Can Canadian Expats Enjoy The Most Tax Free Portfolio In the World?


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Horizon Canada just offered a swap based Canadian bond ETF, which will be trading on the Toronto stock exchange tomorrow.

Horizon already offers a Canadian and U.S. swap-based stock ETF.  By coupling these equity indexes with this new bond offering, expats won’t have to pay capital gains taxes or dividend with-holding taxes. I explain how this works in my upcoming book, due this fall. 

I didn’t think the tax benefits of being an expatriate Canadian could get any better.  But they just did.

Incidentally, I already own Horizon’s two equity indexes in my personal portfolio.

no one has more first hand experience helping expat investors

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 (2nd Ed. Wiley 2017) 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, Privacy Policy and the Comments Policy.

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100 Responses

  1. onlinetaxman free consultation - US expat taxes made easy

  2. Micheal says:

    Has anyone used SCI for investments, are they a good company? These are their costs.

    Transparent and low costs

    Costings are identical for both Fusion and Elements

    ? Annual Administration Fee 150 GBP

    ? Annual Management Fee 1.5%

    ? Investment Fee approximately 0.17% per annum depending on
    strategy chosen

    Does the 1.5% annual management fee mean that if my investments make say 5% average, they will take 1.5% out of that? If so that is like almost 30% of my return. Seems to high. Am able to buy index funds through them. Are there other recommendations of a company I could go with? Should I just set up a account with a brokerage and buy index funds myself?


  3. John says:


    Run! You are about to do something you will regret for the rest of your life! Forget the annual management fee, it will cost you about 10% in the first year, 7% the second year and 4% every year after that – and yes that comes out of what your fund makes!

    If you invested $10,000 dollar in the first year and the market made 0%, you would lose $1000 in fees alone! Next year you would be starting on $9,000. Buy index fund/ETFs or stick your money under your bed. Both options are better than SCI.

    Read Andrew’s book or ”Stocks for the long run”.

    • Nita Wagner says:

      John, How did you calculate these figures? The funds SCI recommended for Michael are Vanguard index linked ETF’s through a UK pension company.

  4. Micheal says:

    Thanks for the reply. Where does the 10%, 7%, and 4% come in?? It’s not listed anywhere on their page. I was going to invest in Vanguard Inex funds through them, but I’m thinking that’s not going to change anything is it? What about going the long term route like non registred mutual funds or GIC’s from a Canadian Bank?


  5. Anze says:

    Lyxor and db X-trackers provide MSCI World index funds that are swap based and listed on the SGX. Their MERs are reasonable by Singapore standards at about .45%.

    Andrew would you recommend these for anyone looking for a single diversified equities holding that is based in SG?

    • They sound like good, viable options. I would just want to make sure they have high enough liquidity, which is the challenge faced by the SGX at the moment.

      • Anze says:

        Hi Andrew. They seem reasonable, I wonder if they are cross-listed on the European exchanges.

        Lyxor World 10US$ – bid / ask = 1.711 / 1.721
        DBXT MSWorld 10US$ – bid / ask = 4.440 / 4.460

        Anyways that is a really good reminder to always calculate the spread before purchasing anything.

  6. Jas says:

    @Andrew Hallam:
    Is it possible your opinion of these swap ETFs has changed over the years?

    see this old post on the couchpotato website:

  7. Harold Shim says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Just wanted to congratulate you on your new book. Great read and I gathered some new advice since your first book. Since converting to your investing strategies my portfolio is finally growing steadily again and I am reassured that I’m not funding some broker’s holiday and retirement plans!

    Just as an aside, I fully understand that timing the market is a fruitless endeavour but looking at some of the graphs out there it seems like the markets are getting a little over exhuberant. I’m not suggesting running for the hills but do you think it would be a good time to be a little heavy in bonds right now? Especially the new Horizon Bond ETF!

    Thanks Harold

  8. David says:

    Dear Andrew,

    Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge.

    I am a 25 year old Canadian just starting my teaching career (in Central Asia) and am interested in making my money work wisely. I dropped OHIP, and don’t own any property back home, to forego any Canadian taxes.

    This leaves me in the open waters of international employment however, and I see that DBS Vickers is an option for global nomads to invest their income without any tax penalty; is this true?

    I plan on teaching in many countries over the next decade or two and am eager to know if DBS Vickers is the optimal investment account that I can stick with as I work globally. Is it possible to open and maintain an account from Central Asia?

    In addition, I currently I have 25,000 CAD to my name in a regular TD account in Canada that I am unsure how to invest out of fear of incurring tax penalties and being flagged for whatever reason.

    Lastly, I would like to initially invest my income for 3-4 years, purchase a property back home for my parents, and then start my retirement plan. Do you see gold bullion coins as part of a good strategy for me?

    Thank you kindly, I really hope you have the time to help me out!


  9. Asif says:

    I am a canadian living in Canada but love singapore. Is there anyway to invest in Singapore that is not stock or bond related?

  10. David says:

    Hi Andrew,

    After doing my homework I have figured out my problems explained above.


    Arun Nagratha, the CAD expat tax specialist whose youtube video you’ve linked to in the past, says that non-residents can declare non-resident status with their bank back in Canada and continue to invest in e-series for example without incurring capital gains tax.

    Is the difference between this option and opening up a Saxo account in Singapore one between paying dividend tax/not?

