, up front costs are nothing compared ongoing fees no matter how low they appear!

  191. David says:

    Am I assuming correctly that this will be a charge on the current value of the ETF’s you have with them. Or a charge on what you paid for them? For example: 0.12% of 100,000 is 120 per annum. But will that be charged according to the current value in of your ETF’s OR your initial outlay?

    Cheers in advance (yes , of course I will ask Saxo to clarify)

  192. Shane says:

    But was he using IB to buy from American exchanges or non-American exchanges?
    To be honest, it sounds like the attorney simply didn’t know and just went with the default option of “I urge caution”, which is the wont of all highly paid professionals who don’t know the answer to something and then basically urge caution just so they can say they’ve given you advice and bill you for it.

    Thing is, there IS actually a definitive answer to this question – we just haven’t found it yet. Which is why the likes of Asset Builder could make it a mission to get to the bottom of it. If the answer is that it is OK to buy stocks from non-US exchanges with IB, then we would all save a fortune.

    IB are quite willing to discuss tax, so it might just take a gentle nudge. Here is a seminar from IB on YouTube all about tax reporting for non-US clients:

    • Shane,

      AssetBuilder is looking at buying Irish domiciled ETFs for non U.S. expat clients. They could use a large, parent brokerage in the U.S., but they won’t take that risk. So they are looking offshore. Tax issues are often very grey. If you were a Canadian, you would know about the non-residency status risks. We have a choice. We can have a driver’s license and credit card in Canada, or choose not to. Those choosing not to hedge their bets that they are erring on the side of residency caution. There’s no hard line about it in the tax code. And I strongly suspect this is the case with the answer you pursue. I’m a wimp. I don’t have any Canadian accounts, credit cards, property or residential ties. As such, a personality like mine would also be suited to stay away from IB. But that doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong. It just means this is one of many shades of international tax regulation grey.


      • Shane says:

        Interesting, Andrew. I intend to pursue an answer to the estate tax issue. It goes against the grain to reward Saxo for their high fees and general bad attitude (in my experience). No option for multiple currency accounts for those with portfolios <100k, a lack of availability of ETFs like VUSD, etc.

        How soon into your expatriate life did you decide to sever your financial links with Canada? I'm considering doing the same with my home country too, but I don't know if I'll still be an expat in 10 years' time. If I knew that I would with certainty, I'd also cut all financial ties to Ireland.

        • Hi Shane,

          I severed ties with Canada the day before I left the country, in 2003.

          I’m sorry you have not been treated well by Saxo. But be careful when referring to their fees as “high”. Some readers might take you literally. I would venture to say that more than 99.9% of expats pay fees that are seventeen times greater than what I pay, with Saxo.

          Even if I had to pay the extra 0.12% plus 0.1% for my ETFs (expense ratio) that comes to 0.21%. Most expats pay at least 3.5%. So Saxo is cheap. Don’t call a Ferrari slow…even if you find a faster car.


          • Shane says:

            Fair enough – but boy, they sure are expensive compared with IB!

            Anyway, it’s interesting you said you cut ties with Canada before you moved to Singapore. You must have been pretty confident that you wouldn’t be back for the remainder of your working life.

            I’m seriously thinking of doing the same in terms of Dubai. My wife and I have decided we will stay until the UAE kicks us out. We know that if we do stay, we estimate we would achieve financial independence within 15 years (by then we would be 45 years old) as long as our income stays the same (we can control costs more than income).

            But the whole issue has an impact on investment strategies, don’t you think? I mean, if one is adamant that they’re finished with Canada (or Ireland, or the UK, or New Zealand, or whatever), then is it really necessary to invest in one’s home country in terms of the domestic stock and bond market? I’m not so sure.

            I’m a European but get paid in a dollar-pegged Middle Eastern currency and I’d like to keep it that way. Yet there is always the deep-rooted psychological bias for the home country. For this reason, I’ve done something I consider a bit schizophrenic:

            70% stocks (all bought from London and Amsterdam exchanges)
            35% Vanguard Developed Europe (base and trading currency euro)
            30% Vanguard S&P 500 (base and trading currency USD)
            5% Vanguard S&P 500 (base currency dollar, trading currency euro).

            30% bonds
            15% SPDR Short-term European Gov Bonds (trading and base currency euro)
            15% Vanguard Short-term US Gov Bonds (trading and base currency dollar)

            It reflects my uncertainties – will I stay in the Middle East, or might I move back to Europe some day? I honestly have no idea. My portfolio’s efficiency is suffering as a result.

            I think a far more efficient portfolio for me would be:

            70% stocks
            40% VERX – Vanguard Developed Europe ex-UK (trading and base currency is euro)
            30% VDEV – Vanguard Developed World (trading and base currency is dollar)

            30% bonds – iShares SAAA.

            The TER is higher in the second portfolio than in the first portfolio, despite the fact that it has fewer constituents.

            What do you think? Is this hedging prudent, or a bit wayward?

  193. Shane,

    I think your portfolio decision makes plenty of sense. In my book, I gave examples of portfolios for people uncertain of where they plan to retire. And they reflect yours, to a large degree.


    • Shane says:

      Yep, I went back to check that. I notice in your book you give a sample portfolio for Spaniard Urko Masse, containing 5 very diversified ETFs, and you say that the *average* TER is 18.6% for Urko’s portfolio.

      I did the calculation myself and I noticed that is not the *weighted average*, but rather the simple average. How important is it in your view to calculate the weighted average to see the true TER for a five-part portfolio like that? (I’m new to the concept of weighted average…I’m not ashamed to admit that until yesterday I was adding up the TERs of all my ETFs and assuming that that was my total TER!

      • The weighted average is most important Shane. But ultimately, your investment costs will matter far less than your behaviour. How you respond when your portfolio value gets cut in half (and it will, trust me) is far more important than the minutiae you are currently concerned with. Statistically speaking, you will underperform your diversified benchmark by at least 1.5% per year, if you are a normal human being. That puts the TER in perspective. If you can legitimately convince yourself that you WANT your portfolio value to get cut in half next year, then you’re going to be training yourself for your far bigger test. I see many new investors getting very concerned about fees, at this point. But fees won’t be their biggest problem. Spend your time meditating or something, instead of sweating over brokerage costs and TERs. Fees won’t be your test. The next market collapse will be.


  194. Inchvbeam says:

    Hi Shane,

    After these discussion on IB, may I know which broker did you ultimately use? Thanks in advance for sharing.

    • Shane says:

      I went with IB and have been with them less than 3 months. My portfolio is still quite small at around 35k dollars but it’s growing rapidly. I’m currently following the thread on Bogleheads with great interest.

      I might decide to do one of three things:

      – Stay with IB until my account value reaches 100k and then migrate to Saxo. (Migrating to Saxo won’t work for me unless I have 100k, as they’ve said they won’t give me a multiple currency account if I’m under 100k. I want a dollar-euro portfolio.)
      – Request IB to move my account to IB UK. If IB does so, and my account is then UK-domiciled, great!
      – Stay with IB as things currently stand but on no account let there ever be more than 60k in cash sitting in the account.

      At the moment my preference would be option 2.
      I am not a fan of Saxo. They will let you buy VUSA in pounds and euros, but they won’t let you buy VUSD, which is the same ETF trading in dollars. Absurd! They also won’t allow you to buy the new VERX in euros. More absurdity.

      • inchvbeam says:

        Hi Shane,

        Thanks for replying. Im not in all going for SAXO and believe firmly that unless the laws issue turned against me with great certainty, I would refrain from switching the funds from one broker to the other.

        And thus the current dilemma if I should simply start sticking to SAXO instead of considering IB and its new custodian charges wef 2015 is clearly not helping things.

        If you have the time, you could visit this boglehead thread: http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=150851 on similar issues.

        Last but not least, the second option – to move your account to IB UK may become a certainty soon (and let me know if you are able to do it now 🙂 ) as IB has ongoing plan to transition certain businesses to its new IB UK carrying broker.


        The downside is that we will lose the 500K protection by US govt and gain a miserable 50K instead. Seems like we always cant have the cake and eat it, but if I have to choose, I would go for the UK account.

        -Andrew- you have any further thoughts on this pls? Thank you.

        • Nicholas says:

          Is anyone here considering switching from Saxo to Standard Chartered? If you’re paid in SGD, it seems like a no-brainer to me – the cost of the move will be offset quite quickly by Saxo’s new fees and higher commission. Plus SCB say they will transfer your holdings to any other brokerage outside of Singapore free of charge if later on you want to move it elsewhere.

