British Expatriate Investors Can Buy Index Funds From Anywhere In the World

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British expatriates have far cheaper investment options than getting stuck with expensive, inflexible offshore pensions, such as those provided by Friends Provident, Generali Vision and Royal Skandia.

Instead of paying roughly 4% or more each year, index investors could pay 1/12th of this cost.  And unlike most offshore pensions, they could sell their indexes whenever they wish.

So how do you do it?  

I’ve updated the post about How British Expatriates Can Invest Using Index Funds in Singapore.

By purchasing such products through Saxo Capital Markets in Singapore, investors wouldn’t have to pay capital gains taxes when the portfolio makes money. At the end of the post, I linked to a screencast, created by British school teacher Sean McHugh.  He shows how British investors could make such purchases in an easy to follow tutorial.

Read the updated post.







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andrew hallam

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 (Wiley 2011) and The Global Expatriate’s Guide To Investing: From Millionaire Teacher to Millionaire Expat (Wiley 2015). 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. However, please read the Terms of Use.

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152 Responses

  1. Tim Joseph says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Many thanks for the website which I am finding an excellent source of knowledge and information (although I’m struggling to get the email report link to work).

    My questions is why wouldn’t you use a broker such as Interactive Brokers rather than the local outfits? Although Saxo is competitive and the customer service seems good too, no one seems able to beat the fees of Interactive (if my research is correct 6GBP flat rate for a trade on the LSE) or the breadth of markets they serve. Is there some downside to using them that I don’t know about? I’m a British expat living in Malaysia with a bank account in Singapore about to embark on my investing journey. At the moment I’m swinging between the discretionary wealth management route and the DIY approach. Assuming I take the DIY route I would be looking to invest primarily in ETF’s trading on the UK stock market. I have about 1.5m SGD to invest so the commission rates are important to me although I would try to abide by the passive philosophy.

    Any advice would be gratefully received.

    • Tim,

      Interactive Brokers is low cost. But even the foreign purchased ETF get held in a U.S. account. For peace of mind, I’m willing to spend a handful of pennies more to know (for sure) that my heirs won’t pay U.S. estate taxes on money held in such a brokerage when I die.

      Cheers,
      Andrew

  2. Tim Joseph says:

    Many thanks for that Andrew and I will take that into consideration. The tax angle is very complicated and from my research I (think) have established that the UK and the US share a tax treaty that would mean Estate Taxes (or Inheritance tax as it is called in UK) would only be paid in the UK for a UK citizen. Also, if I was wrong on that point then US estate taxes should only apply on shares that are considered as US listed so Ireland domiciled ETFS such as Vanguard offer in theory would not be included. But……with governments around the world getting ever more repressive in their revenue gathering and changing the rules on a whim I will have to ask myself if I want to take that risk with my loved ones futures or not and the likely answer is NO!

    Many thanks for the great website and I look forward to reading your book soon.

  3. Sean says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Great post. I’m just wondering, to open a Saxo account, at least in the UAE, they require an initial opening balance of 10k dollars for ETF trading and 50k dollars for bond trading. These figures seems very high opening requirements. Can you suggest a work-around?

    • Hi Sean,

      To open such an account requires $10,000 total. With such a sum, you could buy a bond market ETF as easily as you could buy an array of stock market ETFs. My suggestion is to save your money until you have $10,000 to open the account. Then buy a single global stock index. When you save up $4000 more, buy your bond ETF. Save up a few thousand more, then buy your home country stock index. Inch by inch, it’s a sinch, as my mother-in-law says. My God, I’m quoting my mother-in-law now! By waiting until you have a few thousand dollars for each purchase, you will reduce purchase commissions.

      Cheers,
      Andrew

      • Sean says:

        Sounds like a plan. This is the approach I’ll take 🙂

      • Sean says:

        Also, I wonder if the general rule of thumb about investing in one’s home country index applies if you’re Irish. I ask this because although the Irish population is the same as that of New Zealand, Ireland’s currency is the euro. Therefore, rather than investing in the Irish index as the “home index”, would it be a sensible alternative option for Irish expats (and there are quite a few of us!) to invest in other European indexes, considering all euro-area countries as “home countries”?

  4. Richard says:

    Hi Andrew

    A number of us are interested in purchasing VWRL using Saxo. However, it is not available directly in GBP on their platform.
    Am I correct in assuming that VWRL.xams (EUR) or VWRL.xswx (CHF) are both okay to purchase using a Saxo account that is in GBP.
    In other words the VWRL is in fact fixed to GBP even though it is available in other currencies and even though it is domiciled in Ireland. So the only encounter in currency would be paying for a GBP to Euro change to buy the units and then the same when eventually selling them. There would be no exposure to currencies exchange rate changes since the units are ultimately fixed to GBP.

    This is unlike another ETF that I purchased, VCLT, which was domiciled in the US (NASDAQ) and fixed to USD.

    Are we making sense in our assumptions and experiences? Thanks for any advice.

    Richard

    • There’s no currency exchange risk regardless of the currency you purchase this index in. The currency it’s quoted in is not the underlying currency of the product. For example, assume you bought a UK stock index in USD. Assume the USD dropped 50% to compared to the GBP a year later, but that the UK stock market went nowhere. The ETF would then be priced 100% higher in USD. The USD would have no bearing on its underlying value. The only issue with paying in USD is the little exchange rate spread (one time in, one time out). That’s it. A tad irritating, but not a big deal in the long run.

      • Richard says:

        Thanks for your reply, I know it’s the second time i’ve asked a pretty much similar question but I am completely certain how it all works. Thanks for your confirmation.

        Richard

  5. Brendan says:

    Hi Andew – this is all very promising for British expats, esp the headline of the post, but just like with other trading banks I’ve enquired with, Saxo do not accept expats with Vietnam residency. Is there a trading platform that expats in Vietnam can use? Or a financial adviser “with a conscience” that can assist?

    • Hi Brendan,

      Saxo won’t allow you to trade, but DBS Vickers will. To do so, however, will require that you visit Singapore first to open a bank account with either DBS or POSB bank. You won’t have access to the British market, but from the Canadian market, you will be able to buy a global index via Vanguard Canada, and a European index. You can also purchase a bond index.

      Cheers,
      Andrew

  6. john kitson says:

    Hello Andrew,

    Great book! I have just finished reading it.

    I am a British expat based in Japan. I have read on here that some other British expats in Japan faced trouble when trying to invest in foreign index funds. I’m hoping to create a portfolio just like the one you suggested In the book (investing in stock and bond indexes). I am 33 years old, so I plan to invest 35 per cent in a UK index fund – (FTSE all-share index is the best I assume since it is most representative), 35 per cent international index fund (Any recommendations? I assume this should be one which doesn’t include UK companies since I am already investing in FTSE all-share index) and a short-term UK bond index (any recommendations on that too?).

    I read on here too that you cannot invest in pounds with Saxo. Can you do so with DBS Vickers? Are Saxo and DBS Vickers the cheapest options for me as a Brit who is in Japan?

    Finally, I hope to have money being wired from my UK account into the investment account, but with the cost of this and also the currency changes required to invest with Saxo, I am wondering whether an expat friendly UK broker would work out cheaper. As my salary is in Japan, I am entitled to a 10,000 pound tax free amount each year anyway.

    Sorry for so many questions.

  7. Ben says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for the excellent guide in your book and website. My partner and I are Brits working in Vietnam, but are moving back to the UK in July 2015. We want to set up an index fund portfolio as you suggest, but wondering if it is best to wait until we return to the uk rather than set it up from Vietnam. I am in the UK now for three weeks but presume I am not allowed to set it up here and then live in VN for a year.? Thanks for any help you can provide.

    Ben

  8. Brendan says:

    Ben – you will discover (as I have) that it’s very difficult as an expat in VN to get a trading account with many of the recommendations on this website. I would follow Andrew’s advice to me and enquire with DBS Vickers – but as Andrew said, you need to visit SIngapore to open the account. Strictly speaking you will be subject to taxes on your investments when you return to live in the UK (which you would most likely avoid with your offshore account), but on the flip side you can use your annual ISA stocks and shares allowance if your a UK resident to reduce the hit.
    There is nothing stopping you opening a Vanguard UK or similar account while you’re home – you just won’t enjoy off-shore benefits, which would be negligible anyway if you’re going back to the UK permenantly in 1 yr.

    I’m actually opening a trading account with Keytrade bank in Luxembourg – they were the only bank that I found willing to accept VN-based expats – and I can do it all by post / email.

  9. Sasha says:

    I am British and live in East Africa. I tried to open an account with TD Investing in the summer. However, they don’t do business with the country I live in. They recommended I use Saxo Bank.

    I contacted Saxo and they recommended investing with the Danish branch. I don’t know much about the taxes in Denmark. I did find out that they have a 27% tax on dividends but I couldn’t find out anything else, like withholding taxes for example.

    I have tasked by email about the fees charged but I did not get an answer to the question. Am I to presume the set up for fees is the same as in Singapore?

