5 Steps to Good Investing for Expats in Korea

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Looking for a few simple ways to save money? Here are some quick tips to get you started saving up for the future.

Most people come to Korea for a bit of adventure, but there are also a lot of people who want to pay off debt, such as students loans. Once you’ve paid off your debts, what should you do next? Here are five steps for expats who want to start investing while in Korea.

Step 1: Save $10,000

I recommend saving $10,000 for three reasons: diversification, fees and the minimum required amounts to open a brokerage account.

Step 2: Research

You need to think about your investing strategy. Three resources to start with are: The Wealthy English Teacher, my recently published book; The Global Expatriate’s Guide to Investing, a book by Andrew Hallam; and Investopedia, an online resource where you can view a stock basics tutorial.

The two things I invest in are dividend-paying stocks in blue-chip companies and ETFs. Blue-chip companies are big and stable, with names that you know, like McDonald’s or Chevron. These companies pay dividends, which means that they give a portion of their earnings to shareholders.

The second option is investing in ETFs, which are a basket of stocks that are bought passively according to an index, as opposed to mutual funds which are managed actively. I always recommend ETFs because the fees are really low (Vanguard). For sample ETF portfolios, check out my book or Andrew Hallam’s.

Step 3: Open a Brokerage Account and Make Some Trades

Once you’ve decided on your strategy, it’s time open an account. For non-Americans, Andrew Hallam recommends TD Direct, DBS Vickers, Saxo Capital Markets and Interactive Brokers. For Americans, he recommends Schwab or Vanguard. To actually buy your stocks or ETFs, be sure to look at the company’s ‘help’ section or refer to Investopedia.

Step 4: Collect Dividends and Keep Investing

Here is the best part: collecting money from your stocks or ETFs without doing anything. Too good to be true? It’s not. The payments get sent automatically to your brokerage account, and you can reinvest them.

Step 5: Financial Freedom

It’s possible for the average expat in Korea to use his or her time here to set up financial success. It takes discipline and frugal living to pay off debts, save up money, and employ an investment strategy, consistently over time. Just picture yourself sitting on a beach in Thailand, sipping your mojito without a care in the world – if you need some motivation.


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Jackie Bolen, from the blog My Life! Teaching in a Korean University, has recently started writing about personal finance for ESL teachers, including the book, The Wealthy English Teacher, which can be found on Amazon. When not teaching or writing, she can almost always be found hiking, biking, stand-up paddleboarding or searching for the most delicious kimchi. You can contact her at wealthyenglishteacher@gmail.com.


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