Cover Page

Millionaire Expat

How to Build Wealth Living Overseas

Second Edition

 

 

 

 

 

Andrew Hallam

 

 

 

 

Title Page

Additional Praise for Millionaire Expat, Second Edition

“When international schools and employers hire an expatriate, their HR departments should give them a copy of Millionaire Expat. Life as an expat can be exciting. But years of excitement can turn into years of despair for those who spend too much money and fail to save and properly invest. Andrew Hallam urges expats to plan for their futures and to calculate how much they should be saving to reach their financial goals. His investment guidelines aren't a matter of opinion. They are evidence‐based realities, explaining why we all should invest in a globally diversified portfolio of low‐cost index funds and never speculate on stocks, times, managers, or styles. This is a must‐read book!”

Mark T. Hebner, author, Index Funds: The 12‐Step Recovery Program for Active Investors, featured in the documentary film of the same name, and founder and president of Index Fund Advisors, Inc.

“Expats generally move away to seek a better life and career. But then building wealth can be a tough and independent pursuit. Mr. Hallam explains in a straightforward way how to live below your means, invest in low‐cost passive index funds, and avoid those cunning ‘investment sharks,’ so that you can focus on your life and career—and not stress about your financial future.”

Robin Speziale, national best‐selling author, Market Masters

Millionaire Expat is like a trusted shield, protecting expatriates from the industry's self‐serving dragons. Andrew Hallam describes investment strategies that are aligned with academic evidence, not the sales‐driven rhetoric to which so many naïve investors get burned.”

Larry Swedroe, co‐author of Your Complete Guide to Factor‐Based Investing, The Incredible Shrinking Alpha, and Reducing the Risk of Black Swans; director of research for the Buckingham Family of Financial Services

“Andrew Hallam's books are a must‐read for anyone sick of buying Porsches for other people. If you're feeling overwhelmed by cold‐calling, graph‐thrusting, 25‐year‐plan‐touting financial advisors, then you need to hear what Andrew has to say. He'll give you the knowledge and confidence to make your own investment decisions, as well as the ability to sniff out the genuinely good finance professionals from those who see you as just another source of commission.”

Brandy Scott, presenter on The Business Breakfast, Dubai Eye 103.8

“Education's failing around the globe lies in the high amount of people who are not financially literate. We go to work on a daily basis and somehow hope that 20 or 30 years down the line we will have enough money put aside to keep us in retirement. What Andrew illustrates clearly is that becoming more financially literate does not take a long time (this book only took me a few hours to read) and will save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run. By reading it you are investing in both your own education as well as learning how to wisely invest your own money. Don't leave it to chance or, worse, someone else. As an expat teacher, I make sure there is a copy of this book in our staff room.”

Simon Kenworthy, headmaster of Cranleigh Prep School, Abu Dhabi

“Andrew Hallam has a huge, international following. I call them Hallam‐ites. Expatriates pack auditoriums to hear him speak. But Millionaire Expat is even better than his talks. It's a humorous page‐turner that's packed with solid academic evidence. It provides a step‐by‐step guide for investors of every nationality. If Warren Buffett had the time (and a quirky sense of humor), I think this is the sort of book he would have written for expatriates. After all, Buffett has instructed that his estate be invested much the way Andrew Hallam describes in Millionaire Expat.”

Sam Instone, CEO, AES International

Millionaire Expat combines wit and wisdom. Andrew Hallam's irreverent examination of the expat investment world is very carefully researched. The book is full of unambiguous actionable advice that will help anyone residing away from home who is trying to build financial security and hates being ripped off. The addition of sections on socially responsible investing hits a chord with me. Buy it, read it, and get into action.”

Ben Sherwood, principal, Hillier Hopkins LLP, Chartered Accountants and Tax Advisors, UK; author, The 7 Secrets of Money

“The majority of offshore financial salespeople should fear this book. All expatriates should embrace it. Packed with numerous real‐life examples and well‐researched, practical advice, this book should be compulsory reading for any expat looking to be smart with their money. Buying this book and reading it could be the best investment you ever make.”

Jason Butler, financial well‐being expert and Financial Times personal finance columnist

“The seas of expat living can be rough at times, and there are sharks preying on the fresh and inexperienced. Andrew Hallam and his book Millionaire Expat: How to Build Wealth Living Overseas is the perfect antidote to this. Hallam's advice will help you make the move worthwhile. His humorous, straightforward, and expert guidance means that you look after your hard‐earned investments and actually make your money work for you. The book may cost you $20, but it will save you thousands!”

