18 tax-free​, or low-cost countries, where you can get second residencies

I met a Swedish man a few years ago.  He, on the surface, was doing well. He was earning about $425,000 a year.

However, when you factor in cost of living and tax, he was saving about $60,000 a year. That is better than most people, but he wanted to retire early.

He calculated that he needed about $5M, to live the life of his dreams in retirement. 

$60,000 a year, even adjusted for capital gains, wasn’t going to do that anytime soon, as he didn’t start the process of wealth accumulation soon enough.  

I have met countless entrepreneurs like this before; living in high tax + high cost of living countries.  

As they are stressed with the day job, they often overspend, leaving them with a lower surplus than expected.

Something changed a few years later.  His wife was British, and he spent 2 months in the UK, as his wife’s parents were ill.  

To his surprise, his sales from his business activity didn’t decrease.  They stayed stable. That got him thinking; if my business doesn’t depend on face-to-face communication, why can’t I live in a cheaper country with lower taxes?

Most countries have world-class wifi these days, and business is going online, so why not take advantage of that?

Whilst this option won’t be for everybody, reducing your taxes and cost of living, is an example of how the 80/20 rule can be applied to personal finance.

That aforementioned Swede is now saving and investing about $250,000 a year, with less capital gains tax, due to the fact he is living in a low-cost and tax country.

One of the biggest mistakes many businesspeople with online/international exposure make, is caring about prestige and status.

Earning $450,000 in New York or London, with $10,000 a month luxury apartments, might sound more prestigious than investing 80% of your income to be retired at age 45 by living in a developing country, but that doesn’t mean it is logical.  

Which countries have no taxes or low taxes, or general low-cost of living, and allow for second residencies?

I have listed numerous options below and I have included developing and developed countries alike;

1.Paraguay 

Many Canadian and Americans are interested in living in South America., but few consider Paraguy.

Paraguay has a great scheme, where for depositing of just over $5,000 into a bank account, you can get instant permanent residency.

For those that want citizenship, it takes 3 years.   Bare in mind though, that bureaucracy and a slow legal system, can complicate the process 

2.  Cambodia 

Cambodia is an interesting place to live in. I should know, I lived there for about a year in the past!

It is still possible to get a business visa in the airport, extend it and get a work permit via companies without actually working for a local company.

It used to be possible to just extend your business visa forever, but immigration and visa agents are now giving the advice that you need to pay for a work permit if you want to further extend a visa.

The total yearly costs can be $400-$800 a year, which makes Cambodia one of the cheapest and easiest ways to get a second residency.

In other words, with money and the right paperwork, anything is still possible and meets the legal requirements.

Tax and cost of living is relatively low, but rising sharply. The main reasons for this are strong economic growth, and huge foreign direct investment from countries such as China.

3. Singapore 

I know what you are thinking….`Singapore isn’t cheap or tax free`. That is true. There is personal income tax of up to 20%, and corporate taxes. That may be much lower than Sweden or Australia, but it isn’t close to 0%.

However, for high net wealth individuals who have $4m or more to invest, you can enjoy 0% tax on foreign income.

This means that many high-net-worth individuals are using Singapore as a low-tax base, in which to earn their overseas income.

Hong Kong used to have a similar scheme, but that has now closed. It is possible to set up a business in Hong Kong, but this puts you inside Hong Kong’s tax system.

4.  Panama 

One of the most popular “no tax” options. Panama has a Friendly Nations Visa program.  If you deposit $5,000 in a Panama-based bank and establish a company, you can get near-instant second residency.  

If you just want a residency, rather than citizenship, you can just spend a few days a year to keep that status.

Many other countries require you to spend 6 months or longer, to keep residency, so this is an excellent benefit.

5. Nicaragua

Like Cambodia, Nicaragua is a a developing country which won’t be for everybody.  It does have a low cost of living and getting residency is easy.  In general you just need to show income of $750 a month, although you do need to live there for 6 months or more per year.

