The world is your oyster

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The US is the largest economy in the world and has been so for many years. Thus most of us in the US are very comfortable with all our investments in the US alone.

As I moved from India about 5 years back, I still have some of my assets back in my home country. Recently I was talking to a Financial Advisor and he suggested that I better move all my assets to the US and reinvest them here.

However if you see the video or read the book “The Changing World Order” by Ray Dalio, the US may remain the largest market but not in terms of world dominance. With the Asian economies in a different growth trajectory and developed economies slowing down (European nations), the world order, at least economically, is definitely shifting.

Thus I personally think it is time to look beyond the shores when managing your money and assets.

Personal finance is personal and so it may not be possible for everyone to have assets in other economies.

The below are purely my views and applicable to my own situation. Please do not replicate blindly or consider this as an advisory.

If you have the means to develop your assets in multiple countries, it is a better hedge against the changing world order.

I was fortunate to move to the US from another fast growing economy (India) and hence decided to maintain a portion of my assets in India.

While the financial world is broader and sophisticated in the US, keeping things simple at multiple locations serves me well.

What has made things much easier is the convenience of being able to manage all your investments (if done right) online. Instead of owning a lot of physical real estate and possessions, it is better to have assets which can be passively managed in both locations.

The following are few simple personal finance basics that can be designed in both countries.

Banking

In the US, I bank with a credit union and a couple of online banks. Both are very convenient and the credit unions have great customer service. I do not need anything from the Big Banks.

In India, I have couple of accounts with one mid-sized bank that serves me right. Being remote for me, I try to maintain most of my financial relationships in India through this bank. It is a bit risky in the event the bank goes bust, but so far the convenience has stumped other complexities.

But even though investments are through the bank portal, the bank does not own the funds and only earns a commission for providing the investment services.

Investments

Investments can quickly get very complicated. As we chase returns and new fads of the Wall Street, it is very easy to amass many different funds and instruments in the name of diversification.

I have seen portfolios with 24 mutual funds all with slightly different investment thesis. This is very natural as the industry involves and so our personal portfolio. I have myself being guilty of such bloating.

Now I am in a mission to restrict any kind of investments to maximum 4 folios. This rule of 4 gives me a manageable number, yet a good amount of diversification.

Thus in India, I have simplified into the following:

  • Debt – Fixed Deposits, 1 Bond Mutual Fund, 1 Insurance product (6% guaranteed return) and Cash.
  • Equity – 4 Mutual Funds (Large Cap, Flexi Cap, Mid Cap and Small Cap)

In US, I have multiple investment accounts but all are now being cut down to hold maximum 4 products.

  • 401k Index Funds – US Large Cap (S&P 500), US Small Cap, International Developed, Emerging Market.
  • HSA Index Funds – US REIT and US Bond
  • Schwab ETFs – US Total Market, International Small Cap, Technology, Dividend ETFs
  • Alternatives – Crowdfunded Real estate, Gold, Crypto, Businesses

Real Estate

This is difficult to manage and much illiquid. So holding too much of real estate means less flexibility.

However real estate is one of the best wealth builders in history. With the inflation and changing world order, the one thing that does not change are people’s need for housing and food.

Most people will do well to own their home and then use crowdfunding or REITs to gain exposure to real estate investments. I am consolidating my physical real estate and instead will hold one home in India and US each. Rest of them should be more flexible.

Thankfully, in the US there are now several opportunities to invest in crowdfunded real estate, farmland and other alternative investments. I will not name the platforms I use, since all of them are new and may be extremely risky. Please consider your own risk profile and do a lot of research before investing.

I do own couple of rental properties and here also I will apply the rule of 4 to keep it manageable. 4 rental properties acquired through debt and then paying them off before I retire, will provide a good amount of passive income.

Insurance

I am not an insurance agent or expert, but here I keep it simple by maintaining at least two essential insurance in two countries.

  • A health insurance policy
  • A term insurance policy

Taxation

This is by far the most complex aspect of this setup.

The IRS in the US wants you to declare and pay taxes on all the investments across the world. Declaring is not a problem as I do not intend to evade any taxes, but the paper work and the high taxes (where any notional gain is added to ordinary income) is somewhat of a dampener.

However the returns gained in the emerging markets still make sense even after paying annual taxes.

Conclusion

Thus even though the US remains the largest and most powerful economy, the changing world order is implying that we diversify our assets not only by companies but by countries as well.

There are several ways to diversify internationally and so what I have described above is my personal situation.

Yours may be even simpler (through international and emerging market funds and ETFs), always do your own research or talk to a Financial Advisor.

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

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