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Priority Planning for New Expats

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If tackling financial planning priorities feels overwhelming on top of acclimatising to life in a new country, working with a qualified professional planner who specialises in advising expats can save you a lot of stress, time, and money.

Arriving in a new city can be both an exciting and daunting experience, particularly if it is your first time as an expat. If you’ve just arrived in KL, you’ll be pleased to know that you now live in the city ranked number one in the Expat City Ranking 2021 InterNations survey. In order to get properly settled, let’s take a look at the financial planning priorities for rookie expats. And seasoned old-timers living in Malaysia may want to ensure they have all their boxes ticked, too.

There is a lot to think about when you relocate – finding somewhere to live, settling into a new job, making new friends, exploring your new surroundings, converting your driving licence, buying a car… and managing your finances as an expat can be a complex process.

To make life easy, I’ll briefly go over three main important financial planning considerations you should tackle as a priority: protection, pension, and investment.

Don’t leave your financial life to chance – plan ahead!

Some of the safety nets you may have relied on back home – nationalised healthcare if you’re coming from the UK, for example – will no longer be here now that you live in Malaysia. That’s why you need to take some time to put in place protection measures that will guarantee the financial wellbeing of you and your family should you be faced with any unfortunate or unforeseen life events. The first of these is health insurance. I cannot stress enough how important it is to ensure that you have comprehensive health cover when you live in Malaysia.

If you find the existing health insurance package offered by your employer provides you with only basic coverage, you can always take an ‘add on’ policy. Often younger expats in particular consider this to be a waste of money, but, as ever with insurance, you only appreciate having it when you need it. As you don’t have a crystal ball to be sure you won’t get hospitalised with a dose of dengue fever or bumped on Jalan Bukit Bintang, on the side of caution, get yourself cover against any unpredictable events which could put a big dent in your finances.

If the last two years have taught us anything, it is that we should expect the unexpected. Don’t assume your life insurance from back home remains valid when you relocate abroad. You will probably need to take out new cover adapted to your new residence status. I see far too many clients who have grossly underestimated their life insurance requirements, failing to take into account additional expatriate needs such as school fees, health insurance, repatriation in the case of serious illness or death, and cover for a stay-at-home parent.

Another consideration is critical illness cover – a neglected cover which is often overlooked. Critical illness cover on diagnoses with a life-threatening illness such as cancer or heart disease are an option I recommend to all my clients.

Expats can benefit from sound financial planning

You may no longer have to make compulsory pension contributions following a move to Malaysia from the UK, but don’t make the mistake of neglecting to save towards your retirement. Keep setting aside a portion of your excess income every month to replace your missed pension and benefit from the pound cost averaging. As an expat, you will have saving options available to you, and I strongly advise you before signing any contracts to fully understand the products that are available including features, benefits, taxation and the risks involved. To be more specific, ensure you fully understand the charges, product flexibility, and the length of the contract you’ll be tied to until the policy matures. British expats may also pay voluntary NI contributions to secure a full UK state pension.

When it comes to your savings and investments, you should consider carefully which currency to save into. You need to take into account factors such as history exchange rates, inflation, and future relocation to ensure that you make the right choice.  It is important to review the suitability of your existing protection, pension, and investment policies once you relocate to a new country. If tackling these financial planning priorities feels rather overwhelming on top of acclimatising to life in a new country, working with a professional planner who specialises in advising expats can save you a lot of stress, not to mention time and money. Just ensure that you’re using a trustworthy professional who is both qualified and regulated.

Article contributed by Elmira Donald, Infinity Financial Solutions

Elmira is a Financial Planner and strives to raise the standards of international financial planning in Malaysia and Asia. You may direct any inquiries to [email protected] or call +6017.600 4303.

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