Sophisticated wealth management

Cross Border Financial Planning

Importance of Cross-Border Financial Planning Experts and Specialists

Written by Tiffany Woodfield, CIM®, TEP®, CRPC® and John Woodfield, Portfolio Manager B.Comm, CFP®, CIM®, FMA, FCSI® of SWAN Wealth Management

Working with a specialist is essential because cross-border financial planning is more complex than Canadian or US planning alone. You can easily fall into traps that cost you time and money.

When you have a team that includes a cross-border financial advisor, accountant, and lawyer, you don't have to worry about what you may be missing continually. You won't constantly be googling various cross-border topics and trying to understand how to avoid common pitfalls.

Most of our clients are experts in their field who are moving towards a work-optional lifestyle. They do not want to spend time worrying about their investments and cross-border taxes. Instead, they want to spend their free time relaxing or planning their next adventure.

A cross-border financial advisor will develop your unique portfolio, ensuring that your investments are suitable depending on where you live and hold your assets. Certain investment tools should be avoided when you're a US person living in Canada or have other cross-border complexities. Investing in the wrong things will cause headaches. Yet, many Canadian advisors don't know this.

When working with a cross-border financial advisor who manages your portfolio correctly, tax time is much easier. Everything will be optimized, and you will have all the appropriate investment slips so your accountant can prepare a return in Canada and the US.

Why Work with a Cross-Border Financial Advisor vs Regular Financial Planner

There is often confusion between a cross-border financial advisor and a financial planner.

Ideally, you'll work with someone who can invest your assets and create a financial plan that guides you towards your goals. One without the other may not be the best solution. At SWAN, you'll work with a cross-border financial advisor and portfolio manager. We'll assess your situation, create a financial plan, ensure your investments are optimized for both sides of the border and track and adjust your portfolio as needed.

While some people are looking to work with a financial planner for a one-time fee, this may not be the best solution. If you get someone to do a financial plan, it may be adequate for your situation at that moment. But you also need someone to invest your assets in a way that minimizes tax and helps you achieve your goals. Finally, it would help if you had a guide to keep you on track.

Financial Planning, Estate Planning, Tax Planning and Investment Management

A cross-border plan will often include financial planning, estate planning, tax planning and investment management. Ensuring all four elements are in place is often critical.

These factors significantly impact how and when you will reach your goals. By missing one element, you could be delaying retirement, overpaying taxes or causing additional undue stress on your loved ones when you pass.


Cross-Border Wealth Management

Wealth management becomes more complex when you have accumulated $2 million or more in investable assets.

Even with $1 million in assets, there are significant complexities. The more wealth you build, the more complex your situation typically becomes. At SWAN, we work with clients who have a minimum of $2 million in investable assets. Our clients have worked hard to build a legacy that they want to see protected.

When you have built substantial assets, you are often at a greater risk of tax complications. You will also need to ensure a smart wealth transfer strategy and financial planning. Additionally, many of our clients are in the process of selling real estate or businesses. They require additional planning to ensure they don't see a massive tax hit.

Cross-Border Estate Planning in Canada

At SWAN, we make sure all the elements of your financial house are taken care of and managed correctly.

If you don't have a cross-border accountant or cross-border lawyer, we work with a network of qualified professionals to create solutions for you. We'll set up a pre-move consultation with a cross-border accountant to ensure that you're fully prepared before you move.

We have an estate and financial planner who understands cross-border complexities if you need an estate plan. Whether you plan to transfer wealth to your loved ones or your favourite charity, we have the experience to help offer solutions.

Often I find the most significant stress people experience is that there are so many moving parts in a cross-border financial move. Our clients want to do the smart thing—they have worked hard to achieve the success they now enjoy and don't want to make any costly mistakes.

It is typically a huge relief to have this all under one roof and to know you have a team working together so you can enjoy this next big adventure.

Registered and Non-Registered Investment Accounts in the USA and Canada

If you have investment accounts in the US and Canada, it is easier to work with one advisory team that manages your assets in both countries.