    What are the benefits of me going through Singapore as opposed to just declaring a non-resident bank account?

    Thank you so much,


    • Neil G says:

      He addresses this in his book.

      But basically, what you said is true AT THE MOMENT. But who knows what tax laws will be 40 years from now. The rationale for having an retirement investments offshore (ie Singapore) seems to be one of precaution, in case things change, offshore tax laws are less likely to waver.

  11. Vig says:

    Hi All,
    As most Canadians probably know, the CAD is seriously skidding into the ditch. I missed that brief window last year to convert all CAD to USD. But that’s neither here nor there…

    Background: I’m a Cnd expat with a modest stash of CAD. I’ll soon move it into an offshore investment account. I plan to add to my portfolio of global diverse ETFs via the TSE. I don’t plan to return to Canada.

    My question — and maybe it’s been asked before: What effect will a faltering and possibly collapsing Canadian dollar have on a globally diversified portfolio of ETFs bought with Canadian money on the TSE? Is there any correlation between a weak CAD and the future value of a portfolio bought with Canadian money?
    Or — is it like shopping at the market? (i.e. The products (ETFs) are simply the products, inherently unaffected. Instead of buying lots of stuff with strong money (USD) you’re spending weak money (CAD) and so you buy a lot less stuff.)
    Hope that made sense.

    I’m all ears. Thanks folks ; )

    • Hi Vig,

      The currency you use to build a diversified portfolio means nothing. The entities you purchase are the only factors you should be concerned about. If you buy ETFs to cover the world, you aren’t hinged to any single currency…no matter which exchanges you buy the ETFs from.


      • lucky mike says:

        Andrew – afraid you’re educating the ignorant here, but so I understand this currency issue correctly:-

        – I’ve just opened a trading account with Saxo Bank and want to invest in Vanguard ETFs – combination of global bonds, global stocks and US stocks. i’ll be investing in US$ but not on the US markets due to US tax concerns.

        – if I purchase the Vanguard ETFs on a Canadian/Australian/UK/European stock market, then i’ll have to actually make the purchase in CAD/AUD/GBP/Euro – yes?

        – my base currency is US$. however, i won’t suffer any currency effects on a US$ denominated Vanguard fund (eg US stocks ETF) purchased on the Canadian stock market because the US$/CAD movements will be reflected on both sides of the equation – ie if the CAD slips, then the CAD reported value of the fund increases so when i convert my holding back to US$ it equals out – yes?

        – and the same principle applies (obviously more complicated) for a global stocks tracker which will be in multiple base currencies?

        – but i will still be exposed to forex charges when converting my US$ to CAD/AUD/GBP or whatever (and eventually back again) – and i understand Saxo are pretty poor at exchange rates &/or exchange fees?

        difficult to explain in an email but hopefully you get the gist of my query.

        also, any recommendations on which stock market i should actually purchase the Vanguard funds on – I’m Australian in Dubai, but will probably end up in some cheap SEA country rather than eventually returning to Australia.

        many thx.

        • RogerK says:

          Hi Mike

          Yes you’re basically correct but I would suggest you open different currency accounts at Saxo (USD, GBP, Euro, etc.), as I believe they offer that option. That way they won’t be exchanging currencies every time you make a trade in a different currency as you’ll have a “cash” account, as they’re called, in that currency at the broker. I would then suggest using a lowcost online Forex broker to trade currency between your bank accounts to fund the individual accounts at Saxo. For example, you say you have USD so open a GBP bank account and change USD into GBP from your USD bank account to your GBP bank account and then send the GBP to Saxo.

          As Andrew says the underlying currency of the investment is what’s important, not the currency in which you purchase the investment as there’s always two sides to currency moves.

  12. Darien says:

    Hi Roger,

    You have got me thinking. I opened a Saxo $ account after reading Andrews book as well as a few others.
    I earn in dollars and have an HSBC dollar account. I transferred the cash and only paid a very small transfer fee.
    I then bought 3 funds. 2 equity ETFs I’m GBP and a Bond ETF in $.

    Was this the way to buy or should I have a GBP account on Saxo for when I add to my 2 GBP Equity funds?

    Your thoughts would be appreciated,

    • RogerK says:

      Hi Darien

      Yes I think its useful to have different currency accounts at your broker to avoid all the exchnage fees every time they buy or sell an investment in a currency different from that of your account. Its certainly what I do and then I can control when I exchange funds and ensure its at the cheaper rates offered by the online Forex traders.

      I’d be very interested to hear Andrew’s or anyone else’s thoughts on this.

  13. Tricky Woo says:

    Not sure if this is still applicable but whatever you do DO NOT invest with SCI. I had a friend who dealt with a guy named Gavin Snook. She was new to the investment game, young teacher right out of college and he took her for a ride that she is still paying for today. This was 7 years ago. SCI is not a honorable company. They will sell you FPI products, which will eat away at all of your gains if you make any. These companies are going around the world and ripping international teachers off. Thank goodness Andrew is warning people of them. I hope we put them all out of business soon by warning everyone we know not to invest with these people. They make HUGE commissions on your money (investments…which really are not investments)

    Never buy anything from or deal with SCI. You will regret it for a long time after.

