Finances: Part I- The Basics

Money: Taboo right? Well, let’s be real here. If you don’t have a handle on your finances before, during, and after moving overseas, your problems will swamp you. It’s tough enough handling money while you’re moving if you are good with money. If you aren’t so good with money, it’s time to step up your game!

Now is the time to do a financial health check and see if you have the resources to move to another country. Here’s what I do: I plan for expenses, and also emergencies, and then I check it again. And again… I’m not kidding. Emergencies can and do happen. I have found from moving overseas that I am one decision away from making a financial mistake, even if I don’t realize it, so I have to stay ahead of the game! It’s important to have as many protections against losing money that you can get. Check your overdraft protection amounts. Check if you can get some kind of insurance against losing your salary. If you’re late on a credit card or loan payment because you are busy with moving or overlooked something, see what you can do to fix it. 

There are some important decisions you need to make about building credit and planning for retirement. Even if you are young, you need to think about what you need to do to plan for retirement. Some countries have a residency requirement for claiming retirement benefits and you need to see if you can still get them even if you are overseas. You also want to think ahead a little bit about whether or not you want to buy a house or car, or need a loan in your new country. I understand that life happens, and you can’t see the future, but if any of those things are even the remotest possibility, you need to plan for building credit and consult with people who understand how to do this overseas. HSBC was very helpful in that regard, but I admit, the process for getting a credit card was a little difficult.

Additionally, it is important to decide if you want to keep money in your home country for any reason, especially if you want to avoid any pains with exchange rates and additional charges. Learning your way around exchange rates is a real skill in itself. You learn when to make them work for you and when you want to avoid them. I’ll mention examples from time to time in my future posts.

The most important decision you can make is choosing a bank that can support you through the move. When I was living in London and approaching the age where I could earn my own money, I looked for a bank that was good at dealing with international and expat finance. I knew there was a chance I could move to another country, and I wanted to be prepared for that. I also knew from experience that I did not want Citibank. Even though they advertise how good they are at international stuff, I found out that to not be true. 

A friend of mine from Germany told me about HSBC. She had to do regular financial transactions between the UK and Germany and she was impressed by how well HSBC dealt with that. So, I decided to give it a try. I was very impressed with HSBC’s customer service, and when I moved to the US, it was very easy to handle my money affairs. Unfortunately, I had to give up on HSBC because they did not have any branches near where I moved to in the US. Once I decided to move to Canada, I found that HSBC had opened a branch near where I lived, so it was easy to become a customer again.

When I went back to HSBC, I was pleased to see their quality customer service was still the same. I was able to get all my questions answered and I feel confident financially about moving. I have good people at my branch willing to work with me on my financial needs. Currently, I’m in the process of setting things up to move my finances from the US to Canada, and HSBC has been great in facilitating that process. One thing I remembered about HSBC from before, and still see it now, is they hire people that represent the cultural background of immigrants in the areas where their branches operate, so they can assist immigrants in their native languages. In England, the employees came from India, Africa, and different European countries. Here, the employees are from China. I also remembered how I specifically prefer to be helped by employees who have a foreign accent because it shows me that they have dealt with money matters of moving overseas.  

I have found that HSBC has since expanded their services for expats since the last time I was a customer. One source I like reading about information on living in Canada is HSBC’s Expat Explorer. This report is based on HSBC expat survey responses and is published every year.

Fellow expats? Do you agree or disagree with what I said? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments.

Note: I do not work for HSBC and I’m not trying to promote it.

Author: winteroseca

I'm a Third Culture Kid who has lived in four different countries before and recently moved to Canada. Follow my blog about my life in Canada, plus expat life hacks and more!

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