Thursday, 21 April 2011

Expat Guide To Finance - Your money and the cost of living

Adjusting to living costs in your new country is a key part of the transition into expat life. Climate, salary and social life are all important too but making sure you have control over your living expenses is vital.

If you are planning on moving abroad the first thing you should do is work out how much money you will need to lead an equivalent lifestyle to the one you currently enjoy, including those luxuries that you can’t do without! This will ensure that you are instantly aware of what the general living costs are and give you a sense of how to negotiate your salary in the most cost effective way. A good idea is to use a cost of living calculator which will help you appreciate how dramatically this varies across the globe.

For many expats the issue lies with hidden costs that aren’t always starkly obvious, or are overlooked, amongst the long list of things to sort whilst moving. To help you out here is a short checklist of things to take account of when planning a move:

· Healthcare – Is this something your employer provides? If not then you may need to look into taking out your own private medical cover.

· Education – If state education is limited in your host country it is likely that you will need to pay for your children to be privately educated. And again if this is not something that is paid for by your employer the costs of boarding and extra-curricular activities can quickly mount up.

· Social life – It is also important to factor in how much you will be spending on your social life, whether that be joining a club or society, to meet people at work or in your spare time.

· Assets – Are you planning on letting your house while you are away or are you leaving a pet behind? Both of these things can cost a lot so it is worth factoring them into your move.

To see more advice and our top tips for managing your finances abroad check out our Expat Guides via the Guardian website.

Expats, do you have any top tips for first time movers? If so let us know...

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Expat Guides to Finance- Tax

Holding on to a little bit more of your pay check can be a contributing factor in a decision to move abroad- as our Expat Economics Survey suggested with 29% of the expats we spoke to in our research citing tax efficiency as one of the top 5 benefits of relocating. However whilst the possible benefits of lower tax in some countries might sound appealing it is important that every decision made is an informed one and you are fully aware of types and rates of tax you will be expected to pay in your new home.

Types and rates of tax- what can you expect to pay?

* Domestic tax laws of your new home
* Income tax
* Capital gains tax
* Sales and regional taxes.
* Some countries require residents to pay a compulsory social security contribution towards the cost of medical care and other public services

So if you're motivated to move for money make sure you do your research and check out the expat guides to finance otherwise you may find yourself in a taxing situation!

Have you escaped to a haven or is it all a bit to taxing? We would love to hear you stories here....

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Expat Guides to Finance - Arranging your finances

Improving your personal financial situation can often be a motivation for relocating to a different country. However countries rarely combine the perfect blend of financial prospects and lifestyle improvements so it is important for expats to assess their financial expectations before taking the plunge.

When you decide to move abroad one of the most important things to remember is organising your finances however financial experts say that many expats place financial matters at the bottom of their mental checklists and fail to sort out their banking arrangements until they arrive at their new location. This can lead to problems on arrival as access to money isn’t always straightforward.

For those of you that think this all sounds scarily familiar we have summarised an essential finance checklist for you below:

Get the right banking your money must be easily accessible, safe and secure so putting it in a reputable bank is the first step for any expat

Decide what accounts work best for you it is common for expats to have two accounts; your home account for ongoing transactions such as property rental, and a local bank account in the country where you are living for your wages (in local currency) and for day-to-day expenses. There is also the option of “home, host, offshore” banking: retaining an account at home, opening one local to your host country but also having an offshore account for savings, investment and wealth management

Be tax efficient one of the benefits of banking offshore is that, depending on where you live, you may be able to enjoy potential tax efficiencies on your savings and investments.

Arrange your banking before you move For those who have just arrived in a new country, a common problem when trying to open a bank account is being unable to show a credit history in the new country, or a permanent address. One way to avoid the difficulties of opening an account in your host country is to open an offshore account before you leave, thereby ensuring you have easy access to your money when you arrive in your new home. And if you're using a bank that has global reach, the bank may be able to open a local account in your destination country and transfer your credit history on your behalf before you even arrive.

If you are moving with your job look into what specialist financial advice your company might provide

And if your still not sure seek advice from a financial expert

To see more advice and our top tips for managing your finances abroad check out our Expat Guides via the Guardian website.