  14. shortrib says:

    Hi Andrew: Long term Canadian expat here, Netherlands resident, with investments at TD Waterhouse in Canada. TD has been applying non-resident withholding tax of 15% on income from my bond ETFs (ie. XBB and BIV). I understand I am liable for 15% NRWHT on dividend income, but I thought interest income was non-taxable for a Canadian non-resident? Seems a simple question but haven’t found anything on this. Do the brokerages simply lump all ETF distributions together (dividend and interest) I have not yet asked TD since they are normally clueless with non-resident tax questions. (I ask on this forum since I am considering the swap ETF alternatives, or switching to GIC’s.) Thanks for your help.

    • Hi Shortrib,

      You will pay a non-resident dividend witholding tax on Canadian domiciled bond income, no matter what. That said, if you want to avoid it, you could go with the Horizon swap based bond ETF. It reinvests all distributions–sort of. So you won’t pay tax. I trust you read the information on these products, so I don’t have to re-explain here. For you, they’re likely the best deal going.


      • Petra says:

        Andrew, what happens if you have a non resident brokerage account with TD in Canada, and then return to Canada as a resident? Do you have to dispose of these investments or are they transferred to a regular brokerage account with TD?

        • Hi Petra,

          The account would just be classified as a resident’s account, from the moment you touch down. You have to tell them the precise date you landed of course.


      • Shortrib says:

        Hi Andrew: New issue. I retired a couple of years ago and began to draw down on my TD Waterhouse investments. I am a Netherlands resident. I’ve been making quarterly wire transfers to my NL bank to cover my living expenses. Living the dream, right? Last month TD refused to accept my usual instructions. They apparently will only do wire transfers within Canada and the US. I have a TD-Canada Trust bank account which WILL perform an international wire transfer, but only if I am physically present in the branch. It changes the efficiency of my retirement plan since I was not planning to make quarterly trips to Canada just to visit my branch! I am also not so keen on wiring a full year’s living expenses (on my annual Canada visit) and leaving it to sit in my Netherlands bank where it earns zero return. Do you or any of your readers have a solution for getting money out of Canada Trust without showing up in person? Seems to me this is something expats need to be aware of: as a non-resident how convenient will it be to get your cash out of Canada when you need it? Thanks a ton.

        • Hi Shortrib,

          I don’t usually recommend that Canadian expats keep investments in Canadian accounts, so this isn’t an issue I’ve ever considered. You might try transferring all of the assets to Schwab UK, but I’m not sure how your money is invested, and what your taxable consequences would be to sell and rebuild a low-cost portfolio of ETFs off the LSE. Your taxable consequence would be based on your country of residence. If you lived in Malaysia, Singapore, or Luxembourg, for example, you wouldn’t have to pay capital gains to sell if your Canadian account is deemed, “non-resident.”

          On a different note, I don’t really think pulling out one-year’s living expenses and putting it into a savings account in Holland is a really big deal. I have at least one year’s living expenses in my savings account. I like the full accessibility. Many financial experts recommend keeping at least 6 months of living expenses liquid anyway.


        • RogerK says:

          Another alternative is to use one of the online FX traders instead of TD Bank. They’ll deal with you all the time and 1) give you better exchange rates and 2) charge less or no fees. OFX has a Toronto office, as part of an Australian Bank, and conducts FX trading all over the world whenever FX exchanges are open. Mostly that’s 7am Monday, Sydney time, to 5pm Friday, Toronto time.

        • Mike KOVACS says:

          Along the same lines as Roger recommended, an online FX company. I’m also in Europe now, and when I, or any friends or family, need to get money to my bank account, from Canada, I use TransferWise. As Roger mentioned: much cheaper exchange than a bank can give you, quick, and secured.

          I actually believe TransferWise is the most popular of these companies.

          [Note from webmaster: Mike, thanks for the information. However, in keeping with many forums and blogs we do not allow users to submit affiliate referral links and your post has been adjusted accordingly. Thanks for your understanding.]

    • Petra Noseworthy says:

      Hi Shortrib, I have finally opened an investment account with TD Waterhouse in Canada. Do you need to file any type of tax return for income, or does TD apply the withhholding tax directly so that you are not required to file?

  15. shortrib says:

    Thanks, Andrew. That’s really helpful and your site is full of great info.

  16. Neilio says:

    Hey Andrew and gang,

    I’m a (Canadian) teacher in South Korea In the process of opening an account with TD Direct. When it comes to tax residency, I put “Canadian”, which got me thinking about the effects a person’s tax residency has on their investing life (present and future). What are the implications of my tax residency?



    • Hi Neilio,

      Because you listed your residency as Canadian, they will eventually refuse your application at TD Direct International. When applying a second time, put your true offshore residence.


      • Neilio says:

        To be clear, on the TD application form (that i haven’t sent out for approval yet) they distinguish 3 things: Nationality, Tax Residency, and Country of Residence.

        As it stands now I have

        Nationality: Canada
        Tax Residency: Canada
        Country of Residence: Korea

        I’m pretty positive I’m a non-resident of Canada based on my current ties back there.

        So to be clear, TD would reject me because of my tax residency is ‘Canada’?

        Thanks for helping me sort this out so i can get my money finally where it should be.


        • Neilio,

          Your tax residency is Korea. If you put Canada, your application will get rejected. Resident Canadians are not allowed to invest in a capital gains free zone.


          • Neilio says:

            Hmm, it threw me off why the application needed to distinguish between Country of Residence and Tax Residency… as it seems from your comments they should always be the same.