6. Malaysia 

Few people in the West understand what a dem Malaysia is. Malaysia is `Singapore-lite` in many ways.  It has great English and infrastructure, for a fraction of the price of Singapore.

The same is true of its residency program. The My Second Home or MM2H program is an extremely easy way to gain second residency. If you are 50 or over, you need to despot $35,000 into a Malaysian bank or purchase real estate.

If you are under 50 years old, you need to show proof of $2,300 of monthly income and deposit $70,000 into a bank account or purchase real estate.

The biggest negative? You won’t be able to touch the money for 10 years.

7.  Macao 

Macao often gets overlooked, in favour of Hong Kong and other nearby cities. such as Shenzhen.

In the shadows of Hong Kong, few consider this gambling-hub, as a candidate for second residency

For $375,000, you can obtain residency and the tax rate is 0%. As Macao is a Special Economic Region of China, however, you will never realistically get a second passport.

8.  Costa Rica 


Costa Rica has long been a favourite of American and Canadian retirees for decades, due to the lifestyle and proximity to home.

Proof of $2,500 of monthly income is required to obtain Costa Rican residency.  

9. Georgia 

Speaking about overlooked countries, few people speak about Georgia. It is one country in `emerging Europe` which has improved. a lot in recent years.

Considered by few people, this makes it a great option for those that want a unique experience at a great price.

There is no tax on foreign income, you can get a 360-day tourist visa on arrival and anybody can open a Georgian company or buy real estate to obtain residency. 

10. Estonia 

Estonia is one of an increasing number of European countries, which has competitive tax rates.

They have a flat tax and e-residency system. The e-residency system isn’t a path to citizenship or living there.  

11.  The Bahamas

People who reside in the tax free islands of the Bahamas pay zero tax on worldwide income. 

The government fee for temporary residency is $1,000, although if you want to settle for longer, you may need to purchase $250,000 in real estate.  

12. Cyprus 

Cyprus is known for its great lifestyle, efficiency and excellent English levels.  Many people come to Cyprus as they want residency to lead to citizenship and second passports.  The costs of getting citizenship isn’t cheap though.

The citizenship by investment program in Cyprus requires a  €2 million investment in local property, government bonds or bank despots and you need to maintain a €500,000 home to keep your passport.

Like countless countries, however, Cyprus has been known to “move the goalposts” when it comes to these matters.

13. Latvia 

The costs of residency in Latvia are typically just over €500,000, if you include the processing fee.  The Latvian program isn’t the cheapest, but it is one of the more convenient.

You don’t need to be physically in Latvia – apart from needing to spend 1 day a year to maintain your residency.  

14. Montenegro

If you are interested in getting residency through real estate, Montenegro has one of the cheaper options.

There are no investment minimums, and many apartments are cheap, often in the $25,000-$75,000 range.

Going down the real estate route for residency, does makes you ineligible for citizenship though.

15.  United Arab Emirates (UAE)

In a location ideally situated between Europe and the Far East, Dubai is a popular expat hub, with Abu Dhabi also maintaining a large number of expats.

As you may imagine, getting residency through investment isn’t always cheap in the UAE.

People who make a AED 10million investment can get residency if they invest in an investment fund or establish a company.

You can also purchase property, if it is a residential property (commercial properties are not eligible).  

The value must be AED 1million or more.  It allows for 2 year visas, whereas the 10m investments allows for 10 year visas. 

As AED 1 million is about $272,000 on current exchange rates, UAE citizenship isn’t as ultra-expensive as you may have thought.  

Even though Dubai is significantly more liberal than countless other Middle Eastern countries, the lifestyle is still relatively conservative, especially during Ramadan.

This isn’t for everybody, and so should be considered carefully.

16. Thailand 

Thailand is one of the more established retirement locations in South East Asia.

The Thai Government allows so called `Elite Visas` for wealthy foreign citizens. The cost of the visa is starts at around $3,000 a year,

However, often the fee needs to be paid upfront, in other words over $15,000 for 5 years visa.  20 years costs $65,000.