Got any top tips for handling expat finances? Then get in touch and let us know your experiences.....

Expat Guides to Finance

HSBC Bank International have teamed up with the Guardian to bring you a series of Expat Guides to Finance, a great new resource for current and prospective expats. From today the first of these guides, The Expat Guide to Money Management will be available on the Guardian website but we wanted to let you know all about them on here too so we will be blogging the good bits this week.

Managing your finances is a fundamental part of adult life but for expats, sorting money abroad can often add another level of complexity as you grapple with currencies and local tax systems. However, when relocating, banking arrangements can fall off the radar especially when you have research to do, accommodation to find or children to consider. Hopefully through creating these Expat Guides we'll provide some useful advice so that some of the pressure of arranging your finances is alleviated.

Over the next few days we will post blogs on making the most of your money through offshore banking, looking at the fundamental question of how you arrange your finances - using home, host or offshore accounts, or a combination of all three - as well as specific questions on tax. We will also look at the impact that relative living costs can have on your decision-making process.

We hope you enjoy our blog instalments this week and as always we would love to hear your feedback and questions.....

Friday, 15 April 2011

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing... Felicity Monk

This week Felicity Monk, Freelance writer and kiwi expat living in London, shares with us her moving account of February’s earthquake in Christchurch and what it’s like to be away when adisaster strikes at home.

An account of the Christchurch earthquake

February‘s 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand killed 172 people (though the final death toll is expected to be 181) and caused massive devastation to the country’s second-most populous city. Tens of thousands of homes are being demolished, too badly damaged to fix, most of the CBD is destroyed. The Cathedral, once Christchurch’s most famous landmark is now a crumbled, broken mess of bricks. Prime Minister John Key said that 22 February "may well be New Zealand's darkest day". Our small population means that just about everyone knows someone who has been affected by the earthquake.

From the other side of the world in my home in London, feeling very far away, I watched online news sites streaming raw footage of the chaos, which only grew more horrific in the hours and days following.

New Zealanders are known for many things: our adoration for rugby, our independence, our fondness for casual dress, and our friendly, egalitarian nature. But perhaps less obvious, though just as much a part of our collective identity, is our resilience, compassion, resourcefulness, and willingness to lend a hand when needed. It was these qualities that were on display from the moment the earthquake struck.

People opened their doors to complete strangers, newly homeless, offering them beds, food and clothing. New Zealand’s Civil Defence staff were inundated with calls from people offering to help in whichever way they could. Independent water tanker owners sourced water from farms and processing plants, joining with Fonterra to co-ordinate a fleet to deliver water to those in need. Diesel suppliers gave petrol. Armies of volunteer students in their thousands moved through the city, sweeping streets and building long-drop toilets in people’s gardens. Kiwis from all over the country donated money, food, toys and nappies. And now, while the immediate urgency has passed and there is talk of rebuilding, the focus is on ongoing fundraising events and appeals to help Christchurch businesses get back on their feet. The government estimates they will spend more than £4 billion pounds on rebuilding the city.

The response here in London has been similarly incredible. Eager to show support and solidarity, the number of kiwis keen to attend the memorial service held at Westminster Abbey last month was so great that the New Zealand High Commission ran a ballot to allocate the 2500 tickets for seats in the Abbey and nearby St Margaret's Church, where it was broadcast. Kiwi ex-pats organised a prayer vigil at Westminster Cathedral, which drew a crowd of more than 5000. Tickets to a benefit concert where London-based New Zealand bands played to a large crowd in Shepherds Bush, quickly sold out. A rugby match that was supposed to take place in Christchurch, home of the Crusaders, was shifted to Twickenham after the earthquake damaged the stadium, with £5 from every ticket sold going to the Red Cross earthquake appeal. And on and on. Since the earthquake, not a week goes by where there isn’t some kind of fundraiser being held.

It is said that the true measure of a person’s character is the way they behave in times of difficulty. I believe this expression can be extended to include a nation in crisis. And while it may be small comfort to those who lost loved ones in the earthquake, this tragedy has truly revealed New Zealanders at their finest. Never have I felt prouder to be a kiwi.