            On a side note, if my tax residency is South Korea, i should stop doing Canadian income taxes and submit Korean ones?

          • Neilio,

            If you reside in Korea, and you have no Canadian income, you should not be filing Canadian taxes.


  17. RogerK says:

    Hi Neil

    The CRA has strict rules in determining “tax residency” so I would suggest looking at a very useful web site As Andrew says you may well qualify to be a “tax resident” of South Korea which could save you a lot of money in unnecessary tax payments and then you’d also qualify for a TD Direct account.


  18. Neilio says:

    Heyo, a couple technical form questions if anyone can offer advice.

    I’ve been approved over at TD Direct Investing, and they just gave me a couple optional forms for me to send back to them if I want.


    2- “Declaration of eligibility for benefits under a tax treaty for a non-Canadian resident taxpayer”

    Are you familiar with these forms at all? I’m not sure if these forms are a good idea or not. Am I ‘exposing’ myself by using these forms? Am I better off trashing them?

    PS – i reside in Korea

  19. RogerK says:

    @ Neilio

    There’s no exposure by completing those forms, in fact its quite the opposite. It confirms to the CRA that you’re non-resident for tax purposes and, therefore, don’t have to file a Canadian tax return. You will, however, be subject to withholding tax on all dividends and capital gains generated, which in countries that have double taxation treaty with Canada, usually means the Canadian tax withheld is deductible against the foreign tax payable on your total income.

  20. Rob says:

    Hi Andrew,
    I recently read your new book (another great resource!) and am looking into buying some swap-based ETF’s more my portfolio. When looking into both Horizon’s HXS and HXT I noticed that there is a HXT and an HXT.U (same with the HXS and HXS.U). What is the main difference between these two funds? Thank you for your help.

  21. Michael says:

    Hi again Andrew, You’ve sometimes written about buying when stocks are dropping when bargains are available (I hope I interpreted that correctly). For you, would this be that time? My XIC stocks have lost about 10% in the last 5 months and I’m not being alarmist! Would a smart investor buy more at this point? How do I know when to make this decision as a rookieish investor?

    • Michael,

      Smart investors buy every month. They ask, “how is my portfolio now aligned? Does it meet its goal allocation?” Each month, different indexes to different things. If your U.S. index now comprises a smaller amount of your total allocation because it has dropped more than the rest, then yes, that’s the index to buy with this month’s savings.

      There is no speculation involved in this game Michael. As I mentioned in both of my books, your portfolio’s allocation should drive every decision.

  22. Adam Zargar says:

    Hi Andrew

    You say smart investors buy every month.
    I transfer money collected every 6 months only and only buy/rebalance then (so twice a year). That way i only pay transfer fees once a 6 month period. Is this not correct? Will it affect my long term pot?

    • Adam, you will likely be better off investing more frequently than that. But you do your math on what it’s costing you in transfer costs. I was actually responding to the notion of market timing–which plenty of people seem to lean towards.

  23. Abu Dhabi says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Love reading how one can make a good investment. Appreciate your ongoing comments and advise.

    Have been with FPI for 10 years still 10000 in the hole after the recession after an 50000 investment since 2005 – not happy but with them for another 15 years.

    How would you advise to invest with another financial institute while working in the in the UAE and able to cover my loss with FPI?

    • PM99 says:

      Hi Abu Dhabi,
      If you wish to invest in ETFs, you could open an account with TD Direct, Saxobank or Swissquote. I line in Dubai and have just made an application to open an account with Swissquote as I found it to be more convenient and cheaper for my desired way of investing. Ofcourse I am still new to this and have not invested in ETFs as yet but have been following ETF blogs for some time now and have read Andrew’s book which I should admit is an absolute gem. You could read it to get familiar with concepts of investing in ETFs. However in short, you would need an investment platform like the ones mentioned above (ofcourse if you are a US citizen you might have access to cheaper options), and could invest in a global/ regional bond ETF, world index ETF and can add an emerging market/ regional index ETF to diversify if required. The % allocation to each ETF would depend on your age and risk tolerance.

  24. PM99 says:

    Hi Abu Dhabi,
    If you wish to invest in ETFs, you could open an account with TD Direct, Saxobank or Swissquote. I line in Dubai and have just made an application to open an account with Swissquote as I found it to be more convenient and cheaper for my desired way of investing. Ofcourse I am still new to this and have not invested in ETFs as yet but have been following ETF blogs for some time now and have read Andrew’s book which I should admit is an absolute gem. You could read it to get familiar with concepts of investing in ETFs. However in short, you would need an investment platform like the ones mentioned above (ofcourse if you are a US citizen you might have access to cheaper options), and could invest in a global/ regional bond ETF, world index ETF and can add an emerging market/ regional index ETF to diversify if required. The % allocation to each ETF would depend on your age and risk tolerance.

  25. Simone says:

    Hi Andrew, I sadly invested with Zurich Vista and after reading your book, decided to cut my losses (50%) and opened up a TD account when I was in Canada late last year. I am now looking at investing and buying swap based ETFs. From your book, I know that Horizons offers three (Canadian equities, bonds and US equities) and that swap based ETFs carry a greater risk (but are way better tax wise). When I was looking at the information regarding these ETFs on Horizon’s site, they note that, for example, the HXT has a “counterparty exposure of minus12.2%” and the HBB has minus 1.2% counterparty exposure. What do these percentages actually mean (forgive my ignorance). Also, any reason why the HBB has a swap and management fee, whereas the HXT only has a management fee? Finally, one last question, how can you tell that an ETF is swap based? I am looking for a Canadian domiciled swap based ETF that captures the international market, but not sure how to identify which ones are swap based.Thanks so much!

