Feb 082018
 

So you’ve decided to move back to Canada eh? Maybe you didn’t like your new country, or maybe Canada lured you back through family, friends, access to nature, relative political stability, employment, universal healthcare, politeness, excessive skiing…. should I keep going?….. beavers, mild summers, few natural disasters, legal cannabis (pending July 2018), funny accents (or lack thereof), hockey, poutine, flannel shirts, immigrants, subsidized education, and of course the majestic moose.

Regardless of your motives for returning you’ll need to figure out how to re-establish your financial life to maple country. It’s not going to be simple, but it can be relatively cheap.

The information here will also be relevant to new immigrants. If you are a new immigrant or refugee there are additional government services to help with your transition that us former residents don’t get.

PICK A RE-ENTRY DATE

It’s very important that you pick a firm date to regain Canadian residency. Both countries will be after your precious taxable income and this date determines who gets first dibs. Typically it’s the day you physically arrive in Canada. The CRA will use this date to determine when to start taxing you. Here’s some things to do before and after that date:

ORGANIZE YOUR INTERNATIONAL FINANCES BEFORE YOU RETURN

You’ll need to decide what to do with your foreign financial accounts. This decision will mostly depend on your plans for the future and how the other country deals with non-residents.

If you’ve spent a significant amount of time abroad you’ve probably established some roots in your new country. Maybe you found a beautiful spouse who will want to visit their family back home every year. If you expect to be making repeat visits you’ll probably want to keep a bank account open for spending money. First check to see if the foreign bank allows non-residents to hold accounts, and check what you need to do to avoid monthly fees. The money will be just sitting there for months at a time and you wouldn’t want it to get eaten by fees.

Depending on your country you might want to keep some of the currency anyways. USD have always been valuable and should continue to be in the future. The downside is that the money will be just sitting there losing value to inflation. I’d advise against holding your overseas money in a savings account that earns interest. Chances are you’ll be earning 0.1% which might be a few dollars per year and you’ll have to deal with more complex foreign taxes.

REASONS TO KEEP A FOREIGN BANK ACCOUNT

  • Frequent visits to said country
  • Currency diversification
  • Easy purchases in foreign currency
  • Bank diversification

REASONS TO NOT KEEP A FOREIGN BANK ACCOUNT

  • No plans to return to said country
  • Avoiding losing money to inflation
  • Avoiding losing money to bank fees
  • Avoiding foreign taxes on bank interest
  • Simplicity of financial account consolidation

What’s that? you got fired and your visa is void and you’re returning to Canada tonight? Bummer. Most reasonable banks should let you transfer your money and close your account remotely. Probably best not to mention that you got deported till after your money is safely back in Canada.

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Oct 152016
 

 

Be sure to read Part 1 before continuing

What to hold in a frozen investment account:

Remember that in your frozen account there is no rebalancing, no buying, no selling, no withdraw. You can take no action until you return to Canada and unfreeze. Good thing you are read this before you leave Canada and it’s not too late! Your ideal frozen funds should have these characteristics:

  • No dividends
  • No re-balancing required
  • Steady, reliable growth
  • Low fees
  • Allocations: 15% Canadian equity, 40% US equity,  25% International equity, and 20% bonds

If you are under thirty I’d normally suggest 10% in bonds, but since you can’t re-balance it’s best to give your slower growing bonds a head start. In a few years your entire portfolio will be higher(probably), but the bonds will have grown at a slower pace, reducing their share of the total. Ideally that 20% will be closer to 10% or 15% where it belongs. (and yes that will keep shrinking, but there’s really nothing we can do about it if your account is frozen for ten years or longer).

I’ve come up with two options: One single balanced fund, or a set of three or four stable ETFs. Amix of both will also work well:

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Sep 152016
 

So you’ve finally decided it’s too cold here, or you’re sick of Tim Hortons coffee, or some beautiful person has stolen your heart and keeping it hostage in another country. Whatever the circumstance you’re exiting Canada for an unspecified amount of time. But what do you do with your massive swollen nest egg all tucked away in the Toronto Stock Exchange?

Option 1: Don’t Change Anything, Freeze Your Account

If your brokerage allows it you can keep your investment accounts as-is when you leave and potentially avoid:

  • Transaction fees
  • Account closing fees
  • Wire transfer fees
  • Currency conversion fees
  • Realized gains/loses from selling your investments
  • Lost growth during the lag time between selling in Canada and re-investing in your new country

That’s a lot of fees that can be avoided. But they might be pennies compared to the financial disadvantages. Normally if you leave your account it will become FROZEN, meaning you can’t do anything except watch what happens. Some of the implications of a frozen account include:

  • No rebalancing
  • Dividends sit as cash
  • Complex cross-border taxes
  • No access to funds if they’re needed

Icing your account is one thing, but what about selling everything and closing the account?

Option 2: Liquidate Accounts and Re-invest in Your New Country

Depending on your brokerage, selling might be your only option (Questrade, for example, does not allow non-residents to hold a margin account). Taking your money with you has some benefits:

  • Lower taxes (maybe)
  • Access to better investments (maybe)
  • Simplified tax reporting (probably)
  • Avoidance of jail time and/or $10,000+ fines (your Canadian investments might be considered offshore tax evasion)

Of course the tax benefit won’t matter if Canada is still taxing your worldwide income, and that’s the next thing you need to check:

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