Waving goodbye to your home country to live and work abroad is an exciting chapter in anybody’s life and one that should provide a variety of experiences and opportunities. It can also throw out some distinct challenges, especially when it comes to growing and managing your wealth.
Many expats have to manage financial commitments and assets in more than one country, deal with different currencies and navigate their way through a multitude of financial products. Setting up personal financial arrangements can become tricky, given that employers typically aren’t obliged to offer the range of benefits that you may be used to back home. These issues can affect when and if you achieve your financial ambitions and whether your expat experience is a rewarding one.
Don’t let this overwhelm you. Your expat years can be some of your most fulfilling and diverse but to get the most from them you will need to put a bit of effort in. That’s why this is the perfect time to get financially fitter. By taking a firm grip on your finances you can start to make your money work harder for you — a great first step to achieving your life goals. As expat life gets more complicated, a structured approach to saving and investing will ensure that you stay in control of your money, rather than allowing it to control you. This may all sound daunting but the truth is by taking a few small steps now, the rewards later can be huge. Whatever your age, remember that it’s never too late to achieve financial fitness. All fitness regimes start with an assessment of your current health. The starting point for any form of financial planning is knowing what you’re worth now. Here’s what you need to do to put together a statement of your net worth.
What do you own?
Make a list of what you own and, roughly, what you think it is all worth. I am not talking about a penny-accurate calculation that tries to price each of your stocks — you just need a realistic estimate of the current value of your major assets.
This list may include a property (if you have already stepped onto the ladder), a car, investments, bank accounts, a pension plan (if you and/or your employer have started one), jewellery, art and any business ventures you have a stake in. Don’t forget about hidden assets, such as cash sitting in a mortgage offset account. The value of these assets can, for the most part, be gathered pretty quickly — you should have recent valuation statements for your investments and pensions for example.
And don’t forget that you may have already estimated the value of many of your household belongings for home contents insurance purposes.
What do you owe?
Now you’ll need to come up with a list of the amounts you owe to other people and/or institutions. Start with any mortgage debt you have and then add in any personal loans and credit-card balances.
Again, try not to miss out hidden debts that are easily forgotten such as store card debts, outstanding student loans and hire purchase arrangements on cars and/or furniture.
Your net worth
The final step is simple — deduct your liabilities from your assets. The result is, with luck, a positive number that represents your current net worth. This will form the bedrock for your future financial planning and is a number that you should monitor at regular intervals from now on.
— The writer is the Senior Executive Officer of Killik Offshore