Thursday, June 30, 2011

New podcast - Simon Hilton talks about currency transfers for expats

The latest episode of the Expat Focus podcast is now online!

Foreign exchange broker Simon Hilton talks about currency transfer issues for expats. Learn about the factors which affect exchange rates and how currency brokers can help protect their clients from exchange rate volatility. Also, learn how to choose a reputable broker to make sure your money is safe when being transferred abroad.

Listen to the Expat Focus podcast here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

International Mortgages – Better than ever and easier than you think?

by Stephen Burdett Cert PFS DipFA, MBL Financial

With global interest rates at an all time low and international real estate prices at rock bottom, has there ever been a better time to buy a property? There is a common misconception that as an expat living overseas, it can be almost impossible to get a mortgage, especially in the current economic climate. The reality is that the opposite is the case. Several major UK banks have international subsidiaries providing the internationally mobile expat with a range of services, including mortgages for an investment property or a holiday home overseas.

Available in a range of currencies and for properties in most developed countries, including Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada, Hong Kong, Dubai, the UK and Europe, mortgages are being offered at rates from as low as 1.69%.

But what about a deposit? Following the aftermath of the recent banking crisis and the issues that came out of the woodwork with revelations of banks poor credit policies, lenders have been forced to tighten their qualifying criteria. However, most see this as a return to the norm of traditional lending policy, such as the requirement for a 30% deposit. However, it is possible to use equity in an existing property or investment portfolio and mortgages are available for up to five times income. Some lenders will also use to 50% of any rental income too. Interest only mortgages are also available, particularly useful for investment properties or for tax and estate planning...

Read more at Expat Focus: Money

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Two Old Fools Have Enough (From Spain to Bahrain and Back Again)

By Expat Focus Columnist Victoria Twead

Isn’t it exhilarating when you’ve been fretting over a life-changing decision, finally make up your minds, and just know you’ve made the right choice? That’s how Joe and I felt after we typed this letter:

Dear Ms. N,
Please accept this as our formal notification that we are resigning from our posts of High School Math/Physics teacher, and Grade 6 English teacher and will not be returning for the new term in August 2011.
This decision was not an easy one, but we have decided that we would like to return to our home in Spain and retire. We very much appreciate the opportunities we have been given here, and the welcome and support the school has given us.

We wish you all every success in the future,

Yours sincerely,

Joe and Victoria Twead

So that’s it. A year ago we signed up to teach in an International school in Bahrain, and now we’ve come to the end. The school wants us to stay, but we’ve had enough. Enough of teaching rich...

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Importance of Writing a Will for Expats

by Ivan Doherty, Chief Operating Officer & Investment Advisor, IFG Asia

There are many things that expats need to consider when assessing the overall framework of their financial planning – bank accounts, pensions, life cover, medical insurance – but the one that is most often ignored is writing a Will. After many years of giving financial planning advice, my simple explanation is that nobody wants to think about ‘the end’, let alone put it in writing.

Dying intestate (without a Will) whilst living in a foreign country can be particularly time consuming and troublesome for family members who have to sort it out, indeed the legal costs and paperwork can mount up very quickly indeed. The process can run into years, not months!

It is not just the lack of a Will that is a problem, it is also the lack of a schedule of assets. Do you have a defined list of your assets? Have you scheduled them with contact details, email addresses? Have the investments and accounts you hold changed name/ ownership over the years? This is time consuming and a thankless task, but forms an essential part of the succession planning process. If you do nothing else after reading this article, please do this.

For those who have only recently moved abroad, the task may be quite straightforward, but for longer term expats who have accumulated assets in various countries over the years, it can appear to be somewhat complex. To make it easy for you to think about, a general rule would be to have a will in every country where you hold assets.

The task of writing a Will need be no more complicated than opening a bank account, and in the new era of anti-money laundering paperwork, one could argue is actually a lot simpler...

Read more at Expat Focus: Money

Monday, June 20, 2011

Managing Currency Risk Part 1: Principles of Sound Currency Management

by David Kuenzi, CFP®, Thun Financial Advisors


Currency issues are often one of the most vexing and least well understood issues for investors. This is especially true for Americans abroad whose salaries and other income sources are often denominated in currencies other than U.S. Dollars (USD). The good news is that understanding how to properly incorporate currency considerations into a sound, long-term investment strategy is much easier than commonly understood. In this note (part 1 of a two part series) we pull back the opaque veil of “currency risk” that clouds investment and financial planning decisions for Americans abroad. We sketch a few, easy to understand principles that all investors can use to guide choices around currency denomination of savings and investment...

Read more at Expat Focus: Money

Sunday, June 19, 2011

How to Help Your Marriage Thrive Instead of (Barely) Survive While Living Abroad

by Expat Focus columnist Dhyan Summers

I am an American psychotherapist in private practice in New Delhi, working primarily with the expat community. I also work with expat couples worldwide through Skype video conferencing. Many couples come to me because they see counseling as the last stop before separation and divorce. Fewer couples call for a routine “check up” when they feel their marriage isn’t functioning optimally. Fewer still seek me out when their relationship is going reasonably well and they just want to iron out a few kinks.