          Is there any reason why I shouldn’t go ahead and move?

          • Just keep in mind, Nicholas, that you could be starting a game of musical brokerages. In the time I have been in Singapore, all of the brokerages have altered their fee schedules: up, down, or sideways. One virtual certainty is that they will continue to do so.

          • Inchvbeam says:

            Hi Nicholas, may i know the cost of switching from saxo to scb?

          • Nicholas says:


            It’s 50 Euros per ETF you hold. So for me, with Saxo I’ve got IGLS and VMID, so it’ll be 100 Euros to switch.

            Apparently I can initiate the process from the web program, though I’ll probably just send them an email. You have to go and fill out paperwork at Standard Chartered too.

        • Shane says:

          I suppose, inchvbeam, it comes down to what you think is more probable: Dying, or IB going bust and defrauding you. One can happen, but one definitely will happen.
          It’s true that the IB UK guarantee isn’t very high at 50k pounds – but Saxo’s isn’t exactly mountains higher at 100k euro (and it’s written somewhere on Saxo’s website that it can be as low as 20k euro). I guess the thing to do, when you have a very large portfolio, is to diversify brokers a bit, too?

          In the meantime, my wife and I have prepared a document for our solicitor that basically lists all of the accounts etc that we keep. Beside the IB entry, we have a big red warning advising whoever inherits to not liquidate the IB-brokered ETFs within the IB account, but rather to transfer them to an ex-USA broker first. This is a stop-gap measure of course. In practice, unless my wife and I meet our demise at the same time, the inheritor is either going to be me or her and we know both what to do.

          We don’t have kids yet, so our concern right now is that if the account is somehow subject to estate tax, either I or my wife would suffer as the sole survivor. Bad as it sounds, we don’t particularly care right now if the account is subjected to estate tax where our future child is the sole heir. Nobody ever handed us a big fat inheritance – and we’re both shrewder and thriftier for it. We don’t believe in giving someone a free ride through life. Perhaps our views on this will change or become more nuanced, though.

  195. Simon says:


    I just finished reading your excellent second book and felt that it was missing a chapter on “Getting Out and Retiring”. I am interested in planning for when you can’t contribute anymore and plan to take advantage of the savings; for instance;

    When planning to stop work how many months/years of cash would you hold in case the market crashes on day 1 of your retirement?
    Should you always hold a lump of cash so you could withdraw at optimum times
    Withdraw once a year or more ?
    Say you intended to take 5% a year out, would your portfolio be able to cover that if you had 80% in bonds, ok
    How would you go about buying that yacht ?

    • Hi Simon,

      As I mentioned in my book, the maximum sustainable withdrawal rate is 4% per year, not 5%. If you try taking a 5% (after inflation) withdrawal from your account, you have higher odds of running out of money. Some say it’s even less, like 3.5%. So if you’re 60 years old, and retiring, you would set a 4% base. Let’s assume you have $1 million the day your retire. It’s from this point that you would set your 4% base, as mentioned in the book. In this case, you would take out $40,000 in year one. The markets will move the rest of your money, up, down and sidewise, depending on the year. But if you retired with 55% bonds, 45% equities (for example) it should still continue to grow….not every year, but over time. The second year of retirement (as mentioned in the book) you would withdraw 3% more than $40,000. In other words, you would keep withdrawing a sum that would allow you 3% raises every year. Does this help?

      • Shane says:

        Hi Andrew,

        I suppose my question would be, when you say “withdraw”, what does that entail exactly?
        Are you suggesting that someone would sell 4% of their stocks?
        Or, are you suggesting that someone would stop reinvesting dividends and use those (perhaps 2%) and sell the remaining 2%?

        Also, should one sell the bonds or the stocks (or a combination of both) to attain the 4%?

        Sorry for the basic questions…

        • Hi Shane,

          I think you know the answer to the question you are seeking. You know that you want to maintain your goal allocation between stocks and bonds, whether you are adding money or subtracting money. What you sell, and in what quantities, is fully determined by your goal allocation, and how close to it you actually are when you make the withdrawal.


  196. John says:

    Hi Andrew

    I have just finished your new book – excellent as ever. One thing which you didn’t mention in your book is the duration of bond funds to hold – the pros and cons for short, intermediate and long term. Could you tell me the advantages of holding IGLS (0-5Yr) over VGOV (Vanguard UK Bond Index – average duration 9 years) for a 30 year old? Obviously we are looking at short term vs intermediate term. Surely if interest rate were normal, you would get more yield from intermediate bonds, albeit with an increased risk over rising rates? Both are obviously better than any long term bond ETFs.


    • Hi John,

      I’m glad you liked the book. Considering that you have a copy, would you mind if I referred to it? Page 120 answers your question. If possible, go with a shorter term bond index.


  197. Simon says:


    I was thinking that holding a 2 year cash buffer in case the market crashed so there was no need to draw down would be beneficial, but after putting everything into a spreadheet I noted that it makes no difference as long as you rebalance immediately after the crash (say 50% stock market dip)

    Your explanation of the withdrawals make sense, thanks!

  198. Marc says:


    I have a question on the Bond ETF ‘ISHG’. I purchased this about a year ago, following the general guidelines for UK investments.

    First of all I know that this is listed on the NYSE and hence it is liable to US estate taxes. As such I have stopped purchasing and move my selections to non US based ETFs.

    However I have kept my existing holding in ISHG and am surprised by how poor the dividend (or is it technically a yield from a bond?) is? For the past 12 months the total return in dividends is 0.339 per share. The price as of today (which has fallen 10% during the year) is at 86.86, as such this translates to an annual yield of 0.39%. As it is paid monthly, and I used DBS, they have a minimum dividend handling charge and as such I simply get 0 every month!

    Looking at the history there is the odd spike (presume when a bond matures) but nothing that is particularly outstanding.

    Am I reading the data correctly?

    • That’s fascinating Marc. And I’m sure, irritating as well. How much money do you have invested in it?

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Andrew and Marc,

      We also started to buy some ISHG a year ago, and it has indeed lost 10% in a year, something surprising for a bond as they are supposed to be more stable than that. However, I found out the composition of this index seems heavily biased toward Japan, with virtually no US as shown below… I am a bit surprised as I thought indexes were better balanced to represent the whole world. Japan is currently not the strongest economy, actually in deflation I think, so I wonder if the heavy weight of Japan in the portfolio can explain this 10% fall as well as the bad dividends. Some European countries have not done brilliantly either…Any thoughts? Would you really buy more ISHG while it is at an historical low? Just fearing it might not go back up somehow…but maybe I just lack faith!

      Japan 21.78%
      France 6.41%
      Italy 5.95%
      Germany 5.84%
      Ireland 5.04%
      Canada 4.68%
      United Kingdom 4.51%
      Spain 4.49%
      Belgium 4.40%
      Sweden 4.33%
      Denmark 4.30%
      Netherlands 4.12%
      Austria 3.80%
      Portugal 3.80%
      Australia 3.70%
      Switzerland 3.44%
      Norway 2.95%
      United States 2.88%

      • Hi Catherine,

        Before buying something, you must know what’s in it. This is an international bond ETF that’s globally weighted (based on market cap) but it’s meant NOT to have U.S. exposure. It’s quoted in USD. So when the USD does better than other international currencies, the quoted price of this ETF, in USD, will drop. The vast majority of the bonds within this fund are denominated in Euros. Add up France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Belgium, and the other European (Euro based) countries and you will see that they dwarf Japan’s representation. Since the beginning of 2012, the Euro has dropped 14 percent against the U.S. dollar. But if you looked to see this ETF price converted into Euros or Pounds, you would not see such a drop. Let me give you another example. Imagine you bought a house in France, in 2012. You paid in Euros. And imagine the value of the house has increased by 5%, in Euros. If you measured your “growth” in USD, you would have lost money because the Euro dropped against the USD.

        At some point (it’s always cyclical) the U.S. currency will fall against global currencies. When that happens, the price of this bond ETF will skyrocket, in USD. Be sure that you always understand what you are buying. And understand what effects its price movements. Bond prices are quite stable. But that depends on how you are measuring them. If you are European, and you converted money into USD to buy this bond ETF in 2012, and if you sold the bond ETF today, and converted the proceeds back into Euros, you will find that you would have made money, as measured in Euros. Please let me know if you have other questions.


