Expatriate Investors: Does It Matter Which Currency Your ETF Is Listed In?



It’s a common question. 

Does it matter what currency my ETF is listed in?

The short answer is no.  

But people get fooled by this.  Here’s an example.

Investors might look at two ETFs.  Assume that each ETF tracks the U.S. stock market.  But one of the ETFs is listed in USD, the other is listed in Australian dollars.  

The investor then looks at the performance result for each.  Investors could look at the iShares S&P 500 ETF (CSPX).  It trades on the UK market.  It’s listed in USD.  It gained 0.79 percent over the 12-month period ending April 30, 2016.

Investors then wonder whether the same ETF, listed on the Australian exchange, posts better returns. Over the same 12-month period, the iShares S&P 500 (IVV) lists a 12-month performance of 4.55 percent.

But don’t be fooled.  As long as their expense ratios are the same or similar, their performances will be identical. That’s because they both track the U.S. stock market, hence the U.S. dollar.

Again, the true gain or loss of the ETF is completely dependent on the stock market (and currency) of the underlying stock market(s) that the ETF tracks.

In the above example, the Australian dollar fell nearly 4 percent to the USD over this time period.  So, the ETF that’s listed in Australian dollars gives the illusion of making more money.  It didn’t.  Regardless of the listed currency, this was an investment in U.S. stocks.  It was also an investment in the U.S. dollar because it tracks an index called the S&P 500.  This index is made up only of U.S. stocks.  It would never be an investment in Australian dollars, even if the ETF were listed as such.

This leads to the questions I get about currency risk.  An investor from England, for example, might be interested in buying a UK stock market index (ETF).  If that ETF is listed in Euros, she may be concerned.  She may think that her performance will depend on the Euro.  But it doesn’t.  It’s an investment in British stocks and the British pound.  The listed price (in Euros) has no bearing on how the index performs.

If the British stock index stayed flat for the year, but the Euro fell 20 percent, her ETF would post a listed gain (in Euros) of 20 percent.  Did it gain that much?  No, it would have gained nothing if measured in British pounds.  By investing in a British stock market index (no matter what currency it was priced in) she wouldn’t be betting on the Euro at all.  She would be betting on the British pound.

I first posted this on May 11th.  Immediately after posting it, a reader asked a question.  I’ve pasted it here (and you can still see it as the post’s first comment):

“I invest mainly in VWRD through the London Stock Exchange. If the UK economy crashes, will my holdings be dramatically affected? Obviously this scenario would influence the UK currency.”

I’ll repeat what I wrote above.

The listed currency of the ETF has no bearing on its value.  A global stock index is invested in global stocks.  Almost every currency is represented in that index.  The UK pound would have no bearing on the index’s true value.

 If the UK pound dropped 90%, his world stock index would report a “gain” of hundreds of percentage points.  Again, the listed currency of the ETF has no bearing on the ETF’s value.  

Of course, if it’s an ETF that tracks the UK stock market, and it’s priced in pounds, then the listed currency price matters.  I’ll repeat this again:

The only thing that matters is the underlying currency (or currencies) that are represented by the ETFs holdings.


 Why choose one listed currency over another?

If you are paid in Euros, then buying ETFs that are listed in Euros makes sense.  If you are paid in Canadian dollars, then buying ETFs listed in Canadian dollars also makes sense.  Likewise, if you know you are retiring to a given country, buying ETFs listed in that currency makes a bit of sense­–but not for the reasons that you might think.


Remember, the listed currency of your ETFs is practically irrelevant.

But if you are retiring to France, and your ETFs are listed in Euros, then you won’t pay currency conversion spreads when you sell.  If I owned the same ETFs, listed in Euros, and I retired to Canada, I would pay a small currency conversion spread when I sell and convert to Canadian dollars.

Small.  Currency Conversion.  Spreads.  That’s it.  The movement of the currency wouldn’t mean a thing.


I’ll repeat that.  The movement of the currency that your ETFs are listed in won’t mean a thing.  



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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197 Responses

  1. Gabe says:

    Thanks for the explanation. One other questions, however. I invest mainly in VWRD through the London Stock Exchange. If the UK economy crashes, will my holdings be dramatically affected? Obviously this scenario would influence the UK currency.

    • Hi Gabe,

      The listed currency is completely irrelevant. If you owned VWRD, you would own a global basket of currencies and markets because VWRD is a global stock market index with each country represented based on its global market capitalization. As such, it wouldn’t matter whether it was listed in UK pounds or Armenian Dram. That currency could fall through the floor. But as mentioned in the post, you aren’t investing in the currency that the ETF is listed in, unless that ETF tracks that country’s given stock market, and no other market.


  2. Steven says:

    Hi Andrew, perhaps not a directly related question but I wonder if you could elaborate on why you chose to hold the bond part of your portfolio in CAD (VSB.TO). It seems to me that as you will rebalance the equities part of your portfolio against the bond part, the expectation is that they will not both respond equally to market fluctuations (ie CAD dropping as global equities drop) . If the equity part is dominated by (for example) USD and Euros, wouldn’t you want the bond part to also be in these currencies?

  3. Hi Steven,

    I prefer my bond index to represent the currency in which I’ll be paying future bills, once I repatriate to Canada. But your rationale is more than solid.


    • Chris says:

      Hi Andrew,

      I’m u.s citizen living the rest of my life in Europe. My account is in Vanguard in the US.

      US Total Market-40
      Total Int Market-30
      US total bond-30

      Like your situation, I want my bonds to represent the currency in which I’ll be paying future bills (in euros). Any advice how to do that with vanguard US?

    • Marie-Claude says:

      Hi Andrew,
      We are canadien expats in Dubai, we don’t know if we will go back in Canada in the future and we expect to stay in Dubai for at least 8 to 10 years. We want to use Saxo Bank platform. We don’t have the minimum of $100 000US for a multi currency account. We have $40,000CDN in Canada that we will invest first. We are paid in Dirhams and we want to invest 10,000 of them every month. Do you suggest a conversion of our CDN dollars in US and convert monthly our AED in US? Because we don’t have a multi currency account with Saxo Bank, what do you suggest to deal with the conversion and save the more fees as possible? I read in you book that Saxo takes lots of their money with those conversion fees.

  4. Laurence says:

    What generates the need to invest in your “base” currency as you mention above with the bonds. How would that benefit you in the long run? If your Index Fund is in Euro, for example, who do you have to make a placement in European bonds, versus USD ones? How does one correlate to the need to have the other as a base currency?

    • Hi Lawrence,

      I’m sorry, could you clarify your question? I’m not sure what you mean.


      • Laurence says:

        Sorry for confusing you…. so we’re not entirely sure where we will retire but say we want to retire in Europe (one option). I’m not sure why the connection needs to be made with the place of retirement. For example, why would it be better to invest in a European bond EPF and not an Australian one prior to retirement if I want to retire in Europe? Does that clarify at all?

        • Laurence,

          If you choose to retire in Europe, but your sole bond allocation is in Australian dollars, then you will be paying future bills (bread, milk, cheese, petrol, etc) in Euros, but much of your income will be denominated in Aussie dollars. That makes little sense. If the Aussie dollar falls relative to global currencies, you’re in a lurch. Whereas, if you own a large denomination of Euros, and the Euro falls relative to global currencies, it wouldn’t matter one bit. You, after all, will be paying your bills in Euros anyway.

  5. Andrew says:


    I put some research into investing after almost falling for the charms of a friends provident broker. Your website and book were a great start and I have already started by investing in Singapore on A35 and ES3. For the global shares I am looking at TSX:VXC but DBS Vickers will be charging me currency exchange fees every time I buy and sell. The 1.5% commission is a lot. I am British but do not know if that is where I will end up in retirement. However, there is a better chance of in Britain than in Canada. So really, if my understanding of the currency fx is correct then I should buy global etf in LSX and perhaps only have one conversion to GBP?

    Many thanks,


    • Hi Andrew,

      Standard Chartered’s brokerage (Singapore) will allow you to buy off the UK exchange. YI believe you will pay a 0.5% FX commission (it’s hidden, you won’t see it) but your money would then be denominated in pounds, making the exchange easier on your wallet when you sell. That said, realize that the commission spreads to buy and sell are very small, compared to any ongoing fees you would have paid on your total value each year, if you had invested with a firm like Friends Provident. My book will help you a great deal. Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Global-Expatriates-Guide-Investing-Millionaire/dp/1119020980


      • Andrew says:


        Many thanks for quick reply. I have purchased the book already but perhaps I missed the point about foreign currency. I think I was perhaps over estimating how much the rebalancing will cost me in fx fees each time. So there is no option for global stock ETF on the Singapore market if I want to keep all of my currency in SGD?



  6. Conor O' Connor says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I would like to ask you when we all retire to our home countries or even return to them in the next few years to work, how do we avoid paying income tax on our profits and also capital gains tax implications on our investments. In some European countries this could be 41% tax and a 33% capital gain also. The problem may not manifest for many years but one could get a real surprise in 15 or 20 years. Any help would be much appreciated. Regards Conor

    • Conor,

      Only U.S. residents (and one country in Africa) tax its residents on worldwide income. In your situation, while teaching abroad, you could make millions of dollars in profits, sell the investments before repatriating, transfer that money to your home country bank account and legally not pay a stitch in taxes. To make you more comfortable, speak to an expatriate accounting specialist in your home country, or likely any accountant in your home country.


  7. Diego says:

    Hi Andrew,
    In your book “The Global expatriates guide…”, in the chapter where you speak about Investing for European Expats, you always give examples where the portfolio has stocks/bonds bought in the UK exchange (which would be bought in GBP, right?). I, like Urko, am Spanish and I will retire in the Euro zone and not in the UK, but if I make my portfolio buying stocks/bonds in the London stock exchange, will I not constantly lose on exchange rates? In that case would it be better to create my portfolio from buying the same ETF’s in the Amsterdam or Frankfurt or Paris stock exchanges? What are the main bebefits of buying from the London stock exchange in comparison to buying from the other large exchanges in Europe (France, Germany, Holland)?

    Many thanks in advance!


    • Hi Diego,

      As I mentioned in the article that you posted beneath, you would not keep losing money based on moving exchange rates–just the tiny spread, each time you sell and convert.
      But it’s cleaner (and will cost slightly less) if you can find ETFs denominated in the currency of your future bills. So, if you can find those ETFs, go for it. Just be sure you’re aware of their added risk if they are synthetic or swap based ETFs.

      New ETFs are coming available available all the time. This is a good thing.


    • rick says:

      Diego, ishares has ETF’s on different european exchanges in EUR, USD and GBP. Essentially they are the same. Just pick the one you like. Be aware however that the UK does not have witholding taxes on dividends so that is a benefit that may offset investing in the ‘wrong’ currency.

      • Tito says:

        Hi, I am also Spanish and also found it a bit confusing when in the book you recommend Europeans to build their portfolio from the UK Market in pounds. I will also most likely retire in Europe and my future bills will be in Euros, like ‘most’ Europeans.
        Anyway, I followed your recommendations and built the Couch Potato Portfolio including a Global index in page 274 (Table 21.4), which holds bonds (IBGS), an international index (VWRL) and a European index (IMEU, IEUX or VEUR).

        I have always had this issue in mind, so thanks to Diego for bringing this up again.

        After a little research I’ve found that I can build the same portfolio entirely in Euros if I buy from the Amsterdam and/or Italian Stock Market. The results of my research are shown below.

