The Global Expatriate’s Guide to Investing


The Global Expatriate’s Guide to Investing: From Millionaire Teacher to Millionaire Expat

Available 27th October 2014


The manuscript is with the publisher. Here is an earlier post about the contents.

The first edition is available for pre-order from Amazon.

And I have arranged a large discount for your school or business.



Andrew Hallam

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

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50 Responses

  1. ben shearon says:

    Like it! It’s going to look great on my bookshelf at work (my uni office is approaching the tipping point -more books on money than on teaching).


  2. DIY Investor says:

    This book should be bought by every school and company employing expats and especially read by their human resources people. The ripping off of expats needs to stop and Andrew is the one to stop it. I’m looking forward to the book.

  3. Sajid says:

    Hi Andrew,
    I was hoping you could help me out or at least point me in the right direction. Being a muslim I have limitations when it comes to investing. Generally, due to my faith and islamic principles require that investors such as myself avoid interest and investments in businesses such as liquor, pornography, gambling, and banks. The Funds avoid bonds and other interest-bearing securities while seeking protection against inflation by making long-term equity investments. There is a company Saturna Capital, which caters to the muslim community with their “Amana” funds. However, they are “actively managed” funds.

    Amana Mutual Funds Trust Income FundClass Inv (AMANX) – (Expense ratio: 1.18)
    Amana Trust GrowthClass Inv (AMAGX) – (Expense ratio: 1.11)
    Amana Mutual Funds Trust Developing World FundClass Inv (AMDWX) – (Expense ratio: 1.51)

    In respect to my faith and religious practices, what can I invest in? I wanted to open a Roth IRA, but due to the nature of most funds, I can’t really invest in them. Is it worth it to invest in these Amana funds? I was wondering if you can point me in the right direction. Thank You


    • Much depends on your nationality Sajid. What passport do you hold?


      • Gabe says:

        @Andrew Hallam

        I had the same question that Sajid posed last year. He replied below that he was holding a US passport. Perhaps you missed it. Nevertheless, In my case (similar) I am asking as a Canadian non-resident. I’ve read the latest book and didn’t find any information about Islamic or SRI indexes/etfs that were priced cheaply. The fees I find all range around 1.1-1.5% per year, which as you have explained, eats away at long-term potential. If there are no cheap efts that you know of, another option would be to suggest etfs/indices that avoid: bonds, pornography, alcohol and heavy holdings in the financial sector, which is very difficult. I’d love to get your take on it; I am sure there is a segment of your readership that would be interested in your response. And as always, thank you for your efforts.


        • Hi Gabe,

          I deeply respect what you are trying to do. But I don’t believe that any “Shariah compliant” funds or ETFs are actually Shariah compliant. For this reason, I think many Muslims have been taken advantage of by those who have created such funds, and that upsets me. I have dissected the components of such funds. Within them, I’ll see shares of stocks such as Coca Cola, Pepsi, Wal-Mart, Apple, Microsoft, General Electric, to name just a few. But none of these companies are Shariah compliant. Almost all public traded (and private) companies issue bonds. Many years ago, I tried to help some of my Muslim friends put together a truly Shariah compliant portfolio. We bought shares of a few individual stocks that didn’t issue bonds. I could find so few businesses that the portfolios weren’t diversified–nor were the stocks particularly strong companies. I can no longer recall which companies I chose. But if you do want some ETFs claiming to be Shariah compliant (even though they are certainly not) you can find a list of a few here. They may not be Shariah compliant (only in name) but they may offer the best option available.

  4. Sean says:

    One of the weird things I’m noticing about Vanguards ETFs is that they perform differently depending on which stock market you buy them from.

    For example:

    Vanguard’s S&P 500 ETF in the US is VOO, bought off the NYSE.
    Vanguard’s S&P 500 ETF in Europe is VUSA, bought off the Amsterdam exchange.

    The performance should be exactly the same for both ETFs, but VOO outperforms VUSA. Why is this?

