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Becoming an expat may sound like the exciting adventure of a lifetime, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy – particularly when it comes to your hard-earned money.

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There are three key things expats and astronauts have in common: the love of adventure, the embracing of the unexplored, and a healthy store of courage.

But there’s a fourth thing they have in common as well: the need to deftly manage problems.

Expats leave their familiar support networks, they are constantly forming and ending relationships, they’re leaping in and out of cultures and jobs and learning new customs and languages – and much more.

But when actual expats are asked, one challenge comes up again and again in the top spot: managing finances.

Everyone grapples with finding the best way to manage our finances, so imagine what it’s like when you’re pulling out roots and crisscrossing borders.

Not sure where to start? How about right here with our list of 7 practical financial management tips for expats:

1. Get a local bank account

When you land, turn your key in your new apartment and unpack that suitcase, make shopping for a local bank account one of the very first financial management steps you take.

Why? Because you might have become an expat for a new job, and you won’t want getting paid to be an early issue.

Some expats are tempted to keep using their old bank account, but you also won’t want to be constantly checking if you can buy your groceries or pay your bills with something other than a local account. And the fees to keep using your old account overseas can be nothing short of astronomical.

2. But keep your old account too

If your Australian bank isn’t going to charge you a lot for keeping your existing account open, then it’s a good idea as well.

It’s likely you still have some financial ties and maybe some investments back home, so managing those bills and issues while you’re away will be much easier if you have accounts in both your ‘new’ and ‘old’ home.

3. Make the most of the internet

If you’ve somehow managed to avoid switching fully to online banking until now, becoming an expat is the ideal time for a change of approach.

You may have loved popping into the branch on a Tuesday, but the language barrier may now make that an extra challenge you can do without. But the real benefit of using the internet for your financial management as an expat is that you can keep track of your money in real time as it hops between existing and local accounts, ensuring it doesn’t skip a beat.

4. Plan for an emergency

Emergencies are hard to plan for – mainly because we all prefer to ignore that they can happen at all.

But particularly when you’re an expat and away from your established support network or family and friends, you really want to have some emergency finance planning in place – just in case.

It might be an ’emergency’ credit card, or perhaps just a small stash of cash kept in your new home for a very rainy day.

5. Know your tax status

An alarming number of expats think that when they leave home, they also automatically leave the Australian tax system.

But it’s rarely as simple as that and there is a range of rules that determine what your tax status really is and how things like your local investments are taxed – and the government often makes those decisions on a case by case basis.

To be sure you aren’t caught out, consider getting expert advice or do your own research so you really know what you’re getting yourself into.

6. Get adequately covered

Back at home, whether or not you had adequate insurance coverage may not have been something that kept you up at night.

But it’s not something you can treat so flippantly as an expatriate. You may have got used to not getting a massive bill when you break a leg, but once you leave home you need to ensure not only that you aren’t caught out financially, but that you can actually get medical treatment when you most need it.

7. Transfer your money wisely

You may put your slippers in a suitcase, but as an expat, you’ll need to actually transfer that money to and from Australia in some way or another. And that exchanging of money might be something that’s done on an ongoing basis as well.

Most people give it very little thought, simply opting to use their major bank to transfer money. And while a bank like the Commonwealth Bank of Australia is good at foreign exchange services, those CBA exchange rates are almost certainly not as good as some of the other options out there.

For instance, if you transfer money using a specialist provider or service, you can reduce your fees and get a much more favourable exchange rate – and those saved amounts really add up and make expat life an awful lot easier.

Be a money-smart expat!

As a new expat, you have an awful lot to think about – so get the big one sorted by following these and other easy and practical steps to managing your all-important finances. That way, you’ll ease your stress, boost your savings and really enjoy every step of the adventure.

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