    I am still emailing with the bank. Any advise?

    Sasha

    • Sasha,

      DBS Vickers would allow you to open an account. But you would need to visit Singapore to do so. Have you pre-ordered my latest book? It explains plenty that you’ll need to know. Here’s the Amazon link: http://bit.ly/globalexpat

      Cheers,
      Andrew

    • Gwynster says:

      How did you get on with this? What did you do. I am facing the same issue- Denmark or Singapore it would seem are my options. I live in Thailand though.

      I am understanding that if you reside ouside the EU they will not withold taxed with the one in Denmark.
      I seem to remember tht if you invest in Singapore you cannot invest in certain markets.

      Have I got this correct?

      • Hi Gwynster,

        I’m sorry, but I can’t see the context for the first part of this comment. Are you asking me, or someone else? What issue are you referring to? It might be best to address the person by name, with a background of context, so they know what you’re asking.

        Cheers,
        Andrew

  10. Brendan says:

    Keytrade bank in Luxembourg have recently accepted my application for an investment account – as mentioned above I’m a UK expat living in Vietnam. This appears to be a great option for those whose circumstances precludes them from other banks and can’t get to Singapore to open a DBS Vickers account.

    Now all I need to do is ask myself “What would Andrew do?” since I have just transferred 10,000 euro into the account.

  11. Sasha says:

    Hi,

    I contacted Keytrade Bank after reading about them on this site but they don’t do business with my country of residence. I am trying out Saxo’s online demo account at the moment.

    The librarian at my school is in the process of ordering your new book for our library when it comes out and I will get it myself. I will wait until I read it to go any further with Saxo.

    I was just wondering if there is any particular reason you recommend VWRL and not VT? I am presuming there isn’t much difference between them?

    Thank you for your help.

    Sasha

  12. Sasha says:

    Yesterday I wrote to about 7 Saxo branches in different countries to see if I could invest with them. I got positive replies from 3 so far. These are South Africa, Hong Kong and Singapore.

    I also had written to Guardian Shares in England. They use Saxo as their platform but have cheaper fees. They have said I can invest with them even though I am non-resident and have sent me forms so I can state this so there would be no capital gains tax. I would prefer not to have any money invested in the UK as you have adviced in the past though but it is an option.

    http://www.guardianshares.com/

    I have written to the Saxo Banks asking what the procedure is to sign up. I will see what comes back.

    Sasha

  13. Sean says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I’ve been thinking about buying one of Vanguard’s Europe-domiciled ETFs. The ETF in question contains around 504 businesses across some 16 countries and has an attractive TER.

    One thing, however, is putting me off the ETF: Today its trading volume was less than 200.

    Now, might this be due to the fact that Vanguard pays out its quarterly dividend for this ETF tomorrow? I can see that over the past month the daily volume has ranged from today’s 500 to as high as 30k, but all the same, daily volumes of <3k are quite common for this ETF. Yahoo gives the average daily volume as 17,000.

    Best avoided or perfectly fine for long-term investors?

  14. Gwynster says:

    VERY QUICK QUESTION.

    I am British and resident in Thailand. I have filled in details for an account with Saxo and they have asked me if I want my account based in Denmark or Singapore.

    What are the pros and cons??

    Thanks in advance

    • Gwynster,

      I don’t know anything about the tax situation in Denmark. My account is in Singapore, where I know it will not attract any capital gains taxes. Have you read my latest book? It answers these questions that you are asking. Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/globalexpat

      • Gwynster says:

        Read both books! Great and thank you. Wrote a review on first one, second pending. In book 2 you say that ongoing fees are more harmful than commission.
        The holding fee in Saxo 0.12 will mean that having a balance of only 25k GBP which I plan to do, will exceed the 5$ sing or 2.5gbp per month. Have I worked that out right?
        Saxo are much cheaper on commission than my UK broker (1% in UK minimum 7.50 GBP vs Saxo sing 0.15% min 20GBP) but in my UK acc I am only charge 1.8 GBP irrespective of balance.
        Of course there is the CGT that I need to resolve. As an expat I think I am okay.
        If all is in order with the tax I assume I am better off stating with the UK firm if I am investing about 1k PCM/3k per quarter as holding costs with Saxo will only rise as my acc value does?

        • With a UK firm, I believe you would have to pay UK capital gains taxes.

          • mark says:

            Andrew,

            It is my understanding that you only pay CGT if the asset was purchased/sold when on shore in the UK. If, for example, I was to buy shares in Apple today while offshore and sell them in 1 years time and make 20k GBP while still offshore, I would not be subject to CGT.

            However, from my understanding, if i was to sell them in less than 1 year, and gain profit this would be taxable as income, which I would be liable for.

            Have I mis understood the tax rules?

            Mark

        • Jennifer says:

          Hi Gywnster

          After reading your post i contact Saxo bank Dubai (the account is based in Denmark–and so I got a bit worried) and asked about this issue of capital gains tax–he said that no capital gains tax is taken as it is not a current or savings account in Denmark as given to people to in Denmark–the ant when closed is given full and it is up to the individual to declare it to their tax area (I have not tax area–as I am non resident in SA, Have never lived or worked in UK, despite having a British passport and also have lived in the M.E. for 14 yrs where currently no individual person pays tax).

          Hope this helps slightly.

  15. Gwynster says:

    Thank you for the link and I will get your book.

  16. Sasha says:

    Hi,

    So finally I have a Saxo account.

    When I contacted Saxo South Africa they were unable to open an account for me as I live in Tanzania. I think if I were South African they could have opened it.

    Denmark, Hong Kong and Singapore were able to open accounts for me. I went with Singapore and now I have an account. I have not made a purchase yet but think I will get VEA and VTI. I am not sure which bond to go with. i am British but get paid in US.

    Sasha

  17. Brian says:

    I’ve just opened my Singaporean Saxo account and funded it with the required $5000US. I live in Thailand, so some required amounts might be different depending on your location. It was very easy for me, since the Saxo representatives put on a presentation right downtown Bangkok and I was able to get all my documentation sorted in about 15 minutes. Then, I transferred from my Thai account to my Saxo account and was ready to start investing.

    I put 50% in Vanguard Total World Stock ETF and 50% in Vanguard Energy ETF.

    I intend to diversify in another month or so when I put an additional $5000US in. Any suggestions on where the next cash could/should go?

    Thanks for such an amazing blog!

  18. Gwynster says:

    Hi Andrew

    I was wondering what your thoughts were on:

    Vanguard LifeStrat 60% Eq Acc (VVLFST)

    versus separate bond and equities indexes?

    My base is Aus and UK, so I was thinking of buying this product in both currencies/bases.
    I can go direct in AUS for 0.9% but would have to use a platform in the UK but with a lower management of 0.24% (1% buy in though)

    Also with regards to costs of trading and holding, investing in home countries is quite a lot cheaper in terms of fees.
    Is is a stupid question to ask whether these fees with offshre dealers like Saxo are preferable to CGT at the end of the day?

  19. BKKNomad says:

    Hi all,

    I have been following this trail with great interest. As a European based in Asia but earning USD, I have recently opened up an account with Saxo Singapore from which I had planned to invest in global and European, USD-denominated equity and bond ETFs from the London exchange. However, as I am trying to buy these (including the iShares Core World ETF, IWDA, EM Asia, CEMA, etc.) I find that they are not available on the Saxo platform.

    My question is now whether to buy the same funds in GBP on the London exchange (e.g. IWRD instead of IWDA), or buy the same funds elsewhere (outside of the US) where they may be available in USD? I don’t know where I will retire, but I neither earn nor own GBP so it seems more straight forward to me to stick to USD denominated funds in order to avoid any unnecessary conversions. I would be grateful for any advice that you may have on how to approach this limitation. Perhaps the best would be to simply use the Vanguard USD-denominated funds (e.g. DVEV) on the London exchange, instead of the iShares ones which don’t seem to be available in USD on the Saxo platform. However, I like the fact that the iShares ETFs accumulate and so would have a slight preference for that if practically feasible.

    Andrew, I also want to thank you for opening my financial eyes. I have recently bought both your books and also recommended them to my expat friends. Many, like me, have fallen into the Generali /FP trap already, but I guess it’s never too late to learn from your mistakes. For me, it’s been an expensive lesson, but your books have given me just the tools I need in order to make better decisions moving forward, and I am grateful for that.

  20. Myles says:

    Andrew – just finished reading your Expatriates guide to investing, absolutely fantastic. EVERY expat needs to read this.

    Quick question, I opened a Saxo account, but from their main Saxobank website, so I’ve seen it’s from Denmark. I’m a British expat resident in the Middle East in a zero tax regime, so should I close this and open a Saxo account from Singapore? Do you know if there are any differences for tax? Or is this irrelevant and my residency here is what matters? I rang Saxo but they couldn’t answer my question.

    Many thanks!

    Myles

    • Darien says:

      Hi Myles,

      I too am an expat in the Middle East. I opened a Saxo account and had the same question.
      Saxo confirmed that it makes no difference where you open the account, all the ‘accounts’ are in Denmark.
      This does not affect tax etc. You are fine.