    Would love to hear an answer from Andrew as I’m about to start my ETF odysey with 20k euro one week from now. I’m European-Irish, based in Dubai, opened a Saxo account (base currency euro) and need to finally decide on my ETFs. I was gung-ho for VUSA, but have been put off by its poor performance relative to VOO.

    • Hi Sean,

      Check to see which currencies each is denominated in. Are they both quoted in USD? If so, they should perform the same, apart from their different expense ratios. Check to see that those are equal as well. Either way, you shouldn’t be buying off the NYSE anyway because you likely want your heirs to avoid to U.S. estate taxes.



    • Toby says:

      VUSA trades on the Euronext stock exchange is denominated in euros.

      Try VUSD on the London exchange which is denominated in US dollars and should have the same chart as VOO and is also denominated in USD.

      The tracking difference you describe will be related to changes in exchange rates between the euro and US dollar.


      • Sean says:

        Hi Toby, Andrew

        My Saxo account is in euros – would it not be inefficient for me to buy a US dollar ETF from the London exchange?
        Right now I have 20k euros to invest and I’d like to move this coming week and start buying.

        As mentioned:
        VUSA (from either Amsterdam or London)
        Also consider VEUR (from Amsterdam)
        and as my bond, IEGE from iShares.

        Opinions at this late hour are welcome. I would like to start next week, but if I’m still unsure by the middle of next week, I might just wait until Andrew’s book is published.

        Andrew, I’m going to buy your book anyway – so please give me the benefit of your advice now. Help us poor Europeans out 🙂

        • Toby says:

          Hi Sean,

          Are you planning on investing in the short term bonds ETF (money market) you mentioned above and a USA ETF? Are you doing this on purpose? Have you considered IWRD? This is an all world equity ETF (similar to VWRL) and trades in euros on the Amsterdam exchange. This would be a great two fund portfolio and they both trade in euros. You could do something like:

          30% IEGE (Bonds)
          70% IWRD (Shares)

          This portfolio is good. Well diversified and simple. Easy to manage. It will give good long term returns.

          The yield on the bond ETF is low but I suppose there is not much you can do about that.


          • Sean says:

            Hi Toby,

            I was thinking to invest in a European ETF, a USA ETF, and a solid bond ETF. Because my base currecny is euro, I was hoping to buy all three from the Amsterdam exchange.

            With regard to IWRD, you raise the prospect of a single stock ETF rather than a USA ETF and European ETF.
            This certainly makes sense from a simplicity point of view. The only reason I hadn’t decided to do it is because most people here seem to favor a 3-part portfolio rather than a 2-part portfolio.

            At the end of the day, the main thing for me is long-term return. This being the case, is the two-part portfolio going to give the same return, on average, as a three-part portfolio? My intuition was ‘no’ because (I reasoned) everyone else here seems to be going for 3 or even four ETFs (including Andrew!).

            Is there any reason why you suggest iWRD over VWRL? The TER for VWRL is half that of IWRD. So you have me thinking – is there something better about iShares that makes them preferable to Vanguard?

            Finally, I like your suggestion of bond ETF (IEGE), so I think I’ll go for it. BTW, what’s your opinion on inflation-linked bond ETFs?

          • Hi Sean,

            There’s no reason to favor a three-part portfolio over a two part portfolio. If an ETF combines the elements of the other two, fantastic. Go for it.


          • Toby says:

            Hi Sean,

            Go with the lower expense ratio.

            Warren Buffet recommends a two-fund portfolio too. Recently he said:
            “I’ve told the trustee to put 90% of it in an S&P 500 index fund and 10% in short-term governments. And the reason for the 10% in short-term governments is that if there’s a terrible period in the market and she’s withdrawing 3% or 4% a year you take it out of that instead of selling stocks at the wrong time. She’ll do fine with that. And anybody will do fine with that. It’s low-cost, it’s in a bunch of wonderful businesses, and it takes care of itself.” So, I don’t know which portfolio (two or three fund) will give the superior returns. If a two fund portfolio is good enough for Warren Buffett and Andrew Hallam has no objections, you should consider it.

            I have a two fund portfolio and like the simplicity. When I add money I only need to decide between the stock or bond ETF. Simply!

