🐧 How to track your net worth as an expat

PLUS: Expat Money Review Template, Art of Spending Money
January 29, 2023

What you'll find in today's edition:

  • 🎯 How to track your net worth, income, and expenses as an expat
  • 🧰 Money Review Template (Link Below)
  • 🎨 The Art of Spending Money

🎯 How to track your net worth, income, and expenses as an expat

When I first moved to Singapore, my system for tracking money completely broke down.

In the US, I used tools like Personal Capital to link my financial accounts and stitch together an overall picture of my income, expenses, and net worth. However, I quickly realized that these tools are not designed for expats who have (1) non-US accounts (2) multiple currencies and (3) shared finances with a partner. I felt frustrated.

In the past month, I spoke with dozen of expats who are planning to make big money moves in 2023. Making new investments, increasing savings, or creating new income streams with side hustles. You name it.

Whatever your money goals are, the first step is getting a clear, complete picture of your financial health — net worth, income, and expenses.

Here’s how my partner & I track our money across multiple currencies as an expat couple:

💙 Principles

🏝️ Live outside of the spreadsheet: You can either optimize for every penny saved or avoid spending extra time squeezing as much juice as possible out of our money. My partner and I have gravitated towards the latter, so that we can go out and enjoy our expat lives.

📐 Apply the 80/20 rule: Optimize for the 20% of effort that gets you 80% of the results. Do “just enough” to track your money flows without getting bogged down in analysis paralysis.

👫 Aggregate money as a couple: View money management through a couple lens (if in a relationship), instead of as a single 20’s guy or girl. Combine parts of your net worth, income, and expenses.

🌏 Track assets holistically: My partner and I are both expats, techies, and small business owners. We prefer tracking assets and liabilities across a breadth of currencies, geographies, asset types (eg stock options, angel investments), and businesses.

🤔 What

  • Net worth: Your assets (what you own) minus liabilities (what you owe)
  • Gross Income: Money you earned before taxes from various sources such as salary, investment income, and side hustles
  • Expenses: Money you’re spending on your savings, investment, and daily expenses

🏦 Net Worth

Net worth is your #1 barometer of long-term financial health. You can think of it like a personal balance sheet.


  1. Net worth tells you how you are tracking towards achieving your Money Goal(s) by a certain date. For example, one popular money goal is getting to a net worth number that represents financial independence.
  2. If you are on track to your goal(s), then great. If you are falling behind, you can double-click on each person’s Assets and Liabilities to see where there’s gaps, then take action to close the gaps.


Make a copy of the Expat Money Review Template. Fill it out.

Tips and tricks

  1. Map each of your bank/investment/credit accounts to an Asset or Liability Category. Doing this upfront will make it easier to later input your raw data at the end of each month.
  2. Use Asset & Liability Categories that feel intuitive to you. I share the categories we use in the Google Sheet, but please update categories based on your own situation (eg remove crypto if you don’t have any).

💼 Income and Expenses

Income and Expenses is your best measure of short-term progress. It’s like your personal cash flow statement.


  1. Net worth is great for long-term progress tracking, but not enough to answer short-term questions about your cash inflows and outflows:
  2. "Why are we saving so little? What’s happening to all our cash?”
  3. ”If we want to achieve our financial independence goals, we will need to increase our savings/investment rate from x% to y%. How are we going to do that?”
  4. Income & Expenses help you calculate your guilt-free spend, which is the balance that remains in your checking accounts after setting aside funds for taxes, savings, investment, and expenses. You can spend this money freely on whatever you want.


Make a copy of the Expat Money Review Template. Fill it out.

Tips and tricks

  1. Update every 6-12 months if your spending doesn’t fluctuate much. I personally dislike updating our income and expenses on a monthly cadence because our numbers don’t fluctuate much month-to-month. Instead, I will periodically sanity check a month of our expenses every 6-12 months just to make sure we are not deviating too far from our norms (+/- 30%).
  2. Track spending as % of pre-tax income, instead of post-tax. I prefer to start with pre-tax because it’s easier to see (a) how much I’m contributing to pre-tax retirement accounts and (b) forecast my combined taxes for Singapore and US.
  3. Automate your money system, so you can enjoy spending (guilt-free!). After you complete the Target section, setup recurring transfers to automatically send your target amounts to separate accounts earmarked for taxes, savings, investment, and expenses. Boom! Whatever balance remains in your checking account is your guilt-free spend. 🤩

🧠 Inspiring Bites

📕 Read: The Art and Science of Spending Money by Morgan Housel grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Check it out for juicy bits like “revenge spending”, asking $30,000 questions instead of $3 questions, what GE CEO Jack Welch said after he nearly died of heart attack, and quotes like:

“How you spend money can reveal an existential struggle of what you find valuable in life, who you want to spend time with, why you chose your career, and the kind of attention you want from other people.”

📺 Watch: For more insights on human behavior, Morgan Housel’s bestseller, Psychology of Money, also deeply influenced my thinking on personal finances. Don’t worry if you don’t have time to read another book — here’s a short video summary by The Swedish Investor.

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Dexter Zhuang

Dexter is the founder of Money Abroad, a website and newsletter on building wealth for global professionals. Over the last 10 years, he's been a product leader, product manager, consultant and coach at companies like Dropbox, Xendit, and growth-stage startups across the US, Asia Pacific, and Latin America. His work has been featured in global publications like Business Insider, CBS, US News & World Report, and Tech in Asia. He graduated from Dartmouth College.

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