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Considering the option of one day retiring to a different country (probably an EU country). I've done a good job saving for retirement in IRA/Roth/401K accounts primarily held in mutual funds and American stocks.

What has recently occurred to me is that if I were to move to a country, for example on the euro, I'd be paying a massive amount of money to convert to the local currency. It is one thing to do this for a vacation, but my retirement account will likely exceed 7 figures by the time I am ready to retire. Even at a 1% conversion that is a helluva a lot of money to come right off the top.

Is there some better approach for moving large sums of money to a foreign currency. For example, is there a way to sell NYSE/NASDAQ investments held through a brokerage for foreign currency? Or maybe there are currency exchanges that offer discounted conversion rates for large transactions? Maybe something else I'm missing?

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A stock, bond or ETF is basically a commodity. Where you bought it does not really matter, and it has a value in USD only inasmuch as there is a current market price quoted at an American exchange. But nothing prevents you from turning around and selling it on a European exchange where it is also listed for an equivalent amount of EUR (arbitrage activities of investment banks ensure that the price will be equivalent in regard to the current exchange rate). In fact, this can be used as a cheap form of currency conversion. For blue chips at least this is trivial; exotic securities might not be listed in Europe.

All you need is a broker who allows you to trade on European exchanges and hold an account denominated in EUR. If necessary, transfer your securities to a broker who does, which should not cost more than a nominal fee.

Mutual funds are a different beast though; it might be possible to sell shares on an exchange anyway, or sell them back to the issuer for EUR. It depends.

In any case, however, transferring 7 figure sums internationally can trigger all kinds of tax events and money laundering investigations. You really need to hire a financial advisor who has international investment experience for this kind of thing, not ask a web forum!

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  • In truth I probably wouldn't transfer it all at once, but withdraw it as I need it to live on in retirement. Just trying to figure out how not to get eaten up on fees while doing so as I probably would if I cashed in my investments then did some form of currency exchange.
    – JohnFx
    May 24, 2014 at 0:15

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