      Hope this help.
      Darien

  21. Sasha says:

    Hi,

    I have read your new book and love it. I have now bought VWRD and iAAA using Saxo in Singapore.

    I am having a trouble understanding the Saxo site. I was wondering how to view the actual current value of each stock, the current price and the number of stocks I own on the same page. I can see all this on my Schwab account but can’t seem to figure it out with the Saxo account. If someone knows how I can see them individually, if not all together that would help too.

    Thank you for your help,
    Sasha

  22. lucky mike says:

    ANDREW – POSTING REPLY ON THIS ARTICLE AS THERES A BIT OF DISCUSSION ON VARIOUS TRADING PLATFORMS – IF IT SHOULD BE POSTED SOEMWHERE ELSE, PLS RE-ROUTE

    Have been looking at options for trading platforms and below summary of my understanding if anyone interested or got useful comments &/or corrections. I’m an Australian expat living in Dubai and will be trading primarily in US$ denominated ETFs on exchanges outside the US. And one proviso – I haven’t actually used any of these platforms in anger yet.

    TD Direct Investing:-
    • Based in Luxembourg
    • Access to 16 exchanges US/Europe/Asia/Australia
    • Can purchase stocks/ETFs and also funds
    • Very responsive on the phone
    • Fairly high level of documentation and verification required to open account (hard copy of passport certified by consulate etc) but apart from that very efficient and straightforward
    • Nicely set up trading platform – not too complicated
    • Has access to all the ETFs I’ve called up
    • FAQs clear and easily accessed, fees clearly set out – overall the website very good
    Fees : http://int.tddirectinvesting.com/en-gb/investment-products/fees-and-commissions/
    • Account maintenance : €25/qtr or €45/qtr if no trades or €0/qtr if ? 12 trades (replaces the previous 0.2% pa on account balance) – so you’ll pay a fee even if you don’t use the platform
    • Outgoing transfer in US$ : €10
    • Trading : stocks & ETFs on US, Canada, UK – €14.95 a trade
    • Fund trading : nil (entry/exit/purchase – they get their kickback from the fund itself, but no change to the standard fund fees)

    HSBC InvestDirect:-
    • Based in UK
    • Need an HSBC expat account which is then linked to a settlement account. As the platform is linked to my existing HSBC accounts, makes fund transfers very easy
    • Initially a limit of £10k/US$15k on outstanding trades unless specific arrangements made – haven’t tried to change this yet, not sure how easy to do or what the limits are
    • Can only access UK (LSE) and US (NYSE, AMEX & NASDAQ) exchanges
    • Can purchase stocks/ETFs but not funds. Website says “most” shares and “some” ETFs but all the ones I’ve called up so far seem to be accessible
    • Very very slow to get the account opened (took 3 months before I eventually – after many many calls and emails – got the account opening codes) and response to phone queries etc was poor at best. HSBC InvestDirect staff are really not very competent at all
    Fees : http://www.expat.hsbc.com/1/2/hsbc-expat/wealth-management/investment-options/sharedealing/sharedealing-fees-and-charges
    • Account maintenance : $nil – so can open and leave dormant
    • Trading : flat GBP14.95 for UK LSE, $24.95 for US exchanges
    • Transfer fees : $nil as between linked HSB accounts

    Saxo Bank:-
    • Based in Denmark
    • Access to a lot of exchanges but couldn’t find the list of which on the website….
    • Can purchase stocks/ETFs, not funds
    • Very responsive on the phone
    • Fairly low level of documentation and verification required to open account and they accepted scan copies
    • Very very complicated & over the top trading platform – realise you only need about 3 of the screens and can just forget the rest, but its intimidating and seems to be set up to confuse newbies. Does have a demo account you can play with before opening your genuine account
    • Doesn’t allow trading in all the ETFs I’ve called up – see my previous comments on this site regarding purchase of eg VUSD/VUSA, VDNR/VNRT on the LSE – they won’t allow access to VUSD so you have to convert US$ > GBP to purchase the GBP denominated ETF which incurs additional costs
    Fees : http://www.saxobank.com/prices/
    • Account maintenance : 0.12% pa with minimum €5/month, if Classic account (< $100k), and if inactive for 6 months additional $100 charged
    • Trading – as per specific exchange, eg $15 for the US exchanges

    I’m put off the Saxo platform – information wasn't as readily found on the website as for TDI or InvestDirect, don’t like the fee structure, the trading platform feels deliberately over-complicated with too many bells and whistles, and the lack of access to certain ETFs forcing me to buy in another currency is just petty. Overall agree with other comments (by Andrew) that its set up to try and entice active trading.

    I went ahead and opened accounts with all 3 although I intend to trade primarily on TDI and probably close the Saxo account to avoid the ongoing charges. Will also keep the InvestDirect account now its finally opened, simple to use for any LSE trades (as abv don’t want to trade on US exchanges due to tax concerns) and anyway it doesn’t incur costs to keep open.

    Lucky Mike

    • Thanks Mike! This is super!

      • lucky mike says:

        Been quite a while since I visited this forum, but as a followup to my above review of various trading platforms:-

        • I opened accounts with all three but have only be using InvestDirect at HSBC
        • Saxo annoyed me by having a too complicated website (yes I know you only need about 3 of the functions, but why try to overwhelm the user? Immediately put me on guard), only listing certain ETFs in a single currency when they are available in multiple currencies (eg no VUSD, only VUSA) forcing unwanted and unnecessary currency exchange fees, and the custodian charges
        • TD seemed better but again the custodian charges and penalties for limited trading (and that’s what they are – penalties) put me off – remember InvestDirect has nil charges beyond the cost of the actual trade

        Both Saxo and TD were simple and quick to set up, whereas InvestDirect eventually took close to 4 months and required maternal grandmothers christening cert etc etc, also while the HSBC website is very good (best I’ve come across, simple and easy to use, linked with my worldwide HSBC accounts, immediate transfers at nil cost, total visibility), responses from their personnel to assistance requests were very very poor (read incompetent) and they seem to operate under the principle of “tell the customer it can’t be done and maybe they’ll go away”. I assume the website design was contracted out to someone else who knows how to do these things. Of course you have to have an HSBC bank account in order to open an InvestDirect account.

        The main problem with InvestDirect is its limited in what you can trade – UK and US exchanges only, and not all ETFs on these exchanges are accessible – this can be confusing as the website allows you to access information on a particular ETF but when you try and make a purchase it says “not available”. However I’ve then contacted HSBC requesting eg VDEV be added to their “tradeable” list and they did this within a few days – have just requested VDPX be added and they are “currently assessing the suitability of the stock….setting it up for trading”. Really don’t understand why they can’t just add all ETFs from reputable providers in one go, but that’s HSBC for you.

        Anyway these restrictions aren’t a great problem for me as I’m not going for anything exotic, just VWRD and VUSD at the moment (I’ve got bonds/fixed interest covered quite nicely through other means which I won’t elaborate on as Andrew will get annoyed with me…..). I would imagine most people on this blog would actually be in the same position so these limitations could almost be seen as an advantage…….

        The account trading limit – ie maximum outstanding prior to settlement – was initially $15k but I was able to change this (to $100k) within 48 hours through my HSBC expat relationship manager. Then when I didn’t do any trades for 7 months they changed it back to $15k so I have had to reset it again.

        I’m not pushing HSBC here – as a bank they’re as free of morals and driven by self-interest as any – in fact from my experience their retail banking services seem to be progressively deteriorating, maybe they’ve got better things to concentrate on – but I’ve been happy with InvestDirect. I’ve not seen anyone else mention them on this forum so may be worthwhile considering if you are only looking for a cheap, simple but limited platform – and if you can put up with the frustration and aggravation of actually setting up the account. Anyone else had different experiences with InvestDirect pls feel free to challenge me.

        Steve – apologies for not getting in touch, as mentioned abv I haven’t been on this forum for several months, will drop you an email direct.

        Lucky

  23. Shane says:

    Hi Andrew

    I started investing last September as a non-American, European expat in middle east, with no social insurance or national retirement plan. I consider my home market to be the eurozone, but I am not entirely certain where I will live when older; I will probably split my time between Europe and warmer climes.

    Due to the US estate tax issue, I do not buy from a US stock exchange. Instead, I buy Vanguard ETFs from the Netherlands and London. When I started investing last September, Vanguard had a small number of equity ETFs to choose from, so I chose as follows:

    – VEUR (FTSE Developed Europe): 35%
    – VUSD (S&P 500): 30%
    – IE15 (iShares European Short-Term Corporate Bonds): 17%
    – BSV (Vanguard Short-Term Bonds; this is the only ETF I buy from a US exchange): 13%
    – VDEM (Vanguard Emerging Markets; I will add this next month): 5%

    A few weeks after I bought VEUR and VUSD in September 2014, Vanguard suddenly launched new ETFs on the Amsterdam and London stock exchanges:

    – VDEV (Vanguard Developed World)
    – VERX (Vanguard Developed Europe ex-UK)

    I look at my current portfolio (VEUR and VUSD), and I see that I have no Japan, no Korea, no Singapore, no Australia, no New Zealand, and no Canada.