        Where to buy the Couch Potato Portfolio in page 274 (Table 21.4) in Euros
        Amsterdam – All in euros (IBGS, IMEU, IEUX, VEUR, VWRL)
        Italy – IBGS, IMEU, IEUX
        UK – only IBGS (IEGS)

        I am not sure of all the implications of buying from Amsterdam, but I know that my brokerage charges 15€ when buying form the UK, 30€ from Amsterdam and 50€ from other markets (Italy, I guess).
        I also remember reading that the Amsterdam market is actually an American arm of the NYSE. Isn’t called NYSE Euronext Amsterdam?

        Then ‘Rick’ says: UK does not have withholding taxes on dividends, does that mean that Amsterdam does? What does that exactly mean btw?

        My guess my question is, is it worth rebuilding my portfolio so I can have it all in the currency that I am going to pay my bills in the future (Euros) or is it ok if I continue investing in pounds even though I am not retiring in the UK?

        Many thanks in advance for all your comments

      • Diego says:

        Hi Andrew and Rick,

        Thanks for the info. Very useful. I have not thought of that factor (withholding taxes). Researching I actually found that it might not be 0% tax in the UK any more…I still need to research a bit further. Check this website for UK tax dividends:

        What do you make of it. Only the first 5000GBP is tax free? Not that much!

  8. Wolfgan Price says:

    But if you live in the US then it matters if the ETF is listed in Australian Dollars, because when you bring back the investment into US dollars there will be an extra benefit or loss from the currency exchange

    • Wolfgan, there will only be a 1% (or so) currency spread hit to do what you are suggesting. You will not gain or lose money based on where the USD or the Aussie dollar floated on a currency exchange if (for example) you own a U.S. stock ETF, trading in Aussie dollars. You would lose 1% to make the switch. That’s it.

      On another note, if you are a resident of the United States, you should be able to open a U.S. based account with Vanguard.If you are a resident of the United States, the IRS also won’t take kindly to you having an offshore account. They will insist that you declare it on U.S. tax forms. And you will be taxed a far higher than normal rate on all capital gains, whether those gains are “realized” or not.
      A green card holding resident gets taxed like a U.S. citizen.


  9. Rudy SMT says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Great article and thanks for explaining the impact of currency on foreign ETFs.

    When investing abroad, not only with ETFs but also real estate or stocks there is a double risk of gains or losses
    Usually, when the main index of a country rises, the currency follow. So an investor would book double gains from the stock itself or real estate and currency gains. The opposite applaies with the result in massive losses.

    However, if you invest for the long run, 14 years+, the currency risk get neutralized by the natural currency’s cycle.

  10. Marie-Claude says:

    Hi Andrew,
    We are canadien expats in Dubai, we don’t know if we will go back in Canada in the future and we expect to stay in Dubai for at least 8 to 10 years. We want to use Saxo Bank platform. We don’t have the minimum of $100 000US for a multi currency account. We have $40,000CDN in Canada that we will invest first. We are paid in Dirhams and we want to invest 10,000 of them every month. Do you suggest a conversion of our CDN dollars in US and convert monthly our AED in US? Because we don’t have a multi currency account with Saxo Bank, what do you suggest to deal with the conversion and save the more fees as possible? I read in you book that Saxo takes lots of their money with those conversion fees. We have to choose a currency for our trading account. CDN? USD? AED?

    • Marie-Claude,

      You don’t need a multi-currency account. To invest with Saxo, all you need is $10,000 USD equivalent to start. Send your Canadian dollars to that account. Buy Canadian listed ETFs (as I suggested in my book) from their brokerage. They trade in Canadian dollars, so you won’t need to convert currencies. Keep it in Canadian.

      Saxo’s 0.5% currency spread is competitive. I didn’t think it was. But almost every other currency exchange system has something sneaky that adds an extra cost above the spot rate. That’s just the price of doing business. When you add fresh money, you could let Saxo convert your money into Canadian dollars. Then buy the Canadian dollar listed ETFs.


      • Marie-Claude says:

        Thank you Andrew.I am so glad I discovered your book. Because of you, I feel more confident to invest money.
        Do you think we should reevaluate the option TD International Luxembourg or we should go with Saxo without looking back? We will do 12 purchases per year.

  11. ilse says:

    Hi Andrew and anyone else who’d like to jump in: I’ve read both books but clearly need to do so again as there’s so much I don’t get yet. I have spent a lot of time on this website but Rome was not built in a day, so please bear with me as I’m taking a shortcut and asking here:-) I’m a South African living and working in Luxembourg. When I left Vietnam last year, I dumped my savings in my existent NYSE account (through e-trade). Since everything in my home country has become junk and the currency will go that way too by December, according to most economists, I have no intention of ever setting foot there again, let alone retire there. So for my couch potato portfolio I am only interested USD and Euro investments even though I’ll probably (semi) retire in Bali, hopefully in 4 years, if I can get in! As I’m 47 yrs old, my spread will be 45% bond index, 55% global stock market index.
    1. As I already have an etrade account, I guess I should just use that to buy a global stock market index?
    But I have more that 60K, which would make my estate eligible for tax.
    So I should move the rest to Luxembourg?
    2. As I reside in Lux, can I buy directly through Vanguard or would I have to use TD?
    For the bond index part of my portfolio, Should I be looking at a Euro gov bond index fund?

    Thanks a stack

  12. David Harris says:

    Hi Andrew,

    We are paid in USD and have been taking advantage of the currency spread between US and CND dollars by sending funds to our CIBC account each month. I just opened an account with TD Global and will be transferring a large sum to our account there. I am assuming that I should keep my investments in CDN dollar bonds and stocks on the assumption that as the CDN dollar strengthens (which it will do given historical patterns). I am also assuming that buying USD denominated investments would just reverse the currency exchange that I have already incurred. Is my thinking correct?

  13. Ben says:

    “Small. Currency conversion. Spreads. That’s it.” Haha, hilarious. Loud and clear…thanks!

  14. Joseph says:

    Hi Andrew

    What would be the currency you suggest opening an account in if I’m British, but work in Indonesia, am paid in Indonesian Rupiah and have no intent on retiring to the UK? Would operating in USD and buying British stock exchange ETFs such as those that are FTSE 100 which are registered in USD. Would that be the safest thing to do if I’m intending on always staying abroad?

    • Joseph,

      As I outlined in this article, the currency with which your ETFs are listed makes no difference.


      • Joseph says:

        I was just wondering that if I’m paid in IDR, am British but have no intent on retiring to to the UK should I open my account in USD and buy in USD to keep things broadly international?

        I only wonder because you say that if you’re paid in Euros then buy ETFs in Euros…I’m paid in IDR though so wondering what’s best.

        • Joseph,

          The currency that the ETF is listed in makes no difference.

          If you are paid in Euros, you would buy ETFs in Euros only to avoid the very small currency spread that you would have to pay if you were paid in UK pounds (or any other currency) then converted UK pounds to Euros to buy your ETFs. Other than that tiny spread, each time you make a transaction, the listed currency of the ETF makes no difference.


  15. Tito says:

    Andrew, could you give us an example of couch potato portfolio with ETFs listed only in Euros? My portfolio is the one you recommend for Europeans in page 274 but all the ETFs are in GBP, which means that the day I retire in Italy or Spain I will have to convert my money to Euros. (I also had to convert CNY to GBP to buy my ETFs). Many thanks

  16. James Gregory says:

    Generally etfs with higher volume have lower spreads. Im looking at an etf with a usd and gbp version (LSE SEMS and IEMS), same underlying fund, but the usd version has 8100 volume vs 100 volume for the gbp version. I wonder if the gbp version has higher spreads? Or can market makers somehow buy the usd version and then sell the gbp version? I might try getting electronic quotes when the market opens and experiment.

  17. Henry Filth says:

    Currency does make a difference.

    At some point you retire, and at that point you will have to return some assets back to your “home” currency to pay for things in the place that you call “home”.

    You will have ongoing expenses in the place that you live. They will be paid in your “home” currency.

    At this point, currency becomes important.

    Best not to be at the mercy of the exchange rate at that time.

    • Henry,

      I think you might need to read the article more carefully. The listed currency isn’t the same as the currency the investment is exposed to. A Canadian stock market ETF, for example, that’s listed in USD on the U.S. market is not an investment in USD. Its only exposure is to the Canadian dollar and market, despite its list currency.


      • Henry Filth says:

        Hi Andrew,

        It’s exposed to the Canadian dollar, and to the US dollar, surely.

        You have to manage that currency risk in two timeframes. Firstly in terms of the investment itself, and secondly in terms of the US dollar vs your “home” currency.

        Assuming, of course, that your “home” currency isn’t the US dollar.

        Kind Regards,

        • No Henry, that isn’t correct. Your only exposure in the above scenario would be to the Canadian dollar. There would be a currency risk for an American, in the above scenario, but not to a Canadian.


  18. dono says:

    Hi Andrew,

    First thank you for everything. Thanks to you I feel confident in investing in the market for the 1st time. I bought and read both your books and attended your seminar in Dubai. Before starting for good I have a couple of questions and I hope you can give me advise before I start putting money down. We are a Canadian couple living and working in the UAE and we are in our early 40s. We are not planning to go back to Canada at least for the next 10 years, even more if possible and will most probably retire in Spain or North Africa. We’ve just opened a joint account with TDDI. My questions:
    1. As we have some passive income from property rental, we’re considering the following allocation and I hope you could help us out on whether we should change anything:
    VUN – US Total Market – 40%
    VDU – Total Int Market ex-US – 35%
    VSB – Canada short-term bond – 25%

    2. Trading with TD is expensive. The cost is €14.95 per trade. Should we consider trading only every 2 or 3 months to save on the trading costs? Or the dollar-cost averaging works better with monthly deposits?
    3. For rebalancing, we’re planning to deposit $ in the lagging ETF for each deposit to bring it back to the original allocation. Can this continuous rebalancing work or do we definitely need to fully rebalance once a year?
    4. I also understood from your books and comments that the best way for us is to convert the AED into CAD and send only CAD to TD for trading. Is this right?
    5. Final question, I don’t think we can automatically reinvest dividends using these ETFs. What’s the best way to go around this and maximize the investment?

    Thanks in advance Andrew, I hope you’ll be able to clarify this to us beginners so we can start on the right track. What you do is really a noble thing.

    • Hi Dono,

      I think your plan looks excellent.

      1. This portfolio looks solid
      2. Keep your trading costs below 1%. That means never buying an ETF with less than 1,500 Euros at a time. By all means, you could invest larger sums once per quarter.
      3. Yes, your rebalancing plan looks solid. You won’t need to manually rebalance, unless the markets really take a crash. At that point, manually rebalance at the end of the year if needed.
      4. Yes, you can get a better deal this way, versus letting TD Direct International convert your money.
      5. Cash will accumulate in your account from dividends. When it does, just invest it with your cash savings. If you want to take slightly higher risks, and have all dividends reinvested for free, you can do so with a couple of swap based ETFs. See my expat book, pages 231-232.


      • dono says:

        Many thanks Andrew for your reply, very encouraging. One last question: I was planning to use VSB for my bond portion of the allocation. However when I look at VGB (Vanguard Australian Government Bond Index ETF) and its 3 year performance (6.28%) compared to 2.5% for VSB, VGB looks definitely more enticing. For us, Canadian expats, does it make a difference buying VGB out of the Australian Exchange, or buying from TSX has some benefits unknown to us? Thanks in advance.

        • toony says:

          VGB is in AUD so you would need to convert currency – extra expenses/steps, especially when rebalancing.

          NEVER invest based on past performance – cardinal investment sin!!! Setting yourself up to fail – ie buying high and selling low instead of buy low/sell high!