If you have a story of a nation’s response to crisis and would like to share your experiences with us please get in touch...

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Expat Pension Pressures Revealed By Recent Study

Retiring abroad in a hot, sunny country is dream for many but for some expats this dream is proving harder to finance than originally thought.

The Expat Explorer survey shows that most retirees favour Europe as their destination of choice, with France and Spain topping the poll, for quality of life. However despite this lifestyle appeal, recent research has highlighted a growing number of expats living abroad who are facing financial difficulties as a result of their pension arrangements.

These findings suggest that British expats living in Europe have potentially lost out on over €3 billion on pension transfers and with many considering return home as a result.

One of the key factors in this issue is the economic downturn leading to a weakening of the pound and having a direct affect on foreign exchange rates. Research, carried out by HiFix, calculated that in the last two years alone 1.2 million retired British couples, all over the world, have seen their monthly pension incomes hit by increasingly expensive transfers. The worst affected expat pensioners have been identified as living in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia and according to HiFix a pensioner living down under would now be AUD$973 (worse off on a couple’s pension than in 2008.

Are you an expat currently receiving a pension, or are you worried about how your future retirement or long term savings plans may be affected? Feel free to tell us your thoughts.

For more information on offshore banking visit

Friday, 8 April 2011

Expat voting: How does your system work?

With the local elections coming up in the UK on the 5th of May, there are many of us that will embrace the opportunity to cast a vote but what happens if you are an expat living abroad and you want to participate in your local or national elections?

The fact is that your right to vote as an expat in the nation you have moved to will vary considerably depending on where you are.

Currently British expats registered to vote within the last 15 years are able to vote as normal in local and national elections and will only forfeit this right after 15 years have passed.

However the story is very different in Australia. Electoral law in Oz prevents Australian expats from enrolling to vote if three or more years have passed since they last lived there. Once three years has passed they are deleted from the register and can only re-enrol once they move home.

For some expats it is even harder, or impossible, to vote whilst living abroad.

In a recent case, a group of Turkish expats have decided to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights over the decision by the Turkish Supreme Election Board (YSK) to prevent Turkish citizens, residing abroad, voting at embassies or consulates in their countries of residence. Instead the YSK announced that Turkish expatriates, some 2.5 million, would only be permitted to vote in the upcoming general elections at customs gates.

What have your experiences been of voting abroad? Share your comments us with us here.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Expat Excellence with Megan Fitzgerald

This week Megan Fitzgerald, Expat Career and Personal Branding Coach and author of expat site Career by Choice gives you her advice on searching for a job abroad. Megan helps expats worldwide use their personal brand to build careers and businesses that fit who they are and their international lifestyle. Named a top 50 personal branding consultant, she's been featured in Fortune,, Wall Street Journal Online and many expat and career books and publications.

It's about differentiation, communication and strategic action

200 million people around the world are living outside of their home country. That’s almost 3 percent of the world’s population. There is not global data available, but looking at regional numbers we can deduce that a good number of those people are without a job, underemployed, or dissatisfied with the job that they do have.

Given we can potentially spend more time at work than anywhere else, this is tragic. Especially when you consider many of us chose to become an expat to have new experiences, more freedom and a better quality of life. How can someone have a rich or fulfilling life abroad when they are dissatisfied, frustrated or in despair professionally speaking? I’m not sure there is an easy answer to that question.

I believe the key to addressing this situation is looking at how changes in the marketplace and current hiring practices have changed the way expats need to approach the job search and managing their careers. With appropriate shifts in approaches to compliment the shifts going on around us in the marketplace, we can see that there are definitive strategies that can help us take back control over our careers and allow us to enjoy our life abroad.


Companies hire people because they are a solution to a problem they need fixing and they are willing to pay to get it fixed. Period. Not because they think they need another position X or because they need to replace someone who has left. Everyone is tightening their belts. If there is not a definable problem to be solved and there is no perceived ROI to a hire, it is very highly unlikely it will happen.