Thailand has a reasonable cost of living, but isn’t low tax,

17.  Portugal  

Portugal’s Golden Visa Program used to be considered one of the best programs in the world, but has been getting some bad press recently.

It is still possible to invest 280,000 Euros into Portuguese property and qualify.  However, getting approval is taking longer than before, and the tax rules are changing.  

The benefits are the Portuguese lifestyle – if you wish to stay in Portugal that is. If you don’t wish to stay in Portugal, the residency permit means you only have to spend 1-2 weeks a year in the country.

18.  Various other EU countries if you are married to an EU citizen

Free movement is a bit of a myth – many countries do enforce rules surrounding working in another country.  

Besides, having the ability to move freely, doesn’t mean a residency with a tax identification number. 

What is true, however, is that many British, Germany and Nordic entrepreneurs are considering Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and other Eastern European countries.

Getting a residency permit for fellow EU, or even merely non-EU European countries, is much easier than for most countries outside of Europe. 

Let’s also not forget if you are married to an EU citizen, one of you can declare residency and sometimes bring the other without needing to invest.

Portugal even recognizes partnerships that aren’t based on marriage, which opens up the doors if one of you is an EU citizenship.  

Frequency asked questions 

Below I will deal with some FAQs.

Do you think these rules will change?

Like everything, rules change.  Residency visas are no different.  It regularly happens where schemes are closed down.

The UK, recently, closed down its residency program. So before seeking a second residency it is always good to check for updated rules.

How about for Americans?

It has to be remembered that getting a second residency doesn’t help Americans avoid US taxes. Renouncing US citizenship is needed in this case, if you want to be a non-US taxpayer.  

Are there any 100% tax free countries in the world?

There are many countries, including many of the ones above, which have no income and capital gains taxes. Most countries do apply some form of tax, however, including sales tax.

Even the United Arab Emirates introduced a new sales tax recently. Moreover, it has to be remembered that many countries with zero, or close to zero taxes, are more expensive than some of the low-tax countries.  

Ask any expat in Qatar or United Arab Emirates what they think about the cost of living, and you will realize that the higher cost of living eats up the tax benefits.

What are the political risks?

Nobody knows what governments will do in the future.  Foreign investors are a great target for populist governments.

Not only that, but priorities change.  When Portugal was reeling from the financial crisis, for example, real estate investments was welcomed.

Things have changed, and things are now taking longer. This is one reason why many entrepreneurs are getting 4-5 residencies and passports – they are using residencies like insurance policies.  

Things may change, so having numerous residencies is lower risk.

What should be considered beyond cost?

The political, social and economic landscape should be considered.  If you are a global business person, personal safety, wifi reliability and political stability are all likely to be of high importance.  

Having traveled to numerous developing countries, and lived in a few, it is a misconception that all are dangerous or inefficient.

Many now have fast and reliable wifi. Many aren’t dangerous. However, the legacy of past political regimes still exists, when it comes to bureaucracy.  

I especially noticed this issue in Eastern Europe, Egypt and other countries which have had leftist regimes in the past.

It isn’t uncommon for small paperwork issues to take months, with numerous trips to immigration.  

Can’t you also get residency in places like Canada, Australia and the US?

Yes you can, however, these are not low-tax and costcountries. Typically, they attract investors who are looking to send their kids through the schooling system, or there is another social reason.

For example, many wealthy Chinese investors like the US, Canadian and Australian real estate and schooling system, and want their kids to grow up in a native-English language environment.  

In this case, the decision was therefore not made to reduce costs and taxes. It was more of a social and personal decisions.

For those that are in a similar situation, countless countries offer residency or even citizenship for a price.  

Do you offer residency services?

It isn’t my core business area- my focus is on investments for international business people and others. These investments include lump sum and monthly investments.

On an ad hoc basis, I have helped clients with second residencies, including putting them in contact with the necessary experts.

Are higher interest rates always a good thing?

No. This is a huge misconception. Many people think living in an emerging market is great, because you can get 5%, 10% or even higher interest rates in the bank.