        • Catherine says:

          Thank you Andrew, very interesting, and we’ll sleep better tonight…We will definitely keep our ISHG bond index for the moment, possibly buying a bit more, but we are aware of the maximum before being hit by the risk of US inheritance tax, and switching to Saxo to have access to UK/European markets
          Just finished your second book, very clear and easy to read indeed! I’d love a third one on cheap retirement paradises, but they probably wouldn’t stay that cheap if you were to make them too well known!

          Thanks a lot!

  199. Inchvbeam says:

    Hi Andrew,

    May I ask for a Singaporean, would there be any purpose in purchasing an global fund (Ishare AAA) in conjunction with singapore bond A35? or A35 would suffice for the bond allocation.

    • You would have slightly more diversification with an international bond. I probably wouldn’t buy a local bond if I were you, considering that you are top heavy in local bonds anyway. Your CPF is mostly comprised of Singapore government bonds.


  200. Inchvbeam says:

    Hi Andrew thanks for ur reply 🙂

    As of current, I would be considering the following for bond allocation:

    1) iShares Barclays Asia Local Currency Bond Index ETF (QL1 in SGD) (https://www.blackrock.com/sg/en/products/251721/)
    2) IGLO (http://www.ishares.com/uk/individual/en/products/251753/IGLO) (any difference between SAAA?)

    May i know ur thoughts on this?

  201. Geoff Kelly says:

    Hello Andrew and thank you for all this advice.

    I am currently living in Singapore, but a UK citizen. (non UK resident). I am working through Saxo capital markets and understand that all Vanguard ETFs that trade on the FTSE are domiciled in Ireland (from my research). I have been informed by Saxo capital markets that there is a stamp duty of 1% of total trade amount on all purchases made in Ireland (0.5% on those bought in the UK). I had not seen this mentioned anywhere on this site and wondered what your views were on this and whether this is a new development?

    Thank you,

    • Hi Geoff,

      I was able to write much more in my book than I was able to put on this website. I mentioned that stamp duty may apply on page 238, table 17.2. It’s 0.5% for London domiciled ETFs and 1% for Irish domiciled ETFs. Saxo lists these costs in the fine print of the contract you signed. But according to my British friends, it wasn’t being applied to their accounts. It’s certainly irritating. But it’s nothing like what an extra 1% per year (on the total account value) would cost. Think of stamp duty as an added one time commission per purchase.

      If you want to avoid it entirely, you could use the Canadian stock exchange with Saxo. You would just have a couple of specific limitations. You couldn’t buy a UK stock index. But you could buy a European index. You could buy a global index, U.S. index, emerging index, but you couldn’t buy a UK bond index. Instead, you would have to settle for an international government bond index. It’s your choice. But keep in mind that Saxo isn’t to blame for your stamp duty. The UK government is.


      • Geoff Kelly says:

        Thank you again, Andrew! I am getting through your book at the moment but not reached that section as yet. I have lived in many countries over the past 15 years and I wish I has of found your advice 20 years ago! I’ve been dragged into Generali a couple of times, and obviously looking for new, longer term strategies having read your blog and your books.

        I am now researching which funds to move into with Vanguard or iShares through Saxo.

        As I work through this, I am trying to figure out (1) the impact of buying funds in different currencies to GBP – Vanguard All World Index is not offered in GBP through Saxo in Singapore – (2) tax implications in the future, plus (3) which are the most suitable funds for my requirements.

        I realise you do not offer this personal type of advice yourself, but do you give any recommendations of people in either Singapore or the UK?

        Thank you,

        • Hi Geoff,

          To answer your questions about currency impact, you’ll find that on page 193. As for suitable ETFs for you, specifically, you will find my suggestions for British investors between pages 235 and 243. I did my very best to make the book as complete as possible. It’s far easier, for me, when I can give page references versus repeated essays of explanation online 🙂


  202. James says:

    Dear Andrew,

    I’ve read both your books and they have been a massive eye opener. I rushed into a Gereali pension and found out later the error of this. Luckily I’ve only been investing the minimum amount each month, which is matched by my company at the end of each year, and my aim is to stop payments after the initial 23 month period.

    My plan now is I to invest independently and follow the couch potato idea; leave my funds in for the long term, and only modify them yearly or half yearly when I will add a lump sum, re-invest dividents and rebalance. There is a lot of advice on this page from many people which is great but I just want to keep it simple.

    I plan to invest 15-20K GBP. My money is already in a UK bank account. I currently live in South Korea and have lived outside the UK for over 6 years. I may be moving back to the UK in 2015 for a few years but then plan to return to the ex-pat teaching life abroad after that (but you can never be certain about the future so could end up back in the UK permanently). I have three questions I would appreciate your advice on.

    1. Should I wait until I return to the UK and invest that money in a trading ISA?
    2. If not, which brokerage platform would you suggest is optimal (there has been much discussion about CBS, Saxo, TD Direct et al but I’m now more confused than when I had just read your book)?
    3. Once I’ve decided on the brokerage, would you recommend the global nomad portfolio or the UK leaning portfolio (based on my situation and future plans)?

    Thanks for raising the awareness of these offshore pensions and sharing your knowledge of investing.

  203. Lee says:

    Morning Andrew,

    First of all I just wanted to say thanks for your advice on the blog and for the Millionaire Teacher book. I’ve just finished reading it and it’s brilliant. Like many people I was suckered into investing with Friends Provident and my investment is now worth less than it was when I invested it 7 years ago! Useless.

    Some time ago I asked you about a Vanguard product (Life Strategy 60% Equity 40% Bond) which you said was an excellent product. I’m now in the position where I can invest in this but am wondering about the implications of sinking all of my money (£200k) into one product with one company. Is this a bad idea? I like the idea of this product because I’d invest and literally have to do nothing, which for a complete newbie is really attractive. I’ll also be putting money aside every month to buy further shares in this. The plan is to do this until I hit 55 and can then retire. The idea of putting all of my eggs in one basket makes me slightly nervous but as it’s with Vanguard and a combination of stocks/shares/bonds from a number of markets then I was hoping it would be a solid choice. Any thoughts?

    Looking forward to getting your next book.



    • Hi Lee,

      This product would be an excellent choice. You would own a broad representation of global stocks and bonds. So your eggs would be in many baskets. Vanguard would be the intermediary for those stocks, wrapping them up in the index for you. Because you own those shares indirectly, Vanguard doesn’t have to dig into its company coffers to pay you, once you decide to sell some or all of it. And Vanguard may be the safest of all financial institutions to invest with. They have no loans obligations on the side, as banks do. Vanguard is simply playing one role: as a conduit for you to own stocks and bonds. So stick to it. Vanguard is an excellent choice. And you have chosen a very smart product.


      • Sean says:

        I would imagine a load of our teachers would be keen on this ETF, especially those who aren’t really sure where they will end up.

        I’ve been trying to see if this is a non US domiciled product (this thread is for Brits after all) can I assume it is as you are endorsing it?

        I think this is the ticker: VSMGX

  204. Lee says:

    That’s good news, thanks Andrew. One question though, the performance is stated as 10.62% average annual returns over the last 3 years for accumulation shares, which I assume is whatever profits you make are then ploughed back into the fund rather than coming back to me as a dividend? However, there is also something called Quoted Historic Yield, which is only 1.26%. What is that?

    • Hi Lee,

      The yield would be the dividend average, plus interest income. The total average return is the result of capital appreciation (rising stock values) plus dividend income, plus any interest you would receive from the bonds within. Combining them all is what counts. It represents the overall return.


  205. TC says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Firstly a huge thank you for taking the time to write both your books and for all the info on your site. It’s been very enlightening and i wish i had seen this 10 years ago!

    I am a British expat in Singapore and have just opened a Saxo account. I am in my early 30s and plan to build a portfolio of UK listed indexes primarily from Vanguard with FTSE 100, S&P 500, World Index and a bond index, following closely what you’ve recommended.

    One concern i have is FX risk. 3 of the indexes i intend to invest in are GBP denominated. My wife is Singaporean and i have no idea at this point if i will end up retiring in Singapore or the UK but felt UK market was more attractive than Singapore for investment. My worry is the FX risk. When i moved to Singapore the GBP-SGD rate was over 3.2, now down to 2.05. Had i invested in UK stocks when i first moved to Singapore i could have lost 30% in value today simply due to FX rate changes, while I can’t predict the future any such swing against could cause a big hit on my portfolio if i was to convert to SGD. Am i missing something or is there anyway to protect myself against the FX rate swings?

    Thanks in advance.

