Middle East Speaking Tour: 7 Countries From Thailand


Thailand is one of my favorite countries. 

Pele and I love the food, the people, the winding mountain roads, the beaches and the amazingly cheap massages. 

But we’re still 7 countries away from arriving in Thailand. Before we fly to the land of smiles, I’ll be speaking in Bahrain, Egypt, Oman, Kuwait, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia.

On Tuesday, March 8th, I spoke at one of the most beautiful campuses I’ve ever seen, The American University of Sharjah. 

At first, we didn’t know where to go. But the students had created signs for us to follow.


I spoke to a group of finance students and faculty.  The students appealed to my “work less, live more” philosophy.  They asked great questions, many of which were finance related, but most (after the talk) were about my lifestyle. 

They asked, “How much money did you start with when you began investing?”  Answer = $100. 

“Why don’t we learn to invest our personal money when we get a degree in finance?”  Answer= Great question.  I have absolutely no idea.


Our schedule has been hectic.  But so far, we’re enjoying it. 

I’m speaking five times a week–every week.  It’s always somewhere different.

Here’s a sample of what we’re doing, I thought I would give a rundown on today:  Wednesday, March 8, 2017.

Most mornings, I exercise.  I usually alternate a run with some (extremely ungraceful) core and upper body exercises. 

If I can find a tree, a park bench or a pull-up bar, I’m ready to frighten people.  “Stay away from that strange man, Timmy.  He’s too old to be playing on monkey bars.”




After grunting away on a bar, I ran a couple of loops around the Desert Palm area of Dubai. 

It was just the horses, the sand, the polo fields and a skinny white bald guy.






After showering and eating, we got ready to pack for Bahrain.  I wear the black and white dress when nobody can see me.



We no longer put my detailed speaking schedule online. There’s a really strange reason for that. 

The Middle East is filled with British salespeople who like to sell ridiculously expensive investment platforms. 

These platforms aren’t legal in most developed world markets. 

A long-term structured savings scheme, such as the common ones sold here, aren’t legal in Canada, the U.S., the UK, Australia, or most other developed world markets.  Such regulations are tighter.


But anything goes in the Middle East. 


Speaking to British expats breaks my heart.  Almost all of them own these platforms.  They cost investors about 4.5 percent per year in investment fees. 

They can’t usually sell before a pre-determined date (often 25 years away) without paying a massive penalty. 

In some cases, the early redemption penalties cost 80 percent or more of the portfolio’s value.  I have yet to see one of these policies beat inflation over a period of 10 years or longer.


Matthew Bachus works at GEMS American Academy in Dubai. 

He recently received an email from a representative of deVere.  The salesperson offered Matthew a vacation for two to the Maldives in exchange for ten names and phone numbers. 

That easily beats the iPads offered to teachers at Abu Dhabi’s Brighton College. But then again, they only had to supply the contact details of six friends to their deVere representative. And expats wonder why the phone calls keep coming!


Here’s why the investment sales representatives are offering iPads and free trips to the Maldives.

If a broker convinces someone to invest $2000 a month into one of these 25-year policies, the broker will receive an upfront commission of $24,000 as soon as the contractual ink dries.  They share that commission with their brokerage.


Perhaps you can see why these brokers don’t like me. No, I don’t exercise daily to fight these guys.  But it helps if I can outrun them. 


When my schedule was online, brokers started to call and email the establishments where I was scheduled to speak.  Here’s a sample of an email they sent a school. “I hear that Andrew Hallam will be speaking at your school.  I’m just emailing to inform you that Mr. Hallam is a con man.  He’s broke.  He’s a fraud.  He just wants your money.  Don’t let him in the door.”


At noon, on March 8th, Pele and I arrived at the Dubai airport to take a flight to Bahrain. 

I just follow Pele, so I don’t get lost.  She says I need a leash.