            I don’t think it really matters if you have a two-fund portfolio (one bond ETF and one all world stock ETF) or you have a three-fund portfolio (one bond ETF, one USA share ETF and one rest of the world share ETF). How much you add each month and your behavior throughout the years will be much more important than your choice of a two fund portfolio or three fund portfolio (provided both have similar and low expense ratios).

            Don’t sweat the small stuff (i.e. two fund or three funds?????….) and get on with what counts: adding money regularly to the lagging ETF and rebalancing dispassionately once a year (and using funds with expense ratios of less than 0.3% if you can).


  5. Sajid says:

    I am a US citizen and hold a US passport.

  6. DIY Investor says:

    Hi Sajid,
    Here is a link that might help you . They should at least give you the information you seek. You are wise to focus on indexing and low expense ratios.

  7. Sajid says:

    Thank you so much!! Very much appreciated!!

  8. Toby says:

    VUSA trading on the Euronext stock exchange is denominated in euros.

    Try VUSD on the London exchange which is denominated in US dollars and should have the same chart as VOO and is also denominated in USD.

    The tracking difference you describe will be related to changes in exchange rates between the euro and US dollar.


  9. Sean says:

    @Toby, Andrew

    Thanks for the comments. I’m settled in WRL — I really like its mix.

    Regarding my bond, I have it down to 2:
    – The aforementioned IEGE
    – CBE3 (Eurozone 1-3yr government bonds. (CBE3 performs a nice bit better than IEGE).

    I’m still wondering about why no one here ever mentions inflation-linked bond ETFs. Similarly, where do you guys stand on REITs?

  10. Justin says:

    Hi Andrew,

    How long before we might see a kindle edition of the book? As a mobile expat, books are not great when you move regularly. Digital version on the ipad would be great for me!


  11. Stacia Maiorani says:

    Hello Andrew – I would like to offer the pre-order of this book to our staff here at the American School of Milan. Some teachers have already asked if they can order the kindle version… while others would like the hard-copy. Is this alright to mix and match our order like this?
    What is the cut-off for the discount deal?
    Thanks – I look forward to hearing back from you!
    Stacia Maiorani

    • Hi Stacia,

      Thanks for your interest. I just emailed Wiley, asking them if they could sell at 40% off retail to a school in Qatar with 14 interested teachers. And they went for it. So if your school has at least this number of teachers wanting hard copies, it looks like a new precedent was just set. Retail is $29.99. But your teachers would pay $18. As for Kindle versions, Amazon is offering a pre-order price of $18.47. Here’s the link:

      Thanks for making this effort on behalf of your teachers!


  12. Kira says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I am a Canadian citizen, but I am no longer a resident in Canada. Does your book address situations like mine?


  13. Trevor Kalinowsky says:

    Hey Andrew,

    I’ve read both of your books and found that both of them provided some great insight to help me get started on getting started in investing. I’ve got a couple of questions that weren’t fully answered so I’m hoping you can offer additional insight or direct me to some good reading material:
    What is your opinion on more detailed asset allocations in a portfolio of index funds (see: Specifically, would you consider leaning toward small cap value indexes (US and international) or REITs (US and international)?
    I’m Canadian and my wife is American (we currently live in Vietnam), but we’re not sure if we’re going to retire in the US, Canada, or somewhere else. Your advice is to have a portion of your portfolio in the index of your retirement country. What if we don’t know where we’re retiring?

    Not sure if you can answer these quickly in a comment thread but I thought I’d give it a go. Looking forward to your response.


    • Hi Trevor,

      I personally like to keep my portfolio really simple. But you could certainly build subtle asset class variations and add other asset classes, such as a REIT index, a commodity index etc. I created a Global Nomad portfolio for investors on Table 17.4 of my book, page 239. The ETFs I listed trade on the UK exchange.

      If you want to buy off the Canadian exchange, and you want a simple portfolio without a country bias, you could buy the iShares Core MSCI All Country World ex Canada Index ETF (XAW) plus a Vanguard Canadian Short Term Bond Index ETF (VSB), Vanguard’s Global Bond Index ex. US (VBG), and Vanguard U.S. Bond Market Index ETF (VBU). The bond indexes are hedged to the CDN. With bonds, that’s not a big deal.