    For this reason, I’m *considering* replacing VUSD in my portfolio with VDEV (50% of which is the US, 9% Japan, 8% UK, etc). I’m also considering replacing VEUR with VERX. There would be a slight overlap in terms of Europe between VDEV and VERX, but not a massive one. VDEV’s TER is 0.18%, whereas VUSD is only 0.07%, so it would be a more expensive option, but also a more diversified one.

    I realize that one is supposed to choose a portfolio and stick with it. But my choice, when I started, was very limited by US standards. A lot of funds you take for granted in the US weren’t available. More choice is available today (and yes, I realize that new ETFs will always become available and that one’s eyes shouldn’t be so quick to wander, but really, not having a Developed World ETF at the time sucked).

    Would seriously appreciate your input.

    • Hi Shane,

      I think your decision is a good one. It gives you the complete global markets. As you suggested, you didn’t have that before. Once you make the change, stick to your guns. More will come available, but just ignore it. You’ll have all that you need. Well done Shane!

      Cheers,
      Andrew

  24. RogerK says:

    Hi Andrew

    I’m planning to move to Spain in October and have been introduced to an “Offshore Investment Bond”, by Blevins Franks, as a tax-efficient single premium life insurance policy that holds a basket of underlying investments, based on your personal investment horizon and risk appettite. I’m told the policy and investments are held by Lombard International Assurance in Luxembourg and the investment management can be done by either Banque Privee Edmond de Rothschild, on a discretionary basis, or Russell Investments, as an advisory service. All income and growth can accumulate tax free inside the bond and you’re only taxed when you start withdrawals and even then on only a small percentage.

    Have you heard of these and have any knowledge of them?

    Regards

    Roger

  25. RogerK says:

    Thanks Andrew

    I’ve read your book and reread numerous chapters and I love what you have to say.

    Ordinarily I would agree 100% with what you say as I’m a firm believer that life insurance companies are the biggest legalised scam artists on the planet. I learnt, eventually a few years ago, that you only ever buy term life to provide for your family when you’re first starting out in life until you’ve built up sufficient assets that you don’t need it any more. The one exception is a life policy to provide a tax free lump sum to pay your taxes on death. Mortgage insurance and Credit Card insurance are all over priced life insurance policies by a different name and one should never be taken in by them.

    In this case the “life insurance” only provides a wrapper for managing your investments tax free and isn’t really a life insurance policy at all. You can tell how sceptical I am about them above! Without the life insurance wrapper all investment income would be taxable in the year earned but this way its not taxable until you start withdrawals.

    • Hi Roger,

      If you are an expat and can invest your money in a capital gains jurisdiction, such as Singapore or Luxembourg, you don’t need an insurance wrapper in order to invest without paying capital gains taxes. Even expats living in Japan, Malaysia, the Middle East (the list goes on) can take advantage of tax free accounts in Singapore or Luxembourg. So in most cases, the insurance wrapper is an expensive albatross that adds no real value. Life insurance is a good thing. But it should never, as you alluded to, be blended into an investment vehicle.

      Cheers,
      Andrew

  26. Darien says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I had search through your site, but could not find an answer.
    I know that you hold VTI, VEA and a Canadian Bond through one of your Broker’s.

    What sort of portfolio did you build with the 2nd broker and is having two accounts just another way of diversifying?

    The reason I ask is that I hold a Couch Potato with Saxo on the London Stock Exchange.
    I would like to open a TD Direct account and build a Fundamental Portfolio. I was thinking of using the Toronto Stock Exchange.
    Do you see any problem with this.

    By the way, I’m a South African living in the Middle East.

    All the best,
    D

    • Hi Darien,

      I see no problem with what you are proposing.

      For the record, I don’t own any U.S. domiciled ETFs. I sold them about a year and a half ago, after finding out about the U.S. estate tax issue.

  27. Lenny Verduyn says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I have bought and read your book and have since opened a Saxo Trader account in Singapore. I’m a 40 year old European from Holland, living and working in Africa and own a couple of properties in UK, where I return to occasionally, but not for work or looking to retire here.. I do not know yet where I will retire, mostly likely Asia and have therefore considered the following. 40% in IAAA and 60% in VWRL.

  28. Abi Beaumont says:

    Dear Andrew,

    I read your books and thought they were fantastic. We have a lump sum currently rotting in an offshore bank account that we would like to invest and use for our children school fees hopefully. We are UK citizens but currently live in the Bahamas. I have been a bit frozen as to what to do with it as once I started investigating offshore investments it really did seem to be a minefield. I am glad I waited as once I read your book I felt my hunch was true.

    I have looked into opening a Saxo trading account. I started the application and very swiftly got a call from them ‘ hi welcome etc’ I questioned the guy on where the account would be held and he said in Denmark but funds go via Deutshe Bank in UK……. so I presume that would mean we would end up liable to capital gains taxes would we in the future?

    Maybe we should open and account in Panama?

    I do still find all this stuff pretty confusing!!

    many thanks

    Abi

    We currently live in the

    • Hi Abi,

      You would not be liable for capital gains from the Saxo Capital Markets account. But give TD Direct International a call. They are based in Luxembourg. And their costs have recently dropped, so they are cheaper to use than Saxo. You will also likely find the account platform much easier to manage. Overall, I think it’s better than Saxo.

      I’m glad you found my book.

      Cheers,
      Andrew

      • Abi Beaumont says:

        Thank you so much for such a swift reply. You really are quite cool. For a teacher… Haha. Thank you again.

  29. Adrian says:

    Hi Andrew,
    I’ve read your book and nearly all of the info on your website and love it. Thanks for opening my eyes.
    I’m a Brit expat living in Thailand and will probably retire here (if not, certainly Asia). I was looking to use Saxo Capital markets in Singapore but, from what I’ve read here, that may no longer be a good idea given the increased costs, maintenance fees, etc, and the possible difficulties using their platform.

    I see that you have just recommended TD Direct International. Would that be a good option for me or would DBS Vickers be better?

    I want to invest in VWRL and VGOV or IGLS, but still yet to determine if I want to go couch potato or permanent.

    Once again, thank you for all your help so far.

  30. Simon says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I really enjoyed your book, and am ready to get to stuck in by opening a TD account based in Luxembourg but I’m still struggling with one aspect of all this. Just because I have an account in Luxembourg, how does this mean that I can avoid capital gains tax? Surely I am still required to declare this as taxable income in my country of residence, wherever that may be in the future (currently Austria). I know you’re not a tax adviser, but you seem to state quite confidently that this method will avoid capital gains tax. What am I missing?!

    • Hi Simon,

      In my book, I don’t state confidently that you won’t have to pay capital gains taxes. On page 70 I wrote, “If they’re [expats] living in a country where they don’t have to pay tax on foreign investment income (check with a tax accountant) many expats can legally invest offshore where capital gains aren’t taxed.”

  31. Doug says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I have read your book and most of this website and it has set me on a new path – i cannot thank you enough! I am a UK expat based in China and am about to open an account with TD international with portfolio already selected based on your advice. But, since this is my first entry into the stock market i am nervous about one thing – the stock market is at an all time high. Should i wait or is it ok now to channel some savings (GBP 60k) into a portfolio of indexed funds at such a time?
    Thanks
    Doug

    • Hi Doug,

      When I first started to invest, in 1989, the market was also at an all time high. During most of the years that followed, the market hit new highs. That’s what markets do. It’s a good thing I didn’t wait on the sidelines. Just build a diversified portfolio, rebalance it each year, or with annual purchases, and don’t worry about speculating.

      Cheers,
      Andrew

  32. Doug says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks and i have just finished reading your second book last night and see you have the same advice there too.

    Since i quite closely match your “British Vagabond” and not 100% sure where i will retire, i want to start with a simple couch potato mix of global stock index and global bonds. Sorry for such a specific question, but on TD investing which funds would you recommend? I cant seem to find the Vanguard all world, but only “Vanguard Global Stock Index Inv EUR”at 0.3%. Similarly, there is no Vanguard UK FTSE index. It’s confusing to me as the funds you recommend dont seem to be available on TD Investment so any direction would be much appreciated!

    Thanks
    Doug

    • Hi Doug,

      Are you checking the right exchange markets? If you are, and you still can’t buy those ETFs, call TD Direct International and ask them to add them. They will. Please keep me posted. And first, of course, check to see that you are looking at the right exchanges. It’s hardly possible that you can’t buy the FTSE 100 ETF I recommended, on their UK platform. Please check carefully before calling them.

      Cheers,
      Andrew

  33. Doug says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I’ve checked again and believe it’s still because I have not finalized the account with TD that I cannot see all available ETF’s. Once I know for sure I promise to inform you – sorry for any confusion.

    One more question, I earn salary in CNY (RMB) in China, and need to purchase foreign currency to get money out. If I want to invest with TD, but no idea where will move to/retire, I am assuming USD is the safest obvious choice to have as base currency. Would you agree?

