Invest in Germany to Make Money – 2020 Expat Guide

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If you are wondering how to invest in Germany and grow your wealth, this article is for you. This article describes some popular ways to invest in Germany, tips on how to choose a suitable investment, factors to consider before investing, tax impact, and more.

Moving to Germany or new in Germany? Check out our Support Page for all the resources you need!

Why should you invest your money in Germany? 

You may think: You earn your salary in Germany, and you save your money up in your bank account. So, you are accumulating your wealth with total liquidity. Your money is very safe. Why should you invest in Germany and expose yourself to risks?

Well yes, your money is very safe. But you are losing the purchasing power of your money over time due to inflation. Your 100 Euros today is not the same as your 100 Euros in 30 years. You can probably purchase less with the same amount of money in 30 years.

And that is the reason to invest in Germany. With inflation, you are losing the value of your money if you just let it idle in your bank. On the other hand, due to the compound effect, you can accumulate your wealth to a much higher amount if you start investing early. 

The below table shows the power of the compound effect when you invest 10,000 Euros. You can see that you have a much higher return if you start investing early.

  Interest rate
  2% 5% 8%
10 Years € 12,190 € 16,289 € 21,589
20 Years € 14,859 € 26,533 € 46,610
30 Years € 18,114 € 43,219 € 100,627

There are many different kinds of investments. Below you can see some most popular ways to invest in Germany. 

1. Invest in savings accounts in Germany

A savings account is called “Sparkonto” in German. Investing money in a savings account in Germany is good for people with low risk tolerance. Low risk also means low return. You may want to consider investing your money in a savings account in Germany if you

  • Don’t have much money to invest
  • Have not figured out the best way to invest your money yet and want to do your research later
  • Live in Germany temporarily
  • Do not want to bear risks and are not looking for a high return

Don’t worry. Your money is very safe as your savings account is secured with 100,000 Euros per person and per account by law. The below two forms of savings accounts are most common in Germany:

Instant access savings account (Tagesgeldkonto)

The difference between your savings account and your normal current account in the bank is that you can earn some interest in your savings account. The interest rate is not fixed, but rather depending on the market. 

Some people like to set up a direct debit so that a certain amount of their salary is transferred to the savings account monthly. This helps them to set some money aside, while earning some interests. You can free to transfer the money from your savings account back to your normal current account at any time. 

Most banks offer instant access savings account. The interest rate is very low at the moment (less than 0.5% yearly). Targo Bank offers a relatively high interest rate (1%) if you change your securities account there. 

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If your primary goal is to set aside money for different saving goals, some banks offer up to 25 free sub-accounts to manage your goals like buying a car, going on a trip, etc. You can find a comparison of different English bank accounts here: Opening a Bank Account in Germany – Compare English Banking Options.

Fixed deposit account (Festgeldkonto)

The difference between an instant access savings account and a fixed deposit account is that a minimum investment and a fixed period are required for a fixed deposit account. It means that you cannot take out your money freely during this time. However, you will usually get a higher interest rate and this rate is fixed during the term.

The term usually ranges from a few months to a few years. Though many banks offer fixed deposit accounts with a minimum of one year. You can earn around 1% interest at the moment at most banks if you put your money for a few years.

Ferratum Bank allows you to put your money with a minimum of three months already. The term ranges from a few months to three years. You can check the actual interest rate here

invest in germany_make money_fixed deposit account_Ferratum Bank_Ferratum

2. Invest in private pension plans in Germany

If you are working in Germany, you probably know that everyone must contribute to public retirement insurance. It is deducted automatically from your payslip and allows you to receive statutory pension starting from the retirement age (amount to around 70% of your working net income). The issue is that the retirement age used to be 65, and now it will be gradually increased to 67 due to the aging population in Germany. 

In my case, I will still have to work for at least 30 years until I retire. Anything can happen in the next 30 years. Maybe the retirement age will be increased further. Maybe the monthly pension amount will be reduced. Nobody knows. 

In my opinion, to play safe, you should invest in voluntary private pension plans if you plan to stay in Germany for the long term. This can serve as an add-on to your public pension plan and ensure you can have a good life after you retire.

There are two private pension plans to choose from in Germany:

Invest in Riester-Rente in Germany

This is also called Förder-Rente. You will invest monthly in this private pension. The nice thing about this pension is that you will also get a government bonus that is invested in your pension. 