    • TC,

      A couple of things: First, if you buy a world stock index, you won’t need an S&P 500 index. The global index already has the U.S. market embedded within it. As for currency risk, you would be subjected to movements of the British pound with your British stock index (but not with any of the others). That said, as someone in his early 30s, you shouldn’t care about that for many reasons. For starters, the pound and the SGD will each have their days in the sun. When you are 40, the pound may gain 30% on the SGD. When you are 45, the SGD may gain 30% on the pound. When you are 50, the pound may gain another 30% on the SGD. But it’s irrelevant. You will not be selling all at once, at any given time, no matter what your age. You will be selling very small pieces each year when you retire. And you will be doing that every year until you die. So even during retirement, your UK index will sometimes give you a better deal (some years) but a worse deal other years. You could call this “risk” if you want. But I wouldn’t. It’s just life. None of your other indexes are subjected to the movements of the British pound. Yes, they may be priced in British pounds. But their true values do not reflect the movement of this currency.

      I’m sure you want an explanation for that last part. Because you have a copy of my book, I’m going to direct you to pay 193, instead of me writing it all out again. http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Global-Expatriates-Guide-Investing/dp/1119020980
      And would you mind doing me a favour? Could you place a review of the book on Amazon?


      • Shane says:

        Hi Andrew,

        When you say that he won’t be selling all at once, well, what if he has to? Like all of us, he is an expat. So he might find that he needs to liquidate all his investment before repatriating to the UK in order to prevent an awful capital gains hit at the hands of Her Majesty’s revenue collectors (pure speculation on my part, but I know that for some western nationalities it’s prudent to liquidate before repatriating). In such a scenario, currency fluctuations would indeed have a big impact (potentially positive and potentially negative). Any advice for mitigating against this?

        On a separate point, I’d love to get your opinion of the FTSE 100. It’s lower now than it was in 1999. A great buying opportunity, or a perpetually stagnant market?

        • Hi Shane,

          I’m not sure how you’re measuring the UK market. In pounds sterling, it’s up more than 130 percent in the past 10 years. If measuring it in USD, it’s up roughly 170% since 1997: http://www.ishares.com/us/products/239690/ishares-msci-united-kingdom-etf

          As for your currency question: The true value of a UK index (for example) will be represented only by how the UK market has fared. Whether he initially bought the index in Singapore, Hong Kong or Canadian dollars is entirely irrelevant. If it’s a UK stock index, and he sells, there’s no way he would be exposed to the U.S. dollar, for example, if the index were purchased in USD. Here’s an example to clear this up. You buy a UK index in USD. The UK index doesn’t grow in a decade. The U.S. dollar drops by 50% during that decade. What would happen? The U.K. index would be priced 100% higher, in USD, even though it never actually grew, as measured by pounds sterling.
          On another note, when you sell an entire portfolio to repatriate, you will likely (if you’re smart) repurchase all of those entities again at a brokerage at home. Currency movements, upon sale, would be irrelevant. You would be going market to market. You may pay a 1% currency conversion spread. But that’s it. I hope this makes sense.


      • TC says:

        Hi Andrew, thank you for your extremely quick response!

        A good point made on the long term outlook re. FX rates.

        Regarding World Stock Index and S&P. If i had to choose between the two i was more attracted to the S&P as Vanguard and Saxo list it in GBP, which is the currency of my new account setup and thus avoids currency exchanges (incl the Saxo 0.5% charge). If i did want to add a world index is it worthwhile looking at the world minus US indexes? Also for my bond index, is a global or US based index a better way to go if don’t want my portfolio to be too heavily weighted in UK? Any suggestions?

        Apols for all the questions.

        And certainly i will look to write a review, have recommended your books to a number of friends already.


        • TC,

          A global bond index would spread your assets across a variety of markets, putting virtually no stress on any single currency. If you do buy the world stock index, minus the U.S. index, then add a S&P 500 index to the portfolio…so you have the US market covered. Thanks, in advance for writing the Amazon review!


  206. John says:


    Have you ever heard of people following two different approaches at the same time in order to achieve maximum diversification, e.g. (1) Permanent Portfolio and then, for example, (2) Couch Potato of 3 ETFs: VSB, VDU, VUN?

    For example, an investor might have $100,000 in the Permanent Portfolio as you have outlined and then $100,000 in the Couch Potato ETFs 40% VSB, 30% VDU and 30% VUN.

    Crazy idea?


  207. John D says:

    Hi Shane and Andrew

    The FTSE 100 is a terrible index to track for a number of reasons.

    1) It is not very diversified – the top 10 companies (mainly oil and banks) by weight make up 46% of the index.

    2)The index is heavily concentrated in oil (just watch the news!), miners (facing a slow down in China etc), supermarkets (involved in a price war at the moment – a few months ago Tesco’s shares plummeted, where Warren Buffet lost millions) and banks (nationalised and facing periods of debt restructuring etc).

    3) To argue Andrews point, the FTSE 100 does not represent the UK market – only 20% is exposed to what happens in the UK, with 80% of it affected by what happens abroad. This is evident in the fact that the index barely moved when the UK economy returned to growth this year or never moved around the days of the Scottish referendum – the potential break up of the UK and the index barely moved, yet the pound plummeted! What shook the market this year – Ukraine, Malaysian Airlines, ISIS and Ebola – all away from the UK.

    There is one benefit of tracking the FTSE 100 and that is the yield, which is among the highest for any major index in the world – usually above 3% and currently yielding 3.6% pa.

    If I was you Shane, I would keep what money you have in the FTSE 100 and just start buying the midcap FTSE 250, which is more representative of the UK economy. Why?

    1) It is more diversified
    2) The top 10 companies only make up 11% of the index in terms of weighting.
    3) The yield is historically just below 3% – currently now 2.8%.
    4) Approximately 80% of the index has UK exposure, 20% abroad – almost the opposite to the FTSE 100.
    5) We shouldn’t go on past performance, but I will, since its creation in the mid 1980’s, the FTSE 100 has only beaten the 250 for a total of 4 years! The rest of the time, the 250 has produced higher returns – including this year.

    I started buying it this year for the first time when Vanguard released the ETF in September – VMID TER 0.1%, because I refused to pay the ridiculous fees for HSBC and iShares at 0.5%!

    One negative of the 250 is that it is a mid-cap index and will be more volatile.

    For my equity allocation, I am and will be for the future, 60% All World and 40% UK.

    Hope this helps


    • Shane says:

      Hi John,

      I personally buy VEUR (Vanguard MSCI Developed Europe), which has the FTSE plus around 30 other UK businesses embedded within it. The UK makes up around 34% of VEUR, whereas Germany, France and Switzerland are all weighted under 15% apiece.

      What bugged me a bit was that around 3 weeks after I put 20,000 euros into VEUR, Vanguard launched a new Ireland-domiciled European ETF called VERX (Vanguard MSCI Developed Europe ex-UK).

      I must admit, I have been thinking of dumping VEUR and getting into VERX. Ultimately I will probably hold onto VEUR as it contains over 500 businesses vs VERX’s 350 and the dividends coming out of VEUR are handsome.

      To answer Andrew, yes, over the past 10 years the FTSE has grown…but it is lower now than it was in 1999. If you start the clock on 1 January 2000 and did not reinvest dividends over the past 14 years, you would have lost money (mind you, I read that in the Daily Mail so you might be inclined to take it with a pinch of salt!). All of which either means that the FTSE is a broken index (something like half of its constituents have been dropped from the index since 1999), or just one that’s been asleep and is poised to wake up. I honestly don’t know.

      But it seems that it’s negatively correlated with the other markets within VEUR. On a day when the DAX and CAC40 are up, you can be sure the FTSE lags them 🙁

      • Hi Shane,

        I sent you much better information (sourced) than what you read at the Daily Mail.
        Plus, measuring an index without dividends is like measuring a car’s speed without one of its wheels. Why would anyone do that?


        • John D says:

          Andrew and Shane

          Here is an article from the Guardian today on the FTSE 100 – interesting when you compare it with the FTSE 250!



          • John,

            The FTSE 100 could easily outperform the FTSE 250 over the next 10 years. In fact, it’s very likely.

          • Shane says:

            Interesting article John, and of course, there’s real money to be made on individual stocks for those who can tell the future. I’m sticking with the FTSE as a subset of VEUR and can only hope that it ultimately spurts strongly upwards…but not for a few years yet (I’m an early accumulator).

            As Andrew says, the temptation is always to look back. To a certain extent we ALL do that; the only reason we invest in stocks is because historically they’ve been an excellent asset class. But the FTSE PE ratio is pretty decent right now…sooner or later that dog will heel – I hope.