    • Hi Simone,

      So far, there isn’t a swap based international ETF trading on the Canadian market. But Vanguard Canada and iShares Canada offer a variety of international index funds. They are all physical ETFs. You’ll know that a fund is swap based when it says so in the fund’s prospectus. To my knowledge, Horizon is the only Canadian firm that offers these. As for the other questions you asked, they aren’t ignorant at all. In fact, I don’t have an answer. You could call Horizon’s and ask them. If you get clarification, perhaps you can let me know.


  26. Steve says:

    Hi Andrew,
    Thank you so much for writing your two excellent books. You have helped a lot of people. I am an expat teaching in Singapore. I have duel citizenship (Canadian and British) and was wondering which nationality I should be leaning towards with regards to building a portfolio of ETF’s. If I am going the couch potato route, which nationality do you feel is in a more favourable position?

  27. Steve says:

    We haven’t decided where we end up yet 🙂 but if I will pay 15% tax on my Canadian dividend earnings will the UK tax my dividends in a similar fashion?

  28. Steve says:

    Thank you Andrew 🙂

  29. Andrea says:

    Hi Andrew,
    I am about to create my portfolio using scotiabank itrade. I have a question though, and please forgive me if i sound like a newbie (I am one): when I go to buy an ETF (for example, HXS) i can only enter in a CDN in the market box, however i know that HXS is the US index. Am I meant to select CDN and it will still represent the US index?

  30. Kevin says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I just want to clarify some capital gains tax questions. I originally opened a DBS Vickers account. I later decided I would rather have my portfolio located in Canada. I currently reside in Singapore. Is it true to say that if I sell any of my ETFs, the capital gains will automatically be taxed 25% of 50% of the actual gains? I see the dividends taxed quarterly and receive the appropriate statements. But I feel like I might be regretting investing with TD Direct Investing rather than DBS Vickers where capital gains tax don’t exist. On the flip side, if I were to reside in Canada in the future and sell shares in DBS Vickers, I would be taxed by the Canadian government on capital gains. What tips do you have to pay the least amount of tax from capital gains?



    • Kevin,

      If your Canadian portfolio is set up as a non resident account, you could sell any portion (or all) of your portfolio at any time, and you would not be liable for any capital gains taxes. Sometimes, banks in Canada don’t let you set up non resident accounts. Other times, they may not deal with the account properly, when it comes to taxes. This is one reason why many Canadian expats prefer to keep their money in a jurisdiction like Singapore. That said, you don’t have to close your account in Canada if you can make 100% certain that you have set it up as a non resident account and that the account has ONLY your Singapore address linked to it.


  31. Kevin says:

    Thanks Andrew. That is was I initially thought. I setup a non res account with TD 3 years ago. But I was having second thoughts because of something I read recently. This site seems to clarify what taxes non residents of Canada are obligated to pay.

    Thanks again.

  32. Ian says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Great books by the way! I had a few interesting questions that I thought I would ask you. I’m a Canadian who has worked in Malaysia for the last five years. Subsequently, I am a non-resident of Canada. Due to the EPF retirement plan in Malaysia, I now have some money which I plan to invest in a trading account. In july, I will move to Indonesia so CIBC in Canada has denied my application to open a non-resident investors edge account because of their ties with Indonesia. Due you still consider DBS Vickers as the best bank for Canadians with non-resident status to invest with the intention of buying low cost ETF’s? Or is their another strategy/alternative bank that I should be considering instead in Singapore or elsewhere? I do realize that many international accounts have restrictions for expats living in Indonesia. Thanks for your time – very much appreciated. Cheers

  33. James says:

    As a Canadian teaching abroad, unsure of where I want to retire, and loving the synthetic ETFs offered through Horizon on the TSX, I am opening an account with TD Direct Investment (so easy to do!) in Luxembourg, transferring money from my US bank accounts (where our school pays us), and hoping to purchase ETFs like HSX.U with Horizon.

    If my research is correct, something like HSX.U through TD will give me near perfect exposure to the SP500, pay nearly 0 distributions (therefore nearly 0 withholding tax), keep my money in USD (also avoiding Fx fees) whilst keeping my money out of the NYSE (US inheritance taxes), and avoid capital gains tax (broker domiciled in Luxembourg). The fees at TD are very low and the fund costs also low.

    Although I almost started plugging money into WealthBar, I yearn for more control of my portfolio without (fingers crossed my logic and math are ok) paying more in fees than what WealthGap charges (very low, BTW, and a great plan B).

    TD Direct in Luxembourg fees are super low for trades on the TSX, NYSE, and LSE. Does anyone know of a HSX.U equivalent synthetic ETF on the LSE that trades in USD?

    Looking forward to building my couch-potatoe strategy with synthetic ETFs on the LSE and the TSX and paying almost 0 taxes for life. Too good to be true?

    • James,

      Did you read about these products in my book? I mentioned that Horizon’s products are backed by the National Bank of Canada. That’s still riskier than physical ETFs through Vanguard or iShares.