Kate Bradley, headmistress, LCIS (La Côte International School), Nord Anglia, Switzerland

“Expat investors have it tough. Not only must they understand the complicated logistics of managing their portfolio in overseas accounts, but they may also be preyed upon by local advisors who see them as hapless tourists. That's why Millionaire Expat is such a unique and important book. No one has more firsthand experience helping expat investors than Andrew Hallam, and no one is more generous in sharing his knowledge.”

Dan Bortolotti, CFP, CIM, PWL Capital, Toronto

“Andrew Hallam is living proof that ordinary people can build extraordinary wealth by investing in simple, low‐cost index funds. His no‐nonsense approach—live within your means, buy and hold, avoid speculation—worked for him, and it will work for others who live abroad and want to avoid the predatory investing practices that are all too common in many foreign countries. Millionaire Expat really is a great guide for expatriates.”

John Heinzl, The Globe and Mail

“The advice in Millionaire Expat is simple but well thought out, fully explained, and easily understood. I now supply a copy to all of our teachers to help them through the minefield of investing and preparing themselves for their future retirement. I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone looking to enter into the market and, while especially relevant for those ‘expats,’ the principles apply wherever you are in the world.”

Kieran Dempsey, bursar, Dubai College

“If you're an expat—or simply thinking of becoming one—Millionaire Expat will teach you all you need to know in a simple and engaging way. More important, the financial info it lays out to help you successfully manage your money—in sometimes unfamiliar lands—is rock solid. At the same time, it shows you the red flags to watch out for, including being wary of offshore investment salespeople. They are often long on promise and short on delivery. Without a doubt, Millionaire Expat is a financial must‐read book.”

Julie Cazzin, senior editor, MoneySense

“I purchased a copy of this book's first edition for every member of my staff. This second edition is even better. Millionaire Expat should be mandatory reading for any expatriate corporate or educational wellness program!”

James Dalziel, GEMS, director of Educational Operations for Continental Europe

“Unlike most financial writers, Andrew Hallam has actually been successfully doing what he recommends to his readers. In Millionaire Teacher, he showed how the son of a mechanic who became a high school teacher could become a financially independent millionaire by following a few simple, albeit hard‐to‐follow, commonsense rules. Now, in Millionaire Expat, he shows how expats could achieve financial independence by following the same rules.”

Michael O'Higgins, author of Beating the Dow, Beating the Dow with Bonds, O'Higgins Asset Management, Inc.

“If you're currently an expat—or planning to be one—do yourself a huge favor and pick up Millionaire Expat. Andrew Hallam has literally spelled out a proven approach to investing that is easy to follow and will give you a better‐performing portfolio than the majority of investors have. At the very least you'll learn to stay away from high‐cost investment schemes, and at best, you'll become a better investor than the majority of investors out there. Read this book!”

Joe Snyder, CIM®, product analyst, Tangerine Investments

“This book allows expats to plan for their future, avoid financial sharks, and build a solid retirement plan. As a lifelong teacher, I love Andrew's motivation—learn and execute. When you know better, you do better—and I did!”

Colin Boudreau, head of school, Benjamin Franklin International School, Barcelona, Spain

“I was very fortunate to have discovered Andrew Hallam's website upon making the decision to move overseas. I immediately purchased his book The Global Expatriate's Guide to Investing, and it became the single most important resource guiding my expatriate financial planning. Andrew's background as an educator is evident in the clear and understandable presentation of complex tax and financial planning concepts. I believe that Millionaire Expat will have a dramatic impact on the future financial well‐being of those who choose to save and invest following Andrew's recommendations and cautions.”

Diane Stone, CA, CPA, director of Finance and Business Operations, American School of Dubai

“I had not paid much attention to our family's financial health. I had a financial advisor taking 1% to manage our portfolio of actively managed funds. I thought, ‘Hey, what's 1%? What a bargain!’ Wrong! Including the actively managed mutual fund fees, I paid more than 2% each year. Using the information in Andrew's books, we have changed financial advisors and shifted everything into index funds. What used to leak out the back door is now staying home to support us. We teachers tend to ignore these important financial issues, at our peril. Millionaire Expat is clear, important, and life‐supporting!”