        • Shane says:

          Hi Andrew – where did you send it to? I didn’t receive anything.

          • John D says:

            Andrew – You maybe correct in the fact that the FTSE 100 may out-perform the FTSE 250 in future years, but to me, that seems unlikely. The British Economy is returning to strength, while Europe is stagnant and China is slowing. The FTSE 100 is more affected by world events, rather than domestic. Also, in both of your books which I own, you always talk about the importance of diversification – the FTSE 100 is not a diversified index as described in my previous message. It is basically an oil and banking index, which is why it has serious lagged more diversified indexes this year.

            Shane – I’m a passive investor, I don’t own a single individual stock, but you are correct, the FTSE 100 is very cheap right now.

            Good luck to you both!

          • Hi John,

            The more broadly an index represents a given index, the better. Better performance? Maybe. Maybe not. The most important aspect is spreading the eggs.


  208. Shane says:

    Hi John,

    I personally buy VEUR (Vanguard MSCI Developed Europe), which has the FTSE plus around 30 other UK businesses embedded within it. The UK makes up around 34% of VEUR, whereas Germany, France and Switzerland are all weighted under 15% apiece.

    What bugged me a bit was that around 3 weeks after I put 20,000 euros into VEUR, Vanguard launched a new Ireland-domiciled European ETF called VERX (Vanguard MSCI Developed Europe ex-UK).

    I must admit, I have been thinking of dumping VEUR and getting into VERX. Ultimately I will probably hold onto VEUR as it contains over 500 businesses vs VERX’s 350 and the dividends coming out of VEUR are handsome.

    To answer Andrew, yes, over the past 10 years the FTSE has grown…but it is lower now than it was in 1999. If you start the clock on 1 January 2000 and did not reinvest dividends over the past 14 years, you would have lost money (mind you, I read that in the Daily Mail so you might be inclined to take it with a pinch of salt!). All of which either means that the FTSE is a broken index (something like half of its constituents have been dropped from the index since 1999), or just one that’s been asleep and is poised to wake up. I honestly don’t know.

    But it seems that it’s negatively correlated with the other markets within VEUR. On a day when the DAX and CAC are up, you can be sure the FTSE lags them 🙁

  209. TC says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I am about to pull the trigger on first stock purchases for portfolio, I’m trying to stick with GBP denominated. Early 30s so going for 25% bond 75% equity.

    Keen to get yours or any other readers thoughts on below;

    VMID – FTSE250
    VUSD – S&P500
    VEUR – Developed Europe (would have preferred a world stock – US, but they are limited and this has good coverage and covers the FTSE100)
    IGLS or IS15 or SLXX

    On the bond component I see you tend to recommend Govt over Corp, is this simply from a risk perspective? Any reason not to consider a good rated, lower risk corp bond such as IS15 over IGLS? Looking at historical trends the corp bond ETF’s also look to have stronger performance….though i know we are not meant to look at historical prices!

    And any thoughts on VEUR, I see a number of people including Shane use/recommend.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi TC,

      This portfolio looks good. Corporate bonds do usually outperform government bonds because they are riskier. Check the ratings of the bonds within your index. Ensure it’s not a junk bond index of lower rated companies. Ensure that it comprises bonds of upper-medium grade: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bond_credit_rating


      • Shane says:

        I actually went for a European corporate bond ETF in the end, the iShares European Corporate Bond 1-5 year (ticker IE15). It has over 800 constituents HOWEVER many of the constituents are repeated and there’s a lot of banks in there. But all components are rated as “investment grade”. I was looking for a better option….Vanguard Europe have nothing for the non-UK investor. SPDR Europe have a 1-3 year euro corporate bond index launched over the summer that might be worth a look, but I think it’s accumulating. They also have an aggregate corporate bond ETF, but it’s medium term on average.

    • Shane says:

      Hi TC,

      Since you are going to buy the FTSE 250, you should not buy VEUR. Why? Because VEUR has over 130 UK stocks embedded within it, so if you buy both VEUR and the FTSE 250, you are overlapping.

      Instead, for exposure to developed Europe excluding the UK, you can use Vanguard’s new VERX ETF: https://www.vanguard.nl/portal/site/institutional/nl/en/investment-products/detail/etf/overview?portId=9524&assetCode=EQUITY

      It launched on 30 September and looks good. It’s basically the same thing as VEUR minus the UK stocks.

  210. Shane says:

    Hi again TC, I was wrong to warn you off VEUR on the basis that there is a big overlap with the FTSE 250. There isn’t, because as you pointed out, the FTSE 100 and the FTSE 250 are quite different.

  211. TC says:

    Hi Shane, no worries. I did look at the VERX if I was going to use FTSE 100, but as mentioned and you’ve said again, VEUR compliments FTSE250 well if you want exposure to wide UK market.

    Just need to work out the bond component now. Very tempted to go with IG15, at a later date when portfolio is big enough (we can only hope) potentially i could split the bond holding between bonds and corps, but not worth it while under 100k overall portfolio size.

    Happy New Year All.

  212. Ken says:

    Hi Andrew, and Happy New Year
    Just finished reading your new book, which was provided free by my Head of Campus. Thanks for all the handy advice. We’ve just opened a DBS Vickers account , as we are currently DBS customers, residing in Singapore. In 20 years we may possibly be retiring and ending up in Europe, (not UK) but maybe somewhere else. As I read all the advice in the book and look through the previous comments I am tempted to purchase via Hong Kong market, as this offers cheapest commission rate at 0.2% and will provide us with our simple couch potato needs of 30-40 % global/european bonds, 60-70 % global/european stocks. However, after searching through listed ETFs on Hong kong, I can only find Vanguard Developed Europe (FTSE Developed Europe Index ETF (3101)), and not much for a All-World or Global Stock index from Vanguard or i-shares. Investing through UK will cost me 1 % telephone commission, which seems steep…so maybe look to Canada @ o.5% commission ? Any advise greatly received,


    • Hi Ken,

      The Canadian market would be a good option. To keep things simple (and effective) you could buy Vanguard Canada’s All World Global Equity Index. Its expense ratio is 0.25%. And because Vanguard keeps lowering fees for its ETFs, this fee will drop over time. https://www.vanguardcanada.ca/individual/etfs/etfs-detail-overview.htm?portId=9548

      With this index, 52% of it is comprised of the American market: the remaining 48% is spread between Europe and Developed Asia, with Emerging Markets making up a small amount of less than 7%. It’s a very nice, diversified blend.

      Vanguard Canada also has a global government bond ETF. It doesn’t include U.S. bonds, but that’s not such a big deal. Its expense ratio will also drop. https://www.vanguardcanada.ca/individual/etfs/etfs-detail-overview.htm?portId=9568

      So you could simply have a 2 part portfolio that covers the world. By all means, start off with this global government bond index. But keep an eye out for Vanguard Canada to offer an unhedged equivalent. They will. And when they do, sell this one. An unhedged bond fund will (over time) eke out an extra 0.3% or so per year. Some years, the hedged product wins. But over time, it will likely under-perform an unhedged product.

      Would you mind doing me a favour Ken? If you have ever ordered a product off Amazon (any product) they would let you post a review of my book. I would really appreciate that, if you could. Here’s the link. Thanks! Andrew

      • Ken says:

        Hi Andrew,
        Thanks for the quick response. I have written a review of your excellent book on Amazon. Best wishes on becoming a multi-millionaire author with this one ! I’m happy to go with your advice with Canada,,,,it felt to be the best option. Just a question or 2 for clarification. I notice that most of your recommendations are for Vanguard and i-shares (the occasional BMO, db etc). Is this simply a combination of low cost expense ratios allied to the inherent stability of Vanguard, in particular ?


  213. James says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I was recommended to your website by a friend and I have found it very informative.

    A few questions I had (please excuse my ignorance) –

    You mention splitting your portfolio between UK bonds, equities( from your home country) and Global index. I am a 28 y/o British expat living in SG but have no intention of ever returning to the UK. With this in mind would it make sense for me still buy the FTSE? Could i not opt for S&P or another index? Or something Is it just tax that makes that less attractive or something I’m missing? Again, for the bonds, should I still opt for UK??

    Also, if I was looking at investing around SG$100k would you still recommend only splitting it across these three? There is a product from Vanguard which is 60% equities / 40% bonds. Could that be worth considering in addition?

    Lastly, I saw someone else mention rather than bonds, endowment products which offers 4-8% returns. Is this another option or not something you would recommend?

