When you move abroad to work for an extended period of time there’s a lot to sort out and your finances are among the most important things to consider. Below we cover how to approach international banking, arranging health insurance and how to prioritise your spending when you are getting ready to head out.
You need to decide how to deal with the bank accounts you have open in your home country and what to do about banking when you arrive at your new destination. It’s a good idea to keep a bank account at home for several reasons:
- You may still have to move money around at home, for example to pay bills, rent or for other transactions.
- When you return home you’ll need a bank account to start renting a home again. It is hard to start a rental contract without a bank account, and equally difficult to set up a bank account without a proof of address.
- If you head home at all for holidays or other reasons it’s helpful to have an account at home that you can return to when you are in the country.
- Having an account at home will be useful in the interim between you arriving in a new country and arranging a bank account locally.
Although it’s good to keep an account open at home, it may be easier to do most of your banking locally while you are abroad. It means that you can go into a branch and speak to someone if you ever have any questions or need help with your account. It may also be easier for your employer to pay you correctly if you have an account open in the country you’re moving to. You’ll also avoid any potential international banking charges that you might levy from your home bank.
International Health Insurance
It’s important if you are going to be living abroad for an extended period of time to ensure you have adequate international health insurance so that you can access medical care (both emergency care and general check-ups) without running into any difficulties or major fees.
Some countries require that expats hold a comprehensive health insurance policy, so it’s essential that you research the regulations for the place you are going and ensure you are meeting the requirements for residence in that country. You should be able to find detailed advice on the relevant embassy website for the destination you are moving to. It’s best to buy your cover through a reliable provider such as Aetna International. They also provide further useful information about moving abroad.
Prioritizing your finances
For most people the financial priorities when they move abroad are living costs, the availability of good schools for any children and buying a car so they have access to suitable transportation while they live abroad.
If you have school aged children then the location of your home away from home will probably be affected by which school you want your child to attend, or possibly where the nearest international school is. You should do some research about where the best schools are and how this affects the cost of renting property in those areas. This will allow you to calculate how much your living costs will be and whether there will be any fees associated with getting your child into the school you want them to attend.
Finding the right car while you are abroad is also a big consideration. It’s important to go for something reliable as any maintenance bills could add significantly to your living costs and arranging car maintenance in another country may be challenging if there is a language barrier. If you are going to be driving you also need to check whether your existing driving license is sufficient or if you need to apply for a separate license for the country you are moving to. For UK-bound foreign citizens there is some information available here.
Hi Michelle! This article is a little old, so I was wondering if you had any updated suggestions for Americans living and working abroad (especially given recent changes to taxation of Americans overseas). I am a 24-year-old American who recently started her first “real” (i.e., full time + post-college) job overseas. I am working in Belgium for an international organization: though I have semi-diplomatic status, my job is entirely Belgian. I am paid in euros to a European bank account, pay (very high) Belgian taxes on my income, and benefit from health insurance here in Belgium. Most of my expenses come directly out of my European accounts, though I occasionally use my U.S. credit cards for online purchases or expenses when I’m back in the States. On the U.S. side of things, I do not have student loans to pay off and have a small chunk of money in my U.S. accounts, in savings accounts and mutual funds. However, since I didn’t have a real job in the U.S. before moving to Belgium, I also don’t have any sort of U.S. retirement fund.
I plan to be here for at least another couple of years before either changing jobs or returning to school and I want to make sure that I am making sound financial decisions. Are there are any specific things I should do? Anything I should avoid? Should I open a savings account with my European bank, or keep my savings in the States? Thanks so much for your feedback!