Government bonus 2020
  • 175 Euros yearly
  • A one-time bonus of 200 Euros if you are under age 25
  • 185 Euros yearly per kid if he was born before 2008
  • 300 Euros yearly per kid if he was born after 2008

If you want to know the exact bonus amount you will get based on your individual situation, check out this calculator.

How to get the maximum government bonus?

You need to invest at least 4% of your annual income, with a maximum of 2,100 Euros per year (including both government bonus and the premiums you pay).

Tax benefits of Riester-Rente

You can claim tax on the premiums you pay into the pension plan, with a maximum tax-deductible expense of 2,100 Euros yearly.

When can you receive your pension payment?

If you have joined this pension in 2011 or before, you can receive your pension payment earliest at age 60. Otherwise, you can get your money starting at age 62.

Who is suitable to invest in Riester-Rente in Germany?

You should consider investing in Riester-Rente if you

  • Have children
  • Stay in Germany for the long term

Invest in Rürup-Rente in Germany

This is also called Basis-Rente. If you join and pay into this private pension plan, you can get tax benefits as the contributions are tax-deductible.

Tax benefits of Rürup-Rente 

In 2020, 90% of the contributions you pay into Rürup-Rente are tax-deductible, with a maximum tax-deductible amount of 22,541 Euros per year.

The benefits of joining Rürup-Rente 
  • Guaranteed life-long pension
  • The amount invested is protected from legal claims
  • The pension amount will not be reduced if you are collecting unemployment benefits
When can you receive a pension payment?

You can receive your pension payment from age 62.

Who is suitable to invest in Rürup-Rente in Germany?

You should consider investing in Rürup-Rente if you

  • Have high income, and thus high tax burdens
  • Stay in Germany for the long term

The drawback of both private pension plans

One drawback is that it is a long term investment and it only makes sense if you stay in Germany for the long term.

Besides, the pension payment you will receive later on is subjected to tax. However, normally you will be subjected to a lower tax rate after you retire, as you do not receive your salary anymore.

It means that you may be better off by delaying your tax obligation, i.e. receiving tax benefits when you are young by paying into the pension, and paying tax later on the incoming pension payment after retirement.

Consult a professional

Both pension plans are very complicated. Even if a foreigner knows German well, the plans are still not easy to understand. I joined these plans with the support of an independent English financial adviser. 

I would highly recommend my adviser to you if you are interested in these pension plans. Just write him an email and mention my blog “My Life In Germany” to get a free consultation.

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3. Invest in the stock market in Germany

There are three main ways to invest in the stock market in Germany. You can invest directly in individual stocks, investment funds, or ETF funds.

Invest in individual stocks in Germany

The traditional way is that you do extensive research, find a good company, and invest by buying stocks from this company. 

The drawback is that it is too risky to invest in one single company. If you want to diversify your risk, you will need to invest in more companies in different industries. It means that you will need to do extensive research on each company and spend time checking for the best time to buy and sell for each of them.

Besides, for every buy and sell order, you have to pay a transaction fee. You will also need to have enough capital as some stocks may cost more than a thousand Euros to start with. Invest in several different stocks means that you need to have at least some thousand Euros to be diversified enough.

Invest in investment funds in Germany

One way to diversify your stock investment is to invest in investment funds. It means that an institution will collect all the investors’ money and buy shares with it. Doing so can help to save transaction fees as the fees are shared among all the investors. 

A fund manager is responsible to manage the fund and decide which stocks to buy. That is why investment funds are also called actively managed funds. The drawback of investing in investment funds in Germany is the high provisions and administration fees for the fund manager (can be as high as 3%).

Invest in ETF funds in Germany

ETF means exchange traded funds. These funds are not actively managed. Instead, they just follow exactly a particular stock market index. An index is a portfolio including shares of different companies that helps investors to assess the market performance.

For example, the German stock index, DAX, includes 30 major German companies trading on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. The MSCI World Index includes more than 1,600 companies across 23 developed countries.

What an ETF fund does is that it will collect money from all the investors and buy stocks following a certain index. For example, if you invest in a DAX ETF, your money (together with those from the other investors) will be invested in the 30 major German companies in a proportion like the DAX index. 