      You are asking to step further out on a limb to find another synthetic ETF by a different provider, yet you are likely unsure of the backer. A synthetic ETF doesn’t hold physical shares. You are literally taking the provider’s promise that they will give you the return to match the market it tracks. And if that firm gets into trouble? What then?

      Your upside is small. The downside is huge. That’s why many of the high end financial advisors (Mark Ikels, for example) won’t touch synthetic ETFs. By all means, stick with the Horizon S&P 500 ETF. It’s riskier, yes, but you know that it’s backer is solid. But an entire portfolio filled with synthetics, when all you gain is slight legal tax evasion on dividends? In my book, it’s not worth risking your entire portfolio.


  34. Michael says:

    Hi again Andrew… I have two questions. when you have time.

    1) I’m still overseas for the foreseeable future. Right now my wife and I have old RRSP mutual funds (~$50,000) that we purchased in the years prior to going overseas and these have been managed by a broker for the last 13 years. The whole portfolio has gained very little and is also with so many different investment firms… Templeton, Front-Street Capital, Manualife, Mackenzie Universal. I’m so angry about my past ignorance. Anyway… as these funds are currently tax locked, do you have suggestions for what we should do with them now? I’d like to pull them away from the broker. I bank with TD in Canada.

    2) Our sons are now working age and are living in Canada. They bank with TD and CIBC. I want to encourage them to start saving now with low cost options when they’re in their early 20s . Are the funds you mentioned in your first book still the best ones (e-series/investor’s edge) or are there better, low-cost options available through either of these or other Canadian banks. I’ve also read about Tangerine but know little about it.

    As always… thanks Andrew!

  35. Jeff says:

    Hi Andrew, I am a US citizen and resident but worked in Canada for a few years. I have an RSP in Canada with National Bank and have been advised by them that if I want to sell any of my holdings in the RSP (mostly equities, some ETFS and mutual funds) then I can only replace what I sell with equities. Trying to get answers from CRA about what a non-resident can invest in hasnt been successful. Also, I have significant cash sitting in a savings account waiting for the exchange rate to recover. I haven’t been able to find a brokerage that would allow me to open a non registered account since I reside in the US (SEC restrictions). Do you have any insight?

  36. ChiefBottleWasher says:

    Hi Andrew:
    First, thanks for a great book. It’s been very hard to get good advice and solid step by step guidance for expats that your book offers is just golden.

    I’m a Canadian non-resident, living in China. I’m 48. I own a worldwide ecommerce business. The worldwide is somewhat significant, as it protects me from market ups and downs – when US was doing badly in 2008, UK was doing well – with my business yielding consistent profits. My business is now throwing off $500K USD in after tax profit.

    So far all my cash has gone into my business, but I finally reached a place where my business got all it needed. So, I have extra cash.

    Right now, I’m sitting on $1M cash that is not earning anything. I expect $500K cash each year for at least next 5-7 years.

    With your suggestion, I have opened up TD Direct Investing account in LU.

    I’m looking for a somewhat aggressive portfolio of 60 equites and 40 bonds.
    Using your book, I have assemble this portfolio, using Horizon funds where possible.

    HXS s&p index US 30%
    HXT S&P / TSX 10%
    VDU international except NA 15%
    VEE Emerging 5%
    HBB Bond 40%

    My big unknow is the HBB – and wether I should be holding Canadian Bonds or US bonds? Seems HBB is a more efficient vehicle, but I have not been able to figure out if there is value in diversifying bond funds.

    Any thoughts about above portfolio? I’m not sure if I will retire in Canada or not, so given this unknow would US bonds be a better bet?

    • Neil Goddard says:

      With that kind of $ you should seek a few different advisers to see what they say.

      • ChiefBottleWasher says:

        I contacted one of the for fee firms in Andrews books and was less than impressed. Eager to sell retirement plan but cannot advise on specific ETF. Ask for them to recommend a ETF advisor and they went away.

        Approach a buddy broker of mine, and he was eager to help, if only I placed my funds under his management for a discount fee of 1.5%. 🙂

        So, striking out trying to find unbiased advisors. Suggestions?

        • Chief,

          This isn’t helpful. You need to say which advisor you went to. Why weren’t they helpful? If you went to them looking for them to build you a portfolio of ETFs, and you started asking how to DIY with specific ETF of your own, then I understand why they wouldn’t be interested. If you have a buddy broker who’s willing to help you for 1.5%, then you will be paying higher fees than any of the recommended advisors in my books charge. Why would you pay 1.5% to have your money managed? That’s a lot.


  37. ChiefBottleWasher says:

    Hey Andrew:
    I didn’t want to name names, and in the interest of their privacy, I will still refrain. Happy to email you privately if you like. My experience, however, went like this. I contacted the company, gave them a summary of what I’m looking for. I got notified that the person that I asked for didn’t take on new clients and that I would be transferred to a different person. I set up a call with the new person and turned out the person didn’t have ANY of my email info that I have sent it. Strange that at a minimum the front desk would not forward client brief.

    I set up a call with this person, and after talking for 30 minutes turns out they really want to run spreadsheets for you to help you know how much you need to retire on for $2500, and then another $2000 (or something like that) to help you figure out the portfolio. In fact, after further discussion turned out that I would only need 3 hours at $300 ($900) to get advice on my portfolio. But the advice would be limited to general guidelines and for specific recommendations, I would be directed to someone else to actually help with the picking. When I asked to just get referred to the person that helped with recommendations, they didn’t reply back.