    Thanks
    Doug

    • Hi Doug,

      Your base currency won’t be relevant if you’re purchasing diversified ETFs. For example, you could buy a S&P 500 index fund ETF. It could trade on the New York exchange. You would purchase it with USD. It would be a USD investment. You could buy the same product off the Canadian, British or Australian exchanges. You would pay for it in each of those respective currencies. It would be priced in each of those respective currencies. But it would not be an investment in any of those currencies. It would be purely a U.S. stock market investment, of which the fortunes would follow the U.S. dollar. My book, The Global Expatriate’s Guide To Investing explains that further. http://bit.ly/globalexpat

      Cheers,
      Andrew

  34. Ayesha Adams says:

    Hi Andrew
    Read your book over the weekend and now feel empowered to take control of my finances. I have lost £20k after investing £125k with FPI over the last 7 years. Makes me feel sick just thinking about it but glad I found your site before signing up for a new plan with SJP which supposedly has “much lower” fees than FPI but still not low enough! Since I’ll be taking the maximum partial surrender from FPI at £85k I can imagine the advisor will be extremely disappointed that I’m not reinvesting with him now I understand how their commissions work!
    In anticipation of getting the money back I set up a trial account with Saxo today just to have a play around and see if it looked like something I could understand and manage myself. Not sure if I did something wrong as I can’t see any of the stocks you recommend for a British expat – VUKE, SSAC, VWRD? I can however, see IGLS bonds and even managed to place an imaginary order. I’m based in Dubai so listed that as my country of residence. Wondering if that’s the issue or something to do with the the trial version?
    Apologies if I’m being stupid and missing something obvious.
    Thanks
    Ayesha.

    • Hi Ayesha,

      I am not familiar with “seeing stock ETFs” on the platform. When you place an order, you have to…well…place an order. I seriously doubt that they have a list of even a tiny fraction of all the ETFs or stocks that you can buy off the world’s global exchanges. It would be a list of more than 20,000, for sure. There’s no way SAXO can put that visibly on a site. But believe me, you could buy any number of 20,000+ products from Saxo.

      Cheers,
      Andrew

    • Jen says:

      Dear Ayesha
      As I was so inexperienced on buying ETFs I had the same experience as you when I started with SAXO–but what i found helped to find the the ETFs I wanted was to type in the full name in the name where one places one orders–and generally then a list would come up and i found the ones reccommended in the book for British expats–except for one and there was something very similar for it–so it was iShares instead of Vanguard for something. Hope this helps. Jen

  35. Ayesha Adams says:

    Hi Andrew
    Sorry if i didn’t explain myself very well. As per Jen’s helpful response I’m having the issue when trying to search for the instruments and place an order. The only one of your recommendations that I can find is IGLS? Even if I search using “Vanguard FTSE” I’m still unable to find anything that looks similar? Will send a query to Saxo to see if it’s something to do with the details I entered when creating the account.
    Ayesha.

    • Ayesha,

      You mentioned TD Direct International during our first exchange. It a cheaper brokerage. And through it, you can buy everything. I have dealt with many brokerages. Saxo is the most limited…and in really odd ways. Take the Horizon’s S&P 500 ETF, trading on the Canadian market. They only have the same product, denominated in USD on the Canadian market. Why? I have no idea. We (my readers and I) have been complaining about this kind of thing for a few years now. Personally, when I had a Saxo account, I had to buy the USD version for Horizon’s S&P 500 ETF, on the Canadian exchange. Call Saxo. Complain. They will give you the symbol for the USD version. But if enough people make a stink, they will start to get with the program.

      Cheers,
      Andrew

      • Ayesha,

        I just noticed that you are British. Same thing applies with Saxo. They have all the ETFs you want…sort of. But they don’t have the ETF denominated in the currency you might want. No matter what, it’s still the same ETF, tracking the same index. It doesn’t matter what currency you buy it in. But the fact that Saxo is so limited, in this respect, is a pain in the butt. Do complain. Others have as well. And if your account isn’t open yet, consider TD Direct International. You will find them very professional to deal with.

        Cheers,
        Andrew

  36. Efie says:

    first things first! This place is such an eye opener! Second thing I am buying that book first thing tmrw morning! I am also a Dubai resident, and in that case I feel that myself and Aysha above are sharing the same bad experience with probably the same broker and FPI. I started off a program of unfortunately 25 years thinking that was the best thing to do! This was in March 2013. Main issue now is that it took me about 2,5years to realize that something is not right! But still I am not sure how to handle this. I have invested a 23500 USD all that time and what I have as a current interim value is lesser than that! Close to 22500. I had Tembledon, JP Morgan Thai and JP ASEAN… It seems that surrender fees will be as high as almost the entire amount so I am not sure what I should do? Can I freeze and then get my money once 5 year pass with some lesser penalty, as withdrawal? I am so depressed right now that I am really thinking on taking legal action against PIC and Devere that were managing this…. Totally depressed! Oufff!

    • Hi Elfie,

      I’m so sorry to hear this. Your first step is to talk to your advisor. He or she knows exactly how much you can take out, without penalty. In my book, I also showed how to consider either “taking the hit and selling it all” or sticking it out. Whatever you do, don’t add more money. Freeze it if you can. Good luck. And please tell everyone you know (even the people you sort of know!) to stay away from those products. The Middle East is a breeding ground for unscrupulous salespeople flogging that rubbish.

      Cheers,
      Andrew

      • Efie says:

        Hi Andrew,
        thanks for your reply!
        From what I can remember freezing it was an option. So I would probably then go for it.
        Tried to download your book but is not available in the Kindle Middle East store. I will try to work myself around it though… there must be way! Is there a chance I find in Kinokuniya here in Dubai? Last but not least, hit and run might have been an option, but i think post the 5 years, still on my 3d year. Will check if the freeze time counts against the 5 years! Cheers!

        • Jen says:

          HI Efie–I am in Qatar and I ordered a hard copy of the book through amazon-delivered with no isses. One word of caution: everyone will want to borrow it-so keep your copy a secret until you have read it at least twice.

  37. Gabriel says:

    Hi Andrew.

    I’m a UK expat and having read your book I finally placed my first trade using TD Direct Investing. I followed your Global Nomad Couch Potato model on a rather aggressive 90/10 asset allocation between Vanguard FTSE ALL World equities and iShares Global Government Bonds. I decided on this allocation as I have a full pension where I’m currently living and I’ve started off with a pretty small investment so I’m not concerned with the risk.

    With regards to the above – I have the following questions.

    1) TD Direct Investing require that you fund your account by way of an international transfer. This is pretty costly. Any alternatives that you know about? It was a pretty long process to sign up with TD Direct and send over a certified copy of my passport so I don’t want to have to move to another trading desk.

    2) I bought my equities in GBP however selected Vanguard FTSE ALL World US rather than GB. The former is VWRD and the latter is VWRL. In hindsight I assume I should have bought the latter as I’ve now had to pay a forex fee. Is there any reason why you recommended the US version in your book? Will it make a difference if from now on I purchase the GB (VWRL) shares?

    Thanks

  38. rayesh says:

    Hi Andrew,

    DBS or Saxo ? what are the differences ?
    Thanks

    • Rayesh,

      Saxo offers lower cost commissions and more exchanges from which to buy your ETFs. But they also charge more than DBS Vickers for currency spreads and they charge an annual 0.12% account fee. I put a side by side comparison in my book, The Global Expatriates Guide To Investing. I think you will find it helpful.

      Cheers,
      Andrew

  39. Snowy Clifford says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Bought the book, read the book (many thanks), opened Saxo Singapore account, just checking now re USA IHT that every ETF I buy will be tax free as its purchased/held in Sinagpore ?

    • Snowy,

      I’m not sure what you mean by “USA IHT” but every ETF that you buy via Saxo in Singapore will be a capital gains free product, as long as you live in a jurisdiction that allows this. You will only pay dividend taxes…and not even that, if you have a swap based product, all of which I talked about in my book.

      Cheers,
      Andrew

      • Snowy Clifford says:

        Hi Andrew,

        thanks for the reply, sorry I meant Inheritance Tax.
        Ps I live Thailand.
        Pps Yes and Noted re Swap based also !

        Regards
        Snowy

        • Snowy,

          You could buy a U.S. stock ETF from Singapore and not pay U.S. inheritance taxes (estate taxes) only if the U.S. stock ETF is domiciled in a country other than the United States. That means, for example, you could buy the product from DBS Vickers, in Singapore, using the Canadian stock exchange to do so. Because you have my book, please see page 175. You’ll also note that all of the sample portfolios in my book (for non Americans) include ETFs that are domiciled outside the U.S. for this reason.

          Cheers,
          Andrew

  40. Snowy Clifford says:

    Many Thanks Andrew, I have the Amazon/Kindle version, which “location” is that ?

