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Living abroad: the key steps for managing your finances

Living an international lifestyle creates a whole world of new opportunities. Enhanced career prospects or better pay and benefits are among the main reasons for moving abroad.

Living abroad: the key steps for managing your finances
Photo: Getty

But new opportunities don’t come without challenges. Embracing your freedom to live abroad or across borders could make it harder to plan a path towards financial freedom.

While your language skills and cultural norms may inevitably become caught between places, personal finance is one area you can keep control of. The Local, in partnership with Barclays International Banking, presents the key steps to building a more secure future – no matter where you call home.

Start planning your future today: find out if you qualify for Barclays International Banking 

Digital banking: track your day-to-day outgoings

From same-day deliveries to social media, we live in an age of instant gratification. But when it comes to money, it makes sense to plan for the future.

You can start by ensuring you have a complete view of your finances right now. That may be easier said than done, however, if you use multiple accounts and cards issued in different countries.

Doing all your digital banking in one place could help you better understand your outgoings. If the cost of living in your new location is high, you want to avoid the trap of splurging all your income. If it’s lower than you’re used to, you could make that count by setting some of your salary aside in a savings or investment account.

Currency exchange: be flexible, move fast

You don’t have to be a forex trader to win or lose big on currency fluctuations. If you’re planning a life abroad, the question of how and when to transfer money deserves some serious thought.

This is especially true if transferring large sums because, for instance, you want to buy a property or perhaps close a savings account. Even with smaller transfers, you can make the money work for you by thinking ahead and being flexible about when you trade.

You may want to set an alert for your target exchange rate in a foreign exchange app so you don't miss a favourable market movement. Knowing exactly how you’ll make a transfer is also crucial. Barclays International Banking's foreign exchange service allows you to trade in multiple currencies – with rates that get better, the more you convert.

Savings & Investments: select your strategy

Living internationally requires you to grow as a person. But what if negotiating culture shock and red tape deprives you of the mental energy needed to grow your savings?

Try not to get overwhelmed by having money in more than one country. Think about what matters to you and select a strategy to match your goals. 

Start simple: for instance, save a fixed percentage of your income each month – and use automated transfers so it’s done before you can spend it!

If you’re investing, consider the risk-reward ratio and pick a strategy. Maximising long-term growth to fund an early retirement is very different from seeking safe, regular returns to support you and your family as you set up a new business.  

Find out today how Barclays International Banking can support your international lifestyle

Property & Family: trust matters 

Few decisions shape your life more than buying a home. If you’re discussing your future with a partner, you need to plan ahead wherever possible. Your dream home won’t come cheap. Nor will any kids!

Photo: Getty

In many countries, you still have the chance of securing a mortgage with a fixed, long-term low interest rate. But if you’re new to a place, take time to understand the local conditions – asking a few locals what they consider to be a good deal might offer valuable insights.

If your thoughts are turning to your legacy, you may want to take professional advice on estate planning and local inheritance laws. Trust is key when it comes to the more personal aspects of personal finance.

Tax & Pensions: pay attention not penalties

As an international resident, you’ve almost certainly attracted the attention of more than one tax authority. So, make sure you know exactly where you’re liable to pay tax.

If you’re an employee abroad, the hard work may be done for you with tax deducted from your salary each month. But if you’re self-employed, plan for the tax bills to come – and how they’ll differ from what you’d pay in your home country. 

Some workers, such as cross-border commuters or those on temporary postings, could be at risk of double taxation. Check any rules you’re not sure of with the relevant tax authority to avoid waking up at 3am in a cold sweat. 

You may also want to check the legal retirement age in your adopted country. Want to consolidate your pension? Look into official transfer schemes, such as the qualifying recognised overseas pension scheme (QROPS) for people who want to move UK savings abroad.

Barclays has been managing clients’ money for more than 330 years and has regional expertise across the globe. Click here to find out how Barclays International Banking can help you move towards all your financial goals, wherever life takes you.

 

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EXPLAINED: What are the rules for homeschooling children in Switzerland?

Homeschooling is not completely banned in Switzerland, but it is heavily regulated. Here’s what you need to know.