You do not own the stock of those 30 companies directly. Instead, you own one “unit” of the DAX ETF, which is like a share of the ETF. When the DAX index goes up, the DAX ETF will go up as well because the ETF includes shares of the same companies as the DAX index. It means that your one “unit” of DAX ETF now is worth more and you can sell it to another investor at a higher price to make a profit.

Note that ETF is a long term investment. It helps to grow your money in the long term (at least 10 years). For example, you can use it as an investment for your retirement. However, you are free to buy and sell your ETF at any time.

It is also common to invest in ETF with a savings plan, meaning that you invest a fixed amount monthly in your ETF. It is an easy and great way to increase your wealth in the long term.

Advantage of investing in ETF funds in Germany
  • Risk diversification: If you invest in the MSCI World ETF, your money is diversified to 1,600 different companies in 23 different countries without needing a lot of capital.
  • Low administration fees: There is no fund manager as the ETF is passively managed (just following an index). The total expense ratio (TER) is usually under 1%.
  • Low workload: It makes sense to buy and hold your ETF with a savings plan. No need to analyze each company’s performance all the time or decide what to buy and sell. It is a passive investment.

    invest in stock_investment_invest in germany to make money_expat guide_my life in germany_hkwomanabroad

Investment funds vs. ETF funds – What is better as an investment in Germany?

The success of an investment fund depends on the performance of the fund manager. Even though an investment fund may out-perform the market, this rarely happens. And don’t forget the high fees that you need to pay for the fund manager. 

My parents-in-law used to invest in an investment fund but they didn’t have a good experience with it. The fund manager was not doing a good job but only considering his own commission. The fees were expensive and the fund barely made any profit. The bank actually closed the fund in the end and all the money was lost. 

I know. It is only one particular story. Maybe they were unlucky. 

You may think that a fund managed by a human is better than one managed by a robot. That is not really true. Studies show that only a few investment funds actually perform better than the market after deducting the fees. Some funds perform better in certain years but bad in other years. In general, it is hard to find an investment fund that has success continuously in all years. To me, it sounds more like a gambling game from the fund manager. Besides, the fund manager fees reduce a lot of your profit over time.

Read also: 20 Ideas to Make Money from Home that Anyone Can Do

My personal experience of investing in the stock market in Germany

I personally bought ETFs for a long term investment. The reason is that I do not want to spend much time and effort analyzing the market, and I want my portfolio to be as diversified as possible.

I bought the MSCI World ETF and the MSCI Emerging Markets ETF, which I find great for a beginner. The MSCI World ETF covers more than 1,600 companies in many developed countries, while the MSCI Emerging Markets ETF includes more than 1,200 companies in different emerging markets like China and India. 

Even though investing in emerging markets is riskier, I would like to have an investment in both developed and emerging markets so that I can cover pretty much the whole world. What I need to do is to ignore the current price fluctuations (don’t look at it so much as it is not good for your emotions). Then, look at it again after your retirement and realize your profit (hopefully!).

Another note is that there are always risks involved in trading stock. While you can earn, you can also suffer losses if you don’t do it properly. Never invest an amount that you cannot afford to lose! And only use investment products that you understand.

How to invest in individual stocks, investment funds, or ETF funds in Germany?

You will need to open a securities account (Depotkonto) with a bank or other discount brokers. For example, you can open an English demo account at Cap Trader to try it out for free. Other good alternatives include Consorsbank and Trade Republic (commission-free broker with extremely low handling fee).

All of the above allow you to invest in individual stocks, funds, and ETFs. You can also choose to invest by using a monthly savings plan. 

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An alternative: Investment managed by both human and machine

If you are not comfortable to let only a machine to manage your money like in the case of ETF funds, but you also don’t want to invest in an investment fund and pay an expensive fund manager, ROBIN can be for you.

ROBIN is a digital wealth management system from Deutsche Bank. It allows you to open a profile, stating your individual preference and risk tolerance level. Based on your profile, a machine will help you to invest in different ETF funds globally and monitor your trading activities daily. The good thing about ROBIN is that there is a portfolio manager who checks your investment portfolio to make sure your money is invested wisely. So, the work is done by both humans and machines.