    Ps Just FYI for everyone else thinking of setting up the Saxo Singapore account, it was extremely simple and quick to do …

  41. Snowy Clifford says:

    Hi Andrew, just FYI The Kindle Readers I use are on Windows and Android, they dont have page numbers but the search functions works perfectly !!!

    Cheers
    Snowy….

  42. David Benton says:

    I am a Brit, living in Vietnam, with ties to Australia, about to open an account with Singapore based Saxo Capital. USD are easiest for me to get hold of, but the country I most likely to settle in, other than Vietnam, is Australia.

    My question is, which market should I buy in?

    Help appreciated!!

  43. Gokul krishnamoorthy says:

    Hi Andrew,
    I am a British citizen living in Qatar for last 6 months. I was approached to invest in Generali / zurich international etc.. by so called Independent financial advisors. When I did my own research I came across your website and it save my day. Having read both your books, I have now opened an account with TD direct and have bought my first ETF – Vanguards FTSE 100 UCTIS 2 days ago. Next month planning to Buy bonds. Should I diversify by investing in Bonds by another company rather than Vanguard or should I stick to the same Company.

    • Hi Gogul,

      No, you don’t need to buy different providers’ ETFs. When you buy a non swap based ETF (such as those that I listed in my book). You become the owner of the shares within each ETF. That means the provider can’t ever take that money from you. Diversification is when you buy alternative asset classes.

      Cheers,
      Andrew

  44. Gokul says:

    Thank you Andrew for the explanation.
    I am going to ask you a daft question about returns from ETF – for example if FTSE average gain for a year is 10%, would I see the price of my ETF go up by 10% or would I expect 10%( Minus the charges and correction factors) dividends from my ETF which can be reinvested.

  45. Ben says:

    Dear Andrew,
    I like many have read your book and was really impressed. I just have a couple of questions however.

    Firstly, are there any potential risks of the companies such as Saxo Capital Markets in Singapore going bankrupt and investors losing all of their money?

    Secondly, like many I am sure, I am looking to invest with my partner whom is a different nationality to myself. She is Japanese and I am a Brit and we live in Africa. We are only in our early thirties, and although we see ourselves moving back to Japan in 10-15 years, we are unsure if we would actually retire there. As a result, do you have any suggestions how we would balance our portfolios? Would it be better to go for British, Japanese or a more global balance?

    Many thanks!

  46. David says:

    Andrew,

    Just read your comments above and wondering if I’ve made the wrong choice. I’m pais in US$ so opened a $ account with Saxo as I thought this made more sense. However, I’m British. Should I switch to a pounds sterling account or continue as I am?

    Cheers

    • Hi David,

      The currency that the funds are priced in is not a big deal. Obviously, you pay slightly lower currency commission spreads, each time you buy, if your earnings are in the same currency as your investment units, but otherwise… not a huge deal.

  47. Mark says:

    Hi Andrew,
    I’ve read your books and I’ve read through the comments on the site. I’m Belgian with strong ties to the UK, living in Singapore, and no clue yet where I will retire.
    My idea is to invest on the LSE and build an internationally diverse portfolio. I see that you mostly recommend TD International as a broker, but what about Standard Charter? They seem to be cheaper?

    • SC is OK for small purchases. But if you’re investing larger sums, TD Direct International is cheaper: flat 14.50 euros per trade. Any trades exceeding about $8000 would fall in favour of TD Direct International. But SC is still a good brokerage, and if you live in Singapore, it’s convenient.

  48. Caroline says:

    Thought I’d share my experiences with Generali for those that may be interested. Not sure where’s the best place to put this as there isn’t a dedicated “hate” page for Generali!

    I signed up for a Generali Vision plan in November 2013 in Singapore. I agreed to pay US$1,250 a month for an initial 15 months. The plan is due to run for 15 years. To date I have paid US$28,750 plus I was persuaded by my financial advisor to pay in a lump sum amount of US$19,700 that I had when I moved to Singapore (instead of putting it in the bank at very low interest rates). So a total of just under $49,000 has been paid in. The fund is currently worth $43,500 and I am taking a “holiday” from payments whilst I decide what to do with with my account.

    In the two years since I signed up I have paid a total of US$2,575 in fees for various things. At today’s value of the fund that’s 5.9% paid in fees. Obviously the fund has been worth more than its current value so the fee % will fluctuate but as it stands today that’s how much I’ve paid in fees.

    If I cancel the fund I will get my full $19,700 lump sum investment returned plus about $3000 if I’m lucky (the fund goes down every time I look at it so who knows how much I’ll eventually get). Just this week it went down by another $2,000 ($1,500 of which was annual fees).

    I have done my calculations and it appears that even if I cash the fund in and only get $3,000 out of it, reinvest it in an ETF or index fund earning an average of 7% a year and continue to add $1,250/month it will end up worth more than keeping it in Generali at 5%/year in the lowest cost bond fund I could find (Invesco Sterling Bond Fund).

    Seems I have my answer as to what to do with my Generali account! This has been a very expensive lesson to learn and one I definitely can’t afford given that I am 47 years old and have only just started earning enough money to actually be able to start investing it (having left Zimbabwe recently with very little to my name!).

    I hope my experience helps other people with their decision making – and at the very least I hope it dissuades others from signing up for these offshore pensions that are such a bad deal for investors.

    • Angelia Crouch says:

      Dear Caroline, I also have a Generali fund and haven’t seen any fee charged to my account. How have you paid the $2,575 in fees? My advisor has said that there are no fees on our account. I’m confused.

      • Caroline says:

        Hi Angelia

        You won’t “see” it in your account as such – it just gets taken out – my account just suddenly went down by $1,500 mid November when they took out my fees for this year. If you want to see how much you have paid in fees you need to login to your account and go My Plans, click on plan number, documents tab, current reports and then pick your dates for unit movement history. It will generate a report that shows you all the movements on your account for the dates selected. There will be 3 charges to each fund every year. You have to go through and add them all up to find the totals.

        I was pretty shocked when I did it for my account. Generali has rather cleverly made this difficult to find and there is no total for the whole account – you have to take the time to add it all up. Hope this helps.

  49. Chris says:

    Dear Andrew,
    First let me add my thanks for your excellent books. I came across them completely by chance whilst trying to decide what action to take over the recent decision by Etrade to close its operations in Hong Kong. I opened an account with them some years ago after biting the bullet and liquidating a Friend’s Provident pension scheme that I foolishly bought from an “advisor” on arriving in Hong Kong some 25 years ago. The surrender penalty was of course outrageous but I made it back with a simple low-cost ETF portfolio in less than 2 years. (Supporting your view that it is often better to pay the penalty than continue being ripped off for life!).

    What I was completely unaware about, until finding your books, was the issue of estate tax on US based assets of non-resident, non-US citizens. I am a British citizen, married to Chinese spouse, will likely retire in Hong Kong or Asia. I would like to continue with a simple ETF portfolio, of the type suggested in your books, but am not sure of the best exchange on which to buy them. I am wary of buying on the UK exchange because although I consider myself domiciled and do not have to file tax returns, I would not wish my spouse to face any risk of UK estate duty. Would buying on the Canadian exchange be a better option? Also, in transferring some US$750,000 from Etrade – which brokerage would offer the lowest costs? Saxo has a presence in HK, but TD Direct may be easier?

    Finally, if I want to continue to trade some US stocks, am I right in thinking this can be done provided one stays below the US$60,000 threshold?

    Thank you again!

  50. Sam Beesley says:

    Hello, I have recently read both of your books and the application for my investment account with TD International is currently being processed. As a global expatriate I am planning to follow the couch potato model portfolio.
    After researching potential short-term UK government bonds I found the Vanguard U.K. government bond ETF (VGOV). I believe it’s inception was after the release of your book. Would you recommend this bond over the ishares UK Gilts 0-5 years?

    Thank you for your help. Sam.

  51. pad don says:

    hi Andrew, Just want to say that you have changed my financial outlook with your first book. I have made my colleagues aware of you and they are following suit. I have today ordered your second book. one question: I am irish, currently living in China. I want to.start with a 10,000Us dollar investment. Regularly top that up over time. In your opinion what should i be looking at? What would you do in my situation? Thanks in advance.

    • Pad Don,

      I think you’ll really like that second book. It shows how you could build a portfolio using (for example) Saxo Capital Markets or TD Direct International to build a low cost portfolio of exchange traded index funds that represent your nationality. I have sample portfolios in the book for you to use.

      Cheers,
      Andrew

  52. Pad don says:

    Thanks Andrew. I can’t wait to get my hands on the book.

  53. John says:

    Hi Andrew
    I’m a Brit in Singapore and I want to track the S&P 500. As I can pick stock exchanges and the trading cost are similar HXS.U Horizons S&P 500 etf looks to offer a better bet than UK S&P 500 offerings. What with its withholding tax advantages and being accumulation.

    So my question is, am I missing something? does the higher costs or some other “tax” negate the advantages?