    So, first, $5K given my portfolio was nothing and I was and am willing to spend it. Didn’t feel this person would be able to give me specific, actionable advice that I would need (as in the question I posed above about my stock selection).

    So, maybe just bad luck, but I was hoping to pay someone to look over my picks, make a suggestion/advice – and then off I am DIY. I have a call with Mark Zoril coming up and hope that will be better.

    And for my buddy – of course, I didn’t go with him, but I got a chuckle thinking about your line in the book about how you can tell who the broker is. He is already driving a Bentley – and I figured 1.5% on a few mil over 10 years, would add one more to his collection. 🙂

    Anyways – I was actually hoping for an opinion on my selection – but failing that – suggestion who I would turn to that could do that.

    • Providing the brokerage’s name would help immensely. These are things I need to know.

    • Mark Zoril can help with your ETF selections. But I also included some models in my book.


      • ChiefBottleWasher says:

        Right – I have used your models but update to use Horizon. I saw your earlier doubts (I think it was you) on couch potatoes back in 2011? about Horizon, but subsequently read that you put them in your own portfolio now. Did my own homework on the swap based ETFs and felt comfy with the risk – especially with National Bank of Canada.

  38. Mike says:

    Hi again Andrew… I hope your speaking tour is going well. Thanks to you, and your three books that I’ve read multiple times, Ive been investing seriously now for two years. I’ve always considered myself to be pretty good at math, but somehow I’m not understanding the rate of gain over the long term that you talk about especially as the stock price gets to a high level. I loved the Willy Wonka example… but none of the index stocks or bonds that I’ve invested in (VEE, VCE, VFV, XIC and ZFL, VAB, VSC) started anywhere close to as low as $10/share – even in their history.

    When I look at one of my vanguard stocks, VCE for example. It’s original price back in 2012 was about $24. Now it’s at about $32 – which is a significant gain in that time. My gain through dividends in the past year is 1.2%. I bought it for about $28 about two years ago, so I’ve gained about 9% total in that time on the stock price. Moving forward from here, I don’t see any of the older index stocks in the $60 – $100 range to accommodate for the average 9% gain over the long term.

    As the stock price goes up, the percentage gain decreases. 1) At what point do you sell for a less expensive stock with more potential for gain? 2) Once a stock like VFV for example (currently $56/share) gets to a certain level where it’s too high for people to buy, what happens?

    Thanks Andrew! Only if you have time. M

    • Hi Mike,

      Stock prices split. Otherwise, you would be seeing share prices in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Also, don’t forget dividends.
      If you are lucky, you will invest for a decade and won’t make a penny. You’ve read my books, so you don’t need to know why or how that would make you lucky.

      Unfortunately, stocks has risen a lot lately. I’m hoping they fall hard soon.


  39. mike says:

    Good evening from the Middle East Andrew!
    I recently opening the Canadian Couch Potato website again and read this article: What do you think about these blended indexes? I almost solely invest with Vanguard through the TSE in Toronto and these look to be getting positive reviews. I was thinking of adding them to my current portfolio.

    Thanks! Mike

    • Hi Mike,

      Adding these to your current portfolio doesn’t make sense because each of these funds is already a fully-diversified portfolio. If you wanted to own one of these, then that’s all you would need to own. Adding anything else would be redundant, if you already have a diversified portfolio of ETFs.


  40. Phil says:

    HI Andrew, thanks for all the work you do to help improve the lives of investors everywhere. I originally read your first book in 2011 and began my CCP investing through TD Direct investing (I’m Canadian). Things are changing I have signed a contract in China to teach and am under the impression that a TD non- resident investment account is the way to go to invest while I’m away (re: chapter for Canadian expats from expatriates guide). Problem is I can’t seem to find any info online from TD on the account fees and processes to set up. Is it the same as using the regular TD Direct platform that I’m currently using?

  41. Divo says:

    @Andrew Hallam: I just heard that HXDM.TO (Horizons Intl Dev Mkts Equity Index ETF) has been added to the Horizon lineup. Would that be a suitable substitute for VDU.TO in the swap-based portfolio you outlined for Canadian expats? Still trying to educate myself. The holdings seem to indicate some North American content, so …maybe too much overlap? Thanks to all your advice, I got my brokerage account set up and made my first ETF purchase this week. Learning many things…..

  42. Ron says:

    Hi Andrew
    I am a Canadian non-resident living and teaching in Vietnam.
    I have a trading account with Saxo in Singapore.
    Do I have to pay tax in Vietnam for any of my capital gains made from the saxo account in Singapore?

  43. Georgio says:

    Hello Andrew and thank you for all your work in helping expat investors around the world!!

    I am a Canadian expat living in the UAE, and already have a CIBC InvestorEdge account from my days back in Canada. This account deems me as non-resident and hence I am only liable for dividend withholding taxes.

    Is there any advantages of opening an online brokerage account (say with Internaxx or Interactive Brokers) and invest in a non-Canadian jurisdiction (London Stock Exchange for example ) to avoid dividend taxes? Or would I be liable for the withholding taxes anyway?