Whilst it is true that the risk is lower if you actually live in that country, many high-interest rate countries also have high inflation and have experienced currency devaluations in recent times..

Take Argentina as a recent example. 20%+ interest rates but a falling currency with massive inflation.

It is far safer to have your assets in a broad-based international bond and stock portfolio.

What are some of the other misconceptions?

Many people assume that residency can automatically lead to citizenship, and that the process is easy and/or never changes.

Beyond that, many entrepreneurs do assume that most developing countries are always dangerous, lacking in infrastructure or hard to live in.

This is the case for some places, but not everywhere. In the last 10 years, I have noticed a huge improvement in infrastructure.

For example, the public transport in Malaysia, in Kuala Lumpur at least, is better than London.

The WIFI in Bulgaria and Hungary, is often better than in some parts of the US, and the list could go on.

A final misconception is that rising GDP always means increasing real estate and stock markets.

Just look at China in recent times – great GDP results but falling Stock Markets. At the same time, the US with just 2%-3% growth, has had an excellent period of rising stock markets.

What are some of the biggest mistakes people make?

When getting a second residence, or indeed passport, many people fall into two extremes; either procrastination or making decisions without thinking through the ramifications.

When going overseas, or indeed getting a second residency, people need to factor in several things.

These could include tax, personal safety, lifestyle and opening up offshore bank accounts to name just a few.

Several people in my network have set up overseas companies, after getting a second residency, without also taking precautions, such as keeping good paperwork and having 2-3 accounts in case 1 is closed down.

That is becoming a bigger threat in the offshore market, for people who are looking for offshore banking + second residencies.

Should people get tax advice?

Getting proper tax advice is often prudent and senisble. The world off second residencies and offshore banking has become more complex, and many governments have updated their tax rules.

To give you just one example, the Australian Government recently ruled that a man was still a resident in Australia, as he wasn’t able to prove his tax residency.

He wrongly believed that staying out of the country for 183 days, automatically made him a tax non-resident.

After the authorities found out that he was regularly sending money home, maintaining a mailing address and indeed residential home, they asked him to prove he is really an expat.

What are your contact details?

[email protected] and I am also available on a range of apps. My main services are financial advice and portfolio management.

I do not provide advice on tax, second residencies and offshore banking, but I have sometimes referred people onto different providers, who have helped.

The tortoise and the hare; breaking industry norms and success.

For quite a few years now, I have been interested by mindset. Why do some people succeed in investing, and indeed business, and others don’t?

Why do some people even with great talents and connections, fail, whilst others succeed?

We have all heard the story as kids. The tortoise vs the hare. Slow and steady vs quick and unsteady.

The moral of the story? What seems too good to be true, often is. Getting gradual success, is often better than quick success.

This is often true. Every overnight success has been years in the making, as Richard Branson once said.

However, stories like this often encourage people to scale back their dreams and assume that great things can’t happen to “people like me”.

This is especially the case if you come from a class-based society, which the UK, where I am from, definitely is.

I have met many fellow Brits, who even think 8% per year investment returns are “too good to be true”, even though the average market returns have often been higher than 8%.

It isn’t just Brits either – countless societies have similar mentalities. When I got my first overseas posting in China, things changed for me.

GDP growth at that time was 10%+ in China. I saw several people’s businesses, local and expat, go from $0 to $500,000 of yearly revenue in one year and more in subsequent years.

Many people would assume that was only possible due to China’s quick development.

However, in recent times, due to the internet, I have seen countless people increase their business and personal revenues, by using new technologies to scale and leverage.

These people have been quick and steady. They have combined the best aspects of the tortoise and the hare.

It sounds unrealsitic to some, but in the real world, I have witnessed more people fail because they are not even trying to win.

They are trying to not lose, because let’s face it, society teaches us that it is “better to be safe than sorry”.

When I first started to produce online content, few people encouraged me. Some of my content even seemed crass to some.

Many asked “why do things like YouTube videos when you could do tried and tested things like going to networking events?.