Your portfolio will be managed correctly when you have one point of contact who understands investing as a Canadian resident and a US resident. If you have two teams who do not know or understand what the other team is doing, you may find this leads to mistakes. When you are a US person in Canada, you have a continual obligation to file a tax return to the IRS, and errors are common. For this reason, it is typically most beneficial to work with a single team that manages your entire portfolio.

Moreover, if you would like your investments to be tax-efficient (as most people do), your resident status is important. When you have one team that manages assets in both countries, they understand both countries' investment tools, retirement plans, and planning strategies. They can offer advice on where to put money if you are still building wealth and where to draw money if you are in retirement.

We all want to be tax compliant. But we also want to make sure we make smart decisions and don't overpay our taxes or make mistakes that cost us money.

It is often overwhelming when you move across the border. Many people find it easier to put their heads in the sand and hope it will all work out. For example, if they move to Canada from the US, they may leave their accounts in the US and hope to deal with this later.

The problem comes to the forefront eventually. Sometimes a brokerage may determine you are a non-resident of the US and force you to deal with the situation. In other cases, we've seen people come to us who have had a significant life event and need the money, but they aren't sure how to get access.

In our experience, it is best to tackle the cross-border financial transition head-on and not leave it for later.

Cross-Border Financial Planning and Wealth Management Services

Below are some of the services you should look for in a wealth management team. At SWAN, we provide all of these services:

  • Active management of your IRA and RRSP whether you live in Canada or the US.
  • Financial planning as a cross-border person.
  • Investment strategies based on your goals.
  • Guidance on the steps to take before moving.
  • In-house tax preparation for cross-border clients.
  • Advice on wealth transfer strategies.
  • Portfolio management.
  • Access to a network of cross-border professionals.
  • Advice and education on common cross-border pitfalls
  • Charitable giving bequests.
  • Risk management.
  • Guidance on retirement benefits such as CPP, OAS and social security.
  • Dual currency platform.
  • Cost-base tracking.
  • Working with your accountant to ensure tax time is stress-free.

swan cross border financial planning services chart

About SWAN Wealth Management

At SWAN Wealth Management, our clients come to us because they value education and expertise and are looking for a guide. They want to make smart decisions and avoid costly mistakes.

We have created the videos and articles on our website based on common questions from clients over the years. Most of our clients are experts in their field, and now they want an expert to guide them.

If you go to a bank or team that doesn't specialize in cross-border, you are at a higher risk of being invested in the wrong things. Many people think that working with a big bank will ensure everything is managed correctly. But unless your advisor is a cross-border expert, your investments may not be perfectly optimized.

Remember that cross-border financial planning is more complex than regular investing and financial planning. And any mistake can cost you at tax time and give your accountant a serious headache.

When you first meet with us at SWAN, we first want to understand you. We want to know where you are now and what got you to this stage. Only after understanding this do we start to offer education and strategies.

We act as your guide through different life stages and transitions of wealth. Although most of our clients have assets or interests on both sides of the border, each person is unique. We tailor our advice and services to your needs.

Types of Clients

American Residents Moving to Canada

If you're an American resident moving to Canada, you need to know which investments you can move over easily and which you cannot. We offer a pre-move consultation and work with a network of cross-border professionals, so you know ahead of your move what to expect and how to avoid mistakes.

Professionals Relocating

If you are a professional relocating, the first question is often whether the move makes sense financially. You might be wondering if there will be a major taxable event when you move across the border. Cross-border financial planning helps to alleviate this stress. You'll also want to understand what to do with your 401(k), IRA, and other brokerage accounts to avoid double taxation and stay on track to reach your goals.

US Citizens Living in Canada

As a US citizen living in Canada, you may fall into traps investing in the wrong things that cause headaches at tax time and additional costs. You also may have kept accounts in the US as you didn't know what to do with them when you moved. We can help simplify your situation so you aren't trying to manage accounts in two different places, and we can guide you on where to draw money. In addition, we provide all the taxable income and trades on the IRS 1099 tax receipts. These receipts make tax preparation easier. The accountant can use our USD converted 1099 tax receipts for the US tax return and the Canadian T-slips for the Canadian tax return.