Some great features of ROBIN:
  • The portfolio is based on your individual risk preference
  • Investment in diversified ETF portfolio globally
  • Starting capital with only 500 Euros
  • Human and machine optimization
  • You can pay in and take out money any time
  • You can quit at any time
  • Clear costs and transparent fees (around 1%)
  • Daily monitoring and ongoing optimization of your investment portfolio

ROBIN offers a combination of experienced portfolio managers, advanced risk management, and mature technology. Your investment is tailor-made to your individual preferences and risk tolerance level, without the need for you to spend time and effort in managing it.

Robin from Deutschebank_invest in Germany to earn money_Deutsche Bank_banner_

4. Invest through social trading in Germany

Social trading is also called copy trading. It is for people who are interested in stock trading but do not want to spend time and effort to analyze the stock market. Through a special trading platform like eToro, social trading allows you to subscribe to a signal trader and copy all his trade transactions.

A signal trader is another trader on the same platform who is supposed to be more successful and experienced in trading. When you subscribe to a signal trader, your account will automatically follow and make the same transaction whenever your signal trader does a transaction. On the other hand, a signal trader will get more commission if he has more subscribers.

You can open a free English demo account at eToro to try and play around first.

Benefits of social trading

  • Save time in doing technical analysis on your own by just following the trade transactions of a professional
  • Great for inexperienced traders as they can benefit from the professional decisions of more experienced traders
  • You can view every single transaction made by your signal trader and place restrictions on what trades you want to follow or not
  • Help you to generate a passive income as no time and effort is needed to study about trading
  • Diversify your risk by choosing multiple expert traders to follow
  • Avoid making emotional trade by leaving the decisions to the trade experts
  • You can see the risk level and the strategies of different signal traders and decide which one you want to follow

Similar to stock trading, there are risks involved in social trading. Nobody can always predict the market. You can make money through social trading. But you can also suffer from the loss. Consider carefully if you can afford the risks of losing money. 

Read also: 9 Ways to Earn Money in Germany as a Student

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5. Invest with P2P lending in Germany

P2P lending means “Peer-to-peer” lending. Usually, if you want to borrow money from a traditional bank, they will charge you a very high interest rate. On the other hand, when you put money in a traditional bank account, you earn nearly no interest. A traditional bank is expensive. They have to pay for their branches, their employees, etc. and have a high overhead.

With P2P lending, you can lend money with a much higher return. Through an online platform, it cuts out the middle-man cost and operates with lower overhead. That is why it is much cheaper than a traditional bank.

Features of P2P lending:

  • Earn up to 12% interest rate by depositing money into P2P online platform like Mintos
  • Start with as low as a 10 Euro deposit
  • Very easy to use and understand
  • A relatively low-risk way of investing
  • Almost no time and effort is needed

Depending on how long you decide to lend for and other factors, the exact interest rate can vary. It is better to deposit your money into the P2P platform than letting it sit in your bank account for almost nothing.

Again, before investing your money, you should make sure that you fully understand all the risks by reading thoroughly the terms and conditions from the online platforms. Never invest an amount that you cannot afford to lose.

Read also: Cost of Living in Germany – How to Save Money?

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6. Invest in real estate in Germany

The real estate market is a great investment if you can afford it. In my opinion, the best investment is to have your own house and stop paying rent. Why would you want to make someone else rich? Can you afford to still pay rent once you are retired? 

In general, it just makes so much sense to have your own property. In our case, our own house is the best investment that we have ever made.

Here are some other reasons why you should buy a house in Germany:

  • You can get a mortgage from the bank for as low as 1 – 2% interest rate now. There is no time better than now to buy a house.
  • No need to worry about increasing rent or being forced to move out. Be aware that it is unlikely to find a new flat that has as low rent as what you are paying now (if you have been living in the same flat for some years)
  • You have total control over how you want your house to be. You can make structural changes, have pets, build extra doors and rooms, etc.
  • If you sell your investment property after you own it for 10 years, you do not have to pay the 25% capital gain tax!
  • There are no restrictions for foreigners in Germany to buy property (self-occupied or for investment)
  • In case you leave Germany, you can always rent out your property (or sell it!)

Invest in a buy-to-let property

Let say if you have your own house already. When you save up your next bucket of money, it is time to think about buying an investment property. Why not let someone paying for your mortgage? 