I didn’t care. I knew that getting attention requires some haters, some risks and some setbacks.

It is the best thing I have ever done and when I meet people in other industries, those that break industry norms, tend to win if they are persistent enough.

Normal actions leads to normal results. Abnormal actions leads to abnormally good results, if done with persistence for years.

So go fast. Break norms and industry rules and you never know where it might take you.

Further reading

Client Reviews - Ankur in Australia

A few people have told me that they don’t have LinkedIn, so can’t see the content, but wanted to see some of my client recommendations featured on there.

Today one of my clients, Ankur, originally from India but living in Australia, gave me this review on LinkedIn:

“I first started to know Adam last year after reading his article online. I was impressed by his knowledge and expertise. 

At first, I was slightly hesitant, as I hadn’t met him. After speaking to one of his existing clients, I decided to go ahead in January. 

Subsequently my accounts have performed well, up by about 7% so far this year, and I am satisfied with the advice given. 

What has become useful for me is realizing that Adam is always online and responds quickly, and has global clients, so we can have a long-term relationship no matter where I am in the world. 

Not just managing my investments and related advice, Adam goes out of the way to give very insightful and realistic tips to manage our personal finance for no additional cost. 

This is a true example of trust based advisor rather than Commission based financial advisor. highly recommended working with him”

For audio recommendations please see Tom — https://adamfayed.com/tom-an-american-living-in-germany-shares-his-experience-adam-fayed-review/ 

For video Nikolaos — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sG5IRV2q2Ls 

Other recommendations on LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/adam-fayed-tokyo/

Can Investing be a full-time job

Some younger readers ask whether investing can be a full time job. Today’s podcast/video discusses this topic.

In particular we look at whether you should accumulate first, and then withdraw, or try to take an income on day one.

Expat Investing Webinar

I will be conducting some webinars in the coming months, where you can learn about investing from the comfort of your own home.

The first Webinar will be on August 8. I will be in Europe during the week, so the timezone will reflect that.

The URL for sign-up is here – https://www.eztalks.com/live/webinar_registration/webinar_id/919837419 .

Investing as an expat; how to invest from overseas in 2019.

Updated September 6, 2019

Speaking to expat clients for about a decade now, most are confused about investing options whilst living overseas.

They hear contrasting information from different sources, about property, stocks, pensions and other investment choices.  Worries about tax are also common.

This article will try to speak about some of the investing options for expats, in a clear and straight forward manner.

Needless to say, I can’t review the situation for around 200 countries and nationalities, but will focus on the key points and commonalities.

I will also answer some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) and make some concluding remarks.

What are the most frequently sold expat policies?

Savingsplans and offshore bonds, are widely sold to expats. These policies are usually administered from British Overseas Territory such as Isle of Man, Bermuda, Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands, although some are administered from places such as Ireland and Luxembourg.

These policies are especially widely sold in high density expat cities like Qater, Dubai, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia  and Singapore, but they are sold in over 150 countries globally.

Whilst there are often benefits to such plans, including significant tax advantages for British and Australian expats, many of these expat plans are expensive.

I have reviewed these plans before, so I won’t go into too much detail here.  Essentially, the main issue is that these plans are good value if, and only if, you keep contributing into them for the whole term of the investment.

So a 10-year saving plan, as an example, is cheap if you contribute for the whole 120 months.  If you fail to contribute for a few months, the plans become more expensive, due to the extra fees levied by the providers.

What are some of the good alternatives to these traditional expat investments? 

Many platforms and newer life insurance and banking firms, charge much more reasonable fees, whilst maintaining the tax benefits of the traditional expat plans.

This is especially the case for online firms, that have cut out many of the traditional costs, associated with financial services.

This brings with it significant advantages.  Over a 10-year life cycle, a cheaper policy may save you tens, or even hundreds of thousands of pounds.

This will improve the net performance of your investments.

How about local investment solutions?

In a small number of places, local solutions make sense.  For example, expats living in the United States should usually consider local solutions, for tax reasons.

