Financial advice for Canadian expats who want to invest

Financial advice for Canadian expats who want to investCanadian expats have a big need for financial advice. But that advice probably isn’t readily available. That’s a problem.

After all, investing for retirement isn’t something you want to ignore until you get back. You’re living the dream, but still want to invest for your future. So for now, you’re working as a teacher or other professional. You’re seeing the sights. But someday, you plan on coming back to live and eventually retire in Canada.

When you go to ask your fellow expats about investing options, they give you conflicting advice. For instance, as an expat, can you legally invest while you’re still working abroad? What are the tax implications? Do you have to pay extra fees, or is there a way around that?

To help provide financial advice for Canadian expats who want to invest for their future, we’ve pulled together these important pieces of advice. They’re  based on the most commonly asked questions we get.

“As a Canadian non-resident, can I even invest using a Canadian financial institution?”

We’ve helped hundreds of Canadian expats invest.

However, many financial institutions won’t or can’t work with you due to regulatory or legal burdens. For a whole host of boring legal and technical reasons, many financial firms will not serve expats. It adds an extra layer of complexity and expense to their business. And for that reason, they won’t work with Canadian expats. We do.

“What kind of accounts can I use to invest my money I’m earning overseas?”

If you were already contributing regularly to a TFSA or RRSP account before you went abroad, you’re in luck. We can manage the money you left behind in these kinds of registered accounts, no problem.

But now we’re talking about new money that you want to save and invest. Well, we’ve got non-registered investment accounts to handle that, for Canadian non-residents living abroad, outside the U.S.

We have a wide range of ETF investment options available that deliver competitive performance while offering better protection from volatility in the market. These investment portfolios allow expats like you to grow your money even while you’re away.

If you’ve only invested previously in registered accounts like an RRSP, you might not be aware that non-registered accounts actually come with a few benefits. For instance, they have no contribution limits. One other benefit: in most cases, Canadian non-residents don’t need to pay capital gains tax on the investment. Which leads us a deeper discussion of factoring in taxes.

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“For Canadian expats who want to invest, are there tax liabilities for that investment?”

Yes, but they’re pretty straightforward. According to the Canada Revenue Agency, as a non-resident, any income you earn in Canada is subject to Canadian tax. So, if you earn income from your investments, you’ll have to pay something to the government.

The income from our portfolios is treated as Trust Income and is subject to an automatic non-resident withholding tax of up to 25%. You may be eligible for a reduced tax rate. That depends on the tax treaty your country of residence has with Canada.

This pay-as-you-go approach means you don’t have to file a tax return in Canada if your only income here is from your investments. That’s convenient. Even better: as a non-resident you will not have to pay any capital gains tax in Canada when you sell your investments. However, you may have to pay tax in your local country of residence.

We’re not tax professionals, but we can walk you through it. The CRA lays this out in glorious detail on their website, along with a helpful tax calculator.

Now, there are exceptions to the rules, depending on where you are. As ‘Millionaire Teacher’ Andrew Hallam (an expert on this topic) has noted, there are some jurisdictions which don’t charge tax on capital gains: “The Isle of Man, Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Belize, Egypt (for holding periods exceeding one year), Kenya, Jamaica, Malaysia, Russia, Sierra Leone. The list goes on.”

If you’re in one of those places, you might simply avoid the tax on capital gains that we discussed above. But that’s also just one factor in your total return and tax optimization strategy. Certainly, you want to keep taxes as low as possible, but as an investor, you’re looking for a portfolio that maximizes your overall return.

“I’ve heard that expats have to pay extra sales fees or experience lock-in periods when they try to invest.”

You shouldn’t need to but, for some wealth management firms and banks, this can be the case. So it’s important to research the fees you’d be charged and compare (as is always the case for any service).

Make sure to ask about sales fees, ongoing management expenses and lock-in periods (this is the period of time where you can’t access your investments. As the name would indicate, those funds are just locked in and unavailable to you for a long time, barring a prohibitively high withdrawal penalty).

There have been instances where investors have had their money locked away for 10 or even 20 years. To withdraw from these arrangements earlier than the required lock-in period, investors may pay extraordinary penalties. These investment companies may try to justify the high commissions they charge by arguing that their service offers tax advantages, but often, the fees and penalties can outweigh the benefit.

Of course, we don’t do that. Our pricing and terms are the same for all investors. No lock in periods. No hidden fees. Ever.

“As a Canadian expat, what do I need to prepare so that I can open an investment account?”

We take care of all the red tape and paperwork. Your part is actually pretty easy, though you will need to have a Canadian bank account. Sign up for a WealthBar account online, just the same as if you were on the Internet in Canada.

You will require two electronic documents to verify your identity (We take privacy and security very seriously). We’ll follow up with you to get any other information that we might need, depending on the country you’re in and the rules that apply there.

Interested in investing with WealthBar?

You can sign up for a WealthBar account on your own in minutes online. Or, book a call and we can get you started on your financial plan from wherever you are. Even better, you get unlimited financial planning and advice for your monthly fees. That’s helpful in complex situations that expats like you have. We’re here for you, wherever you are.

2 Comments

Jonathon Narvey

Hey there! There is no set timeline for introducing those funds into our list of supported ETFs. That said, we are constantly reviewing the ETFs and funds included in our portfolios and these types of investments are certainly on our radar.

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