          VUN/VDU/VSB – is an outstanding 3-fund portfolio – stick with it 🙂

      • Dono says:

        Hi Andrew,

        Following up on your recommendation, I’ve built the following portfolio:
        VUN – US Total Market – 40%
        VDU – Total Int Market ex-US – 35%
        VSB – Canada short-term bond – 25%

        However I notice that I don’t have any exposure on Emerging markets. Should I:
        a) add an ETF like VEE (FTSE Emerging Markets All Cap Index ETF), or
        b) save on transaction costs and replace the VUN-VDU combination with a global Equity ETF such as VXC (FTSE Global All Cap ex Canada Index ETF ), or
        c) stick with my original allocation?

        Again thanks a million and merry Christmas.

        • Hi Dono,

          With VXC you would have fewer moving parts, and you would have an emerging market component within that. Rebalancing would be easier (as would purchases) with fewer moving parts.

          Merry Christmas!

          • Dono says:

            Thank you Andrew.
            1. I checked VXC and found that it holds stocks via underlying ETFs rather than direct holding. Wouldn’t that make it tax-inefficient as I’ll have to pay higher withholding taxes?
            2. I’m also wondering whether the move from 3 fund portfolio (VUN/VDU/VSB) to only VXC/VSB really that beneficial on the long run as I’ll only be saving on the transaction costs (14.95 Euros with TDDI). What would you recommend for your asset allocation?
            Your advise is highly appreciated as always.

          • Hi Dono,

            VXC would not be a tax disadvantage. As for transaction costs, I think it’s more than that. The rebalancing is simpler. That’s why I recommend it.


          • Shawn Pernasilici says:

            Hi Andrew,

            I’m a Canadian working in Dubai and have been following your discussion with Dono about your recommendations of an easy to balance portfolio like VXC/VCN/VSB.

            Do you favour that portfolio over the swap-based HXS/HXT/HBB coupled with an international index like VDU? Do the pros of easy rebalancing outweigh the savings from the swap-based funds from the dividend withholding taxes?

            I also would like to inquire about the possibility of you visiting my school here to give us some advice if possible!

  19. Joel says:

    Hi Andrew, I learned an incredible amount from your first book and have just cracked into the second on my Kindle. Thank you for the time and effort that you put into them both.

    I have also begun the process of registering for a TD International Direct Investment account.

    My question is this: I currently bank with TD in Canada, and would likely have my accounts there linked with my new Direct Investment account. That said, I am an expat living in Eastern Europe, who is paid in Euros. That said to “get” my Euros to my TD account, I use transferwise to send the money and deal with the exchange rate as it is.

    I am unsure of future plans in 5 years, let alone retirement, but there is a decent chance I would end up in Canada.

    That said: How would you break down my portfolio between CAN/EUR funds?

    Thanks so much.

    • Hi Joel,

      The two brokerages aren’t really connected. You can’t really easily move money from one to the next. Keep your money in the Luxembourg account. It’s easy to manage. When you repatriate, you can pay a transfer fee to TD Waterhouse in Canada (as you could to any other Canadian brokerage) and have the ETFs transferred.

      As for the question about Canadian/Euro ETFs, I’m not sure what you mean. I listed ETFs for Canadians in my expat book. They are all listed in Canadian dollars.


  20. Mike says:

    Hello Andrew,

    I read both of your books and liked them a lot!I have a few questions if you can help.First i was looking for the best broker to buy ETFs and i am thinking about Keytrade bank Luxembourg or TD direct invest International,which one do you think is the best choice and why?I planned to invest 100k euros.
    Second question i am not really sure about what bonds should i get,what do you recommend for a European resident?I have decided to buy accumulative ETFs because i wouldnt be paying yearly tax for dividens and the fees to redistribute and buy new ETFs or bonds.I plan to rebalance the portfolio once year with buying the asset which dropped,what are thoughts about that?

    Kind regards,


  21. Robert says:

    Hi Andrew

    Finished reading your second book – thank you so much for writing it!!

    I am British expat and so just wanted to clarify –

    If I invested in the S & P 500 in pounds and U.S. Stocks increased by say 20% but the British pound also increased by 30% I would actually see an decrease in the value of stock in pounds. So when rebalancing (or in my case purchasing), even though the stock has increased in value I would still potentially be buying more of it because of the cost of the British pound?

    And this is also why it is recommended to invest a higher percentage in the British stock market/bonds so that currency fluctuations have less effect?

    Also, this will also be why International stock seems relatively expensive in pounds at the moment?

    Thanks very much

  22. Nicklas Kingo says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I’ve read your first book three times and currently making my way through your second one. I’m a Danish citizen and I’m having trouble picking the right index funds. The Danish brokers will only allow me to trade Vanguard ETF’s, not the regular index funds you refer to usually, but there’s plenty of European index funds with similar fees. Would you recommend me go with Vanguard ETF’s or go with Danish/European index funds with fees similar to Vanguard’s? I’m keen to stay with Danish brokers since I know for sure I’ll only get taxed in one country, right?

    Thanks for your awesome books and articles,


  23. Dean says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Thank you for your book and information on this website.

    I’m getting very close to investing on my own but haven’t mastered this concept of currency exchange.

    In order to help me visualize I back tested VWRD and VWRL over a few different periods and indeed saw exactly what you’ve explained, the return was the same other than an approixmate 1% currency exchange difference.

    In the article above in the section “Why choose one listed currency over another?” you suggest to purchase funds listed in the currency of your salary (my salary is in pounds). Yet in your book on page 239 (Investing for British Expats) and in your article How British Expatriates Can Invest Using Index Funds in Singapore your recommend VWRD instead of VWRL. Why not invest in VWRL and save that 1% conversion cost?

    Also in the article above doesn’t the comment to Laurence on May 17, 2016 at 10:55 pm contradict the article itself. Why would the Aussie currency movement down lose more than the approximate 1% conversion spread? Is it because in this scenario it presumes aussies dollars are used to invest in an aussie investment (bonds) so the sole investment centers around the aussie dollar performance?

    Many thanks.



    • Hi Dean,

      You asked this:

      “Yet in your book on page 239 (Investing for British Expats) and in your article How British Expatriates Can Invest Using Index Funds in Singapore your recommend VWRD instead of VWRL. Why not invest in VWRL and save that 1% conversion cost?”

      I didn’t assume a specific earned currency (salary) in the above example. If investors earn money in one currency, then super, if their ETF is denominated in that currency, that’s the one to pick.


    • Dean,

      I looked back at Lawrence question. My response didn’t have to do with what currency the bond was listed in. It had to do with what currency he’ll be paying future bills in. An Aussie bond is in Aussie dollars, whether its list price is Aussie dollars, Euros or USD. If he were going to retire in Australia, I recommended that he use an ETF that was made up of Aussie bonds. If that ETF were listed in a different currency (none exist, fortunately) then he would pay about a 1% currency spread when he converted to Aussie dollars. But that’s it. In this case, the ETF would represent the Aussie bond market. That’s the currency he would be required to pay his future bills in, if he were retiring to Australia.



  24. Nicolas McMillan says:

    Hi Andrew,
    UK expat been in Abu Dhabi and fending off the blood suckers for about 8 years and saving cash instead. However I’ve always been in the knowledge that I was probably missing a trick and not actually investing. Your 2 books were a godsend.
    Anyhow got a TD account up and running and to start I’ve gone for 10k GBP each of SAAA VRWD VHYL SGLN.
    I plan to add about 20k gbp GBP a year for as long as I’m here. I can also add a lump sum of about 100k gbp once I’ve gained more confidence. I’m 45, I’ll probably retire to the UK eventually. At the moment it’s probably slightly different to your recommendations as it’s quite international but then I’m quite negative on the implications for Brexit! But does it look alright?! Thanks so much!

    • Indira says:

      where did you open your TD account?. I also live in Abu Dhabi

      • Nicolas McMillan says:

        Hi Indra,
        I did it online, it’s was pretty easy only hassle was getting my passport certified. Reed smith in al reem did it for 50dhs. I did wonder about saxo as they have an office in the city but ease of use and the multi currency account swung it for TD. So far the experience has been good they’re telephone support particularly. Good luck with whatever you do!

  25. Dean says:

    Thank you very much for taking time to reply Andrew, it’s much appreciated.

    Please go ahead and delete this reply. I just wanted to say thank you.

  26. Conor says:

    Hi Andrew,
    I have been investing now for about 6 month with TD and went for a couch potato type set up. IBGS,VHYL,VEUR & VERL. Today my portfolio profit dropped by over 1000 Euros. Should I now buy more of the same ETF s as they are lower in price or should I have taken profit of the 1000 last week and bought say more Bonds(IBGS) to do an early rebalance so to speak?

    Thank you very much for all your advice and information to date.



    • Hi Conor,

      Here are the important rules of investing:

      1. Invest as soon as you have the money
      2. Ignore market fluctuations
      3. Buy the lagging index when you have the money.
      4. Rebalance your portfolio (if needed) once a year.


  27. Conor says:

    Hi Andrew,
    Thank you for the swift and candid reply, I stick to your advice.



  28. Conor says:

    Hi Andrew,
    Can I ask you if you think my ETF choices are solid (they are all in Euro land)?

    Thanks again for your understanding and advice, much appreciated.



    • Anonymous says:


      I would have to look them all up. I don’t have time to do that. You could though.
      Tell me what each of them represents, in terms of holdings. Show me their expense ratios. If one of them is a bond ETF, make sure the maturity periods are short.

      I wrote a book called The Global Expatriates Guide To Investing. That might help you. There are model portfolios within it. http://bit.ly/globalexpat


  29. Index says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I really enjoyed your book and set up a couch potato portfolio. Included in my portfolio are two bond funds totalling 35%:
    IGLO – 25%
    CORP – 10%
    I am a 45 year old Brit currently living in UAE married to a 40 year old Lebanese. Not sure where we will retire – UK seems unlikely, somewhere in Europe perhaps more likely but really not sure yet.
    What do you think about about these two bond funds?
    Are there any better options out there?
    I noted your comments in your book about short dated bonds.

    Regards – Index

  30. stephen bourne says:

    Hi Andrew, first of all thank you so much for this eye-opening experience I am having over the past 2 months after having bought both your books and extensive searching done on the net.
    I am a 44 year old Dutchmen living in Abu Dhabi and have decided despite the higher cost to embark on this journey through AES international.
    Based on previous mail contacts with them and my investment intention ( 36K euro’s lump sum and 2K euro’s monthly (euro-cost-averaging) for as long as it takes, I am being offered a Black Rock Managed Portfolio with a risk band leaning towards Growth at a cost of 1.75% annually. I am planning soon to meet them personally and discuss further details. Any thoughts on this fund would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Stephen,

      Is it a single, diversified fund with an expense ratio of 1.75%? It probably isn’t.
      Please send me the link to the fund and the breakdown of how AES will charge you.


    • Joy Aquino says:

      Hi Stephen,

      That’s great to hear you are keen on our Index Account. Just to clarify things: –

      1. The total cost does total 1.75% – this figure includes the dealing fees, custody, advice/service fee and the portfolio fee.
      2. The portfolio fee is 0.50% and is made up of BlackRock iShares. The portfolio has a choice of 250 transparent, low-cost ETF and index funds investing in over 7,500 underlying securities.

      You are right that our Index Account is more expensive than a pure Execution Only account such as IG, Saxo & Internaxx. However, it is designed for clients exactly like you who would like to invest via a lump sum and regular contribution to a managed portfolio of ETFs along with access to on-going financial planning material and behavioural investment philosophies. We hope the trade-off of our professional financial planning approach will produce better long term results than clients who choose to always do it alone as explained in our investment code here: –


      All in all our objective is to take clients through 3 distinct levels of wealth (Foundation, Evolution and Premier) with a Total Expense Ratio (TER) of under 1.75%. This ensures that investment costs are reduced and returns improved.

