The Business of Living Life as an Expat

Expats living abroad are often surprised at the effort required to effectively manage their affairs. Those of us who have expatriated from our home countries have usually not emigrated in a single step. Many resolve not to go back to live in their home country if they can help it.

Falling into three categories, the first and largest are employees who are posted abroad. Often working for a multinational corporation (MNC), they tend to move from country to country as required. Sometimes they will settle with a local employer rather than continuing with the MNC, and do not expect to move again.

Second are the self-employed who have started their own business ventures. They are often based in the place where they are most comfortable but are very flexible and will travel anywhere to complete assignments or projects.

Last but not least are the self-sufficient expats. Although retired, they often object, saying they are still able to work and will do so if opportunities arise. So maybe “financially independent” is more apt.

The actual administration of your affairs is easier when you work for the MNC. These employers tend to arrange your work permit and visa as well as offer assistance with finding housing, schools and other local services.

More effort is required for the local expat. Employers usually sponsor a work permit and visa but sometimes you need to assist in the arrangements. When it comes to medical, critical illness and life insurance, you are often on your own. Finding help with pension planning and offshore bank accounts as well as a multitude of other issues will often fox you. Suddenly you are faced with trying to find many experts with differing specialties because there is no ‘one stop shop’ dealing with such expat affairs.

Expat entrepreneurs are faced with even more concerns. They will often need to structure a company, sometimes in more than one jurisdiction. This requires tax planning, knowledge of the advantages of legal vehicles to be used, accounting and staffing services as well as the granting of work permits.

Expats often retire having spent many holidays abroad, deciding to settle in Asia for their golden years. There are fewer things to worry about than for those starting a business, but still a number of matters which require careful planning and attention.

Some purchase properties in their new country of residence only to later find that their acquisition was not structured properly. Seeking legal advice would have been wise at the start but this is often overlooked; the cheapest way becoming false economy.

Finding a good insurance broker to assist with all your protection requirements; an expert to advise you on taxation; a specialist for the best corporate approach; professional legal advice on property ownership; pension and investment solutions; where to find best street-wise advice on how to deal with a practical situation in a strange land will not be easy.

Your will is probably the most important legal document you will ever create. Many expats have not even thought about this, let alone attempted to create one.

Most expats find they have more wealth than they were used to back home. It is often not easy to manage this if you are unaccustomed to successful asset management methods. There is no reason to feel shy about a lack of knowledge of such complex subjects as long term investment strategies, international taxation or pension planning. Why should you know all the rules about these global matters?

Maybe you have an accountant efficiently dealing with your tax returns back home. Can he advise you on global tax strategies, succession planning and inheritance tax? Perhaps your stockbroker can pick the right shares for your investments. Can he advise how this fits into your wealth management strategies and structures? No; each has their individual strength and expertise but they are usually not capable of overseeing your entire situation.

As a professional expat adviser I am capable of overseeing your entire situation and of offering you advice on all areas of the “Business Of Living Life”. Whether you are a new expat or just feel that you need to be better organised, appointing an expert for the right overall strategy to suit your circumstances would be a prudent and wise move.

Addressing issues such as the implications of changing citizenship or permanent residency are complex. As your consultant I will be able to give you advice on the advantages and disadvantages for you as an individual. Income, capital gains and inheritance taxes are high on the agenda for expats because their affairs often span multiple jurisdictions and are complex.

If nothing else it may well be worthwhile to see me for a complimentary financial health check. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I will offer you this free of charge and without any obligation.


Questions to the author can be directed to PFS International on 02 653 1971 or email to

Andrew Wood has been an expat in Asia for 34 years and is Executive Director with PFS International. He has been writing Net Worth articles for six years and has made a significant contribution to the PFS library of financial service articles dating back over nine years. These articles which cover the complete A-Z of financial planning are available to readers on request.

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