I often write on Quora.com, where I am the most viewed writer on financial matters, with over 287.8 million views in recent years.
In the answers below I focused on the following topics and issues:
- How can expats living in Africa invest? I explain the differences between some of the richer African countries, and the rest.
- Is Singapore richer than the US? If so, why is the currency “weaker”?
- Is 200,000 Yen a month a good salary in Japan?
- What are the best paying expat jobs, and where are they located? I explain the concept of the “hardship location”.
- What are some of the best places to live for a “peaceful” life, apart from obvious ones like New Zealand and Iceland?
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How can Africa-based expats invest?
It depends on where you live, and what you want to achieve. If you live in South Africa and one or two other countries, you are spoiled for choice.
There are loads of banks, do-it-yourself (DIY), and advisors who accept for the country.
Some are too localized, but a few are internationally orientated. Usually, you just need to verify your identity and source of wealth by:
- Completing an application form
- Giving proof of address
- Giving proof of ID in the last three months
- Sometimes source of wealth for larger amounts
Even in such countries where you are spoiled for choice, it is better to go with a provider which is international.
Some of the local providers don’t keep your accounts open if you leave the country.
For a few war-torn countries like Somalia or Libya, it is difficult to find any providers which accept, but there are few expats here, to begin with.
For the majority of other places, be that Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, or any other, it is possible to do it.
However, you usually need a specialized provider that will accept. Few of the “mainstream” providers do.
They need to be specialized in the expat or developing market niche.
In any case, expat or local, what is even more important is to invest in a rational and long-term way, to avoid issues like this – where people invest for themselves and struggle:
If Singapore is richer than the USD, why is the currency worth less than USD?
There are a few things here. Firstly, Singapore doesn’t have a bigger GDP than the US of course.
It has a tiny population. The GDP per Capita is about the same at $65,000 a year.
Sometimes Singapore’s is higher, and sometimes the US’ is higher, depending on currency movements.
If we look at GDP per capita adjusted for costs and currency movements (purchasing power parity – PPP), we do find that Singapore is higher than the US.
However, that is income adjusted for cost of living. Income doesn’t make you rich.
Let’s look at wealth per capita instead. On this measure, the US is higher than Singapore.
Now, don’t get me wrong, we have to take statistics with a pinch of salt. For local Singaporeans, just like some European countries, there is a bigger safety net than in the US.
That means middle and higher-income earners don’t need to save and invest as much if they trust the government not to renege on certain promises.
The bottom line is it is debatable whether Singapore is richer than the US. It really depends on which measure you use.
But, let’s deal with the question. Hong Kong is richer than the US on some of these measures. So is Luxembourg.
Yet a currency is just a number. Japan doesn’t have a weak currency because the Yen buys 109 to the USD.
They have a strong currency in many ways. Let’s imagine you had two people who have the same job.
One person is Partner in PWC USA, earning $1m a year, and the other is a partner in PWC Japan earning $1m equivalent in Yen (about 110m).
In many US cities, the partner of PWC Japan would be able to spend a smaller proportion of his salary to buy the same goods compared to locally in Japan.
In comparison, the USA PWC Partner would be able to spend less in Japan, so he/she would have lower purchasing power.
Another example would be the UK. People think it has one of the strongest currencies in the world just because you don’t get many pounds for your Euros or USD.
Yet the UK, outside of London and the South East, is no longer super expensive.
In fact, a few years ago tourists from places like Germany came to the UK to take advantage of the weak pound.
They could come for 1–2 days and save a lot of money compared to German prices.
That means the UK Pound at that time was quite a weak currency. The bottom line?
The value of one unit of a specific currency has nothing to do with the strength of the currency in purchasing power terms or the strength of the economy.
Is 200,000 JPY a good salary for foreigners?
Here is Japan’s GDP Per Capita:
It changes due to currency movements, but it is consistently above $40,000 a year, or $3,500 a month.
However, plenty of people don’t work. The unemployed. Housewives. Students.
Therefore, the average wage of those working is much higher than $3,500 a month.
200,000 yen is $2,000 a month and is around the minimum wage. So, it isn’t a lot of money.
In Tokyo, people struggle to live on 200,000 a month unless they have parents to subsidize their living, or they share housing like students and some young workers do.
That is one reason why “share houses” like the ones below have become popular in Japan.
They make living off 200,000 a month workable and have a common area where people meet other tenants.
In the countryside, or even in some very small cities/big towns, it can buy you much more, but still isn’t “a lot “ of money.