      I hope this helps – any questions – please just shout.

      • Hi Joy and Stephen,

        Joy wrote:

        “The portfolio has a choice of 250 transparent, low-cost ETF and index funds investing in over 7,500 underlying securities.”

        I want to clarify something. Joy, please correct me if I’m wrong.

        Stephen, Joy is showing you that the fund management team for this particular product had the option of choosing between 250 ETFs. But these ETFs aren’t yours to choose from. They are simply the ETFs that the fund manager had to choose from, to put this all-in-one portfolio together.

        Joy, if I’m right on this assumption, it might be best not to give clients this information. It’s confusing and irrelevant. Something like, “Each portfolio is made up of different, diversified low cost ETFs (index funds)” would suffice. That might be a clearer way to explain it, without the added complexity of the “7,500 underlying securities” part as well. Most readers won’t know what securities are, so it opens up other layers of confusion..

        Stephen, securities are stocks. Each ETF is made up of different stocks. That’s why a portfolio, such as the one proposed by Joy, would represent many different stocks and many different global markets.

        Stephen, should you invest in this product?

        I’ll ask you four questions. If you answer yes to at least 2 of them, you should invest in this ETF. If you answer no to question #3 and at least 2 other questions then you are better off investing on your own, in a lower cost DIY portfolio of ETFs.

        1. Have you thrown up more than once, as a result of excessive alcohol?
        2. Have you ever smoked more than 1 cigarette?
        3. Would you be afraid if you had $1 million in the stock market, it dropped by 50%, and all the news media said it wouldn’t recover?
        4. Do you eat processed or deep fried foods more than once a week?

        I’m a bit of a freak. I answer no to all of those questions. That’s why I invest in a low cost DIY portfolio of ETFs.

        As a DIY investor, I would easily outperform this portfolio over time. But I’m not normal, in this respect. I’m impervious to peer pressure, the media, and fears of market movements (perhaps I was dropped on my head as a kid).

        You would likely beat me in many of life’s endeavours. But if you are normal, you would likely under-perform this portfolio offered by AES. Take a good, hard look at those questions I asked. They reveal a lot about your discipline and your imperviousness to market news (especially question 3).

        I hope this helps.

        • stephen bourne says:

          Hi Andrew my answer to question1,2 and 4 is a resounding yes (that’s a fact) 🙂
          I would not know how to honestly answer question 4 since I do not have a 1million$, but I get your point just like in your book on this particular subject, however reading about most of your DIY followers on your blog I wonder if they all would have said no to all those questions. I guess most of us want to believe we have the Ninja characteristics when it comes to investing but the reality might be different. Thanks to you and Joy for your reply and looking forward to your feedback on my other posts
          Cheers Stephen

          • You’re welcome Stephen. If I have time, I’ll answer your other questions. But if you read my book, understand the fees of the AES platform, have decided that you can/cannot harness your emotions, you’ll likely already have your answers.


        • stephen bourne says:

          not sure if previous reply was sent. so once again:

          so thank you Andrew and Joy for your replies
          I would have to answer questions 1,2 and 4 with yes ( fact!)
          question 4 is a trickier one since I do not have 1 Million$ but I get your point! Just wonder if most of the DIY readers here would have answered no to all those questions. My point is that I guess we might think we have the Ninja qualities to invest but the reality might be different.
          Once again thanks for your input and looking forward for your insights to my other posts.
          Cheers Stephen

  31. stephen bourne says:

    Correction on previous msg… its my intention to go for the risk band leaning towards Growth. just to clarify

  32. stephen bourne says:

    hi Andrew thanks for your swift reply: this is the link to a pdf file i received:

    would like to share the following msg had with one of their advisors with you and fellow readers:

    “The “robo-adviser” solution which Stuart Ritchie alluded to back in June is what we are now calling the Index Account i.e. the proposal I sent through last week. This is a solution which we have created which bring down the fees to an all inclusive 1.75% per annum and allow you to invest onto a managed ETF portfolio for the future.

    There is no £125 account management fee and no £50 dealing fee. The account is simple, flexible and you can begin with as little as $10,000.

    Andrew Hallam is a brilliant writer and his books provide excellent pointers for beginner investors. With that said, we recommend against investors setting up on their own because in our experience, most people do not have the knowledge, time and experience to manage a portfolio. The areas that we find most people struggle with, due to inexperience and normal human bias are below:

    1. Managing and adapting your asset allocation over time
    2. Not being swayed by the plethora of market information regarding feared corrections and general mis-information
    3. Which ETF’s are you going to use?
    4. How to correctly incorporate bonds into your investment strategy, and not just end up with pure equity – like exposure

    Index funds and ETF’s are the right way to go but if used in the wrong way can be dangerous.
    The Index Account from AES is flexible, low-cost, has no penalties and uses risk rated ETF portfolios to invest your money. It strips away the unnecessary costs and complications of investing, giving your wealth the best environment in which to grow. You are free to contribute and withdraw whenever suits you, remember the most effective way of growing your wealth is to consistently save!

    The account is charged in one simple, annual fee which covers all costs and includes the following services:

    – Safe custody from a UK nominee company
    – All dealing and trading costs
    – Set up, ongoing and exit administration
    – Access to our internal team whenever you have any queries
    – The underlying cost of the investment portfolio
    – An online valuation portal allowing you to check your progress

    The overall running cost of this solution is 1.75% per year, split down and charged quarterly. This account is something which you can leave to work without worrying about.

    The account is purposefully very simple and straightforward using a pre-selected portfolio of ETFs to keep your costs low and give you the diversification you need.

    There are no tie-ins, lock-ins, hidden fees or exit penalties. It is simply a very sensible and cost efficient way to invest for your future for as long as you see fit.

  33. stephen bourne says:

    Hi Andrew, sorry for my enthousiastic overlapping copy paste information. so whats your take on this robo-advisor fund?

  34. stephen bourne says:

    Hi Andrew, whilst digging for more info on this new (for me at least) service Robo-advisor i came a cross these links:
    -So how do this service compares to the DIY on one hand and the Financial advisor on the other hand?
    -Are they only for americans or are there Robo services for (european) expats as well?
    – from a cost effective standpoint are they the way to go for example “newbies” like me?
    I read that you will dicsuss this topic in your 2nd edition book Millionaire teacher (which I will be ordering again). but perhaps you can give a brief comment?

    greetings Stephen

    • Hi Stephen,

      Roboadvisors don’t typically provide financial advice. A few do, such as WealthBar for Canadians, but most don’t.
      I can’t recall your nationality. But I think you are an expat. As an expat, if you used a roboadvisor based in the UK (for example, assuming you are from there) you would have to pay UK capital gains taxes. Ah, I just noticed that you are Dutch…there are a lot of threads up there 🙂

      Most of the roboadvisors in the world are in the U.S. As a non-American, you can’t invest with them, nor should you want to, for taxable purposes.

      If you find a roboadvisor in a capital gains free jurisdiction, that should be the kind of firm that interests you. As of yet, I don’t think one exists.
      This brings us back to AES International. It might be the closest thing you get to a robo-advisory platform, although it would also come with some advice services tossed in. It’s located in a capital gains free zone so you wouldn’t have to worry about paying capital gains taxes on your growth.

      I hope this helps.
      If you have time, could you do me a favour? Would you mind posting a review of my book on Amazon? https://www.amazon.co.uk/Global-Expatriates-Guide-Investing-Millionaire/dp/1119020980/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1478166679&sr=8-1&keywords=global+expatriates+guide+to+investing


      • stephen bourne says:

        Hi Andrew, I just gave both your books a 5 star review….. Indeed AES uses Blackrock for their Index Account which last year took over Robo-advisor: Future Advisor http://fortune.com/2015/08/26/blackrock-robo-advisor-acquisition/
        Perhaps in the near future I might consider a fulltime DIY option, for now I guess AES international is more viable for me.
        Once again thank you very much for your wisdom
        cheers Stephen
        p.s any info on dates and location for your talk in the MENA region?

  35. Index says:

    Thanks for your reply.
    If I read your book correctly the bond recommendation for global nomad was SAAA (page 239).
    Instead, I chose IGLO and CORP which look to be similar to SAAA in terms of the Weighted Average Maturity and they are also geographically diversified – but I liked the slightly better yields.
    I could not find any short maturity global bond funds except for high yield e.g. HYLD but I am a bit wary of their credit worthiness. There seem to be plenty of short maturity USD bond funds but I don’t plan to go live in the US.
    So I’m a bit puzzled. Stick with what I have? Or use high yield and / or USD funds? Or are there some other short maturity bond funds out there that I haven’t seen?
    Please help! The rest of my portfolio is 40% VWRD, 15% VHYD, 10% IDWP.
    Regards – Index

    • Hi Index,

      This portfolio would be fine. Just remember that yesterday’s yields won’t be tomorrow’s yields. When looking at those two bond ETFs, pick one based on today’s expense ratio instead of yesterday’s yield. Yields won’t be constant.


  36. Lazy Singaporean says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I have also written a post that explains why the currency of our investments does not matter. Please do take a look too: http://lazysingaporean.blogspot.sg/2016/10/why-currency-of-your-investments-does.html.

    Lazy Singaporean

  37. Sarah says:

    Hi Andrew,
    I am an American expat living and planning to retire in Israel (with earnings and savings primarily in Israeli shekel). I started opening an Interactive Brokers account, selecting ILS as my base currency. Was this a mistake? Which portfolio from your book do you recommend I use if I am not moving back to the states? I am not sure if there are any ILS based bond etfs, so does this mean I should buy bonds directly in my country or convert my money and invest in a USD based bond (as well as stock) index?

  38. Adam says:

    Andrew, thanks for the books, great reads, I have set up my TD Direct account and invested as follows; VUKE, VWRD, ISHS FTSE Gilt on a 32.5%, 32.5% and 35% allocation. I have two questions;

    1) does TD Direct do auto-investment of dividends? If not, is it better to re-invest dividends once per year or quarterly as they are paid?
    2) Re-balancing- how often should this be done, once per year? Or when opportunities present, e.g if the FTSE dips 15% I should move some of my bond allocation into stocks?

  39. Joe says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I am based in HK and paid in HKD. I have a 15% allocation to 2805.HK, 55% VWRD and 30% IAAA.

    I chose 2805 as based in HKD and gives exposure to some Asian emerging markets however should I really be looking for exposure to a global emerging market ETF?

    All advice is appreciated.


  40. Lim says:

    Hi Andrew,
    I am a singaporean working in Canada at the moment, and i was wondering if i should invest in Canada index?
    As opposed to sending the money back to Singapore and buying the index in Singapore?

  41. Steve says:

    Hi Andrew – the comments section of your blog is an excellent source of information, as is your book. Thank you!

    Regarding your response to Dean’s question below on October 30, 2016 at 2:20 pm.

    “Hi Dean,

    You asked this:

    “Yet in your book on page 239 (Investing for British Expats) and in your article How British Expatriates Can Invest Using Index Funds in Singapore your recommend VWRD instead of VWRL. Why not invest in VWRL and save that 1% conversion cost?”

    I didn’t assume a specific earned currency (salary) in the above example. If investors earn money in one currency, then super, if their ETF is denominated in that currency, that’s the one to pick.


    I believe in your book, you assume that the person in the example earns in Singapore dollars and then converts to pounds in his Saxo Capital account. In such a scenario, I believe it would make sense to invest in VWRL rather than VWRD.

    If you also think this is correct, perhaps you could change it in the next print, as this definitely confused me and I went trawling through the comments to find clarification.



  42. steve says:

    Hi Andrew – the comments section of your blog is an excellent source of information, as is your book. Thank you!

