Asia Expat Finance: Calendars vs. Calculators

Expats in Asia tend to have more money than time – and this can lead to trouble for some people. In addition to all of the usual demands on your diary, in Asia we have to worry about multiple sets of holidays, time differences, flexible lengths of stay, and long lead times. All of this can mess with our sense of time and lock us into permanent “hurry up and wait” mode. Expats in big Asian business centers like Shanghai, Tokyo and Singapore are notorious for having 50 ‘#1 priorities’. Unfortunately, planning for your own family’s future tend to drop the bottom of the To Do list.

Which one of these are you?
Procrastinate until crisis. You are in perpetual fire-fighting mode, and don’t have time to deal with non-issues – like retirement, education funding and debt management. This is dangerous for those of you in your 30s and 40s because financial planning probably won’t become a real crisis until it’s already too late. That’s why it’s so easy to push off the fact-finding and decision-making till another time.

Quick decisions. Some managers want to dispatch the dreaded responsibility of financial planning so quickly that they end up rushing to make poor decisions. I often hear of expat managers who think that they’ve got their entire financial plan all sewn up – but can’t tell where their money is or what their financial situation is like. You need a system for staying on top of your own financial life.

Paralysis of indecision. Working with incomplete information or too many unknowns drives some people to distraction. Lots of well-meaning expats start the planning process but loose hope when forced to make decisions about how they will be living in 30 years.

Poorly begun is half undone. Older expats remember seeing taxis driving around at night with the headlights turned off – because the driver thought it would save money on gas. Sounds funny, doesn’t it? Expats managing their finances in Asia often make a similar mistake. They hear a rule of thumb or read an article that sticks in their mind and use that as their guiding principle for managing their financial future.

Rugged individualists. ‘I’d rather leave my money in a savings account then let some stranger muck around with it’. While the wrong advisor is definitely worse than no advisor, trying to manage your own financial planning without any outside assistance is unnecessarily difficult. There is a happy medium between blissful ignorance and micro-management. You want to be informed enough to judge the performance of your advisor, but not so engaged with tracking funds that you don’t have time to work.





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