If you are an expat already located in your country of choice and a job opportunity arises with a local company, most often you will have to show how you offer something that a local candidate cannot in order to be considered for a position. If you are an aspiring expat looking to work for a company abroad, you’ve got to be able to make the case for why there is ROI for the employer to invest in sending you abroad versus hiring a local.


It’s critical that expats understand their differentiation and ability to uncover and communicate their value are essential to getting access to professional opportunities abroad. Those that are willing to invest the time and energy to do the work required to effectively position themselves in the right way and at the right time will be at the front of the line when opportunities become available. Those that learn to communicate powerfully via tools and various platforms will be able to convert those opportunities into jobs.


That said top companies know that the best people and talent can solve their biggest problems more efficiently and effectively than most. They know they will not only solve those problems with speed and skill but will be proactive about creating opportunities for their organization. These companies understand that hiring and firing is expensive and substandard performance affects their bottom line. They know their people are their greatest resource and if they want to thrive in today’s incredibly competitive global marketplace, they have to hire the best people they possibly can. This includes hiring an expat, paying to send an employee abroad or hiring from outside of the local market place if there is real perceived value in that choice.


The global war for talent is fierce, even with unemployment rates in some places in the world being extremely high. As a result, the top companies and organizations worldwide are using processes and tools to identify the competencies and traits of successful employees. In fact, according to HR World, top companies are 86% more likely to know which skills and traits translate into top performance. They are using this knowledge to not only evaluate candidates but search them out. And they know what tools to use and where to go to find them.

Many top employers believe that the best candidates or solutions to their problems are being successful working with another company or organization somewhere out there in the world. They don’t believe that these candidates are going to be knocking on their door or sending in their resume or CV inquiring about open positions. They realize they have to seek them out. So with the knowledge of the specific skills, competencies, traits and experience they need to find a top performer to solve their problem, they go to where they believe they will find them. The first (and most cost effective) place they go? Online.


Saavy HR professionals and recruiters will know how to use the internet to source candidates worldwide. Surveys show that companies and recruiters will be using social media more than any other means to source candidates in 2011. They will leverage online networks like Linkedin that allow them to search through millions of people using very specific keywords to locate candidates that fit their needs. These companies or their recruiting firms then approach these people they believe are an ideal or strong fit and the potential hiring conversation begins.


This is one of the reasons why 65 to 75% of all jobs are not advertised. These “hidden” jobs are filled through the company’s proactive searching mentioned above, internal hiring, employee referrals or savvy networkers outside of the company who’ve positioned themselves in front of the right people at the right time. This means that the advertised jobs were passed over by people working for the company, savvy networkers and the top stars that the company has actively pursued. So if you are focusing primarily on advertised jobs in your job search, you are pursuing the jobs to which hundreds (potentially thousands) of people have said “no thanks”. And you have massive competition for these jobs because their existence is public knowledge. I don’t know about you, but competing with thousands of people for second or third rate positions does not sound like a desirable scenario at all.


It means you have to become the hunted rather than the hunter to be considered for the best job opportunities. It means you need to understand the marketplace and your target market’s problems and position yourself as a solution. You need to know how to differentiate yourself, truly understand your value in the cultural context in which you are or will be operating and have the strategies and tools to communicate it in a powerful and persuasive way.

It means that the resume or CV is no longer the de facto or primary tool for communicating your value. Chances are people will read your bio and/or experience on Linkedin or another online network before they get to your career marketing documents. Your online identity or reputation will be just as, if not more important, than your resume or CV. And the way you write your resume or CV – yes, that’s got to change too.

It means that you need to be strategic, proactive and consistent in executing on your career management plan. It means that much of what you have been taught about how to manage your career or run a job search is no longer valid. The words “Adapt or Die” may seem strong but when the shoe fits….


Today’s world of work is a different place from even 3 years ago. Not only have the rules changed, the game has changed. We must question everything we thought was true about managing our careers if we want to build and enjoy our professional life abroad.

The expats who will thrive abroad in 2011 and beyond will be the ones who let go of what they know and the past, learn new skills to engage in the present reality and be willing to take regular action to nurture and grow their professional reputation or personal brand and network to insure long term success.

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