You will feel thankful after you are retired, because you will have a monthly rental income or you will get a capital gain by selling your property. Not to mention all the tax advantages that you may get during all the years.

To buy a house, the only barrier is your ability to get a mortgage. You can use a free online mortgage calculator to quickly estimate how much interest rate you can get. Just enter your house price, your first installment amount, and some other basic info.

For more details about how to buy a house, have a look at this post: Buying a House in Germany – As a Foreigner

Getting professional advice

You want to invest in real estate but don’t know how to start? I can highly recommend our independent financial adviser to you. He helped to look at our overall financial situation. We found our house through him and he also helped us to get the cheapest bank loans.

I couldn’t imagine buying a house in Germany without his English guidance. You can just write him and mention my blog “My Life In Germany” to get a free consultation.

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Transfer money internationally

If you need to transfer money to Germany to buy a house, the worst thing you can do is bank transfer. For money transfer, I would recommend you to use the services from CurrencyFair:

  • Pay only 3 Euros fee no matter how much you send
  • The exchange rate is much cheaper compared to traditional banks
  • Set a higher exchange rate and the transfer will only take place once this rate is reached

Currencyfair is also offering 3 free transfers at the moment if you want to try it out for free.

currencyfair_invest in Germany to make money_3 free transfer_transfer money internationally

What kind of investment is the best for you?

Before you start to invest in Germany, you should ask yourself: 

What is the ultimate goal for your investment?

Maybe you want to

  • Buy a house?
  • Have a wedding?
  • Have kids?
  • Travel?
  • Retire early?
  • Have a good life after retirement?

Once you know your goals, you will know if you need a short or long-term investment.

Then you need to also ask yourself the following questions:

What is your risk tolerance level?

If you can’t bear much risk, savings account or P2P lending may be for you. If you are willing to take more risks, then invest in the stock market, social trading, or real estate.

How much money do you have for investment?

Not so much money? P2P lending, savings accounts, and ETF monthly saving plans do not require that much capital. Needless to say, you will need to save up some money before you can afford to buy a property.

How much do you need to spend and how much can you save monthly?

Draw up a plan with your monthly spending and savings. You can even make a rough estimate for the next 30 years. By doing so, you can see how much you can save roughly per month. You can then know if you can afford to pay monthly into a private pension plan or an ETF savings plan.

If you want to buy a property, you can also estimate how long it takes until you save enough to afford your first property.

How much time can you put into your investment?

If you want a passive income without putting too much effort into your investment, savings account, private pension plans, ETF funds, social trading, P2P lending are all possible. If you are buying individual stock or a property, you will need to spend time doing some research before starting.

How flexible do you want your investment to be?

Be aware that private pension plans and real estate investment are for the long term. You need to pay a lot now but you can enjoy the benefits in the future. Don’t invest in those if you want to have a lot of flexibility.

How fast do you want your money to grow?

Fast returns involve higher risk. While you can have a very low risk by investing in savings accounts, you will also earn almost nothing.

How long do you stay in Germany?

If you are not staying in Germany for the long term, private pension plans are not for you. For real estate, you can still manage it even if you do not live in Germany anymore. It may require some organization but it is possible.

How much tax are you paying now?

If you have a high income, you are likely paying a lot of taxes in Germany. One great way to invest in Germany is to increase your yearly tax return. For example, investing in private pension plans in Germany allows you to claim the contribution expenses to reduce your tax burden. When investing in a buy-to-let property in Germany, your mortgage interest and the maintenance cost of your property are also tax-deductible. 

You will be impressed by how much taxes you can save. You can make quite some money by saving your tax!

Read also: Private vs Public Health Insurance – What is Better for Expats in Germany?

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What to consider before you invest in Germany?

You should consider the following before investing in Germany.

Risk buffer

You shouldn’t invest all your money. Instead, you should keep a risk buffer (around three to six months’ salaries) so that you can make sure you have money to pay for any unexpected expenses. 

Besides, before starting to invest, you should clear all your debts first in case of any.

Be aware of scams

Does an investment sound too good to be true? There are scams everywhere on the internet. I always see comments on Facebook about making $100,000 in 24 hours. 

If a person can earn that much in such a short time, do you think he will be posting these comments? I would never click on those links as they just sound ridiculous. 