Canadian Residents Moving to the US

As a Canadian resident moving to the US, you may be wondering if you can keep your RRSP and other investment accounts when you cross the border. We can help you determine how to manage these accounts and the best way to make the financial transition to the US.

types of clients

Do You Have A Solid Cross-Border Financial Plan?

Whether you're retiring to Canada from the US or already living in Canada, a cross-border financial advisor can help minimize your tax burden and optimize your financial plan.

When planning a move from the US to Canada, you must take into account the many financial changes that will occur. You may be aware of the tax issue you’ll be facing when you change your tax residence by moving across the border, but are you aware of the investment issues?

Your US advisor cannot manage your account once you are in Canada, and your Canadian advisor cannot manage your account once you are in the US. The only exception to this is if you’re working with a cross-border advisor who is dual-licensed.

Moreover, if you close out your retirement account, you’ll suddenly owe tax that you weren’t planning for. Most financial advisors do not specialize in cross-border financial planning. This can mean that while your advisor may have the best of intentions, if they don’t understand every aspect of cross-border financial planning you won’t have a plan that optimizes your investments and minimizes your tax burden.

Your goal with cross-border financial planning should be to ensure that you can retire happy no matter where you live.

Work with Qualified Cross-Border Financial Advisors

The solution is to work with an advisory team licensed in Canada and the US. Whether you have permanent or temporary residence in Canada or the US, we can help and manage your accounts in either country.

At SWAN, we have a team of experts who can help you avoid the common pitfalls a cross border person has. We work closely with a network of cross border accountants and lawyers who can help make the transition smoother.

We work with Canadians living in the US who plan to retire or move back to Canada. We also work with Americans moving to Canada and those already living in Canada. We help you make your financial planning cross-border optimized so even if you move back to the US, you’re covered. Finally, we also work with families who have received a cross-border inheritance.

If you need help rolling over assets from a 401 (k) to an IRA or managing your finances so you don’t have a sudden taxable event, we can help.

At SWAN Wealth Management we help in the following ways:

  • Manage your IRA and retirement accounts from Canada or the US
  • Offer a pre-immigration consultation from a tax perspective before you move
  • Guidance on retirement benefits such as CPP, social security and Medicare
  • Transfer your investments from the US to Canada keeping them in a tax deferred account
  • As a portfolio manager we are not limited to just investing in mutual funds but can choose holdings tailored to your individual needs
  • Hold investments in US and/or Canadian currency on both sides of the border
  • Minimize your tax burden by creating a tailored financial plan
  • Manage your investments over the long-term so you can retire happy
  • Provide access and management to your investments no matter on which side of the border you live
  • Understand the tax implications of various investment strategies
  • Create a financial plan that serves you in the short- and long-term
  • Act in accordance with our fiduciary duties to ensure every aspect of your financial plan is in your best interest

To get started simplifying your cross-border finances and investments, schedule a call below.

Schedule a Call


Ready to Simplify Your Cross-Border Finances?

At SWAN Wealth Management we know that you want to be free to enjoy your life in Canada.

In order to do that you need a cross-border financial plan that’s tailored to your needs. Your US advisor can’t help you move or manage your investments in Canada, and you might be worried that you’re going to miss something during this transition.

We believe that moving your assets to Canada should be simple and easy. We understand how complex this process can appear — especially since it’s difficult to find clear information online.

That’s why we specialize in helping cross-border clients like yourself. With over 25 years of experience as Certified Financial Planners and Portfolio Managers, we ensure your cross-border financial plan fits your needs and protects your assets.

Here’s how the process works:

  1. Schedule a 15-minute introductory call.
  2. Meet with a Financial Advisor.
  3. We create a cross-border plan.
  4. Together, we start the process.

To get started, schedule a 15-minute introductory call.

In the meantime, here’s our Cross-Border Moving Checklist, so you’ll be able to stop worrying about whether you’re missing something and instead relax and enjoy your next adventure.

Schedule a Call


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SWAN stands for Sleep Well At Night, and that's our goal for every client. With the right team, your cross-border transition will be simple, easy, and stress-free.