Offshore Pension Sellers In The Middle East: Your Fresh Meat Now Has Teeth

In 2011, I wrote the first edition of my book, Millionaire Teacher.  It hit #1 on Amazon USA in four book categories:  stock market investing, business and money, personal finance and Budgeting and Money Management.  In 2017, I followed up with a second edition of that book.

But if I announced that I would speak about investing in the United States, I wouldn’t see the kinds of crowds that I see in the Middle East.  Late in January 2018, for example, I gave a free, public evening talk at Dubai College.  Their auditorium can house 700 people.  Brandy Scott announced the talk on Dubai Eye radio (you can access my interview with Brandy, Malcolm and Richard here). Within hours, registration was fully booked.

There’s a reason for that.  British offshore pension sellers have targeted expats for years.  They sell the world’s worst financial products.  The fees, associated with these products, would make even Donald Trump blush.  I have yet to see a structured savings plan, sold in Middle East, which has beaten inflation over the past 10 years.  Expats, in the Middle East, know this all too well.

Those that sell these products could talk the fur off a dog.  But their time has come.  Expats are no longer the easy pickings they once were.  Not long ago, a financial salesman could easily sell a product charging annual fees of 9 percent per year for the first 18 months of contributions.  He (it’s almost always a man) could earn a commission of $27,000, just for convincing an expat to invest $2000 a month.  He would share that money with his brokerage.  But his take would still be huge.

Who ultimately pays that commission?  The investor does, of course.

And the investor can’t sell before a pre-determined date, without paying a massive penalty.  If they tried to sell within one year, they would lose every penny they invested.  If they tried to sell after two years, they would lose about 93 percent of their “pension.”

When I spoke on the radio, an offshore pension seller called in.  He said something like this: “You’re scaring people. Nobody charges 9 percent per year on the first 18 months of contributions or 4 percent per year after that.” 

But I likely scared him (and his ilk) more than anybody else.

I responded:  “A man fails to understand something if his salary depends upon him not understanding it.”

Below, I’ve pasted details from one of the most commonly sold schemes in the Middle East.  My sources are below it.


Friends Provident Premier Advance

  • “– An initial charge of 1.5% is taken each quarter [6% per year] from yourinitial unit holding over the term of your plan.”
  • “– An annual fund administration charge of 1.2% of the plan value [taken every year]”
  • “– Annual management charges and other fund expensesare imposed by the underlying fund manager [1.7% – 2.5% per year]”
  • “Please note that there are fees for mirror funds that would in turn affect the return on your policy [1% per year]”

Total charges:

  • 9% to 10.7% per year on the money added over the first 18 months
  • 9% to 4.7% per year on money added after the first 18 months

Other charges:

  • “If you make a lump sum payment, a one-off initial charge of 7% will be taken”




Not long ago, these products were easy to sell.  But expats are catching on.  When new expats arrive, caring colleagues are increasingly taking them under their wings.  They’re teaching them all about the snakes in salesmen’s suits.

On February 4th 2018, I’ll be wrapping up my latest round of Middle East talks.  I’ll be speaking to a fully booked crowd of 200 expats at Abu Dhabi’s Raha International School.  This comes on the back of a talk I gave to the international school bursars of COBIS, a few days ago.

Last week, I also spoke at Abu Dhabi’s Brighton College, the Universal American School in Dubai and the British International School in Abu Dhabi. 

But I’m no longer the only voice.  Expats are teaching expats.  Momentum is building.  Simplyfi has also built a massive group.  If you live in the Middle East, it’s a group worth joining. 

Expats are saying no to dodgy investment products, the likes of which we don’t see in more regulated financial environments.

Yes, salespeople will continue to sell investment garbage in areas like the Middle East, Africa and Asia.  But their time is coming to an end.  We are beating exploitation through education.  As a community of expats, we’re sharing what we know.  We’re telling our stories.   We’re opening up. 

It’s the best thing for our financial future, and for the expats that follow us.

My new book, Millionaire Expat: How To Build Wealth Overseas, explains how to simply invest on your own.  It also shows how to hire an ethical guide who won’t rip you off.  If you’re interested in having me speak to your business, please contact me at  So far, my July schedule is free (with the exception of a U.S.-based Teachers Pay Teachers conference mid-way through the month).

If 15 or more of your expat colleagues would like a copy of Millionaire Expat, please let me know.  I can arrange a 40 percent discount directly from the publisher.  Just send me an email at the address above.

On February 6th  I’ll be speaking at the International School in Amsterdam.  The next day, my wife and I will fly to Mexico to spend some time with my parents.

Starting February 26th, I’ll be speaking at the Kellet School in Hong Kong; the International School of Guangzhou, China; the International Shekou School in Shenzhen; followed by the International School of Zug and Lucern (Switzerland). 

But my heart is with the expats who live in the Middle East.  You have been exploited for years – perhaps more than any other group.

I’m just so thrilled that you’re starting to fight back.    

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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9 Responses

  1. Jen says:

    Thanks Andrew for leaving the legacy you have here….the start of stopping fleecing expats in the M.E of their money. When one suddenly in their late 40’s realises how cool it has been earning nice tax free money…but that you have no pension or medical aid like your old friends back home have….and also the the money you saved has been fleeced…it creates panic and despair. Also many people are in the current climate losing their jobs….I might be one of them…but thank goodness I bought your book 3 yrs and one month ago….and have now got a goodly sum invested DYI (and I got out of a generali vision plan)… has given me immense peace of mind….a priceless gift!! I would never have had this if I had not stumbled across your blog and then bought the book!

  2. Jen says:

    P.s….with the stock and bonds going down…and it’s all in the papers etc we all know that one should remain calm and keep buying…for a long term stratgey…but what if one is someone like me…maybe to lose their job soon or someone who will retire soon?

  3. toony says:

    So many people are grateful for what you have done Andrew! We are on eternal watch to keep them at bay

  4. Amit says:

    Would love for you to visit Singapore and give a talk here Andrew! Any plans for that this year?

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Hi Andrew I too was fleeced by the awful fp scheme and reading your books made me realize. One thing I did want to ask, having been regularly contributing for the last 10 months to td direct, taking your recommendations, I don’t understand why all my bonds saaa, iglo and vwrl, isf are continually down month on month. I trade once a month and buy one etf. This is on the back of an upmarket which has seen solid growth.
    Any advice/ input welcome. Many thanks

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      I urge you not to look at the prices of your ETFs (whether they be bonds or otherwise). Doing so will only create anxiety, which will lead you to make mistakes. As for bond prices, they often nudge downward (a very small amount) when stocks rise. But even this shouldn’t be important to you. Please re-read pages 226-227 in my global expat book.


  6. Wissam says:

    Hi Andrew, I just got your book Millionaire Expat which I am reading through. For GCC Arabs looking at gaining US stock indicies exposure, what would you suggest as some of the better ETF tickers and markets to use? Do you know why US estate taxes do not apply to non-US listed ETF that still have US assets underlying them? Thank you.

    • Hi Wissam,

      I would suggest a Shariah compliant portfolio if you’re a practicing Muslim (it’s in the book). If not, just a general global nomad portfolio (also in the book) will do because the Middle East region has such low global market capitalisation. As for taxes, the US tax laws extend to where the fund is domiciled. If it isn’t domiciled in the US, your heirs won’t pay US estate taxes, even if the stocks within the fund are American.


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