    I eagerly await your response.
    Thanks in advance,

  214. Jen Johnson says:

    Any good financial advisors in Qatar? I read the book-but feel out of my depth trying to set up a saxo capital account!

    • Hi Jen,

      I don’t believe you will find a decent financial advisor in Qatar.


      • Jennifer says:

        I feel the same–having been :caught: by Generali–thank goodness for just a 5 yr Vision and not longer. I am South African/British (home in South Africa) and lived in Qatar 8 yrs. Luckily I have investment in SA on the Alsi 40-and feel confident in my SA investments-but I want to branch out because it is quite likely I will be retring elsewhere in 20 yrs time. However–not having a UK address means Vanguard will not let me invest with them–although I have the minimum investment requirement. So after reading your book this Christmas I decided to try ETFs via a platform. It seems so confusing to me–opening the account I mean. Do I open with Saxo in Dubai or South Africa or UK–or is that irrelevant? Saxo UAE has contacted me via email to tell me what to send to open–but when i read about opening the account and not getting caught by offers and about commissions and trade fees and buying etc etc–I feel so confused.

        • Hi Jennifer,

          Saxo’s account fees are low. You are mostly reading about people on this website/forum who are splitting hairs. Please understand that Saxo is far cheaper than any of the actively managed fund companies you will find. What’s more, if you go with a firm in the UK or South Africa, you will pay capital gains taxes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_gains_tax Please try to follow the instructions in my book and ignore what you have read in this forum. As mentioned, these people are relatively counting pennies. Counting pennies can be good, of course, but you need to be worried about counting pounds. And capital gains taxes are certainly in the pound category.

          • Jen Johnson says:

            Thanks Andrew. Saxo UAE it is then-time to take the plunge. I’ll post on here again once done, so others who feel confused like me can perhaps learn from my experiences-esp as out here in Qatar I find investing a lonely, perilous issue. Thanks for your reaching out to all expats Andrew, as really the majority in the M.E come to earn so as to invest for dreams and retirement!

  215. Geoffrey kelly says:

    Andrew – thanks again for all your advice in your books, which I have now read and will leave a comment on Amazon when I am back in Singapore. As I said in my previous posts, I am a UK citizen living in Singapore but planning on retiring to the UK. I am now close to my allocation.

    I am keen to invest in GBP across the board, so it is a little frustrating that Saxo does not provide VWRD in GBP currency. I already have a saxo account which I opened a few days ago.

    My main question is whether anyone has recommendations on on an equivalent to VMRD that I can buy in GBP from Saxo, which would give me access to the US market and emerging marketing (as I already have the UK and Europe covered) At the moment I am looking at PSRW, which is part of the fundamental indexing approach at 0.5 expense ration – point 4 below

    I have read through this comment chain and many people seem to have the same problem.

    So, does anyone have recommendations on a good ETF that would give me access to the US and emerging markets, or that is similar to VMRD, that I can buy from Saxo in GBP?

    Given this, I am looking at:

    1) 20% FTSE 250 through VMID (which I hope Saxo offers in GBP now)
    2) 20% VEUR (FTSE 100 and other European stocks ((Again I hope Saxo offers this in GBP))
    3) 20% IGLO – bonds in G7 countries (which I hope I can buy in GBP from Saxo)
    4) 40% PSRW global stocks power shares, RAFI All World 3,000 UCITS????

    Thank you again for all the advice!

  216. Geoffrey kelly says:

    Apparently Saxo does not do IGLO in GBP in Singapore. Does anybody have any other recommendations of good corporate or government bonds in that spreads across Europe that can be purchased in GPB from Saxo?

  217. IUMMA says:

    Thanks Sean and Andrew,
    Sorry it has taken so long to read your replies, been very busy having a baby, moving house etc. I will try and find time to transfer to Saxo. Should i just sell all my stock and reinvest it in Saxo?
    I finally looked at my portfolio the other night and rebalanced it but each one has gone down (ishg, vt and ewu) and overall by about 10%. I don’t have enough spare at the moment to invest (christmas!) so should I just leave it as it is for now, given that the proportions are correct?
    Thank again.

  218. PJ says:

    Hi Andrew,
    Happy New Year…. if all this has been answered previously my apologies

    Considering the “hit by a bus scenerio and estate liability”

    Position:(British National, living in Thailand -no plans to leave, paid in $USD)

    I have just sold all my US Schwab ETFs and Bond Holdings and have opened an account with DBS Vickers Singapore. I am in the process of transferring $400+k USD to my DBS USD Currency account, I will then trade through DBS Securities on the Singapore Exchange in S$ and rebalance monthly:

    Q’s / advice please:
    1. Considering both my holdings and Salary are in USD, and trading with DBS is in S$…. is DBS really my best option considering fees and trade exchange rates between DBS Bank and DBS Securities? or do I just have to suck it up and take the hit?

    2. As I am not a US Citizen and we have to pay tax on all US trades / returns – to maximise returns should I consider other markets rather than the US or is it of benefit to to have a US market exposure within a portfolio?

    3. Please kindly advise Tickers for Global ETF, Bond, and other depending on above guidance

    Many thanks

    • Hi Paul,

      I’m unclear on some of what you’re asking. “2. As I am not a US Citizen and we have to pay tax on all US trades / returns – to maximise returns should I consider other markets rather than the US or is it of benefit to to have a US market exposure”

      It’s an excellent idea to have U.S. exposure. It comprises 50% of global market capitalisation. But if you buy an ETF domiciled in the ETF, via a foreign brokerage, your heirs may have to pay U.S. estate taxes when you die. I hope I answered this question for you. But something tells me you knew this already, but may have mis-worded the question.

      As for the exchange rate rate question. Yes, it’s a hit you’ll likely have to just take.

      I’m not sure if you have read my book on expat investing. If not, I think you would find it very helpful. http://bit.ly/globalexpat


  219. Pj says:

    Hi Andrew
    Thanks for your reply. Re: 2; I don’t know what I meant either. 🙂
    I have both of your books, millionaire teacher spurred me to change my spending and investinng habits so… A big thank you.

    I really liked the schwab platform for ease of use, graphical guidance for rebalancing etc and are hoping DBS is similar…..I note in your current book you utilize DBS Singapore and if I read correctly you purchase S$P,500 through the Canadian market.

    1. FYI with schwab my portfolio was as per below; do you feel this was a well balanced model and would it be beneficial to look for similar through DBS, including large & small equities. Or should I just look at a broad S&P ETF.

    2. what tickers should I look for so as to avoid risk any estate taxes risk for US, plus what International and bond tickers should I place.

    Schwab model:
    AGG 35% fixed income
    SCHF 15% international equity
    SCHx 35% large cap equity
    SCHA 10% small cap equity

    2. I note the DBS 0.5% fee, by transferring 400,000 $USD to kick off the portfolio the commission is steep.
    I read before, although I may be mistaken, you had managed to waive some fees for initial investment with DBS. Do you think I could have a case considering I am favoring DBS over Schwab….. or are these fees unavoidable.

    Many thanks

    • Paul,

      I’m going to tease you a bit for asking me questions that are answered in my second book. Any ETF not domiciled in the United States would be fair game, and not liable for U.S. estate taxes. I also gave you links, in the book, to find Canadian domiciled ETFs. I’m going to give you that link again: http://www.blackrock.com/ca/individual/en/products/product-list#categoryId=1&lvl2=overview Search for what you are looking for here. I also suggested Vanguard Canada’s ETFs. But you have a better chance finding what you are looking for with iShares, considering that you also want small cap equity. I doubt that DBS will waive any fees, but you could try.


      • PJ says:

        Hi Andrew
        spurred into investment action again as wife about to have twins so looking to place before the sleepless nights kick in…

        Here goes….. how do these look please hopefully on the right track, welcome any other options especially consider DBSV and any lower cost options i.e (0.1%)

        • 35% 1-3 Year International Treasury Bond ETF – MGT Fee 0.35% – Ticker SPBDXU3T
        • 35% Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF (AGG) – MGT Fee Ticker LBUSTRUU – MGT Fee 0.09%

        • 15% MSCI World Index ETF – MGT Fee 0.44% – Ticker XWD
        • 35% Shares Core S&P 500 Index ETF – MGT Fee 0.10% – Ticker XUS
        • 10% Shares S&P/TSX Small Cap Index ETF – MGT Fee 0.55% – Ticker XCS

        many thanks

  220. Gwynster says:

    I posted this but in the “Avoiding US Estate taxes” Section.
    It is better placed her I think.


    I have ordered your book and extensively watched all your online interviews and read your blogs.

