It isn’t easy to find low cost investing options if you’re an overseas expatriate.
Opportunists from groups like Zurich International (Friends Provident) sell costly products to financially uneducated expats…because they can. If you’re involved in an investment plan that penalizes you for taking money out (not a tax penalty but an investment service penalty) then you’re among the many unfortunate souls overseas getting fleeced.
With other popular overseas investment product groups like Tie Care (which kick you in the groin with a 5.75% sales fee) or Raymond James (often charging an unnecessary “wrap fee”) you’ll end up with actively managed mutual funds that compound the bruising.
Academic studies all point to the overwhelming odds of underperformance when buying such products. And for expatriate Americans (who are taxed on their global income) actively managed mutual funds aren’t tax efficient.
So why don’t Tie Care and Raymond James (not to mention the shadier sales folk at Zurich) sell products supported by academic evidence?
Why don’t they build portfolios of low cost index funds, when the odds of an actively managed portfolio beating a fully indexed portfolio over 25 years are less than 1%?
Twenty Five Years
One Active Fund
Five Active Funds
Ten Active Funds
Source: Allan S. Roth, Professor of Behavioural Finance, University of Denver’s Graduate Tax Institute
Here’s the answer:
Unfortunately, products that are better for you (low cost indexes) aren’t profitable for investment firms to sell. But the small costs of you appeasing a salesperson can be devastating over the long haul.
Over a lifetime of investing, you’ll likely end up with half of what you deserve. And you can’t afford that.
So what can you do about it? If you’re American, you could use:
- Assetbuilder – a financial service company in the U.S. which builds indexed portfolios for Americans.
- Vanguard – another excellent option, but if you don’t have an account with them already (before leaving the U.S.) you won’t be able to open one with them.
If you’re from another country, you’ll need to find an overseas brokerage giving you access to the Toronto Stock Exchange, New York stock market or London Exchange. From this point, you could buy exchange traded funds, as I’ve described in my book, Millionaire Teacher.
To open such an account, you may need to take a trip to a neighbouring country, open the account, and wire your savings. Not every country has such brokerages available.
Non American expatriates in South East Asia might need to take a trip to Singapore to open their account.
You don’t have to live in Singapore to open such an account with a Singaporean brokerage. If you can visit Singapore for an afternoon, you can do this.
These links should be helpful for the following expatriates:
There are far too many people in the world of banking and finance who make small fortunes off the backs of ignorance. And that’s not cool.
And once you understand how to create low cost investment accounts, do the right thing. Share your knowledge with others.