      If you want to select alternative ETFs, check out iShares Canada and Vanguard Canada for products. Just keep in mind that backtested studies of superiority with such an approach may not manifest themselves in the future. Have a look through this site:

      You’ll see that sophisticated models, such as the ones you are proposing, may have had strong historical results. But simple Couch Potato Portfolios have beaten more sophisticated models over the past five years. Will they forever? I don’t know. Nobody does. As a result of that, I keep my personal portfolio very simple. There’s genius in simplicity.


  14. Will says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Just finished your book and loved it! I’m moving to Ireland with my wife next year (i’m u.s citizen, she’s perm resident u.s and irish citizen)

    1. Do you recommend all our investments in the u.s? If so, should all our fund have to be u.s domicile?
    2. Your couch potato portfolio for vanguard, i’m curious why you had vanguard short-term, treasury for your bond funds. Why not U.S total bond index (VBMFX) along with Vanguard total international bond index (VTIBX). Vanguard recommends up to 30% of bonds to be international bonds. Do you mind sharing your take on that?
    3. Your book is now a few years old and was wondering if you hear any expats mention if their having trouble with their vanguard account being an expat as far as investing new money? Just curious and thinking if i should take the safe rough and go with Schwab. I have a vanguard account for years now.

    • Hi Will,

      Fortunately, that book is less than 2 years old. I don’t feel the need for a U.S. investor to buy international bonds. My rationale is the same as I mentioned in my book for all nationalities: Canadians repatriating to Canada should hold Canadian bonds. Brits, repatriating back to the UK, should hold UK bonds. Not every financial advisory firm agrees with Vanguard on their international bond position. To that end, they have only recently been suggesting this. Just 2 years ago, their Target retirement funds didn’t contain international bonds. They won’t hurt. But I don’t think it’s a level of diversification that most investors need, unless they really don’t know where they will retire. That changes things.

      Vanguard has been closed to new expat accounts for 10 years now. No investor that I have heard of (and people usually tell me these things fast!) has had difficulty, since then, adding money. My book also mentions why I always prefer short term bond indexes, as opposed to intermediate and longer term bond indexes, when the shorter term indexes are available. With a short term bond index, you will always beat inflation. That’s not always so with a longer term bond index. Plus, interest rates are very low right now. When they rise (and they will, one day) those will longer term bond indexes will have a couple of years where they don’t make money.


  15. Will says:

    Going back to #1. If we plan to live the rest of our loves in europe and all our money is in usd, wouldn’t I be in a bad loss if the usd to euo fall? We sent alot of money to Ireland because we planned on starting an investment account there. When we visited there few months ago we couldn’t find a low cost brokerage, then I stumbled on your book. Now debating if we should bring our money back here (fyi- we would actually make money bc euro is recovering 🙂 ).

  16. Tom says:

    Love the book Andrew, ended up buying it after having borrowed it to excess from the local library. I have a question about international bonds, as I am unsure where I will retire, but as I am a UK national I would still like a UK- based international bond to complement my Vanguard ETF [VWRL]. Any suggestions? The iShares SAAA and IGLO are both USD listed bonds.

    • toony says:

      iShares SAAA has a USD base but actually trades in GBP on the LSE (IAAA is the base & trade USD version).
      iShares IGLO is also avail in GBP on the LSE (as SGLO – base USD, trade GPB)
      If you mainly want UK bonds in GBP (ie both base and trading currency GBP), check out – IGLS (short), IGLT (intermediate) & VGOV (intermediate)

      • Tom says:

        Hi toony,

        Thanks for the answer. I currently have a SaxoTrader account – they list IGLO in USD, and they don’t seem to have SAAA at all. Either of those are just what I am looking for. My mix of 4 is going to be VUKE and IGLS, plus VWRL and an international bond, but I haven’t found a suitable instrument yet.