    Thanks

    John

    Thanks
    John

  54. Chris says:

    Another quick question Andrew. You make reference to Fundamental Indexing in your book and I have also looked at some of the articles on this. It appears from quite lengthy back-test data that the advantage over Cap Weighted Indexing is somewhat greater than the slightly higher cost of Fundamental Index funds. You don’t appear to use them in your own portfolios however – any particular reason?

    • Hi Chris,

      Backtested studies don’t always reveal the future. Yes, I think they are a good strategy because costs are low. And you are right. I do not own them in my personal portfolio.

      Cheers,
      Andrew

  55. Steve says:

    Jennifer, Efie, Myles, Darien, Shane, Sean, Mike, Ayesha and anyone else in the Middle East – Andrew is giving a free talk in Dubai this Tuesday 12 April at 7pm. Would be great to see you there or please share with your friends and colleagues. Thanks Steve https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/offshore-saving-for-expats-learn-how-to-save-easily-and-what-to-avoid-registration-24516003025

  56. Ayesha says:

    Wow! Thanks for sharing. I just signed up. Hopefully see you there.

  57. Darien says:

    Fantastic, I’ve registered on the site. Aim to bring some people.

  58. Newbie Investor says:

    Hi, hoping you can help me with some quick questions!! I’ve read your latest book and I’m inspired to start investing, especially as I am just about to receive a substantial inheritance from a relative in the UK. I am British, currently resident in China (although probably only for a few years) and my savings are all in the UK, in pounds. My questions are:
    1. I applied online to Saxo Bank for an account (partly because TDI didn’t seem to allow me to open an account from China and DBS requires Singapore bank account). Their Shanghai office has got in touch asking me to complete a form to confirm which country I am liable for tax in. If I want this to be China, it seems I would need either the Chinese or UK tax offices to stamp the form which I can’t begin to imagine how I arrange! And I’m not sure the Chinese tax regime is a fair one anyway … But if I don’t then Saxo will register me as tax liable in my EU country of citizenship ie UK – but does that defeat the purpose and mean any investments would not be ‘offshore’ for tax purposes? Help! This is all new to me.
    2. Is there any issue with investing money that I have either saved or inherited in the UK, as opposed to money I have earned while overseas?

    Many thanks in advance 🙂

    • John says:

      I also posted a comment asking about tax consequences. I am a UK citizen resident in Japan and am curious as to if i have a singapore account with saxo whether i am liable to pay tax or not either in Japan or UK

  59. Andy Roberts says:

    Hi Andrew,
    Thanks a “million” for your time to write your two great books, these are just simply game changers.
    I am a UK expat based in Abu Dhabi and do not intend to retire in the UK, although I do have family there, I had the great pleasure to meet you recently in Dubai when you held your very informative and amusing talk/workshop, can’t thank you enough, if it wasn’t for the fact that I had to drive back to Abu Dhabi after the talk, I certainly would have joined you afterwards to personally thank both yourself and Steve the organizer. I bought both of your books last Christmas as a present for myself, one of my best Christmas presents ever ! once I started reading them I couldn’t put them down, back in Abu Dhabi I immediately opened a SAXO account and transferred all of my existing investments that I had with local banks over to SAXO. The local banks charge 3% upfront and 2% year in management fees…minimum. From your reviews I chose SAXO, simply because they are located in the next building along the Abu Dhabi corniche from where I live. The guys at SAXO are great and very helpful in setting up the account and the initial familiarization with the trading platform. The trading platform as you mention is capable of doing a lot more that what is required by us simple investors, but just using it for what is actually required is pretty straight forward.
    I have also had some follow up calls from SAXO Denmark just to make sure I am happy with the platform and to answer any queries. I am resident in Abu Dhabi so even though the account is registered in Denmark I do not pay any capital gains taxes on dividends. Due the financial mini crisis this first quarter my mutual funds took a big hit, having read your book and using my head and not emotions I moved all these to SAXO and into VANGUARD Developed world VDEV ETF, these have since recovered the losses I made earlier with the managed mutual funds, as an example the VDEV has grown +8% whilst my previous Schroder Global dividend maximser would still be losing nearly 15%. I would not have had the confidence to do this move without reading your books, I am totally hooked on buying when the market is low now, thank you very much.
    So with SAXO I have VDEV and IAAA in USD for my main global vagabond allocation, and for my UK allocation I have VMID and VGOV. My main investments will be the VMID and VGOV. I currently have engaged the services of AES Dubai, thanks to your talk, currently involved in releasing some pension money from a few previous companies I worked for back in the UK, as a heads up expected growth from my UK pensions is 1.25% per year. AES will act as FCA approved IFA for me, I will invest the lump sums released immediately into my SAXO platform, I will get hit for tax on the initial lump sums as it is considered UK taxable income, but the good news is, at the end of this tax year, for UK expats that is next April I can reclaim all the tax back coz I am non UK resident.
    I didn’t get the time to ask my question regarding rebalancing during your talk, as everybody was so excited, and please forgive me if it sounds stupid, so: each month I buy VDEV or IAAA and on the SAXO platform each purchase is called a position, when I rebalance at the end of the year I will have a number of positions in VDEV and IAAA, so which positions do I close to release the funds to purchase the balance ETF’s ? for example if I need to sell some VDEV, do I sell the position from the start of the year which in theory will have the higher profit margin or the one later in the year that has the lowest profit margin, does it matter or is it just an emotional thing selling the higher or lower profit margin position.
    Again can’t thank you enough and please come to Abu Dhabi, this has been a game changer for me, I will help out with your costs.
    PS, already left feedback on Amazon.

    All the best Andy R.

    • Thanks for the great feedback Andy.

      When you sell one ETF to buy another, you are simply just selling one ETF to buy another. Let’s assume you have 1000 shares in total of VDEV. If you buy 100 more, you will now have 1,100 units of that ETF. The platform should show no other data, as it relates to that ETF. It doesn’t need to show what you paid for the first 1000 versus the second 100. It’s irrelevant, especially considering that you are in a capital gains free zone. It should simply show that you now hold 1,100 units of that ETF.

      That is a funny brokerage, as I alluded to in my book. They would make a pencil look like a spaceship.

      I hope that helps!

      And Andy, if you have a few seconds to review my book on Amazon, I would greatly appreciate it! Here’s link: http://bit.ly/globalexpat

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  60. Andy Roberts says:

    Hi Andrew

    Your most welcome and already left feedback on your Expat Investing book.

    All the best

    Andy

  61. Gwynter says:

    Hi Andrew

    I have read both your books and have a SAXO Singapore account with VGOV VWRD and VMID, as a Brit living with an Aussie wife in Thailand, soon to be Singapore.
    MY question is about the VWRD, that gives me my global market exposure can only be bought in USD and my account is in GBP. It has taken a while to recoup what I assume are partly currency conversion costs.
    Is that past of the deal or is there something that I can buy in GBP on that platform that would save me money?
    Also for our Aussie “connection we are going with Vanguard directly in Aus. We have a 70% Equities 30% Bond Growth which has 0.9% costs annually up to 50k AUD the 0.6% and reducing.
    In your opinion would we be better off buying through Saxo- I kind of like the on shore/splitting up our assets arrangement, but ultimately we do not know where we will retire so the priority is saving on costs.

    Thanks

    • Gwynter,

      By going with an Aussie based Vanguard account, you take slightly higher risks of paying future capital gains taxes.

      As for your other question, the currency that the ETF is posted in does not affect returns, other than a 1% currency FX commission spread, at worst, which you would only pay once. Please see what I wrote to Maria below. It’s a commonly asked question.

      Cheers,
      Andrew

  62. Maria says:

    hello Andrew,

    I have bought both of your books and I think they are amazing and i feel so lucky that i had the opportunity to found them and open my eyes. Iam a spanish national living in Abu Dhabi and i plan to retire in UK so i invest mainly in UK ETFs.

    Per your advice i have bought index ETFs. In my portfolio I have bought the VUSA (VANGUARD FUNDS PLC VANGUARD S&P 500 UCITS ETF) listed in London and the 3140 (VG S&P 500). If you are wondering for the reason i had a significant amount in HK dollars due to the fact i was working there in the past and i did not want to convert them to GBP and lose money from the fx cost.

    My question is very simple. Both ETFs Vanguard with the same underline S & P 500. Why their rate of return is not the same?

    thank you and keep up the good work,
    Maria

    • Maria,

      Their returns are priced in different currencies. But if you converted the proceeds to the same currency, you would find that their returns are identical. Imagine this: a Canadian listed (and priced) S&P 500 index gains 20% in Canadian dollars. A U.S. priced listed S&P 500 index gains nothing during the same time period, in USD. That could only happen if the U.S. dollar rose 20% against the Canadian dollar. Convert both proceeds to USD, and you’ll find that their return is identical. Convert both to Euros, UK pounds or Canadian dollars, and you’ll notice that both returns are identical.