Sam and Susan have been married for 15 years, and while they both agree that their marriage has never been “great”, it was meeting many of their needs until 2 years ago when Sam was given a promotion and transferred to India. They had both lived abroad as kids, so they didn’t think that living overseas would be difficult for them. Susan said that at the end of her first week in India, she threatened to leave and take the couples’ four year old son with her as she had hardly seen her husband during that time, felt abandoned, and like she may as well have been a single mom. Sam thought her behavior was irrational, they had a huge explosion, and their relationship has gone from bad to worse ever since.

Jennifer and Richard have two young children and live abroad. They had agreed to see a therapist for premarital counseling when they became engaged, and have had regular “check ins” periodically during the seven years of their marriage. Jennifer reports that she tends to nag Richard when he doesn’t do what he says he’s going to do. She feels angry when Richard doesn’t meet her needs for commitment and trust. Richard feels annoyed and defensive that his needs for respect and autonomy aren’t being met. They have learned through counseling how to make observations without judging the other’s behavior, take responsibility for their feelings and unmet needs, and make a request that is not a demand to their partner.

Sam and Susan fall into fairly typical patterns of “naming and blaming”. Neither of them is taking responsibility for their own feelings and needs and instead is blaming their spouse. They are making demands instead of requests which only further alienate their partners. Jennifer and Richard, on the other hand, have learned Nonviolent Communication, or as I prefer to call it the Compassionate Communication model of conflict resolution.

What is Compassionate Communication and How does it Work?

Compassionate Communication is a model for resolving conflicts...

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why State Taxes Make Roth Conversion a Huge Opportunity for Americans Abroad

by David Kuenzi, CFP®, Thun Financial Advisors

This article analyzes how the exemption from state income taxation enjoyed by most Americans abroad significantly alters the calculation that determines whether or not Roth contributions and/or Roth conversion make financial sense. It concludes that the exemption from state taxes makes Roth conversion an especially attractive financial opportunity for Americans abroad that should be capitalized on while they are still living outside the U.S...

Read more at Expat Focus: Money

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

IRAs, Roth IRAs and the Conversion Decision for Americans Living Abroad

by David Kuenzi, CFP®, Thun Financial Advisors

Even under the most conventional of circumstances, American taxpayers struggle to fully understand the myriad of tax advantaged retirement investment options they have. IRAs, 401(k)s, Roths, Individual 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 527s, and defined benefit employer pension plans are some of the many possible investment choices from which American taxpayers might choose. Each has slightly different tax implications and a separate set of complex compliance rules, contribution limits, mandatory withdrawal requirements and other features. Being an American abroad, however, further complicates matters by injecting additional tax and planning complexities into the equation. The good news is that Americans abroad generally have the same opportunities as do Americans at home to accrue tax benefits from tax advantaged retirement accounts. In fact, under certain circumstances and with proper planning, expats may gain more than most from the proper employment of these accounts...

Read more at Expat Focus: Money

Capital Allowances On Furnished Holiday Lettings in Portugal – A Basic Guide

by Property Lynx Lda based on information provided by Davis Langdon LLP

After the 2009 Budget, it was announced that the ‘Furnished Holiday Lettings’ (FHL) rules were to be extended to any country within the European Economic Area (EEA).

It was also announced that the rules would be withdrawn from April 2010, but following a change in Government, the rules will remain in place in their current form until April 2011. After that date, there will be some tightening up of the qualification criteria together with some restrictions in the way that loss relief is given.

This very basic guide has been compiled to give owners of properties in Portugal information on how the rule changes may be beneficial to them...

Read more here

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Expat Experiences: UK - Carmen Jones, London

Who are you?

A 30-something southern belle expat from the US. I've spent the last year adapting to all things British including Victorian plumbing, the value of wellies and a new found acceptance of full fat dairy products.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

After deciding I needed to shake things up a bit in my life, I moved here in May 2009.

What challenges did you face during the move?

Realizing that things here simply don’t work like things do at home. Americans and British don’t speak the same language, far from it. We don’t celebrate the same holidays, eat the same food, drive on the same side of the road, have the same sense of humor, use the same words or express the same emotions.

Not to mention trying to understand the visa process and saying goodbye to friends and family.

How did you find somewhere to live?

Initially through an estate agent which was quite easy. However, I have learned that suitable rentals in central London are few and far in between. So if you find something you like and it has everything you are looking for (price, location, access to transport) then be prepared to take it immediately. Getting use to paying a lot more in rent for much less space was also definitely a challenge.

Read more about Carmen's life in the London

Friday, June 03, 2011

Britons urged to leave Yemen immediately

Britons should leave Yemen immediately as it is "unlikely" the UK will be able to evacuate stranded nationals, the foreign secretary has said.

William Hague said UK nationals should leave while commercial flights were still operating and urged them not to plan for government assistance...


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

New financial section - Expat Focus: Money

Our new financial section - Expat Focus: Money - is now online at

Expat Focus: Money aims to inform and educate anyone interested in expatriate financial issues and in addition to offering our own original content we will also be highlighting the very best online resources.