    Regarding your response to Dean’s question below on October 30, 2016 at 2:20 pm.

    “Hi Dean,

    You asked this:

    “Yet in your book on page 239 (Investing for British Expats) and in your article How British Expatriates Can Invest Using Index Funds in Singapore your recommend VWRD instead of VWRL. Why not invest in VWRL and save that 1% conversion cost?”

    I didn’t assume a specific earned currency (salary) in the above example. If investors earn money in one currency, then super, if their ETF is denominated in that currency, that’s the one to pick.


  43. steve says:

    And just out of curiosity, is there any reason in particular that you recommend the FTSE Gilts UK 0-5 (IGLS) in your book rather than Vanguard UK Government Bond (VGOV) which has a lower expense ratio?

    Thanks in advance!

    • toony says:

      Both are great ETFs. Andrew favours the shorter duration on IGLS (2.49 vs 11.7 years) compared to VGOV as IGLS is guaranteed to beat inflation in any 3 years rolling period.
      Saving 0.08% ER is just not enough to balance out the longer duration risk for the ave investor

  44. Matt says:

    Andrew, I have the book and attended presentation in Dubai. Very much appreciate your input. I am awaiting TDI account opening pack (sent to Dubai by post so that’s going to take some time!). I am originally from the UK, but not looking to retire there. My funds are in US$ and in discussion with AES they suggested opening US$ account and investing (through Nedbank platform) into a range of ETFs. My question is (not wanting to invest in US listed ETFs, and not yet having the TDI account open) how do you purchase US$ ETFs without them being listed on the US exchange – i.e. can you buy LSE listed ETF equivalent in US$ (rather than GBP)? I understand the currency issues explained but its the practical issue I can’t understand at this time. Regards

    • Mark Zoril says:

      Hi Matt. When you open your TD account, or most other brokerage accounts for that matter, you can open it as a multi currency account and transfer in US dollars or whatever you like. Yes, you can buy ETF’s on the LSE that are traded on US Dollars. Vanguard offers a few of them as do iShares. I would guess there are others as well. Cheers

  45. Lee says:

    Hi Andrew

    Thank you for writing your website and your books – all of which I have avidly read.

    I currently live in Hong Kong (UK expat) and have been investing directly in the HK market through Standard Chartered. This has worked well (0.2% transaction fee and nothing else). I am due to move to Vietnam in the coming months and I am pondering the following:

    1) Keeping my SC accounts here in HK open and continuing to trade the HKEX with HKD from Vietnam. Low fees, but no access to LSEX – I will ultimately retire in the UK with GBP.
    2) Opening a Saxo account here in HK and trading directly in the LSEX with GBP from Vietnam.

    The obvious pro of option 1 is lower fees when compared with Saxo. The drawback isI cant trade in the currency that I will ultimately retire in…..any thoughts would be gratefully recevied!

    • toony says:

      Personally, I would go option 2
      – account is small at moment
      – know you will end up in UK later so easier to sort/fix the situation up now.
      – only once set of currency exchange instead of two
      – may be hard to open trading account with in Vietnam
      – higher trading fees not a big deal if you ‘buy & hold’

  46. Matt says:

    Thanks Mark. Hopefully all will become clear when the snail mail arrives in Dubai and actually makes it to my post box

    • Mark Zoril says:

      BTW, no need to wait for snail mail. You can setup your account with their online app. It is quite simple to do. Takes 10 to 15 minutes. You then download it, send it to TD with a certified copy of your passport. HAS TO BE CERTIFIED. Some verification of your residence. Assuming it is all good, they will call you to confirm everything and make sure you know what you are doing. Good luck!

      • Jen says:

        If you are talking about Td direct-absolutely (for me) it is not simple to open in my experience-and after initially trying a year ago and now again (which cost me a lot so send everything snail mail (via a special service to ensure it got there) as they requested-I had to send when home) and then getting asked for some,thing else–I gave up because I felt I had done all they asked and then get asked again for something else. Saxo was online, easy,quick and I have never had one day issue with them.

        • Mark Zoril says:

          hi Jen. Most of my clients do fine with TD. Simply hasn’t been an issue. A delay here and there and some follow-up, but they normally get approved without much issue. In fact just had a client that had to do some back and forth with TD and live in Mongolia but had to document how they accumulated all of their funds but they were ultimately approved. I have two clients that have just stopped with Saxo. They are in African countries. They started and could not get the process finished and went to another broker. I think Interactive Brokers is great. Some of my clients have hassled with the setup, but the bulk of them get approved very quickly. So, I think there is variation on experience. However, In general, my experience with TD has been quite positive for my clients that use it.

  47. vaz says:

    Hi Andrew, great book and excellent advice.

    I have lent your Expat book out to several colleagues to educate them on investment finance. I am a 32 year old British teacher currently living and working in Myanmar with my US wife. I am trying understand the process so I can invest my savings for the first time.

    I understand that the currency of the product does not matter much, as the hit you will take is approximately a 1% spread whether you are buying (when you invest) or when you are selling (perhaps during retirement).

    It is the same as buying a coffee in Japan with US dollars – you will not get an exact exchange from dollars to yen, you will lose some money but it is small and unavoidable. It depends on the percentage lost by the exchange.

    Just as some high street currency exchangers have better rates than other, trading brokers/platforms usually don’t. So it is usually better to change your money with your local bank before you send it to the broker.

    However if you are able to buy products (securities is the correct term right?) in the currency you earn in, then you will save the 1% exchange spread when buying, or if you know the country you will retire in, you can buy products in that currency, to save the exchange spread when you sell. I hope this is correct.

    If you are not sure where you will retire, you may as well save the initial buying spread and invest in the currency in which you earn (as long as there are low cost products in that currency). I have no idea where I will retire, but I earn in dollars, so I should buy in dollars right?

    What does matter more are the products you buy and the fees attached to them. A decent coach potato portfolio should have the following:

    1. A good exposure to US markets (e.g tracking S&P 500)
    2. A good global exposure excluding US (as you already have that in the first one) which will also include emerging markets
    3. Government short term bonds (I assume in a financially stable, developed economy)

    Is there any point adding a 4th product to this?

    So the final point- the broker and their fees. As I live in Myanmar, pretty much no-one will touch me or my money for fear of accepting dirty Burmese money. I wold prefer to invest with TDDII but I cannot open an account with them while I live in Myanmar. I also get paid in USD cash and I don’t have a local bank account as they have high deposit fees, and high transferring fees. I have approx $70,000 dollars in cash savings (under the mattress, ridiculous right)?

    DBS Vickers have an office here in Yangon, Myanmar, so should I try to open an account with them despite their increased fees? It would be a lump sum investment. At least this way my money is safe, invested and accessible from other countries when I leave Myanmar.

    Also I have just accepted a new teaching job in Shanghai, so when I move there in August I should be able to open a TDDII account, which is my preferred choice as the have lower account fees and trading fees. So then I’ll have accounts with two brokers. Should I leave the DBSV account open with the lump sum from Myanmar and invest in a new TDDII account with my monthly earnings from Shanghai?

    Any advice is appreciated – I don’t know if anyone else has any good ideas of how to get my money out of Myanmar and into an investment platform in a safe and legal way…


    • toony says:

      Can’t help you with getting cash out of Myanmar 🙂
      Yes, if don’t know where you will retire, best to buy in the same currency as pay (provided it’s a major currency like USD/GBP/AUD/CHF/EUR), otherwise default to USD
      With the trading accounts, you can simply transfer all your holdings from DBS Vickers to TDDII account when get to Shanghai – just need to fill out security transfer forms.
      Regards to the 3 funds portfolio. Many expert believe this portfolio gives the best balance between performance vs complexity. Yes, you can improve returns by adding a 4th component, (eg REIT) but is the very small increase in expected return worth the increased in trading costs and more effort to rebalance/maintain? Many expert say no (for the ave diy investors).

      • vaz says:

        Hi toony, thanks for your comment and advice. Are there any fees associated with transferring holdings from DBSV to TDDII? I would probably only be holding the DSBV account for 6 months or so, while I get settled into Shanghai and open accounts with TD.

        The DBSV route, if I can do it, is a way for me to get my money out of Myanmar in one transaction, and not have to do multiple bank transfers/ Western Union transfers to my UK bank and then back to a broker.

  48. Oz says:

    I live and work in Singapore and we plan to be here long term maybe even as a base for retirement (25 years away). We have around 60k GBP currently to invest along with 100K or so of SGD. After the initial lumpsum We plan to invest a few K SGD per month along with our bonus and commissions each year.

    My question is whether to go for VWRL or VWRD? In the future we will always need to convert our SGD when investing and as both ETFs pay their dividend in USD should we go for VWRD and just change the pounds to USD?
    OR… should we buy VWRL with the pounds and VWRD with the SGD (converted to USD) and use the dividends from VWRL to buy more VWRD?
    I’m thinking keeping it simple will be better!

  49. Michael says:

    In regards to currency …. I have been using the RMB in real estate and stocks …. I wrote you a bit a little while ago about Index Funds following the Shenzhen Stock Exchange like 399106 … there are a number of ETFs here that track these Indices …… but nothing that caught my eye yet … Vanguard as you mention also has an office in Hong Kong if you are able to transfer funds there …. the China Hong Kong Stock Connect is another way to link the 2 markets via RMB trade … but I haven’t seen a link from China local fund connects to HK ETFs yet …. I like some of the China HK Connect companies like Tencents and Sino biopharm etc … but that gets one off the Index fund trail …. getting back to the Shenzhen Indices ETF’s which seem deficient … I am being a bit silly and creating my own tapered version of one of the Indices by buying around 10 of the better looking companies from it’s mother list ….. an experiment I guess …. shall see how it goes … THE GOOD NEWS? is that the Hong Kong Vanguard office has set up a Shanghai office a few months ago … and maybe eill set up funds in the near future??? … in months or years ???God Bless, Beijing 🙂

  50. Matt says:

    Hi Andrew, first of all, thank you immensely for creating such precious resources (books, web posts and the likes…) for expats. Considering the size of this population, it is quite curious that there does not seem to be much else around, so luckily I found you and have been on your book (Millionaire Expat) and posts for a few months now.
    Out of all info I have looked into, one question (for now) still remains unanswered.

    While I get the difference between accumulating and distributing funds, and their pros and cons (income tax vs capital gains tax, retirement income, compounding, etc…), that remains something of a mystery for index tracking ETFs.. If, after all, the ETF should track an index, I should not expect its value to change relative to the index, either if it accumulates or if it distributes the dividends (or else, its tracking error would increase…!). But in that case, where do the dividends “accumulated” end up?
    According to this thinking, it should be a no-brainer to select a distributing ETF over an accumulating one. But considering that no-brainers in finance are more subtle than this in most cases, I am afraid I am missing something…

    Could you please elaborate more on the topic of accumulating vs distributing ETFs?

    Thank you for this and for all you have already taught me (and us..!)

    • Hi Matt,

      They are taxed the same when they are both “physical” and non-synthetic or non-swap based. But the accumulating versions get dividends reinvested automatically whereas the distributing get dividends placed into the cash portion of the account. What’s best? That depends on what you want. If you like to see (and potentially use) the cash each quarter, you would prefer distributing. If you want low hassle, you would prefer accumulating. Sometimes, the expense ratios for the accumulating shares are higher, so be aware of the difference if you see it.


      • Matt says:

        Hi Andrew, thank you for your prompt reply!

        Apologies for being a little dumb on this… “But the accumulating versions get dividends reinvested automatically”. Does it mean that f I now have 100 shares of an ETF, after the divdends get reinvested automatilcally, I would end up with 101 or more?