      Cheers,
      Andrew

  63. Tito says:

    Hi Andrew, thank you for your books. I built my portfolio following your guidelines, and even though the last 14 months have not reported any growth, I am confident that this is the way to go.
    I have a question. I am a teacher about to finish last contract soon in China and moving to Vietnam in August. My portfolio is with TD International but I’ve read that TD doesn’t like doing business with Vietnam. Can anyone tell me if this apply to existing customers? or it’s just if you are planning to open an account while you are working in Vietnam?
    We are ready to send a few thousand pounds to TD at the end of the month but now I don’t know if I should do it. Should I open a brokerage account in SG with this money instead?

    Thank you in advance
    Tito

    • Sam Beesley says:

      Any news on this. I am in a very similar situation. Leaving Korea to live in Vietnam soon and have a TD account. I used my Korean address as proof to open the account but all my mailing is set to my UK address so I assume it is ok.
      Any updates Tito?

  64. Tom says:

    Hi Andrew

    I’m a Brit expat just about to start my portfolio based on your books. However, I’m curious if your position has changed on a British bond being part of my portfolio given Brexit? Should it be replaced with another broad market ETF? How would assess if a bond is still a good idea?

    Cheers Tom

    • Tom,

      World events will always be changing short term thinking. But your thinking needs to be much longer term. Keep the British bond index. Rebalance. Keep diversified.

      Cheers,
      Andrew

      • Vig says:

        Hi Andrew, when you talk about rebalancing and deciding to sell a number of shares to “buy the laggards,” do you recommend a MARKET or LIMIT order on sells? Or does it really matter at the end of the (pardon the pun) day?
        Regards,
        Vig

        • Hi Vig,

          I prefer market orders. Limit orders drive me nuts when the transaction doesn’t go through.

          Cheers,
          Andrew

          • Vig Lacera says:

            Hi Andrew, thank you for the personal reply.
            I understand your reasoning but wondered if the lag time and / or slippage between when you click that sell button on your trading platform and when the order is executed is reason enough to choose limit orders over market orders.
            Take care ,

          • Vig,

            Remember that the lag time isn’t always negative. Sometimes, it will work in your favor.

            If you want to go with limit orders, go for it. I just don’t have the personal stomach for it.

            Cheers,
            Andrew

  65. Pip says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I have only just discovered your website (via a friend) and downloaded both your books last night, so looking forward to a weekend of full on reading. THANK YOU IN ADVANCE!!
    But in the meantime i have a question regarding Generali Vision…. Yes i now know “one of the worst” but i just wanted to see if my FA can be trusted or not based on the advice he has given….

    – We have been investing for 5.5years of a 10 year plan
    – Monthly investment: $2800USD (& still investing for balance of the plan)
    – Our FA advised us after 3 years to take our a partial surrender $50000 and re-invest in Ashburton’s (apparently a lower fee platform), we did this (it has lost money so far / fees & climate i guess)
    – Our FA has now advised to take another partial surrender $75000 and re-invest in Jupiter Assest Management (i’ve researched them – i am learning from my mistakes in the past & seems they have some of the highest fees at 5% upfront)

    What i am keen to understand is our FA giving the right advice? And it is a good idea to pull money out of the Generali fund and re-invest in other platforms or is the case now Generali and the FA have secured all their fee’s off the Vision fund, the Adviser is now securing himself more commission by setting us up with new “funds”?

    From the limited number of people i can find online who have stayed with Generali through to the end of their plan, it seemed that now we have removed our funds we have also removed the chance of making some return on the investment in the last 5 years of the plan.

    Basically feeling a little confused, and it is very disappointing when the FA is meant to be a friend as well as an adviser and we have invested our pension it was seems a fairly well known scam!

    Thanks Pip

    • Hi Pip,

      I’m sorry to read about your experience. Your FA may be a friend. But he either has low morals or a low understanding about investing. In many cases, it’s just the latter. He’s likely just a salesman. He earned a very high initial commission. But unless he moves your money from Generali, or tries to get you into a different pension, he won’t make another commission from you. Typically, when he switches funds within a platform, he doesn’t make more money for himself. However, by doing so, he’s almost guaranteeing that your money will languish. He’s a dog chasing tails. Let me put it this way. In academic, peer reviewed studies, the way to do poorly, with mutual funds, is to chase yesterday’s winner. If you have a fund that stinks for 3 years, you might be tempted to sell it , then jump into one that has done well over the past 3 years. Typically, the original fund then starts to perform better, and the new fund starts to stink. Your friend has likely not read a single complete book on fund investing, nor a single peer reviewed academic study. Qualifications to sell Generali’s products can be earned in a weekend. That’s good news for salespeople. But it’s bad news for you.
      Your friend likely looked at funds with strong track records. Ironically, this is one of the worst things he could have done. Instead, he should have diversified across low cost funds, in a variety of geographic sectors. There’s so much I want to tell you, and not enough room or time to do it here. I’m glad you ordered the Global Expatriate’s Guide To Investing. I explain it all there.

      Andrew

    • toony says:

      Pip,

      Wow, it looks like your insurance salesperson…I mean FA…is looking to scam…I mean looking for a very BIG Christmas bonus with your generosity and help!

      Read Andrew’s books at least TWICE and you should know what to do! It’s not rocket surgery and Andrew steps you through the whole way.

      ***Spoiler alert – ditch the FA, get out of the Generali ASAP, open a basic trading account, create a portfolio of passive, globally diversify, low-cost index funds and retire in the near future!***

      FYI – your FA is trying to double/triple dip on commission, exploiting your friendship/generosity, to fund their lavish lifestyle. Here’s how:

      a) You ‘donated’ $33.6k (ie every cent of the first 12 months of $2800 payment) to the insurance company/FA…just to open the account (bonus went to private school fees for the FA’s kids instead of yours)!
      b) The insurance company gets to bleed your account of 4-6% in normal/hidden fees which the FA gets a 1% kick back (trailing commission which helps pay the utility bills). (Current dividend yield has dropped to about 2-3% so paddling backwards!)
      c) Partial surrender -> Ashburton. You still pay 100% fees with Generali (not reduced at all from partial surrender) but FA gets a new signing bonus with Ashburton to help pay for their Swiss skiing holidays.
      c) Another Partial surrender -> Jupiter (active management with front load). Same net effect as b) so you would now be paying 3 sets of fees for the same amount this but this time, the new signing bonus the FA gets is going on the new series 7 BMW they have had their eyes on for a while!

      OK, for the good news. Congrats on discovering Andrew’s website recently and not 10 years from now (when they would have bleed your whole pension account dry with fees!) and realising how bad the FA/Generali product are!

      You have a high monthly saving rate thus won’t take too long to repair the damage if just follow the basic steps outlined by Andrew in the book!

      Best wishes 🙂

  66. Douglas Wilson says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I am an expat living in the Middle East, and would like your advice on good offshore accounts that will allow to me to start my own DIY investments through index Funds and ETFs. I have read some articles about Lloyds and SwissQuote, but not sure which way to go.

    Thanks

    Douglas

  67. Steve Cronin says:

    Hi Douglas, you can try TD Direct Investing, SwissQuote, SaxoBank or iBrokers (who are US domiciled so may have inheritance tax implications). Here’s a summary of some costs http://www.thenational.ae/business/personal-finance/your-essential-guide-to-low-cost-funds-and-etfs. TDDI have been recommended on this forum, though may be slightly more expensive. If you’re based in Dubai, come and say hello. Cheers Steve, WISE.

  68. Bill says:

    Hi Andrew – im a uk expat looking at a SJP offshore investment bond with a diversified portfolio across bonds and equities. The annual costs are around 2.5% per annum (includes SJP charge and the cost of the underlying funds) – does the cost sound reasonable given the supposed tax benefits on offer such as the roll up of income tax free, and the ability to draw 5% capital tax free when I return eventually to the UK?

  69. Andrew Roberts says:

    Hi again Andrew

    Just a quick question on rebalancing, this is required each year, but what would you think of a rebalance say at a 6 month period based upon the market conditions at that time.
    My reason for asking – I read both of your books and opened a SAXO account back in January and bought Vanguard developed world ETF for global stock and iShares IAAAA for global ETF bond, my holdings to date are in the 85% & 15% respectfully, so not balanced considering my age (55) the growth to date is 12% & 3%, now the Vanguard ETF’s I bought in February are currently at +18%, would it be beneficial to sell these now as they are +18% and do a mid year rebalance, or just wait until the end of the year and rebalance then ?

    Best regards

    Andy

  70. Tito says:

    Hi Sam,
    TD gently asked me to close my account. They say Vietnam is blacklisted. I opened an account with Saxo Singapore and I am quite happy with it for now. I’m really not sure if TD is better thank Saxo anymore. I think there’s no p.a. with Saxo.

  71. dafydd gwyon says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Just a couple of quick Bond questions. I know that the important thing about investing is ‘time in the market’ not ‘timing the market’, but I’m not really sure what bonds to buy right now. Yields seem to be at all time lows and there seems to be little gained from actually owning them. I’m a Brit living in Thailand with my portfolio split toughly 50/50 between dollars and pounds. I invest with TD International so what US and UK bonds would you recommend.

    For added diversification and security I’m also looking at gold ETFs so recommendations for both US and UK would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks

    Dafydd

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