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Adam Fayed Forum

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What are the biggest mistakes you made as an expat?

The biggest financial mistakes I have seen are

1. Not saving to begin with. Back home, most people buy a property and pay automatically into a pension (government and sometimes private). That means that even people who are bad savers invest for retirement by default. Most expats have "front loaded benefits" - in other words they are paid more, but get fewer benefits. There is no point in having a bigger salary, housing allowance etc if some of that extra money isn't used to fund retirement and saving goals.
2. Giving all the money to a local spouse. This often happens because expats can't buy properties in their own names, at least in some countries.
3. Getting into a permanent negative lifestyle. We all need to enjoy ourselves. It is only natural, moreover, that you will want to experience as much as possible when you are new to a country. Yet it is easy to get into the habit of drinking too much, and eating a bad diet, when living overseas. This is especially the case in countries where it is cheap to drink and eat outside.
4. Only focusing on investing back in your home country or in the new host country. Few people consider investing in property in Thailand or Cambodia when they live in the US or UK. Many expats automatically think it is "the thing to do" because everybody else seems to be doing it. I have personally ran out of the number of people who have lost money in overseas property, or experienced disappointing gains.
5. No protecting yourself. Insurance isn't sexy. It is also dead money if nothing happens to you. Yet just like pensions, this is something which isn't usually provided when you move overseas.