What to do with 100,000 dollars, pounds, or euros? You could invest in a property, paintings, cars, wine, gold, silver, or shares. You're obviously seeking the best return on your investment, some level of stability, and want to see your money work hard, grow your wealth and increase your financial independence.
All of these investments are likely to give you a good return if you choose wisely, but there's one major difference between these investments: Flexibility, geographic and trading flexibility. Trading flexibility in terms of the ease to sell and buy. Some investments are more liquid than others and can easily be bought or sold without much paper work (for instance, it'll be easier to sell shares or bitcoins than paintings or property). Geographic flexibility in terms of: what to do with the investment when you move.
This article is for all those digital nomads and expats who are trying to figure out whether to buy a property or invest in shares. Or maybe both.
Best Investments For Expats - Property or Shares
Let's focus on geographic flexibility - the type of flexibility required by world citizens such as expats when investing. Those who move from city to city and between countries. While this isn't relevant for everyone, if you are anything like me and prefer to be geographically flexible, the ability to move assets with you is crucial. Those who often move between countries, or even between cities, require a greater degree of flexibility in their investments than those who stay put and are content in the city they call home.
The ability to move your assets with you applies to expats, digital nomads, traveling globetrotters as much as to fit and adventurous pensioners who feel the urge to explore the world and opt to enjoy their well deserved retirement years in a different country.
For anyone living in one place, it does not really matter whether or not it takes longer to buy or sell a certain investment. They are able to take the time and wait for the right buyer or seller before putting their hard earned cash to work.
But which investment is better for the geographically flexible? Let's take shares and property as examples. For the majority of people, holding their share investments comes digitally. You go online, check your portfolio, and little more is required. Some shareholders might hold their share certificates in paper format. But even those require little more than a folder to store.
Properties, on the other hand, are physical, they are brick and mortar, impossible to move around. An investment in an apartment will not move with you, the property will remain in its place.
Equally we could look at ethereum, litecoins, bonds, or any other investment that exists in a digital form. Other physical assets are your Picasso, paintings, sculptures, cars, or wine - all immobile assets.
For those who are like me, it is important to be flexible in all areas of life. Living in different cities and countries requires my investments do be as flexible as I am. While I love property, as investing in bricks and mortar is a very fulfilling experience. Different from shares, a property investment allows you to touch the wall and doors, walk the floor and reach to the ceiling. While investing in property is simply awesome, it has a massive drawback: Property investments are not flexible. Property is immobile. The very nature of a property investment, being physical, makes it inflexible.
Of course you could buy buy a REIT or shares in a company that invests, builds, or manages property, but the experience is not the same as owning your own property. Also, you wouldn't really buying a property. The investment would not be a property investment in its original form. You would be buying shares in a company that invests in property.
Advantages of shares over property for expats
But if you want to move to a different country or a city too far to pay your property a quick visit, investing in property can become a management challenge. You can't just pack your property as you would pack a pair of jeans. The property will remain where it was built. Keeping your investment in the property will either require you to spend time and energy traveling to the property or paying someone to manage the property for you. Either option requires further capital expenditures whether in the form of travel or management expenses. Property investment has other drawbacks when you don't live nearby: screening potential tenants, the need to spend money on contractors, as taking a plane or drive hours to fix the kitchen sink most likely is little appealing or financially not feasible.
There are only two ways around theses issues: either buy multiple properties to make managing your property investment worth your while or get a very efficient, cheap, and tax deductible property manager.
How about shares then? While they are not as exciting as property, you can't touch them, decorate them, or fix them up as you can do with a property, shares are a flexible, mobile investment. You don't need to live in Tokyo to own shares in a Tokyo-based company, you don't need to live in Montmartre to own shares in a Paris-based company. Shares are as geographically flexible as you are. They move with you when you move. With today's technology, the shares you own merely exist in cyberspace. You can access your shares from wherever you are on the planet via a simple mouse click. You don't need to manage them, maintain them, or find and manage new tenants. Shares move with you around the globe, or rather, you can access them from everywhere without any additional effort.
The same obviously applies to bitcoin, gold, litecoin, or any other small or digital investment. You could also invest in gold, silver, or any other precious metal. They generally come in small bars and can such easily be taken along to your new destination. There is a major drawback, however: security. You are unlikely to travel the world with a kilo of gold in your backpack.
While I love investing in property, as they are fun and undoubtedly have a number of advantages over shares and other investments, they may not always be the best option for expats. Property investments require a lot more management and potentially extra work and capital expenditures. For globetrotters, expats, adventurous pensioners, or any other type of world citizen, weighing up the advantages of these different investments may prove beneficial and save money and hassle.
For most geographically mobile individuals, shares are likely to be the best investment. They require no maintenance and provide you with quick and easy access wherever you are on this beautiful planet.