Key Lessons in Cross Border Wealth Management – American Ex-Pat

As part of our article series on issues in Cross Border Wealth Management, the following is an illustration of some of the key implementation strategies we come across in helping cross border professionals manage their complex financial affairs.


“Our financial affairs are so complicated because we have stuff all over the world, and no one has ever looked at our whole picture,” worried the client when we first sat down with them.


This client is an American living in Hong Kong for many years. He is originally from New York, and was working in Germany when he met his wife, a German citizen. He has since been posted in numerous countries with his long-time employer, and now finds himself running the Asia region from Hong Kong. The client has three children, who are all dual national citizens of the U.S. and Germany. The wife is not a U.S. citizen.


The clients have accumulated a significant net worth of well over $5m over the years, with three properties owned in three different countries (two are now rentals) and a significant amount of financial assets in company stock and options, qualified savings accounts in multiple countries, accumulated cash and diversified liquid investments.


In the time that we have worked with this client, we successfully guided them through many unique planning decisions, including the following:


  • Oversight of U.S.-based investment accounts, which include qualified accounts and 529 plans.The 529 plans were an interesting discussion, because it is uncertain whether the kids will be attending university in Europe or in the U.S. Higher education in Europe is often free or at least substantially less expensive than in the States. This of course could lead to a situation where a large 529 balance could go unutilized, thus incurring a tax penalty. In the end, we agreed that it was very likely that at least one of their kids would study in the U.S., making a 529 plan make sense.


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