Understand the risks

Every form of investment comes with different levels of risk. While you need some risks to earn some returns, you should fully understand what kind of risks are involved. Read the contract thoroughly or consult an independent financial adviser

Diversify your investment

Don’t put all your money into one form of investment. Always invest in different forms to spread your investment risks. For example, we invest some money in our house, some in ETF, and some in the private pension plans in Germany.

Understand your rights

In Germany, you have two weeks cooling-off period after signing a contract, which means you can cancel the contract without costs. You should use it if you don’t feel fully comfortable with what you have signed.

Read also: Insurance in Germany – Which One Do You Need?

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Tax impact when investing in Germany

Germany is famous for its high tax rate. The bad news for investors is that all the capital gains are subjected to a 25% investment tax in Germany. This is a really high tax rate! It means that if you earn interest/ dividends or if you have a gain after selling your shares/ your investment properties, 25% of your profit will be gone to the tax office.

There is also some good news. You have a tax allowance of 801 Euros yearly on your capital income. For real estate, if you have owned your investment property for ten years, this 25% capital tax can be waived. That is why it makes sense to buy your property and own it for a long time in Germany.

If you are a U.S. citizen, things get even more complicated. Even if you live in Germany, you are required to file tax to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). To avoid being double-taxed, you should familiarize yourself with the tax impact when investing in Germany. 

For more details, you can check this out: Tax Return in Germany – Guide for Expats

Getting professional help

Tax impact is one of the most important factors when deciding how you should invest in Germany. If you are not an expert, I would highly recommend that you get professional advice from a tax adviser (especially if you are a U.S. citizen).

Simply write your question in the below question box to get a free online initial recommendation from a tax adviser. If further actions are needed, you will get a non-binding offer with the price and you can decide if you want to go for it.

 

The importance of having a financial adviser

A financial adviser looks at your overall financial situation (income and expenses, future goals, risk level, etc.) and suggests you some suitable forms of investment. As an expat in Germany, it is challenging to understand all the complicated concepts and be informed of all the suitable investment possibilities.

We love our financial adviser who explains to us thoroughly about different investment possibilities and the associated risks. He doesn’t work for a specific bank or company, so you can be sure that he can give you independent advice. 

Just write him and mention my blog “My Life In Germany” to get a free English consultation.

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Disclaimer

Please note that no investment can guarantee a profit. Every investment is associated with risks and can lead to a complete loss of your invested money.  

Please be aware that this article is intended to provide you a brief overview of investing in Germany. It does not substitute any professional investment advice. You are responsible for your own risk if you decide to participate in any form of investment. This blog is not a financial consultant by law and we do not accept any form of liability resulting from reading this article. 

If you need more details and specific advice on your personal situation, we would highly recommend you to consult a financial adviser and a tax adviser.


Do you invest in Germany and how? What can you recommend to other expats in Germany? Leave a comment below and share your experience!

Moving to Germany or new in Germany? Check out our Support Page for all the resources you need!

8 Replies to “Invest in Germany to Make Money – 2020 Expat Guide”

  1. I am not sure what your “professional” has told you, but it is not entirely true that you have to pay capital gain tax if you sell it earlier than after 10 years. This only applies if you have not lived on the property yourself.

    1. Thanks a lot for your comment! I have made it clear now that this tax is only for investment properties.

  2. I looked into Trade Republic but I have to be a permanent resident to use that app.
    I am a US expat living in Germany for 1 year now and have looked into Interactive Brokers.
    Any recommendations on an expat friendly brokerage other than those listed above in the article?

    1. If you are from the US, you may want to first familiar yourself about the US tax requirement. As far as I know, all your foreign investment will be taxed back in US as well. I have a guest post with an overview about filing US tax in Germany. I am not from the US myself, so I can’t really advise on this so much. What I heard is that many US expats avoid having investment in Germany to avoid the US tax. If you would like to trade stocks, you may want to use a US platform instead. I suggest talking to other US expats in Germany to get some suggestions. Hope it helps.

  3. Awesome post, man!
    I have been staying for Munich for almost an year now and I must say this is very accurate.
    Good job!

  4. Great article with a huge amount of helpful informations. I am living in Germany for more than a year, and I learn a lot in this post.
    Great Job and Thanks a lot.

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