Dave Straffon, middle school principal, AIS Vienna

“Andrew Hallam's Millionaire Expat demonstrates solid, practical, real‐world investment strategies. They're designed to keep costs low, realize the value of diversification, and avoid the pitfalls of speculation and self‐serving financial salespeople. Every expat needs to read this book!”

Kennon Grose, CEO, AssetBuilder

“It is so good to see Andrew's actionable wisdom in his book Millionaire Expat. Its conversational style and thematic importance reflects Andrew Hallam's personal finance class. As a high school counselor at his former school, I saw that his class was a magnet from day one. It became obvious that today's students seek physical, mental, and financial well‐being. Most impressive were the conversations students began having with their parents about how not to leave their financial lives to chance. Millionaire Expat reflects the lessons that his students were lucky to learn.”

Frieda Dietrich, recipient, 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award, OACAC (Overseas Association for College Admission Counseling)

Millionaire Expat is a must‐read for expat investors! Learn why most financial advisors are merely salespeople in disguise, selling investment products, selling predictions, and lacking a fiduciary duty to act in your best interest. As a result, expatriate investors overpay for advice and product recommendations that serve the investment industry first and the investor second. Millionaire Expat walks you through the conflicts of interest between investors and their ‘advisors,’ and it shows how to avoid excessive fees that reduce returns. Andrew Hallam describes the parameters of a properly diversified portfolio, how to win over the long term, and why index funds provide a solid investment solution.”

Chris M. Turnbull, CFA, CFP, TEP, The Index House

“Andrew has already saved millions of dollars for expats around the world by teaching them the principles of simple, smart investing. This book has become the bible for all members of our community and we recommend it to all expats who want to protect and grow their wealth.”

Sebastien Aguilar, Founder of Common Sense Personal Finance and Investing, the UAE Bogleheads Chapter

“Once again Andrew Hallam delivers exactly the kind of investment book expatriates around the world need. Its simple, clear advice helps to steer those living away from home onto the right financial path, while ensuring they stay well away from predatory investment schemes that litter expat destinations.”

Alice Haine, personal finance editor, The National

Foreword

I was shocked recently to realize that I've been reading personal finance books for 40 years and writing about the topic for 30. (Yes, I started when I was just months out of the crib, thank you.) Over the decades, I've perused hundreds of popular words in the field and I've developed a three‐point checklist to quickly determine whether any author is worthy of attention. The key questions are these: Is he or she impartial and noncommercial? Does he or she base their recommendations on sound academic evidence? And—just as important—can this person make me laugh?

Andrew Hallam is one of the few people to earn full marks on this three‐point checklist. He's not trying to sell me anything. He knows his research. And he's not only funny but enormously likeable.

Now that last quality may strike you as a bit superficial, but I would argue it's not. As much as I admire many of the leading academic writers in this area, and as eagerly as I read their thoughts, I would not want to go on a long camping trip with any of them. They're fine friends to have if you're trying to debate a point or test a hypothesis, but they're not the folks who are going to inspire you to change your life, get your spending in order, or do any of the other chores necessary to build your wealth.

The unavoidable reality of personal finance is that it's personal. What I've always enjoyed about Andrew's writing is that it springs from his life. When he tells you about stock markets or investing strategies, he's telling you about areas he's experienced himself—and not as an academic, or as a highly paid fund manager, but as an ordinary working stiff. His background gives him an unusual ability to sympathize with you, me, and other regular people. Most of us would like to become millionaires on middle‐class salaries. Andrew has done exactly that. As a result, he can offer an unusually personal take on what works and what doesn't.

This book in particular fills an important need. More and more of the world's best and brightest folks are now working abroad. They operate in a world that is liberating but also risky. Expats typically make more money and pay less tax than many of their peers back home. But, as a consequence, they're ripped away from the dependable anchor of state pensions and social safety nets. If they want to replace those familiar stand‐bys in their new homes, they have to navigate a sea of odd companies with unfamiliar names, all of them peddling indecipherable financial products with murky guarantees.

Andrew has been there. A Canadian with British roots, he spent years teaching high school in Singapore. So he's heard the same sales pitches you have. The difference is that he knows how much of those pitches is pure, unadulterated bunk. (Pro tip: If you're in any doubt, set your personal bunk‐o‐meter to “a lot” and move the dial up from there.)

To be sure, there are many consumer advocates. What separates Andrew, to my mind, is that he's also unusually skilled at communicating what he knows. I attribute this to his years in the classroom.