        I might just find out in a few months… But that is where I get stuck… While it makes sense that in an active fund, the accumulating dividends (extra money) would increase the value of the fund itself (and hence, of my shares), in a passive index tracker (ETF or passive fund) where the share value should follow the value of the index, irrespective of the dividends, I struggle to understand how I would benefit from the accumulated dividends (unless I got it right, and I will end up having more shares than what I initially bought…).

        Thanks again and hope you have more Dubai trips planned… I just found out about you a month after your talk here!



        • Hi Matt,

          With the accumulating class, you would end up with a greater number of shares as dividends are reinvested.


          • Matt says:

            Hi Andrew,

            That’s awesome (you, I mean…!)

            Thank you again for your answer, your work and educational tools.

            I can assure you, I have spent quite some time searching the information on accumulating vs distributing ETFs and the only source of information I found (not clear, anyway), was on a forum thread on bogleheads. Everything else only talks about mutual funds…

            Just to say, maybe you could consider it a topic for a next post, or a chapter in your next book (2nd edition of the Millionaire Expat, if it’s not too late??)… 😉



          • Thanks Matt,

            Yes, I mention the difference between the accumulating and distributing shares in the second edition of the global expat’s book. The book comes out in January. It’s titled, Millionaire Expat. If you could spare 2 minutes to write an Amazon review for the book you read, that would be awesome.


  51. Lizzy says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I loved the books, this useful website and the butt-kicking you have done for the expat community.

    Two things have me hesitating…and I was hoping to get an answer regarding avoiding too many currency exchange rate charges and retirement dilemmas.

    1) I read in your expat investing book that currency exchange rates are unavoidable and just a part of the investing landscape. I get that part. But I would like to expand on that thought for a moment.

    Before I do though, I would also just like to say that I understand it is better to invest with the currency that you are earning in and the country’s index funds etc. where you are earning.

    But lets say the currency you are earning in S.E. Asia isn’t something you would like to hold onto for too long, like a Cambodian Riel or a Vietnamese Dong or Thai Baht and the local S.E. Asian investing vehicle isn’t so great in terms of fees or services like TD Direct International (now internaxx) or Saxo offers, and the local stocks are of no interest and we have no idea if we are going to be retiring here. So, with this in mind we think it would be good to invest our money outside of S.E. Asia.

    In this case, what I want to know is, is it possible to get dinged too many times in one transaction?

    For example, here’s my scenario…

    We have a TD Waterhouse joint account in Canada, a couple (one from Canada and one from Australia) currently living in S.E. Asia and unsure of where to retire (possibly Australia, could be S.E. Asia or maybe one of your top rated destinations that you visited recently just because we started so darn late).

    a) Regardless if we choose the couch potato, permanent, fundamental indexing or the swap based ETFs portfolio, what happens if we send money from S.E. Asia to our TD WaterHouse account in Canada and then buy the Vanguard Australian Government Bond Index ETF (VGB.AX) from Australian Securities Exchange (ASX)?


    Does that mean we are paying currency exchange fees going from a S.E. Asia bank account (or anywhere in the world for that matter) to Canada’s TD Waterhouse account and then buying an Australian government bond sold on the ASX Operations PTY Limited (in essence two currency exchanges instead of one)?


    b) If yes (two currency exchanges -S.E. Asian currency to Canada to Australian?), is it worth getting worried about it if we are just re-balancing our portfolio once a year or is it “negligible”?

    c) Does it make a difference if we send the money from S.E. Asia to TD bank account first, then to TD WaterHouse or is better to go direct to TD Waterhouse when transferring money from overseas back to Canada?

    d) If our purchases (bonds, S&P , global index funds etc.) were Australian leaning, would it be better to have an offshore account like TD Direct Investing International or Saxo Capital rather than TD Waterhouse account in Canada? Would those investment vehicles make our investment purchase like the above Vanguard Australian Government Bond Index ETF for example, be charged less times on the currency exchange?

    2) With regards to retirement, lets just say we have no idea where we are going to retire but suppose it ends up being Australia.

    a) If we had used our TD Waterhouse account to purchase our index funds , ETFs, etc. (regardless of portfolio) with Canadian content off of the Toronto stock exchange (like ishares s &p /tsx capped composite index ET, for example), and we retired in Australia, am I correct in assuming that when we start withdrawing money for living expenses etc. in Australia from our Canadian TD Waterhouse account, we’ll have to pay currency exchange rates each time (Canadian dollars to Australian dollars)?

    b) If yes, then would it be cheaper (i.e. less currency exchange fees to be paid ) if we withdrew that money in large chunks every 3-4 months instead of monthly?

    c) Would it have made a difference if we had bought Australian content with our Canadian TD Waterhouse account? What if we had bought off of Canadian stock exchange versus an Australian one?

    3) I guess with our dilemma of not really knowing where we will retire, would it then be prudent to have a mix of both Australian and Canadian content in our portfolio (for example, halving the percentages for a coach potato portfolio, one half Australian and one half Canadian) and not worry about currency exchanges?

    4) Are you going to say, “Small. Currency Conversion. Spreads. That’s it. The movement of the currency wouldn’t mean a thing.”?
    I’m sorry Andrew, but I seem to have a geranium in the cranium on these two topics. I’m sorry if it is getting repetitive.

    5) The more I read the responses in the comments section, the more I think it has less to do with the currency conversion and more to do with where you’ll be spending your retirement dollars. Easier if you actually know where you’ll retire though.

    • Lizzy,

      If you don’t know where you want to retire, build a portfolio based on the global nomad principle. If you choose the right ETFs, you will have broad, global exposure. And you would only have to make one currency conversion each time you purchase (from your base salary to the listed ETF currency). If you do have an account with TD Waterhouse in Canada, you will not have access to the Australian market at all.

      I recommend iShares Core MSCI All Country World ex Canada Index ETF for your global stock exposure. It trades on the TSX (as do all the other ETFs I’ll give you here). It costs 0.22% per year. To maintain Canadian listed dollar ETFs, choose two bond indexes (two of them will give you broader currency exposure). Select the Vanguard Canadian short term bond index (VSB) and BMO Mid-Term U.S. IG Corporate Bond Index ETF (ZIC). Rebalance the portfolio once a year. By doing so you’ll rebalance between your Canadian bond, U.S. bond and global stock index. As a portfolio, it would be entirely listed in Canadian dollars. But its true value wouldn’t be reflected by the Canadian dollar at all. It would be reflected by the entire world market. If, for example, the Canadian dollar lost 50% next year, compared to other global currencies, your U.S. bond index and your global stock index (listed in CAD) would post a gain of 100%.

      Build this portfolio and avoid over-thinking this. You’ll have broad stock and bond market exposure. The portfolio will be cheap. And regardless of which country you repatriate to, you will have mostly a currency-neutral portfolio.


      • Kieran says:

        Hi Andrew,
        If you were to build the same portfolio for an Aussie expat using Internaxx, would it be Vanguard MSCI All Country World ex Australia Index ETF (VGS) and Vanguard Government bonds ETF (VGB), but which international bond ETF would you recommend from the ASX? Thanks!

      • Lizzy says:

        Thanks Andrew! I like your global nomad portfolio suggestions. I like the Horizon Canada’s swap based ETF’s too but if we are not going back there then global nomad portfolio seems the way to go. As you said, not to over think.

  52. Mark says:

    Hello Andrew, Been following your advice for several years, thanks for your contributions. I’m still a bit confused on the currency aspect of ETF. I live in Amsterdam earning euros. I have been buying both VUSA and VHYL periodically for the last 3 years. However, my returns have been lagging the overall index returns because of fluctuations in the EUR/USD rate. I know market timing is a no-no, but I try not to make my purchases when the S&P and USD are at a peak, because when that reverses my losses are amplified. I should just make may purchases regardless, but for the last 3 yrs, the exchange rate has been a bigger impact on my returns than the index. I plan to spent the Euro’s in Europe when I retire. THanks Mark.

    • Hi Mark,

      Your returns haven’t lagged the indexes that they are tracking based on the currency they are listed in. If you converted your profits to a single base currency, you’ll see that the returns match the returns of the same base currency you think you are lagging.


  53. Jen says:

    Looking for some help–I left my global expat book by Andrew in Spain accidentally–I did not buy the kindle version..and amwaiting for the second edition to come out. In the meantime I am opening a account with inter ax –I have saxo and my ETFs are the iShares ones listed in Andre,s book . Now I thought to use vanguards funds but need the funds Andrew reccomnded for global nomad and the ones he reccomnded for British expats. Could someone kindly look through their book and let me know-the chapter toward the end with the tables in it. I,m just spreading the (minimal risk) by having two platforms. (Trading from Uk base)

    • toony says:

      For UK expats, the recommended ETFs for the ‘global nomad’ are:
      VWRL (equity)
      SAAA (bond)
      Both are in GBP off the LSE 🙂

      • Jen says:

        Thanks Toony. I gave someone bringing my book from Spain..but only in sept and my internaxx account will be open by then. I appreciate your assistance.

  54. Phil says:

    There is one situation where exchange rates do matter (arguably). If you have a lump sum to invest, in non-USD, and your target retirement currency is USD, then you have a serious FX decision to make.

    I have a chunky portfolio of individual stocks that is 75% denominated in GBP. I will retire in the Philippines, so I should probably reset my base currency from GBP to USD.

    Having read Andrew’s remarkable book (wish I’d come across it earlier), I want to forget my delusion of beating the market, sell my stocks and go for an index of global stocks.

    All great but a global index is heavily weighted to US stocks, implying a large initial FX swap between GBP and USD. If I were doing this in 2014, my GBP would buying 30% more USD than today.

    Of course, no one knows the future and GBP may get even weaker. In my experience as a long time expat, it see-saws cyclically with the current rate at the low end.

    Therefore I’m thinking of going for a FTSE index initially and gradually move it across to global over a period of years.


    • Hi Phil,

      Yes, you’re right. It sounds like you’re not thinking of moving a global stock index that’s priced in USD to a global stock index that’s priced in GBP because it doesn’t matter what currency your ETF is listed in. But it sounds, instead, like you’re moving mostly UK stocks into a global index, which has about 55% concentrated in U.S. stocks (therefore, the U.S. dollar) whether that index is priced in USD or GBP.

      Personally, I would move the money all at once, like jumping into a pool of cold water instead of walking in, inch by inch. Walking in inch by inch has no definite benefit because you can’t see the future, and when people try to speculate, most mess up. But there’s always a personality question that comes into play with such a move.


  55. Jack R says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I am British living in Hong Kong. After reading your excellent book three years ago, I started investing. My portfolio is 87% based in USD (IAAA.LN, VWRD.LN) and 13% HKD (2805.HK).

    Not knowing where I will retire, likely US or UK, I was wondering if I should start to buy VWRL.LN and SAAA.LN (Both GBP) in order to save on the FX conversion/fee which would help if I were to retire in the UK. I am paid in HKD.

    Any advice is appreciated.

    Jack R

    • Jack R says:

      Hi Andrew,

      Did I misunderstand or just being ignored?

      Again, you really put us on this path due to picking up your book.

      We cannot thank you enough. Any advice is appreciated.

    • toony says:

      IAAA/SAAA & VWRD/VWRL have a USD BASE currency with different TRADING currencies.
      Given your current portfolio is mostly USD and future residence is not certain, it would be logistically easier to stay in USD (and do 1 conversion to GBP if/when you retire back in the UK.

  56. Lin says:

    I am Canadian, my husband is Japanese and we live in SE Asia. We plan to retire in Canada. My husband earns in US$. Should we exchange his earnings to CDN$ for investing, or should we just invest in US$. Or does it matter? I still don’t get this!!!

