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Living abroad: the key steps for managing your finances

Living an international lifestyle creates a whole world of new opportunities. Enhanced career prospects or better pay and benefits are among the main reasons for moving abroad.

Living abroad: the key steps for managing your finances
Photo: Getty

But new opportunities don’t come without challenges. Embracing your freedom to live abroad or across borders could make it harder to plan a path towards financial freedom.

While your language skills and cultural norms may inevitably become caught between places, personal finance is one area you can keep control of. The Local, in partnership with Barclays International Banking, presents the key steps to building a more secure future – no matter where you call home.

Start planning your future today: find out if you qualify for Barclays International Banking 

Digital banking: track your day-to-day outgoings

From same-day deliveries to social media, we live in an age of instant gratification. But when it comes to money, it makes sense to plan for the future.

You can start by ensuring you have a complete view of your finances right now. That may be easier said than done, however, if you use multiple accounts and cards issued in different countries.

Doing all your digital banking in one place could help you better understand your outgoings. If the cost of living in your new location is high, you want to avoid the trap of splurging all your income. If it’s lower than you’re used to, you could make that count by setting some of your salary aside in a savings or investment account.

Currency exchange: be flexible, move fast

You don’t have to be a forex trader to win or lose big on currency fluctuations. If you’re planning a life abroad, the question of how and when to transfer money deserves some serious thought.

This is especially true if transferring large sums because, for instance, you want to buy a property or perhaps close a savings account. Even with smaller transfers, you can make the money work for you by thinking ahead and being flexible about when you trade.

You may want to set an alert for your target exchange rate in a foreign exchange app so you don't miss a favourable market movement. Knowing exactly how you’ll make a transfer is also crucial. Barclays International Banking's foreign exchange service allows you to trade in multiple currencies – with rates that get better, the more you convert.

Savings & Investments: select your strategy

Living internationally requires you to grow as a person. But what if negotiating culture shock and red tape deprives you of the mental energy needed to grow your savings?

Try not to get overwhelmed by having money in more than one country. Think about what matters to you and select a strategy to match your goals. 

Start simple: for instance, save a fixed percentage of your income each month – and use automated transfers so it’s done before you can spend it!

If you’re investing, consider the risk-reward ratio and pick a strategy. Maximising long-term growth to fund an early retirement is very different from seeking safe, regular returns to support you and your family as you set up a new business.  

Find out today how Barclays International Banking can support your international lifestyle

Property & Family: trust matters 

Few decisions shape your life more than buying a home. If you’re discussing your future with a partner, you need to plan ahead wherever possible. Your dream home won’t come cheap. Nor will any kids!

Photo: Getty

In many countries, you still have the chance of securing a mortgage with a fixed, long-term low interest rate. But if you’re new to a place, take time to understand the local conditions – asking a few locals what they consider to be a good deal might offer valuable insights.

If your thoughts are turning to your legacy, you may want to take professional advice on estate planning and local inheritance laws. Trust is key when it comes to the more personal aspects of personal finance.

Tax & Pensions: pay attention not penalties

As an international resident, you’ve almost certainly attracted the attention of more than one tax authority. So, make sure you know exactly where you’re liable to pay tax.

If you’re an employee abroad, the hard work may be done for you with tax deducted from your salary each month. But if you’re self-employed, plan for the tax bills to come – and how they’ll differ from what you’d pay in your home country. 

Some workers, such as cross-border commuters or those on temporary postings, could be at risk of double taxation. Check any rules you’re not sure of with the relevant tax authority to avoid waking up at 3am in a cold sweat. 

You may also want to check the legal retirement age in your adopted country. Want to consolidate your pension? Look into official transfer schemes, such as the qualifying recognised overseas pension scheme (QROPS) for people who want to move UK savings abroad.

Barclays has been managing clients’ money for more than 330 years and has regional expertise across the globe. Click here to find out how Barclays International Banking can help you move towards all your financial goals, wherever life takes you.

 

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Three things not to do as a foreign parent bringing up kids in Sweden

Are you raising children in Sweden? Here are a few very personal tips for what not to do from Alex Rodallec, who was raised in Sweden by a French Breton mother.

Three things not to do as a foreign parent bringing up kids in Sweden

Raising children is hard enough as it is without having to do it in another country. The added difficulties of being a foreigner can be taxing: grappling with the language, the cultural differences, not being well acquainted with how the system works.

So how do you get advice from someone who knows a bit about the issues your child might face growing up as the child of an immigrant in Sweden? One way is to ask someone who was raised by an immigrant parent in Sweden.  Someone like me.

