Finance for Expats & Academics

Resources for bureaucratic and financial matters when moving to a new country

Welcome to ExpatFinance.us!

In this blog, I focus on financial matters, when moving to a new country:

  • Detailed advice and tips for unusual situations. Finding good information becomes increasingly difficult if the situation is non-standard, which is often the case when internationals need to deal with certain bureaucratic matters. My advice and tips will not cover everything situation, but my goal is to allow you to benefit from my experiences and results of often extensive research.

  • Comprehensive guides on more involved matters. There are other matters, where most or all of the necessary information is available online, but it takes time and effort to collect and interpret this information. This applies particularly to declaring your taxes, where you can find most information in the law or IRS instructions. My goal is to provide guides referring to the respective sources.

My advice will be particularly useful for graduate students and postdocs in the US (and Germans, in particular) and US Expats (US citizens living abroad). However, most topics apply to a broad audience and I also intend to expand the scope of this blog to more countries, such as Canada, Denmark and Australia in the future.

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Highlights

  • Best brokerage account for any expat with US relations. If you have spent time in the US or are a US citizen, you should be eligible to open an Interactive Brokers Lite account with no monthly fees and extremely low trading cost. This is hands-down the best account for anybody moving between countries, because (a) it allows you change tax residency or declare several tax residents, (b) you can typically keep the account even after leaving the US, (c) it allows you to invest in US ETFs from abroad (such as Europe, where it is very difficult to invest in US products, while non-US products are punitively taxed by the IRS) and (d) you can exchange/transfer currency with minimal fees (cheaper than TransferWise/Wise!) and invest without needing to deal with international transfers.

  • Exchanging currencies with almost zero fees. Moving country often also implies to switch between different currencies. If you need to pay larger amounts (for example, a rent deposit) or want to move your savings to the new country, you will typically need to do an international money transfer and exchange currency. This is often an expensive and intransparent process, but luckily there exist services that are almost for free. If you need to transfer money regularly or large amounts, there are even better ways.

  • Building a US credit card portfolio. In most countries, credit cards are mostly a necessity for traveling and online purchases. However, the United States has a flourishing market of financial institutions competing for reliable customers and offering perks/bonuses that are unrivaled in most other countries. This includes insurance packages, signup bonuses of 100-1000 USD and cashback/discounts of 1-5% on typical purchases (such as flights).

  • Liability insurance for US car rentals. Renting a car in the US is very cheap, but buying extra liability insurance can add another 10-20 USD per rental day. When renting regularly, it becomes quickly cheaper to sign up for a general rental car insurance. Unfortunately, those are very expensive in the US, but there are several reputable international insurers (for example, Allianz) which have much more affordable policies if you know what to look for.

  • US taxes and German taxes when moving. Moving from one country to another typically implies a change of tax residence. If the move happens mid-year, one often has to deal with tax obligations in both countries. Tax treaties help to avoid unfair double taxation and sometimes even lead to financial advantages. We review various important aspects that one should consider.

  • Declaring losses as German student (Studentische Steuererklärung, Absetzung von Studienkosten). This topic is only relevant to tax residents in Germany, even if they temporarily study abroad (such as completing a Master, PhD, LLM, MBA etc.).

About me

I am Lucas. Originally from Germany, I studied in Canada, taught mathematics in Senegal, did my PhD in the US and worked in Denmark and Australia. Above list only shows a few examples of topics that I will discuss on this blog. I am trying to continuously expand. Your feedback is very welcome at contact@expatfinance.us. I will read & reply to every email.