    • Hi Lin,

      In my book, the Global Expatriates Guide To Investing, I explained that expatriate Canadians should not invest in U.S. domiciled funds. In all likelihood, if you are asking about ETFs that trade in USD, you are asking about U.S. domiciled products. The ETFs that I list in my expat book, for Canadians, are priced in Canadian dollars to avoid any possible U.S. estate taxes. Here’s the link to my book.https://www.amazon.com/Global-Expatriates-Guide-Investing-Millionaire/dp/1119020980


      • Lin says:

        Thanks Andrew. I have copies of both of your books. Have not completely read the second one. I am leaning toward investing with Wealthbar, and they have given me the option of investing in US or CDN dollars. Would investing with them in US dollars lead to possible US estate taxes??!!
        The reason I thought we should convert our money to CND dollars before investing is because, as we will retire in Canada, it would be safer to have Canadian dollars. But I’m confused, as you say it doesn’t matter which currency we invest in.

        • Hi Lin,

          If you use WealthBar, invest in the Canadian dollar options. But keep in mind, you will not solely be investing in Canadian dollars if you do this, as per my book’s explanation and the explanation in this article. Your money will represent the underlying entities that it’s actually invested in.


  57. Lin says:

    Thanks Andrew, but what is the reason you recommend Canadian dollars with WealthBar? Is it because of estate taxes, or another reason?

    • Hi Lin,

      You can’t own a Canadian bond or Canadian stock index with WealthBar that’s denominated in Canadian dollars, so you might as well keep the same currency for the entire portfolio.

  58. Larry Friesen says:

    Hey Andrew;

    My wife and I are non-resident Canadian expats living in Chapala, Mexico. We own and operate Blue Angel Solutions which provides healthcare insurance typically to expats from the US and Canada. The money we earn is automatically deposited to a bank in the US. Right now we have a tidy sum sitting there doing almost nothing.
    My question is: for investment purposes should we open up a brokerage account in the US or should we transfer the funds to our Questrade brokerage US dollar account in Canada? Saludos.

  59. Larry Friesen says:

    Thanks for your feedback Andrew. If we buy ETFs that were trading on the LSE would there be any UK withholding taxes? If so do you know offhand what that percentage might be?
    I think it’s time once again for you to do a presentation here in Chapala. Let me know what your fees would be for a one time presentation.

    Larry Friesen

  60. Tony says:

    Hi Andrew,

    After reading your books and starting investing 4 years ago following a workshop from another teacher in my school in SG (Inspired by you after visiting our school), I am now in a situation considering few things.

    I followed your book advise with my portfolio on the type of ETF`s to buy as European (I am Spanish). I am not worry about the World ETF and the European one, but I decided to have two type of bonds (the ones you suggested IBGS and IBGM). As IBGS has not been giving dividends from the last 2 years and the yield was really low, I started to buy also IBGM. Recently I`ve been reading about iShares (IBGM) and it`s from the UK although investing in different European countries. So my question is about this bond in the future as iShares are mainly in the UK… after Brexit, so should I continue investing in this bond? I know it´s still few years time but…

    Btw, not sure why but there is no more info for Europeans in your site… not sure if you had that info before (or was only in the last book), but it would be really useful for some guys like me, as I am sure we are a bunch following you 🙂

    Anyway, I wanted to thank you for all the amazing resources, info and advise you continue giving us in your books and this website.

    Gracias amigo!

    • toony says:

      It’s very important to follow the asset allocation of your portfolio – simply add funds the lagging index (this guarantee you will ALWAYS buy low/sell high). If you ignore a particular fund because it hasn’t been doing well (and keep buying something that is currently doing great) you will fall into the classic investment mistake of ‘buying high/sell low’!
      Another important investment principle is NEVER make changes/alter your asset allocation based on external news eg BREXIT, elections, wars, interest rate etc. Your asset allocation is ALWAYS based on your personal circumstances/situation, needs and risk tolerance!
      The investment principles Andrew teaches in his book/website is universal regardless of age/sex/nationality etc 🙂

      • Jen says:

        Toony….it’s hard though when all one,s ETFs seem to be doing well. Currently all of mine are in the green…equities doing well, bonds doing well….assets allocation is spot on…..so I just wonder which I should I buy!!

  61. IVEEN KWEK says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I have read your books and get interested to invest in index fund. However, I cant really find a index fund in Malaysia (I am from Malaysia). Any suggestion for me to start up my index fund journey in Malaysia. And also, how I gonna to buy Vanguard 500 Index Fund from Malaysia?

  62. Jonathan Iliffe says:

    Does anyone know if its possible to buy ETF’s in USD off the TSX and hold them in USD? I have a Aaxo multi-currency account, but when I try to buy VCX shares for example, it shows the price in CAD and there doesn’t seem to be an option to buy it in USD. Any help?

  63. Jonathan Iliffe says:

    Does anyone know if its possible to buy ETF’s in USD off the TSX and hold them in USD? I have a Saxo multi-currency account, but when I try to buy VCX shares for example, it shows the price in CAD and there doesn’t seem to be an option to buy it in USD. Any help?

    • Jonathan,

      Just curious. Why do you want your ETFs priced in USD? What would be your advantage?


      • Jonathan,

        You can select from units in USD at this link: http://etfinfo.rbcgam.com/exchange-traded-funds/prices/default.fs

        But I’m still curious as to why you would want them.


      • Jonathan Iliffe says:

        Hi Andrew,

        I am a Canadian living in Vietnam. I get paid in USD but convert my money each month to CAD and invest in CND ETF’s through SAXO.

        Chances are, I will retire abroad and so I figure having my holdings in USD would be safer.

        RIght now, I am converting to USD to CAD to invest. When I retire I most likely will have to convery the CAD back into USD. This doesn’t seem like the best way to do things does it?

      • Jonathan Iliffe says:

        Hi Andrew,

        I am a Canadian living in Vietnam. I get paid in USD but convert my money each month to CAD and invest in CND ETF’s (VXC, VCN. VSB) through SAXO. It feels like it would be easier to just have everything in USD and avoid the conversions.

        Chances are, I will retire abroad and so I figure having my holdings in USD would be a better bet as it is a more recognized global currency. However, I do not want to buy off the NYSE because of the US Estate Tax.

        RIght now, I am converting to USD to CAD to invest. When I retire I most likely will have to convert the CAD back into USD. This doesn’t seem like the best way to do things does it? I feel like I’m losing on the exchange fees.

        • Hi Jonathan,

          If your ETFs are priced in CAD, why would you convert them into USD if you aren’t retiring in the United States? I’m a bit confused by that. If you were retiring in Thailand, you would convert what you sold (4% per year) into Baht. If you were retiring in Malaysia, you would convert what you sold (4% per year) into Rinnget. Remember that the currency that your ETF is priced in doesn’t mean it’s an investment in that currency. If you own a S&P 500 ETF, priced in CAD, it’s actually a USD investment, not a CAD investment.


  64. Philip says:

    Hi Andrew,

    First, I want to thank you for great work you are doing and give all the recommendations to the Millionaire Teacher and Expatriate’s Guide, really two of the best written and most straightforward books on investment out there. Looking forward to Millionaire Expat.

    I would have few questions and it would be great if you can help me.
    I’m currently working in the Middle East, planning to move back to Germany in the near future.

    Current portfolio (buying twice a year, rebalancing once a year)
    40% VTI
    30% VEU
    15% VNQ
    15% sustainable energy individual stocks

    1) Any comments on the portfolio will be more than welcome
    2) As per suggestion from Expatriate’s guide, I plan to include European bonds (IBGS or BNDX ?) as the large part of the portfolio (20%)?
    3) Should I base portfolio on more ETF’s invested in the European market (e.g. including VEUR)?

    Thank you

    • Hi Philip,

      It looks like you used ETFs that I don’t recommend in The Global Expatriate’s Guide To Investing. These are all U.S. domiciled ETFs. Have a look at my chapter, again, for Europeans, and then read the section about U.S. estate taxes again.


  65. Charlie says:

    Hello Andrew and everyone else you helps with answers.

    I’ve been buying and holding through Saxo for the last 3 years. I would like to sell off all of a certain ETF. However, the site is not super friendly. How do I go about this as there is a CLOSE tab as well as the option to SELL and list the amount of shares.

    I’ve heard of people using both of these options and getting charged some weird fees.

    Much thanks, C

  66. Sue Cruse says:

    I read your book Millionaire teacher and enjoyed it immensely but it’s proving rather difficult to implement here in Ireland. Depending on whether the ETF you hold is based (domiciled) in Ireland, EU, non-EU or USA will determine how You should make a tax return to Revenue on any gains or dividends you might receive. Suffice it to say you need to have your eyes wide open before taking any action to purchase ETFs in ireland.
    To quickly summarise as follows:
    If investing in Irish Domiciled ETFs one will pay approx 40% tax on dividends & will pay 40%on overall gains. You will have to pay any tax due on growth every 8 years (even if not selling them). This inhibits on the potential compounding.
    Similarly, if investing in non Irish EU Domiciled ETFs one will pay approx 40%% tax on dividends & 40% on overall gains. Again, pay any tax on growth every 8 years.
    However if investing in US Domiciled ETFs and one is a higher rate tax payer will pay approx 52% tax on dividends (40% income tax, 8% Univeral social charge & 4% PAy related social insurance) but will pay only 33% on overall gains. No tax due on each 8th anniversary, only due on actual sale of assets.
    And if one is lower income earner investing in U.S ETFs one will pay approx 28% (20% income tax, 4% USC averaged and 4% PRSI) tax on dividends and 33% on overall gains.
    U.S Estate Tax Issue:
    It should be highlighted that if you are investing in U.S Domiciled ETFs and your assets exceed $60,000, and your assets are to pass to a wife/husband/partner upon death then technically these assets would be subject to US Estate Tax before they even get to Me.
    On top of this new legislation has come into force in the EU known a MiFID II which has taken all the US domiciled ETFs off my platform until they can provide the required paperwork so all my chances of buying cheapish ETFs have crashed and burned.
    I did have an opportunity with my employer to allocate my our funds in my pension and went 80% world equities 20% bonds..so I feel I have a little control, I’m paying a fee of 0.75% in that scheme. I do get tax relief on this. Sigh .
    Is there any other avenues open to me?

  67. Janine says:

    Hi Sue, are you tax resident in Ireland? Or is the percentages to be paid on dividends for anyone who has ETFs domiciles in Ireland? I am tax resident in Spain.

  68. ron says:

    Janine, the tax you pay depends on where you are resident.

  69. Sue says:

    Hi Janine, yes I’m a resident in ireland.

    The tax is pretty hefty, Basically If investing in Irish Domiciled ETFs one will pay approx 41% tax on dividends & will pay 41% on overall gains. You will have to pay any tax due on growth every 8 years (even if not selling them).
    Similarly, if investing in non Irish EU Domiciled ETFs one will pay approx 41% tax on dividends & 41% on overall gains. Again, pay any tax on growth every 8 years.
    However if investing in US Domiciled ETFs and one is a higher rate tax payer will pay approx 52% tax on dividends (40% income tax, 8% USC & 4% PRSI) but will pay only 33% on overall gains. No tax due on each 8th anniversary, only due on actual sale of assets.

    And if one is lower income earner investing in U.S ETFs one will pay approx 28% (20% income tax, 4% USC averaged and 4% PRSI) tax on dividends and 33% on overall gains.
    PRSI & USC are social taxes here in ireland.
    I’m not sure how it applies if you owe Irish domiciled ETFs and are in another EU country but it’s pretty steep. From looking about it seems a huge amount of ETFs are domiciled here. As a resident here US domiciled ETFs are the way to go but they are temporarily unavailable at the moment on DEGIRO until the providers can get their paperwork amended to satisfy the EU.