That night, I spoke to teachers at the Riffa Views International School in Bahrain.  Today, I’ll be speaking to their students, while giving another teacher-talk in the evening.



The following day, we’ll board another airplane. 


After Bahrain, we have just six countries to go, before we get to Thailand.

is mark zoril worlds best advisor

Andrew Hallam

I’m a financial columnist for Canada’s national paper, The Globe and Mail, as well as for AssetBuilder, a financial service firm based in Texas. I’m also the author of Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School (2nd Ed. Wiley 2017) and The Global Expatriate’s Guide To Investing: From Millionaire Teacher to Millionaire Expat (Wiley 2015). My mission is to educate, motivate and inspire people on basic retirement planning and best practices for investing, using evidence-based strategies. I'm happy to comment on your questions. However, please read the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and the Comments Policy.

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8 Responses

  1. Curtis says:

    I was in Qatar for 11 years and got ripped off by a Zurich Vista investment.
    I would receive cold calls weekly from these investment conmen.
    I am now in Pattaya Thailand and am looking forward to you coming to Thailand. I really hope that you make it to Pattaya Thailand to speak.

  2. D says:

    Andrew I live in Abu Dhabi and I am fully aware of those DeVere and other so called *con* men financial people..when I get a call and someone says the usual hello how are you etc and as soon s they say who they work for I just put the phone down..they carried on trying for a few years but I think eventually got the message..dont waste your time with me. So I fully agree with you ..these people have no shame and I am not surprised they would call ahead of you to dissuade people from hearing the truth..you are doing a great job

  3. Zovi says:

    Dear Andrew, I live in Dubai and have just started investing. I opened up an Index account with AES Blackrock Managed Index – Moderate, I have just bought your two books, would you suggest I move these funds and start a DIY account with Saxo or perhaps even start a second account with Saxo and build my own portfolio alongside the AES one?

    I nearly got dragged into one of these 25 year friends provident funds, I am so glad I researched it before I signed up. Now DeVer constantly call me and want to know what investments I have elsewhere as they are ‘concerned’ for me and want peace of mind! hhhmmmmm

    I am so gutted I missed your talks in Dubai.

    • Hi Zovi,

      I’m glad you didn’t fall for the Friends Provident scheme.
      The AES investment would certainly be hands-free forever, so much depends on your personality, in terms of what decision you should make.


      • Zovi says:

        Thanks Andrew, I guess I want to take the decision that has best potential growth starting from what I would say is a smallish fund at £20k as my husband and I are 35 and are looking to move back to U.K. in 3/4 years, we need to buy a house as well as save for retirement ? I guess I’ll have to go through the books in detail and try to decide 🙂

        • Hi Zovi,

          Make sure you don’t put money in the stock market that you might be needing within a 5 year period. You mentioned that you wanted to buy a house. That’s why I brought that up.

          You won’t find answers to the question you are asking about in my book. If you have discipline and are not affected by market swings (ie. you would be thrilled to see stocks drop 30% tomorrow) then you are a good candidate for investing on your own and you will make more money going that route because the fees are lower.

          However, if you are like most people, you are better off having somebody build and rebalance a portfolio of index funds for you.

          I’m not like most people.
          You might not be either.
          That’s why the decision is up to you. You need to ask hard questions about your emotional strength, when it comes to maintaining (and rebalancing) a portfolio of index funds.It takes less than an hour a year. And if you’re an emotional rock, you’ll make far more money with this approach.


  4. Zovi says:

    Thanks Andrew, really appreciate the response.
    House savings we will ensure seperated 😉 would hate to be at the time we need to buy to found out its dropped 30%.
    I’m ok with volatility, just don’t feel have enough knowledge on it at the moment to feel confident to set up my own portfolio. At least the current index fund won’t do us any harm so will continue with it for now and arm myself with knowledge and read your books fully before looking at building our own.

    It’s really great that you share your knowledge with others and find the time to respond to all the posts.

    Thanks again

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