Children work through their studies at home
Homeschooling is not banned nationwide in Switzerland, but it is heavily regulated - while some cantons outlaw it completely. Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

The debate surrounding homeschooling in Switzerland – as with elsewhere in Europe – has been particularly fraught in recent years. 

Due to geographical problems accessing schools or the special needs of a child – as well as other practical and ideological differences –  parents have sometimes seen homeschooling as an alternative. 

One reason provided by foreign parents is a desire to teach their child in their own language. 

For parents from other parts of the world, particularly English-speaking countries, they are used to rules for home schooling children which are relatively relaxed. 

It can then be surprising when people arrive in Switzerland to find that home school can be either outright banned, or heavily restricted. 

This may be less of a practical problem in Switzerland in comparison to the United States or Australia, where distances are small, but for some parents it may be an ideological issue where they would prefer to homeschool their children rather than have this done at an educational institution. 

As with pretty much everything in Switzerland, if and how you can homeschool your kids will depend on the rules in place in your canton. 

Keep in mind that this guide refers to children who are being sent to school at home on a permanent basis, not children who are being taught at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

What are the rules at a federal level? 

Education for children is compulsory in Switzerland. 

However, the federal government leaves it up to the cantons to regulate the manner in which schooling is carried out – including homeschooling. 

A court case from 2019 sought to assert a right to homeschooling under the Swiss constitution, but this was dismissed. 

The Swiss Federal Court handed down a ruling which upheld the rights of cantons to restrict or even ban homeschooling. 

The court effectively said Swiss residents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children, allowing cantons the legislative power to decide upon whether or not it should be restricted. 

The case concerned a mother who wanted to homeschool her child in the city of Basel, where homeschooling is only permitted if the parent can show that school attendance is impossible. 

The Swiss constitution guarantees a right to privacy and family life, but the court said that this did not extend to homeschooling. 

What are the cantonal rules? 

Homeschooling is permitted to some degree in 16 of Switzerland’s 26 cantons. 

It is completely banned in Ticino, while in others such as St Gallen and Zurich although it is allowed, getting permission to homeschool is seen as “virtually impossible”.

While getting up-to-date figures is difficult due to data privacy issues, around 140 children are homeschooled in Zurich, Switzerland’s most populous canton. 

In Lucerne, Valais, Freibourg, Zug and Schwyz there is a requirement that parents who homeschool are accredited as teachers, while Bern and Aargau allow homeschooling teachers to operate without an accreditation.

In Basel City, parents must show that school attendance is impossible – which is particularly different in the tiny canton (at least with a geographical argument). 

In the above case, the mother’s argument that the authorities were not doing enough for her gifted son was unsuccessful in court. 

According to Swissinfo, in 2019 no children were being homeschooled in Basel. 

Homeschooling is more popular in the French-speaking part of the country. 

Of the 1,000 children who are homeschooled in Switzerland, approximately 600 of them are in the canton of Vaud. 

Vaud and neighbour Neuchâtel are considered to be one of the most permissive of homeschooling in Switzerland. In these cantons, you only need to alert the authorities if you plan on homeschooling your children – although there have been recent signs this will be further restricted in future. 

Why is homeschooling banned?

Although in many English-speaking cultures homeschooling is common place, it is frequently restricted or banned throughout Europe.

While it is constitutionally guaranteed in Italy and Ireland, other countries like Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden ban the practice. 

Common justifications for banning homeschooling include a need to ensure children receive the same moral and ideological foundation, a desire to ensure school attendance, a lack of social skills among homeschooled children and concerns about the standard of education.

Is this likely to change? 

There are some advocacy groups which have spent considerable resources and time pushing for more relaxed home schooling rules in Switzerland, some of which are run by internationals who want their children’s education to look a little more familiar to what they know. 

There are several federal and cantonal advocacy organisations for homeschooling which can be found online. 

However, given how slowly things happen in Switzerland – and the fact that the major advocates of homeschooling tend to be foreigners rather than Swiss – means that any widespread changes are unlikely anytime soon. 

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