    This is probably a very common situation……

    My question:
    I am on the verge of getting a Saxo account. I am British but my wife is Australian. We have real estate in Aus and we are looking to buy in the UK to, so we have a “foot in both camps” as were.
    If anything we are leaning toward Australia for the future, but who knows.
    In terms of investing their tax laws are much less forgiving than the UK for expats:(

    So would we be better off with a TD International account or a Saxo Account? Also do Saxo still represent good value in terms of fees when their holding fee is now 5 Euros or equilant per month minimum?
    We are good to go so any advice appreciated.

  221. Amit B says:

    Andrew, I just came across your website and have purchased your book. I have a couple of questions regarding investing in ETFs as a Singaporean resident. I am a UK citizen and am planning on moving to the UK in 2016. I am planning on investing around SGD 100K in ETFs and have just opened a Saxo account to execute. I have a questions regarding the currency denomination – as I intend to move to the UK, does it make sense to denominate all my investments in to GBP? I hear your point regarding the US estate taxes were I to purchase any ETFs that are domiciled in the US, however, if I was to sell these ETFs prior to leaving Singapore and moving to the UK, would I still be beholden to withholding taxes at source? Finally is there a particular reason to choose Saxo over Interactive Brokers?

    Thank you in advance


    • Seán McHugh says:

      Amit, I’m in Singapore as well, if you are moving permanently back to the UK, then it makes sense to invest in GBP with Saxo, no conversion complications on selling. You’ll need to tell Saxo this, as the account has to be based in a specific currency, so if it’s already a SGD account, you can ask them to create a sub account in GBP for you to use.

      The estate tax in the USA is only chargeable upon DEATH, so if you sell those US funds now and move them to the UK, you will escape it.

      If you have a residential address in the UK already, you might want to skip Saxo completely and just trade with TD Direct in the UK, (a Trading ISA) so the transition is smoother when you return there. TD have no custodial fees, and only charge £12.50 per trade, bargain compared to Saxo. Of course this will be offset by the amount you have to pay to transfer your SGD to GBP and to your bank in the UK.

  222. Simon says:


    I’ve been given a strange offer by a bank and wonder if you would comment. I have set up and balancing nicely every month a portfolio of ETF’s, 40% bonds, 60% equity after reading your books, and everything is good so no problem and thanks for the advice.

    Last week my bank offered me something I’ve never heard of before, they have offered, using the portfolio as collateral as it were, to loan me 70% of it’s value (approx S$200k) to invest in a bond ($200k minimum). They have passed me a list of government and corporate bonds with coupons of 3-5% to look at.

    They will loan the money at 1.8% a year with no sales charge, management fee etc.

    I am fully in support of don’t borrow money to invest, but the only risk appears to purely be with the bond not being repaid or the coupon not being paid. If the bond falls below 70% to par I would need to top up or sell out, but with a gov bond for instance this should not happen, especially Singapore.

    Am I missing something bigger as it seems to be an offer of cheap money that I can pull out of at any time and the high potential of increasing returns by around 2% on 70% my portfolio ?

    Thanks and Happy New Year

  223. Jen Johnson says:

    Hi Andrew

    I wrote on here on the 6 th-so some info for those living here in Qatar. I opened a Saxo account UAE -acc is actually based in Denmark, they were very helpful and answered the zillions of questions I had as an inexperienced person. I put out of my head many comments I had read abt various fees and things that confused me and bought a Couch potato global vagabond portfolio of ETFs – after practising on the demo account! I have also surrender my 5 yr generali vision plan-losing 3000 Usd on it, but feel in the long run it’ll be made up! I have a portfolio in SA of 50% SA bonds and 50% Alsi 40 which I,ve had yrs. I feel so much more relaxed about the money I earn here now, that it is being properly invested! I even got friends and family in SA to buy the book, kindle version-as the investing principles can be used by everyone not just expats. Your book will be making it’s rounds at my work.

    Tx for sharing your knowledge.

  224. Tom says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for the advice in your excellent expatriate investment book – I bought a copy and had read it all in a few hours! I wanted to say hello at your book launch recently in Singapore but unfortunately I couldn’t make it.

    I do have one quick question before I start investing however and if you had time to answer I’d be very grateful:

    If in the event that the relevant broker/investment platform e.g. Saxo (or DBS Vickers etc.) became insolvent I’m unsure what risk this poses to me as the investor. This is not entirely fanciful – the wider Saxo group was I understand hammered by the recent shift in the Swiss Franc and who knows how the capital markets division may/may not be affected (though hopefully it would not be). In the event of an insolvency of the broker it may be that as an investor I would still have rights to the underlying investments/assets as these would not be the broker’s funds. The risk would be what if I could somehow lose these assets and/or could I lose access during any insolvency period.

    • Seán McHugh says:

      HI Tom,

      I’m curious about this as well, FWIW this is the reply from Saxo today:

      My question: “…in the event of Saxo going bust, what happens to the funds we are paying you to be custodians of?”


      “Your funds are held in HSBC Singapore segregated trust account. Hence your funds are kept in HSBC if Saxo is no longer in business.”

  225. Tom says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for everything.

    I am UK citizen in SE Asia working as International teacher. I am setting up an account with Saxo Bank (Singapore) as you suggest in this post and plan to invest in a spread of ETFs as you suggest on UK exchange. 2 questions:

    1. Does the currency that I set up for my Saxo account matter? USD would be easier but I figured it would need to be UK Pounds as this is the exchange that I am going to purchase from. I am concerned about the relatively high currency transaction costs i think that you have mentioned Saxo charge and want to get this right from the start.

    2. If I moved to Europe (EU) would I be eligible for tax that I am not in SE Asia?

    Very grateful for your advice as I am novice



    • Phil says:

      I’m not an accountant but I’d suggest…
      1. You can buy a lot of London ETFs in USD but I’d go with the currency you plan to retire in if thats pounds. One less thing to worry about when you’re 60.
      2. Most countries tax you on world-wide income and assets, so probably yes.

    • Seán McHugh says:


      My understanding is that any cash you bring on shore to the UK will NOT be taxed (you’ve already paid income tax on it, in Singapore).

      But any interest those funds make onshore in the UK will be taxed, unless you qualify for tax exemption, non residency etc.

      Of course tax laws change, so when I do eventually return I will be employing the services of an account to advise me accordingly.

  226. pj says:

    all…. I posted previously but would welcome some guidance

    I am considering to place the following through DBS Vickers singapore using with ishares?….. how do these look please hopefully on the right track with the ETmeF tickers…. really, welcome any suggestions for other options especially lower costs related to MGT fees if known…… Bonds
    • 35% 1-3 Year International Treasury Bond ETF – MGT Fee 0.35% – Ticker SPBDXU3T
    • 35% Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF (AGG) – MGT Fee Ticker LBUSTRUU – MGT Fee 0.09%
    • 15% MSCI World Index ETF – MGT Fee 0.44% – Ticker XWD
    • 35% Shares Core S&P 500 Index ETF – MGT Fee 0.10% – Ticker XUS
    • 10% Shares S&P/TSX Small Cap Index ETF – MGT Fee 0.55% – Ticker XCS
    5% cash

    many thanks

  227. Rachael says:

    Can anyone recommend a low-cost foreign exchange service in Singapore? I’m paid in SGD but would like to invest in USD/GBP. Both the Saxo and local bank rates seem high, so I’m keen to find another solution. Thanks in advance!

  228. Jo says:

    HI Andrew,
    I am at a school that uses one of these awful pension plans and I have refused to use it since I am a US citizen and I already invest in Vanguard as you suggest. I am wondering since I do not have a company pension plan from a reputable company like a school district and I do not own a home in the US how much do I need to save on my own to be able to retire and still pay rent on a home or apt or condo or something once I retire in about 23 years? I am 42 years old and my spouse and I have already saved about $400,000 but we worry that without a legit pension fund we will not have enough to retire adn pay for a home in some manner of speaking whether rented or purchased. What would your advice be on the amount a couple would need to have saved by age 65 who are not going to be mortgage free?

    Thanks for your help,

  229. SSB says:

    Hey Andrew,

    Picked your book up in the airport this week and had a read, really great stuff so thanks!

    I have read through the comments so I hope this is not a repeat question. I am British living in Singapore for the last couple of years but don’t plan on staying an ex-pat for too long really. So the questions:

    1. Is it really worth doing with DBS Vickers if you are moving home in 12-24 months (I have a UK individual self-trade account)?