      • Jen says:

        Tony-I,m quite confused with regards to the ETF bonds. I have global stock in Gbp and ftse100 ETF in Gbp and then I have the global bonds ETF iShares IAAA:Xlon in USD-which is what I found when I started with Saxo 2 1/2 yr’s ago. Have I got the wrong ETF bond-is the one I chose domiliced in USA-I thought it was domiciled in Uk. Have I made and error-and if I have how should I change it? (I am not an American and thought I was choosing ETFs not domiciled in USA)

        • Hi Jen,

          If you selected your ETFs from my book, you’ll be fine. I screened every single one of those.


        • toony says:

          Jen, nothing wrong with your bond choice.
          IAAA has a USD base & domiciled in Ireland (not in USA so no heredity tax risk)
          IAAA and SAAA are the same bond ETF (IAAA trades in USD while SAAA trades in GBP).
          Since your equity components are in GBP, it would have been more convenient to purchase SAAA instead to keep your entire portfolio in GPB – easier to rebalance and less currency conversions/trading costs.
          If your portfolio is modest, it may be good to simply swap your IAAA for SAAA now so much easier and cheaper to maintain in the long term.

  17. Index says:

    I am in a USD portfolio with 35% allocation to bonds which I have split 20% IGLO and 15% CORP – both iShares ff the UK exchange. The former is a global govt. bond fund whilst the later is high grade global corporate bond fund – I did it this way for more diversity.

  18. UAEExpat says:

    Love the book and have pretty much followed it to the letter. As a long term UK expat we now have an account at Swissquote and hold GBP Vanguard Lifestrategy funds. However the advice in the book is a bit sketchy about what to do when repatriating to the UK. After having read around the topic it seems to avoid CGT you should sell the asset, ship the funds back to the UK and then re-buy the assets. Is there any better alternative to doing this ?

    • It’s unofficially called Bed & Breakfasting your money. This is how it’s done. Otherwise, if you sell it in the UK, and the cost factor is based on the cost you paid, you’ll have to pay capital gains tax. If you buy it once you are a resident of the UK, that gets re-set, and you have essentially made tax free money. Cheers, A.

    • jen says:

      Eh? So if we have etfs in gbp at Saxo and Internaxx and one day retire in U.K. we pay capital gains tax when we draw down 4% each year?? But if we sell everything and then rebut it when in U.K..but again at Saxo and Internaxx we won’t pay CGT? How odd…never heard this before. Does anyone, like me, just want to give up trying to same and invest…one just seems to be penalised for it.

      • Hi Jen,

        I think you misunderstood.

        Let’s say you live overseas. You are investing with Saxo. You don’t pay capital gains taxes on your gains.
        You decide to move to the UK. At least 6 months before moving, you sell everything. You don’t pay a penny in capital gains taxes.

        Then you start withdrawing money. But in your first year, if you withdraw immediately upon arriving, you wouldn’t pay a penny in tax because you haven’t technically earned a profit yet (but you have, you earned it all overseas).

        In the second year, you withdraw more money. Now you pay capital gains tax only on the capital gain that occurred (if a capital gain occurred) between year 1 and year 2. And , you only pay that capital gain tax on a percentage of the amount that you withdrew in year two.

        So no, you aren’t penalised for saving overseas. You are generously rewarded for it.


    • Timfou says:

      Hi please tell me how you got the life strategy vanguard funds through swissquote ? When I searched their site I couldn’t find them , also are these accumulating interest or paid out and you reinvest ? Thanks

  19. TimFoul says:

    Hi Andrew. Bought your book after being strongly recommended by a friend and loved it. Been living in UAE and have made some horrible investments with some of the sharks you mention. I am 53 yrs old and plan to return to UK in 5 yrs. I have a lump sum of £400k to invest and monthly contributions of approx £5k for the next 5 years. Do you think with my age against me it would still be good to follow your couch potato portfolio and rebalancing once a year for the next 5 years.? I dont think I would need to touch the investment after the 5 years for probably another few years but wouldn’t be making the monthly top ups. My only regret is not discovering your book 10 years ago !!

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