  70. Brian Horsham says:

    Hi Andrew (and everyone else here,) I am a U.K. National, resident in Dubai with no plans to return to the UK as it stands, but of course that may change. As I am earning in AED which is pegged to the dollar (at least for now) it makes sense for me to buy my ETFs in USD. However I am becoming confused by any implications I may have if in fact ‘life happens’ and I am forced kicking and screaming back to the UK. I have my eye on some Accumulating ETFs which of course have the discipline of reinvestment built in, but I hear that the dividends can still be taxable despite going straight back in the pot. Is this really the case? Just as I thought I was beginning to understand the strategy of investing in ETFs, this ‘issue’ rears its head. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    Great talk in Dubai by the way, many thanks.

    • Brian,

      You are overthinking this. Don’t be concerned about paying dividend withholding taxes. And please understand that the price that the ETF is listed in is irrelevant to the underlying value. Of course, you could buy ETFs priced in USD. But you could also buy their asset class equivalents in GBP. You wouldn’t save any money on currency exchanges if you earn AED. Would you mind reading the article that I wrote one more time?

      Your more important challenge is this. You should save money like crazy. Add the money every month to your portfolio. Rebalance once a year and keep adding money.


  71. KB says:

    Thank you Andrew – your articles and books have been invaluable! I’ve a question on execution that hopefully you can help with.
    I’m from India but resident in Singapore. I plan to build a portfolio using ETFs exposed at global level. Have decided on LSE instead of US for the usual tax reasons. I’m down to deciding on the actual ETF and the broker I should use.
    1) Is there any latest news on best broker and FX routing to buy on LSE (big lumpsum at start and then monthly transfers). What are the ‘cost leakage points’ I should look out for?
    2) Is there any sense trying to achieve same outcome by using different region-based ETFs in SGX to match exposure of a World Stock Market Index on LSE? For eg, a US-based Index + an ex-US International Index. All to avoid FX transactions!

  72. Aussie Mat Dubai says:

    Hi Andrew, I see there’s a new diversified Vanguard ETFs [e.g. VDGR @0.27% pa] on the market for Aussies. Be good to get your thoughts on these? e.g some of the portfolio ETFS could be purchased individually for around 0.18% to 0.19% pa [approx. 0.10% saving] Would the difference be lost in increased brokerage fees? Also how would this effect the rebalancing as your age with your risk ration of bond increasing? https://www.vanguardinvestments.com.au/au/portal/articles/insights/mediacentre/new-vanguard-etfs.jsp

  73. Heiko says:

    Regarding the currency the ETF is priced in does not matter, what about the currency conversion cost to buy the ETF?

    I think this is best explained with an example: if Joe works as an expat in a far away land, and gets paid in USD (could very well be the case?), but Joe is a Canadian expat and plans to retire in Canada.

    When you have to change currency from whatever currency you’re paid in (eg – USD), the bank or broker could be taking a 0.5 to 3% commission for the honour of doing you this service. In this particular case, would it not be wise to purchase an ETF listed in the currency you’re paid in? The costs can add up.

    Let’s take this one step further? How does the commissions on currency conversions to purchase ETFs in a different currency (as you’re paid) compare vs the currency spread/commission when it comes time to sell?

    • Heiko,

      You are right. If your salary is in one currency, it’s best to invest in an ETF denominated in that currency. But if you don’t have a choice, it’s good to know that currency spreads and commissions have a negligible impact, compared to behavioural costs (most investors in active funds, for example, under-perform their own funds by about 3% per year). Fund expense ratios also have a big impact. Most expats don’t have the luxury of earning money in a currency that represents their home country currency. In such cases, they shouldn’t sweat it. There are far bigger issues that impact performance and their pending retirements.


  74. Tal says:

    Hi there Andrew,

    What would you advice to an Israeli citizen?

    I have in mind VT+AGGG

    Best regards,

    • Hi Tal,

      You definitely have the right idea. But VT might attract unwanted U.S. estate taxes for your heirs. Find a global stock index that trades on the Canadian or UK exchanges instead. Your heirs will thank you for that.


      • Jacky says:

        Hi Andrew,

        Why would you recommend AGGG instead of AGGU?

        In other words: USD hedged vs USD unhedged.

        Is it in order to diversify among the variety of currencies of this specific global aggregate bond ETF?

        A basket of diversified currencies?

        It is claimed that it’s good not to hedge a global equity one such as VT/VWRD cause the std is high anyways.

        But for bonds this diversification in currencies raises up std without any reward upon it.

        Moreover AGGG is a distributing ETF, whereas AGGU is an accumulating one.

        Thanks, Jacky

        • Hi Jacky,

          I’m not sure what an “STD” is, other than the kind we don’t want to contract. 🙂

          As for the bond ETF, select the one you are most comfortable with. It won’t make or break your portfolio. As I mentioned in my book, Millionaire Expat, investors shouldn’t sweat the small stuff. I wrote a lot about selecting different ETFs, noting that there’s no “perfect” solution or perfect ETF, and that investors shouldn’t sweat over splitting hairs. Jacky, the most important thing is that you save a lot of money, rebalance your portfolio once a year, make sure you’re diversified and don’t speculate… ever.


  75. Ross says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Since reading your initial book 3/4 years back I started immediately on my indexing adventure as a UK Expat. Being in Asia, I opted for my ETFs to be in USD (VWRD, IAAA) as I was unsure where I would retire. What advice would you give if the likelihood is that I will return to the UK in less than 5 years?

    Should I now switch to buy those instruments in GBP?

    Thanks again!

  76. Sagar says:

    Hello Andrew,

    I have a question about conversion of funds for purpose of investment when I am not sure which country I would retire in.

    I have some funds in Indian rupees that I received from sale of a home in India. I now want to invest these funds in broad US or worldwide bond ETF.

    I will have to convert these rupees to dollars to buy Bond ETF now as worldwide investing does not seem available in rupee brokerage accounts in India. I may want to sell these 20 years late and convert to Rupees again to bring the funds back to India to retire in India. Will I lose big time with this currency fluctuation and what is a better option?

    I am a US citizen but resident of India now for last 6 years and may or may not return permanently to US. I am 52 years of age.
    I already have other IRA and Roth investments in US brokerage.

    I bought this India house 10 years ago with funds sent from my US earnings. Since then rupee has depreciated by 80% but may appreciate in future.

    Thanks! Sagar

  77. Sagar says:

    Hello Andrew,

    I have a question about conversion of funds for purpose of investment when I am not sure which country I would retire in.

    I have some funds in Indian rupees that I received from sale of a home in India. I now want to invest these funds in broad US or worldwide bond ETF.

    I will have to convert these rupees to dollars to buy Bond ETF now as worldwide investing does not seem available in rupee brokerage accounts in India. I may want to sell these 20 years late and convert to Rupees again to bring the funds back to India to retire in India.

    Will I lose big time with this currency fluctuation and what is a better option?

    I am a US citizen but resident of India now for last 6 years and may or may not return permanently to US. I am 52 years of age. I already have other IRA and Roth investments in US brokerage.

    I bought this India house 10 years ago with funds sent from my US earnings. Since then rupee has depreciated by 80% but may appreciate in future.

    Thanks! Sagar

  78. Daniel says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Great book, I wish I had seen it before I entered into a Zurich Futura Plan and subsequently had to cancel. An expensive lesson.

    Ive read all of the comments here and there is one particular area that is not clear and for me it is the only area left before purchasing with confidence: The domicile of the ETF and tax consequences.

    As a British expat, resident in the UAE, using a brokerage in Luxembourg (Internaxx), how much thought should I put into the domicile of the ETF?

    I have read various forums and come back with conflicting information. One post will indicate 0% withholding, dividend, gains etc etc if you invest in an Irish Domiciled ETF as a British expat in the UAE. On a similar post I see it is claimed to be 15%.

    Ultimately, is there any clarity? And do I need to shop around for the domicile of the ETF to factor in any subsequent taxes. E.g. a world index domiciled in Ireland with 15% vs a world index domiciled in Luxembourg with 10%.

    Thank you in advance for any clarity that you can bring and hopefully this will help other eager investors.


    • Hi Daniel,

      I listed various model portfolios in my book, Millionaire Expat. You can be confident about the liquidity of all the ETFs I selected. If you are keen to limit (or avoid) dividend taxes, choose the accumulating shares portfolio on page 288, Table 13.3 (if you want to retire in the UK) or Table 13.3, if you aren’t sure where you want to retire.


      • Daniel says:

        Thank you for your reply Andrew. I’ve started with SWDA (the GBP version of IWDA in your book) . Although, perhaps I shouldn’t look at the markets right now…*gulp*

  79. ???????? ????????? says:

    Hi, i am leaving in Greece, is it worth it to invest in etfs are listed in usd and convert euros ??

  80. expat26 says:

    HI Andrew,

    I have a Swissquote account which I fund with USD. I am investing VWRL GBP. Can I purchase this fund using the money from my USD account or should I transfer the USD to GBP then make the purchase? Or it doesn’t matter?

    Thanks in advance.

  81. Luke says:

    Not sure whether to post this here or not. I’ve recently purchased an ETF (VGS) from Singapore on DBS Vickers. Other than VGS being a global ETF I appreciated that it was advertised as reinvesting divedends. However I have recently heard back from DBS regarding this with the quote “We are not able to support reinvestment for client because our account setup with our foreign agent is an omnibus account in a single position.
    So in an omnibus account, they cannot do partial cash or partial reinvestment for a single position. ”

    As I’ve recently purchased and read your excellent book millionaire expat I did notice that at times you were pushing etfs that offer reinvestment.

    Just thought you should be aware that it appears DBS will not comply with any ETF of this type.

  82. Tim says:

    My understanding is that if I converted AUD into USD and at the time the AUD was $0.70 USD and purchased US shares on the US stock exchange, then after a time period the value of the AUD went up to e.g. US $1.00, and the shares stayed the same value in USDs and I sold my shares, then even though the value of those US Shares in USD stays the same, the effect is that the amount of AUD I get back is 70% less than what I paid for them.
    Therefore, would it make sense to try and time the currency fluctations to wait until the AUD has gone back up ?

  83. Ralf says:

    Hi Andrew,
    I m reading your book for the second time and now opened an account in Luxembourg with Internaxx. I m currently living in Dubai but eventually will either retire in Europe or Canada. Should I Invest in two accounts with CAD (p.226 Table 16.5) and Euro(p.274 Table 21.4? What would you advise? Thanks for the help and your amazing book

  84. John says:

    Dear Andrew
    I have read your book and wow, what an eye opener – thank you. I am setting myself up to do the investment myself through the easiest way you explained in your book. I would like to invest in the Vanguard LifeStrategy Funds. I am an expat in Bahrain, Middle East, originally from South Africa.
    I have the following questions:
    Is it possible for an expat to directly invest with Vanguard LifeStrategy Funds?
    Is it financially wise to invest directly with Vanguard? Thus, are there tax implications or costs that can be avoided when investing through a broker like one your explained in your book?
    Would you rather recommend to work through a broker like Internaxx?

  85. Matthew says:

    Hi Andrew – I am a British expat living in Singapore. I have bought Millionaire Expat (thanks) and opened an account with Saxo in SGD – at the moment I would probably most likely fall into your “Global nomad” category. I have read your currency advice several times!! Just to make sure I understand, do the ETF allocations you recommend for British expats work for an account in SGD? Do I need to open an account in GBP as well? Or doesn’t it matter?

    Thanks very much!

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