I am no expert in child rearing, and have no children of my own. I can, however, tell you a few things that you should try to avoid. Here are a few of my best tips for what not to do.

Do not reject your adopted country’s culture

This does not mean that you should assimilate completely. It is, however, a good idea to try to embrace your adopted country’s culture as a positive, rather than a negative, for the sake of your children.

Why? Because your children will not have your cultural identity, at least not entirely. And this will be true no matter what you do to prevent it. They will in part become Swedish, imbued with many of the values and customs of Swedish society, with the behaviour and norms.

This might not sound so serious, but if you are someone who is resentful of Sweden, or if you ever become resentful of it, it might become a serious problem.

My mother, who was French, first came to Sweden as a tourist and then later to work, but with no plans of staying. Then she met my father, a Bolivian man, whom she would eventually divorce when I was around two years old. After that my mother went to live in France with my big sister and me, and with the intention of staying.

The next part I am not so sure about, but I believe my father might have threatened legal action if she did not return with us to Sweden. Whatever the reason for her involuntary return, I do know that my mother’s dislike of Sweden grew with her resentment of having to stay there. And sad as that may be, because of our Swedishness she eventually began seeing us children – though only intermittently – as physical manifestations of the country she hated. Or perhaps we were a constant reminder of the fact that she could not leave. Why could she not leave? Because she loved us. How complicated the twists and turns of life sometimes play out.

Growing up, my mother would often tell us that it was our fault that she was “stuck in this country”, and her most common use of the word ‘Swedish’ was as a profanity directed at us, her children. Naturally this created a dissociation with Sweden and Swedishness, primarily in myself and my big sister, and to a lesser degree in my little sister.

And even though my mother had put my big sister and I in private schools with other children of immigrants (The Catholic and English Schools in Gothenburg), coupled with the fact that we went to preschool in France, we had still committed the cardinal sin of absorbing ‘Swedishness’. My little sister had it the worst when it came to this. She went to a Swedish public school, and never had the experience of going to preschool in France, and so was the most ‘Swedish’ of us all.

To this day, the subject of Swedishness and the like or dislike of Sweden is still a topic of conversation whenever I talk to or meet my sisters. My little sister has accepted her Swedishness, and lives in Gothenburg where we grew up. But my big sister and I both live abroad, and to varying degrees have issues with the country we grew up in. I am slowly learning to love and accept my Swedishness while living in France, but my big sister lives in London and baulks at the thought of ever moving back to Sweden. We are a separated family, in part due to our varying degrees of acceptance of Swedishness.

Perhaps I should stress that my mother was not a horrible person, but she suffered greatly from the circumstances of her life.

So, do not fill your children with your resentment of the country they will grow up in, it may very well be detrimental to their well being and their integration into the society they grew up in.

Do not ignore the complexity of cultural identity

Even though cultural identity can become symbolic of underlying issues, as was the case with my mother, it can also be a great resource, albeit one that might need some help along the way.

Being half French, half Bolivian, born and raised in a Swedish multiethnic suburb, had me untangling the threads that make up my cultural identity for decades. An experience common among multi-ethnic children. Your children might eventually need your support in this, I know I could have used some help.

My advice is to promote the idea that one can be many things all at once. And that to a certain degree these things are contextual. I myself am Bolivian to a greater degree when I spend time with the Bolivian side of the family, and more French when I spend time with the French side.

Having multiple cultural backgrounds also has benefits. Your reference points are multiplied compared to someone who has only one cultural background. You can act as a sort of cultural bridge, much like Commander Spock in Star Trek, for the Trekkies out there. Beyond that, having multiple languages is an asset, children who grow up speaking multiple languages struggle a bit at first, but then tend to outdo their peers in language mastery.

Do not be intimidated by how well your children adapt to Swedish society

This one might be slightly odd, but is an experience that many of my friends of immigrant background have shared with me.

Because your children will grow up as cultural insiders they will master the ins and outs of Swedish society much better than you. Most parents want their children to outdo them, but a parent also wants to feel useful and capable in front of their children. You might have a hard time coping with the fact that your children at a certain point, and perhaps much quicker than they would if you were in your home country, will outdo you. On top of that, in many cultures there is also a more authoritarian parent role, where children ought to know their place as children, and let the parent lead and decide.

My advice is: if you have an issue with your children making you feel inadequate, try to think of yourselves as a family unit. If your children can help you do better, that is good for all of you, try to embrace that. And why not look at it as a great opportunity to learn?

What are your best tips for parents raising children in Sweden? Share your experiences of parenting in Sweden with The Local by emailing us at [email protected] 

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