If you have a double household income, that is another matter entirely.
“Big” money in Japan is similar to in the US, UK, Singapore or any other developed place.
What are the best paying expat jobs?
Firstly, the best-paid positions in many industries tend to be in hardship locations.
For example, if you work in oil&gas in a place like Canada or Norway, you wouldn’t go to an oil field in Iraq without a big pay rise!
In comparison, some people would take the same pay or even a reduction in pay, to live in some places.
In terms of the jobs themselves, the best paid are Any high-level executive positions like country managers of big MNCs.
People like that can earn millions, just as they can in London or New York, in places like Singapore.
Below that you have
- The big consulting firms like Bain, Boston Consulting Group and Mckinsey.
- The biggest banks like Goldman if somebody becomes senior
- Some functions in big tech firms like Facebook or Google.
- Some experienced oil&gas engineers working for the larger firms (Shell, BP etc)
- A percentage of engineers working in mining
- Increasingly, remote workers. In other words, they can work from anywhere in the world, so have taken bigger salaries and engaged in geographical arbitrage.
- A percentage of NGOs and inter-governmental organizations like the United Nations, Red Cross and the World Bank. Again though, this tends to only be at the senior level, and typically in some of the hardship locations.
- Pilots if they are experienced and located in certain countries.
- A small percentage of sales and marketing professionals, especially if they are in a new area, like there was a time when digital marketing people made a lot as few had the skills.
So, it isn’t much different to back home. North Sea oil&gas engineers can still be paid well, even if not as well as in the 1980s.
So can top executives, to a much greater extent. The only difference is how big firms categorize countries into high-risk hardship locations.
Another exception is if a country is in a very unique position. For example, pilots in China were getting paid much more money a few years ago than in most other destinations
The reason is simple – supply and demand. Loads of Chinese can now travel, so we have seen a huge demand from these passengers for both local and international travel before Covid-19.
Yet the supply of pilots hasn’t been catching up. I am sure it will eventually and this situation will change.
You can see a similar thing in education. In countries where the demand for international school has gone up a lot recently, some pay a lot, even though teaching isn’t the best-paid profession in the world.
Of course, in any country, the best paying route is to start your own business or become self-employed where you get paid (ideally) on results and not on time.
That means if you go inside the top 1%, or especially 0.1% of expats in any city, most won’t be traditional expats.
Most would have started their own business (locally or internationally) and succeeded where few have.
However, that isn’t really a job by definition and is higher risk.
Which country is the best to settle in for a peaceful and relaxing life?
New Zealand would be a good bet as would:
- Some parts of the UK, for example, the Highlands or some parts of Wales
- Some parts of Southern Europe like the Algarve in Portugal, or some parts of Spain
- A percentage of developing nations, yet this depends on your expectations. If you expect things to work efficiently, you might get annoyed living here.
- Langkawi in Malaysia and some of the beach destinations in Thailand
- Believe it or not, Taiwan, outside of Taipei at least, especially if you can speak Chinese. It has that slow island feel to it.
- Iceland and some Nordic countries, at least in the more remote areas.
Really, anywhere can be remote and “slow” outside the big towns and cities.
When people think about the US they think about New York, yet I am sure some parts of the country are very idyllic.What is more, you can live a peaceful life in most places.
You can have two people living in a big, crowded, city.One works at home and goes out of the city on weekends, and the other lives a hectic life.
If English is your first language, I would pick some of the quieter places in New Zealand, the UK, or other native (or majority) English-speaking countries, as operating in a second language isn’t “peaceful” at first, until you get good.
The easiest way to reduce stress overseas is not to have huge expectations of the host country.
Many expats who come with relatively low expectations tend to feel relaxed even in some very sub-optimal countries most people don’t want to live in.
Pained by financial indecision? Want to invest with Adam?
Adam is an internationally recognised author on financial matters, with over 287.8 million answers views on Quora.com and a widely sold book on Amazon
In the article below, taken directly from my online Quora answers, I spoke about the following issues and subjects:
- How can an American expat invest from overseas, if firms like Vanguard won’t accpet such applications?
- How can somebody invest from Latin America into global stock markets?
- Is it possible for a Latin America expat living in Dubai to invest in index funds?
- Why won’t inflation be a big threat in the coming days, at least when it comes to consumer prices rather than asset price inflation?
- Are there any similairities betweeen the 2008-2009 financial crisis and today’s situation?
- Is it silly to want to retire at 40? I explain why retirement doesn’t need to mean being lazy and inactive all day!
To read more click on the link below.