In general, however, expats are moving from country to country every 3-5 years.  Or even if they are not, they often want to return home eventually.

So local-solutions often don’t make sense for a number of reasons. Firstly, some local solutions aren’t very tax-efficient for expats.

Second, many expats I know are cashing in their policies, every time they move. This isn’t tax or cost-efficient, as capital gains tax applies every time you sell.

There is also the issue of investor protections.  Many countries don’t have the sorts of investor protections that many offshore jurisdictions provide, such as Luxembourg, Isle of Man, British Virgin Islands and Bermuda.

Such locations usually have British Government protection (90% deposits protection in the case of Isle of Man), or the segregated accounts system, which negates the need for a guarantee.

Currency can be another issue. I have met countless expats who save and invest in the local currency, only to see a sharp devaluation relative to the USD.

This can happen even in unexpected situations. 10 years ago, most expats in China were interested in local solutions, as they were convinced the RMB would keep rising against the USD.

Subsequently, the RMB has moved from 6:1 to about 7:1 against the USD, and the local stock market has underperformed relative to the USD.

In addition to this, countless local providers have limited investment choice, especially in emerging and frontier markets.

What are the biggest financial mistakes you have seen expats make overseas?

Familiarity-bias is a huge issue.  It is human nature to be reassured by investments that others close to you are making, even if you would never have considered that option a few years ago.

Very few expats, as an example, are interested in local property or land on day 1 of their expat adventure.

Over time, after listening to talk of huge returns at dinner parties, many expats get seduced by the chance to get rich quick.

Whilst this can sometimes work, we have to remember that property is a complex legal product, and it isn’t liquid.

Meaning that you can’t just sell it easily. This is an even bigger issue with land investments.  In 2014, I met two expats, in Indonesia and Cambodia, that boasted to me about their returns.

Subsequently, they couldn’t sell their land (the expat in Cambodia) or apartment (the expat in Indonesia) for various reasons.

A gain isn’t a gain until you sell, and most developing countries don’t have the sorts of legal systems that we have back home.

Beyond that, the lack of compulsory savings and a “keeping up with the Jones” mentality, means many expats on huge packages are failing to invest much money at it.

Are the big expat banks some of the best options?

Speaking about familiarity, some expats are reassured by familiar-sounding banking names.   In general, the bigger banks take advantage of their brand name and charge high fees.  Moreover, they aren’t independent.

In practice, this means they will have a limited number of funds available.  For example, HSBC Expat is likely to sell HSBC funds, and offer limited solutions, as opposed to cheaper alternatives.

In general, banks are best for banking solutions, and platforms are best for investments.  It might seem convenient to have everything under the same roof, but it is usually expensive.

How about expat taxes on investments?

Expat taxes are incredibly complex areas, as it depends on your nationality and where you live.  I am not a tax advisor, but I will try to summarize here.

As a generalization, for American expats, it makes sense to invest with a broker back at home. This is unless an expat brokerage firm has a product specific to US expats.

For expats living in America, meaning non-Americans living in the US, it can also make sense to contact a US broker.

For most nationalities, however, investing offshore whilst living overseas, makes the most sense. Sending money home can cause tax issues, as can only focusing on local solutions.

This is especially the case if you need to move cities/countries every 2-5 years, meaning your liquidate your investments every time you move.
As capital gains taxes apply when you sell an investment, it is preferable to focus on long-term expat investing.

For British expats, in particular, portfolio bonds can have significant tax advantages, but it does depend on the charging structure chosen.

What about ISAs and other forms of tax-efficient investing?

Most onshore tax-free investment options like ISAs for British people aren’t available for expats unless it is just a short-term assignment.,

If you are spending less than 6 months a year overseas, however, the situation can be a bit different, as your tax residency may be in your home country.

Most onshore brokers also don’t accept expats.  For example, Hargreaves Lansdown, the biggest UK brokerage firm, doesn’t accept expats as new clients.

They do keep open accounts for Brits living overseas, who applied before they left the country, provided it isn’t held within an ISA.

How about Bitcoin and alternative investments such as FX?