    • Hi Georgio,

      As a non-resident, you will always pay dividend withholding taxes, unless you choose the swap-based portfolio in my book, Millionaire Expat, via an offshore brokerage. That would allow you to avoid all dividend withholding taxes, with Horizon’s swap-based products, especially considering that Horizon now has an international stock market index to add to their arsenal. Currently, you are paying 25% dividend withholding taxes. If you don’t want the swap-based products, you could build a portfolio of traditional index funds via an offshore brokerage, and pay 15% dividend withholding taxes instead of 25% dividend withholding taxes by having a Canadian domiciled, non-resident account. My personal portfolio is offshore, using a combination of the swap based and the traditional index funds. Here’s the Amazon link to my book if you would like to read more.


      • Georgio Akiki says:

        Hi Andrew,

        I already have all your books actually 🙂 – they have helped a lot! thank you.

        I am getting conflicting information regarding the liability for dividend withholding taxes in an offshore brokerage. Both Mark Zoril whom I use as a fee only advisor and Internaxx (I am planning to open an account with) told me that it is indeed possible to buy index ETF’s via the LSE or Ireland and not pay any dividend withholding taxes as a non-resident Canadian in the UAE. Not sure what to beleive anymore.

        Moreover, would it be possible to buy the HORIZONS SWAP products in an account domiciled in Canada and not pay the Div. withholding taxes?

        thanks again for your time,

  44. Paul says:

    Andrew: The original poster was asking which one was better, and I too would be interested in hearing your analysis of the two products and a “conclusion” as to which one is better. So, which of the two do you think is better? And why?

    • Hi Paul,

      If you’ve read my book, Millionaire Expat, you’ll know that there is no “better” product. It depends on your personal risk tolerance, as I described in the book. After all, one is swap-based and one is physical. Here’s a link to my book:


      • Paul says:

        Hi Andrew:
        As of late, I found a lot of your replies very condescending towards the people asking the questions. A) As a teacher, you probably should know that when someone asks you a question, telling them to ‘go read a book’ is not really a good answer. B) I think most people here have purchased and read your book – we are asking questions, not because we save $11.99 on a book purchase, but rather looking for further insight from you.

        In the above question the other person had, and subsequently myself that was interested in it, I think you may have answered something like “Option 1 has 0.23% of xxx however its a swap based security hence it carries a slight risk. However in my book, on page XXX, I do point out that because these swaps are guaranteed by Bank of XX they are a family safe bet. Consequently, the other option you are looking at, ticker XXX does carry XX fees, but you do gain the safety of it being a tangible stock.” I cover these in my books on page xx, xx, xx.

        I think a response like that would not only give you a) much more credibility, b) make you feel approachable and helpful c) perhaps score you that speaking gig as you would be perceived as friendly and helpful.

        I’m not sure if you are realizing how you are coming across. I think you are a nice and helpful guy, but when you reply to people replies by hard pitching the book and not answering the questions, it doesn’t make you appear so nice.

        And one more thing – if you did put a touch more effort into answering these questions, the posts would get a much better SEO boost in the rankings, and your books could sell better just via that, and without you having to hard pitch them.


        • Hi Paul,

          Thank you for feedback. You are right. I could certainly take more time to answer people’s questions. I’m not really interested in SEO boosts. I can’t even tell you what that is. 🙂

          But I can tell you that I’m just a very human guy with a wife, who’s on a trip in a camper van. I could do better with the responses; you are right. But it would also take away from time with my wife. I answer questions on three facebook pages each day, and I try my best with the blog.

          That said, I am probably biting off more than I can chew, hence coming across far less adequately than I could. My apologies.


  45. Raghu says:

    Hi Andrew-

    I am a Canadian expat currently in Singapore but likely to be relocated back to Canada next few months. Big fan of your books, read the first 2 entirely and have only read the Canadian investment portion of Millionaire expat. Was hoping to get your thoughts on the following:

    1) I guess I have to change brokerage (currently use Internaxx Luxembourg) to one domiciled in Canada?
    2) I am not sure I will retire in Canada hence don’t have significant Canadian equity exposure. Can the dividend tax credit be one reason to consider adding Canadian exposure (have not decided on swap based ETF yet)
    3) How to allocate ETF portfolio among RRSP, TFSA and rest
    4) Anything else from your experience moving back to Canada to watch out for?

    Thanks much,

  46. Mike KOVACS says:

    Hi Andrew,

    As a Canadian, maintaining a Canadian passive portfolio at a Canadian brokerage, while living and working in the UK, I have worked tirelessly to be able to grasp the tax numbers I have to report to the UK.

    Long story short, my Canadian brokerage (popular, starts with Q….) has admitted to cocking it up (to use a polite British phrase) with respect to the withholding taxes they took from me. However, I’m still not certain they understand, and I am hoping for some literature that explains / walks through what an expat should see as withholding tax in their taxable accounts, for various account activities (particularly dividends). Is there any literature on this? I don’t feel like paying thousands for a tax specialist because I’ve found most of them don’t even have a grasp on the implications of the UK tax regime for offshore investments – – – even the one Canadian specialist you recommended in your book.



  47. Raghu says:

    Hey Andrew- Gentle follow-up on my earlier query about moving back to Canada. Please can you advise.


  48. Heiko says:

    How much of a difference can the tax savings of a swap based ETF actually make? In general, with the management fees and swap fees combined, they end up being more expensive than traditional ETF indexes, so obviously the higher recurring fees would have to be offset by the tax savings.

    Would it be fair to say 0.5% savings on taxes?

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