A personal note: Several years ago, Andrew convinced his high school to fly me over to teach a week of classes on writing. Until that time, I had always assumed I fell into the category of Somewhat Interesting Person. Sadly, there is nothing like addressing a morning class of 15‐year‐olds to reveal your personal excitement quotient. After a day or two of attempting to teach teenagers, I was horrified to discover I was human Ambien. The nodding heads of my students told me I was doing everything wrong.

Andrew was kind enough to offer tips about breaking lessons into easily mastered chunks, providing frequent but not obvious repetition, and using humor to communicate serious points. I see those same techniques at work in this book. So if you've always found personal finance to be a snooze, think again. Andrew has the knack of making the subject both easy and fun.

He's also, in a quiet way, inspirational—the great missing quality in much personal finance writing. Anybody can hector us to spend less and invest more. What is difficult is explaining that bringing your money situation under control isn't torture and can even be fun. What many books fail to communicate is that the great payoff from becoming master of your financial domain is that it allows you to go further, do more, and live better.

Andrew certainly does all those things. For years now, I've lived vicariously through his adventures. Whether he's biking through Vietnam, swimming on a Thai beach, driving an RV to Mexico, or doing something equally outlandish, he boldly goes where few us of us have gone before. Along the way, he somehow manages to be both budget conscious and funny. Many investors, for instance, idolize billionaire Warren Buffett and even fly thousands of kilometers to attend his annual get‐together in Omaha, Nebraska. To the best of my knowledge, though, Andrew is the only attendee to ever write the great man and ask if he could sleep on his couch. (True story. It got written up in the Wall Street Journal.)

If your own journey into personal finance is just beginning, I highly recommend Andrew as the ideal traveling companion. He will make sure you see all the essential sights while painlessly communicating great reams of useful knowledge. And, yes, oh yes, he will make you laugh.

—Ian McGugan, The Globe and Mail

Acknowledgments

In 2009, my friend Patrick Green said I should start a blog. We were at a party in Singapore. He loves the occasional beer, but that night, he was a little tipsy.

The next day, Patrick phoned me. “Andrew, remember what I was saying about that blog? You really need to start one.” I didn't think he would remember.

I half‐heartedly mentioned it to another friend, David Dixon, later that afternoon. David's a tech wiz. “I'll manage the blog,” he said, “you just write the stories.” So that's what I started to do at www.andrewhallam.com.

I also continued to write articles for finance magazines. In 2011, I wrote an international best‐selling book, Millionaire Teacher. That brought a whole new group of readers to my blog. Many of them were expats. They asked, “How do I build a portfolio of index funds while I live overseas?”

I had been using Singapore's DBS Vickers brokerage since 2003. But I didn't know, for example, how a British engineer in Kuwait could invest in a portfolio of index funds. To help these people, I did a lot of digging. I asked a lot of questions.

My readers introduced me to offshore pension products, such as those created by firms like Friends Provident and Zurich International. I had no idea that they were so prolifically sold. I wanted to do what I could to keep people away from them. I asked readers questions. I dug into their prospectuses and continued to research. I helped other readers. But they also taught me too.

Thanks to Patrick Green and David Dixon, the blog at www.andrewhallam.com soon became the world's most comprehensive site for expatriate investors. It was the genesis for this book's first edition, The Global Expatriate's Guide to Investing (Wiley, 2015).

That's why Patrick Green, David Dixon, and my many readers deserve my heartfelt thanks.

I would also like to acknowledge investment writers Ian McGugan and Scott Burns. They're the best personal finance writers I know. Scott retired in 2017, but he continues to guide my writing.

If this book is easy to understand, with a dash of humor, it's largely thanks to Ian and Scott.

The expats profiled within these pages also deserve my heartfelt thanks. You let me pry into the good, bad, and ugly aspects of your personal financial lives. And this book is far more instructive (and, I hope, entertaining) because of your generosity.

Saintly financial advisor Tony Noto also helped greatly with my section on American individual retirement accounts (IRAs). I'm not sure if your clients know, Tony, how fortunate they truly are.

My agent, Sam Fleishman (the man who appears never to sleep), worked tirelessly to ensure I was given a strong publishing contract. We haven't met in person. But based on his tenacity, I wouldn't recommend fighting Sam in a no‐holds‐barred cage match.

I would also like to thank my publishing team at John Wiley & Sons and Andrew Chacko, for his editing wisdom.

Finally, to my lovely wife, Pele, you tolerated my mission, working as my editor and time manager. I look forward to the rest of life's journey with you.