Many people ask me about these alternative investments, especially if they have seen another expat make great money from them.

Any investment can go up. That in and of itself doesn’t make it a good investment.  Countless investments have gone up in the short-term.

Tech stocks that had little or no revenue and business earnings, went up for 5-10 years during the 1990s.  Commodities, long-term losers, have also had great 10 year periods.

The point is Bitcoin doesn’t have any business earnings, unlike something like index funds.  It doesn’t have a yield either, like Treasuries bonds.

So the only thing holding up the price of Bitcoin is the hope that the person sitting next to you, will want to pay more for it than you paid.

Even if Bitcoin and digital money is the future, that doesn’t mean it is a sensible investment. Using the aforementioned tech stock example, there is no doubt the internet was the future in the 1990s.

The cream of the crop has done great, as shown by the Nasdaq’s fantastic performance, beating even the S&P500 and Dow Jones since 1999.

However, that doesn’t mean the valuations of those tech companies in the 1990s was justified. No matter how good their products and services were, they didn’t have any business earnings, so most tech firms with high valuations in the 1990s went bust.

Only those technology firms with solid business earnings, like Apple and Amazon, who managed to monetize their products and services, managed to avoid bankruptcy and get bigger.

Another example would be pharmaceutical stocks. Imagine tomorrow, a drug was invented that would cure cancer AND reverse ageing…..we can now all live until 150 and live more active lives!

Sounds unrealistic, but it may happen sooner than we think. The point is, this would be a bigger game-changer that even the internet when it comes to global GDP.

In the short-term, the stock would probably soar in value. Maybe even go up by 10,000% or 20,000%.

People would speculate that the healthcare firm that invented the drug, will be able to monetize the drug with greater sales.

If that happens, and business earnings follow, the high valuations may be justified.  If for whatever reason, the healthcare firm can’t monetize the invention as much as expected, the price would eventually fall back down.

It might tale 5 or 10 years, but business earnings are the key to long-term stock market rises.  It is the tail that wags the dog.

As for FX trading, it is a bad idea entirely.  Currencies don’t go up as an asset class. The Euro can’t go up against the USD, at the same time as the USD goes up against the Euro.

Therefore, on each trade, one person loses and one person wins. The same thing happens tomorrow.
Compound probability dictates that the more you trade, the statistical chances of losing money increase.

Being a sensible long-term investor always beats being a trader and speculator, long-term.

Why are index funds good investments?

100 years ago, Ford’s Model T was innovative.  Now you would need to invent the flying car to be considered innovative.

The point is, humanity does innovate with time. It isn’t always a straight line. We have wars, political and social problems.

Just in the last 100 years, we have had 2 huge global conflicts and countless regional ones. That hasn’t stopped the biggest firms from getting more innovative.

Ultimately, the stock market is just the biggest firms in the country and indeed the world. What is the Dow Jones? It is 30 of the biggest firms in the US. The S&P500? 500 of the biggest firms in the US.

MSCI World is the biggest world firms.  Over time, these indexes have always gotten more profitable.

In the short-term speculation can win the day.  Over the long-term, business earnings linked to innovation is the key.

Are index funds, therefore, an 100% sure bet?

100% of buy and hold investors have made money in index funds IF they have bought and held the indexes for 20-25+ years.

The risks associated with markets decrease with time in the market.

Investors who hold 2-3 indexes (MSCI World, S&P, FTSE100 as just three examples) are even more likely to make money, especially the case if they have also had a bond index.

Too many people, however, try to time markets. Let’s look at recent times.   When Trump was running for election in 2015-2016, many investors said `i want to wait until the election before investing`.

That was when markets were at 16,000-18,000 in the US.  He won the election, and markets soared.

That isn’t necessarily a reflection on Trump – indeed markets have always risen long-term as mentioned before and even usually go up short-term under most presidents.

The point is, with markets at 27,300 as I am writing this, there is a reasonable chance US Markets will never again see 16,000-18,000.