    2. How much of an impact would the British Capital Gains taxes have on this these strategies? I assume it still works out as the best option just not as fruitful as being an ex-pat?

    Thank you.

    • Hi SSB,

      If you are only going to be abroad for 12 to 24 months, it probably doesn’t make much sense to open your offshore account. You say you have an account in the UK. Then here’s the good news: you know what to buy with it.


  230. Alanna says:

    I’m sorry if this is a stupid question but is the advice on this page for any British person or only for those living in Singapore?

  231. Jen Johnson says:

    Hi alana-the investing principles are for everyone, any nationality in any country really. My understanding is -buy etfs through saxo or DBS vickers or whoever else is recommended. I am South African / British living in Qatar-and don’t even know where we will retire and I got a saxo account (thru the UAE branch) in January this yr and follow the couch potatoe global nomad advice( in Andrews book,which you can buy on amazon). I have so much more peace of mind. Hope this helps. ( I suppose issues like tax will be different for each person).

    • lucky mike says:

      Jen – I also just opened a Saxo trading account through the UAE branch (and don’t they like to over-complicate the trading platform – but to be fair it took 3 days to set up – unlike HSBC InvestDirect which I’ve been trying to open for nearly 3 months and they still can’t get it together), and similar situation to yourself – Australian/Brit living in Dubai and don’t know where i’ll retire or what currency i’ll eventually be spending in – but for now I’m paid, saving and thinking in US$.

      which ETFs and which stock exchanges are you investing in? I will probably purchase UK stock & bond trackers in GBP on London exchange, AUD trackers on Sydney exchange, but mainly US and global markets in US$ on not sure where – not US exchange as want to avoid any US tax issues.

    • Alanna says:

      Thanks Jen. I’ve bought and (now) read both books so my question was answered in those pages but I very much appreciate your response, as well as your sharing of how you’ve invested. I’m thinking something like Couch Potato and I too have no idea where we’ll retire (unlikely to be the UK though we are both British).
      My next obstacle is to try and get my money out of AFS (Abbey Financial Services) without paying too much of a penalty…

  232. Ivo says:

    Hi Andrew

    I am Eastern European living in Singapore. What is your view of Interactive Brokers (https://www.interactivebrokers.com.hk/en/main.php) vs TD vs Saxo Bank?

    Cheers, Ivo

  233. David says:

    My ETF’s have not been performing well since purchased last year and was wondering if I am right in thinking I just ride this out and don’t worry? Or should I be re-thinking my purchases?

    This is how each gone down in value;

    Vanguard UK FTSE 100 (VUKE): Down 15%
    IShares UK Gilts (IGLS): Down 10%
    Vanguard FTSE All World (VWRD): Down 1%


  234. Mark Holmes says:

    Down turns are all part of the plan, in fact they are the major component of growth. The money you pour in now will grow sooner or later. Now is the time to be shovelling it in. If you intend to be putting money in for at least the next ten to fifteen years, you have little to worry about. If you haven’t read Andrew’s books or a selection of the other books he recommends, now would be a good time. I suspect when the next stock market crash occurs, this blog will become something like an alcoholics self help group, where everyone knows they need to leave the money in, but the temptation to pull it out is just overpowering. We’ll all come here to hold hands and tell each other ‘it’s ok.’

  235. Jen Johnson says:

    Hi Mike and Alana. Yes the Saxo platform was daunting-but they phoned me and went thru the basics so I ignore everything except how to purchase the Etfs and looking at my acc summary and open positions. Being South African I already had a SA portfolio-done in my own country before I left-1/3 in the Jhb stock exchange via etf, 1/3 in SA retail bonds and 1/3 mix on cash and retirement annuity. So here for Saxo I chose to open in GBP and took 40 % global AAA bond and 30% all worlld stock and 30% FTSE. I plan to stick to that bcos I don’t really get worried abt ups and downs. I do like buying when something is down. Alana-I took my money out of Generali-althu it was only a 5yr policy it was so unlike the SA policies I know. I took a loss of 2300 pounds and immed added the payout to my ETFs. That made feel much more relaxed. Lucky I don’t pay tax anywhere-goodness knows what the future holds. It will interesting to hear what etfs u guys choose as we seem to have similar nationality and country retirement issues.

  236. Jen Johnson says:

    David-think of it like this. If you buy now when things are down-it’s like buying on a sale! U can get more items on the sale for less money! Sales don,t last and the price goes back again and even higher. This is stocks and bonds. Ultimately u make more money. U need time in the market-one yr is a very short time in investment terms. Just my opinion.

  237. Rachael says:

    Can anyone recommend a low-cost foreign exchange service in Singapore? I’m paid in SGD but would like to invest in USD/GBP. Both the Saxo and local bank rates seem high, so I’m keen to find another solution. Thanks in advance!

  238. JackJ says:

    Hi Andrew,

    What are your thoughts on the 0.12% custody fee introduced by Saxo Bank this year? Is 0.12% too much to be paying on top of commission rates of 0.12% (HK) and 0.1% (UK)? I will be looking to invest approx 40k GBP in a lump sum for a 20/30 year period.

    Per the Saxo Bank HK website:

    “For accounts with Stocks*, ETFs/ETCs or Bond positions, an annual custody fee of 0.12% with a monthly minimum fee of HKD 30 will apply.”

    What broker would you recommend for a British expat, living in HK for years to come?

    I appreciate your time.

  239. Marcus says:

    When I moved to Singapore, I had lost money with some poor investment decisions, from an “offshore advisor”. To be fair to him, he didnt sell anything from FP, Zurich etc and he did have me invest via an online brokerage. He just picked some stuff that worked for a while and then crashed and burned (significant money, for me, still frozen, with little hope of it ever coming back).

    So, when I came to Singapore, I was a bit bruised and looking for some stability/safety.
    As a result, I was easy prey for the same kind of selling that everyone above mentions.

    I am now the proud owner of a QROP that is held by Royal Skandia, a pension run by Zurich (Vista) and a ‘wrapper’ for my other investments run by FP. The holy trinity. Yay me!

    All this, despite me explaining my situation and specifically asking him at the time of signing, whether these were high cost options, that I didnt really need.

    My question is this: has anyone had any experience with making a complaint to MAS? Is it worth it?
    I dont expect to see any of my money again, but, if it helped others in the future, then it would be worth it.

    My guess is that, with Singapore being so dependent on the financial industry, MAS is quite happy to look the other way.
    The thing that makes Financial Advisors so plausible in Singapore, is that they use the good/reliable/safe image of the country to lull you into thinking their advice is equally good/reliable/safe: “it must be OK, because we are legislated by MAS and in Singapore, right?”

  240. John says:

    Hi Andrew
    Love the new book.
    Couple of question about withholding tax. Realize in the grand scheme of things given I’m investing as an expat in Singapore that the withholding tax i end up paying on my US dividends doesn’t represent much but I still would like to reduce/remove it.
    As I can pick the market I invest in would I benefit in placing my US investments in the Canadian stock market using the US Dollar version of Horizons S&P 500 Index Swap based etf for example?
    I understand this carries some additional risk but is there any other reason you don’t mention using it for non Canadians?



  241. John says:

    Hi Andrew
    Not sure I’ve made myself clear.
    Currently I invest on the UK LSE in the S&P 500 using VUSA etf, as far as I’m aware this isn’t USA domiciled so I wont be caught by USA estate tax. I still do get caught by the USA withholding tax which although doesn’t representing much of an income hit I’d like to avoid it.

    Hence I wanted to know as I can pick and chose stock exchanges would I be better buying Horizons S&P 500 Index Swap based etf on the Canadian stock exchange and avoiding withholding tax and estates tax as you described for Canadians. Rather the a UK version of the S&P550. Or am I missing something?

    The additional risk I mentioned was that of a synthetic rather than physical etf.



    • Hi John,

      OK, now I understand. Taking on that small additional risk for a small amount of savings is, of course, entirely up to you. I have done it with some of my ETFs, as I mentioned in my book.


  242. Gabriel says:

    Hi Ben – when opening account with Saxo do you put your residency as Singapore or the country you’re currently resident in? I’m living in Israel. Thanks. Also, is the above allocation still something you recommend?


  243. Moobic says:

    Interactive Broker UK

    I opened an account with International Broker UK, do you know if the assets are held in US as well, and thus potentially subject to US estate tax?


  244. Alanna says:

    Sorry if this is a dimwit question but I am withdrawing my EPF in Malaysia (I’m a Brit), but it’s not worth exchanging it at the moment as the rates are terrible. Word is they will improve soon, but in the mean