I often write on Quora.com, where I am the most viewed writer on financial matters, with over 669.8 million views in recent years.
In the answers below I focused on the following topics and issues:
- How much do US expats pay in tax to the USA government?
- What are the most common mistakes in marketing?
- How can I find good companies to invest in?
- How can I invest while being based in Africa?
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How much do US expats pay in tax to the USA government?
You need formal tax advice, which this isn’t.
How much you pay to the US government depends on several complicated factors such as double taxation treaties.
It also depends what kinds of assets you own.
Owning non-US assets can be a PFIC? PFIC stands for Passive Foreign Investment Company.
It is best to
- Get tax advice on both sides. For example, if you live in say Japan, use an accountant who knows Japanese and US tax laws, including double taxation agreements.
- Invest your assets in assets which aren’t PFICs to avoid unexpected taxes on assets.
Remember, tax and investments are separate things.
We are focusing on guiding people on investing, but aren’t tax advisors, so we co-operate with tax firms.
Likewise, most accountants aren’t investment experts.
What are the most common mistakes in marketing?
What is marketing?
It is the process of others knowing about your company.
You will naturally get more revenue if more people know about your company.
Often, eccentric and quirky things will get more attention.
When Michelle Mone started her bra business, she took photos of celebrities in their underwear, and newspapers printed them.
She also had Penny Lancaster for two years as a model for her firm and is married to Rod Stewart.
After the relationship broke down with Lancaster, she signed Rod Stewart’s ex-wife, Rachel.
It generated loads of free publicity.
More recently, the UK beer group Brewdog opened a hotel.
As per this image from Reddit, they put a fridge inside the shower:
Very few people will use the feature. That isn’t the point.
The message is that people who use the hotel break rules and conventions, and doing so generates free publicity.
Tesla and Elon Musk have been experts at generating free publicity.
When it comes to professional services, such as legal and financial services, too many firms think that using specific tactics will look unprofessional.
So, they care too much about conventions, norms and established ways of doing things.
The old expression there is no such thing as bad publicity still holds true today in most, but not all, situations, despite some naive beliefs that social media has changed that.
Being infamous and/or famous within your target market always beats being unknown.
How can I find good companies to invest in?
Long-term, the best companies tend to:
- Provide a steady cashflow/return on capital employed
- Can deploy that cashflow via reinvestments
- Are in a growth industry
- Are leading players in their industry and have a sustainable competitive advantage
For at least the first three bullet points, you can find that out by doing research.
The growth industry part is quite important. Let’s look at some examples.
Most of the world is still using cash, believe it or not.
Therefore, Visa, MasterCard, PayPal and other digital technology companies have a good chance to do well.
Likewise, as people get richer in the developing world, more people will have pets. In the developed world (but also increasingly in developing countries), pets are increasingly seen as family members.
So, people are spending more on them and their numbers (globally) are increasing.
What is more, as pets can’t speak, testing them will become more and more common.
That would indicate that leading firms in that area will do well.
However, we always have to remember that buying individual stocks has loads of risks compared to being more diversified.
Lehman Brothers and Royal Bank of Scotland were once leading players in banking, and seen as being ahead of the curve.
Likewise, PayPal and Visa could be disrupted by a better technology.
So, buying a fund or ETF which owns a lot of these companies, makes sense.
How can I invest while being based in Africa?
It depends what you are looking for.
I presume you are speaking about investing in stocks, bonds, funds etc.
If you are looking for relatively vanilla investments and are confident about doing it yourself, you can use a firm like Interactive Brokers.
If, on the other hand, you aren’t confident investing yourself, you should use a company/advisor.
You might also want a more corporate solution if you are:
- High-net-worth and have a lot of specific needs like trusts and more sophisticated planning needs.
- An expat who regularly moves around
- Live in a country where few brokers will accept you
Certainly the continent is becoming more financial savvy.
It was my second biggest region in 2021, and I expect the number of sophisticated investors in Africa to only grow.
As a side note, I would make a distinction between economic and investing opportunities.
Many people got their fingers burned investing in China after 2006, as they assumed higher GDP growth would translate into better stock market performance.
It didn’t. US markets benefitted more from that Chinese growth.
The same could happen in Africa. It isn’t a given that strong GDP numbers will result in over performance in the local stock markets.
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Adam is an internationally recognised author on financial matters, with over 693.5 million answer views on Quora.com, a widely sold book on Amazon, and a contributor on Forbes.