They briefly fell to 21,000-22,000 in December but didn’t come close to 18,000, let alone 16,000.  That recent example is just one of thousands of historical examples I could have given.

The point is, market timing doesn’t beat time in the market.  There is a whole set of academic evidence against it.

Should you pay for advice?  

This is entirely a personal decision.  It is possible to DIY, and some people do it very well.  However, investing is simple but not easy as Warren Buffett once said.

Emotionally speaking, some of the fundamentals of investing like not market timing, isn’t easy.  In fact, it is easier said than done.

I am sure you know many people who panicked during the 2008-2009 financial crisis and obviously now regret it. It isn’t easy, after all, to stay calm with sensationalist media stories coming on a daily basis.

That is one reason for the results below, which compares the average investor to the indexes:

So in the same way that many people see the benefit of a personal trainer, rather than doing the gym individually, an advisor can add significant advantages.

What services do you provide?  

I provide investment management services.  Specializing in lump sums from $75,000, and monthly investments from $600.

Where are your clients based and can you accept me?

I have clients in the UK, Belgium, UAE, China, Australia, South Korea, Hong Kong, Mexico, Canada, Thailand, Singapore and tens of other places.

I can take clients from any country apart from those living in the US. US expats are usually OK.

Can I use expat-specific investment platforms?

Yes, you can. This option often makes sense, especially if you are living a transient lifestyle.

How about property investments which don’t involve direct real estate?

I have previously looked at how expats can invest in property without the hassles of being a landlord in this article

Should you also have offshore or expat banking?

This can be a good idea, for a simple reason of tax implications. If you send a huge lump sum home, after investing for 15 years as an expat, the authorities will want to look into that.

Even if no tax is due, it can cause headaches. Numerous people have been asked to prove that the amount they have received, won’t be a yearly event, and many other things.

You also have the issue of residency. Courts of law, in countless countries including Australia, have asked expats to prove they really are expats.

In other words, the more ties you have to your home country (bank accounts that are frequently being used, property and so on), the more questions are being asked.

This is especially an issue for “digital nomads” who often don’t have tax identification numbers for long periods of time.

Having no tax residency has certainly become more difficult, and it is a misconnection that being out of your country of citizenship for 183 days, means you are authentically tax exempt.

Having offshore banking and investments (merely the investments are outside your country of residency and citizenship) reduces these risks.

Like anything, these rules change, so it is best you use an advisor that is up-top of such things.

What’s the best broker or DIY platform for expats?

This depends on many things. If you are American, the answer might be different to if you are British.

If you plan to stay in just one country for 20 years, your needs may be different from somebody who is moving from country to country, as some brokers only accept clients in specific countries.

Moreover, the brokerage you actually pick, isn’t as important as the investments themselves.

Almost all DIY platforms these days are safe, and well-regulated.

How about for expats on short-term assignments?

It depends how short-term. If you are outside your country of residency for a few months, you are still going to be a tax resident back home.

In this situation, expat specific investments aren’t as useful as the “career expat”.

How about something like robo-advisors?

Robo-ddvisors can be good for basic needs, and indeed many advisors are using them to automate some basic tasks.

The issue with the technology however, is that it doesn’t account for your very specific situation.

It also doesn’t do financial planning, such as budgeting. It more focuses on pure investment advisory advice.

So for many expats, the technology works best, when an advisor uses it, in tandem with more traditional advice.

It is, however, allowing many expat advisors to have global client banks, and negating the need for face-to-face advice.

This isn’t the only technology allowing for the more efficient use of man power.

In recent years, I seldom meet clients face-to-face, due to new technology.

What are your contact details?

My main email is [email protected].  I am also available on numerous apps, such as WhatsApp.

Conclusion/summary 

In general, it is best to focus on expat-specific investing, rather than local investing.

This is unless you are American, or an expat living in America, although different local circumstances can exist in different countries, and laws can always change.

Long-term and low-cost investing beats market timing and speculation, or for that matter keeping money in the bank.

Further reading 

For expats with existing policies overseas, you may find the following article useful.