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Investing for Digital Nomads: How to Build Wealth While Exploring the World

Living a life of adventure, freedom and flexibility as a digital nomad is a modern dream we all share. 

Diving head first into the nomadic lifestyle allows you to explore different cultures, work remotely from breathtaking locations and break free from the constraints of your 9-5.

investment for digital nomads
Investment word concept on cubes.

While being drawn in by this allure, it’s easy to overlook the need to set yourself up for the future. Let’s face it, without an employer you won’t have access to a workplace pension, 401(k) or insurance plan.

Any time you take off will be unpaid! Are you managing your money properly to make up for these missing benefits?

Jumping slightly ahead here, what happens when you want to retire from being a digital freelancer? Do you have enough savings, or any form of guaranteed income to fall back on? This is often something people don’t think about until it’s already a big problem.

In this guide, we’re giving you an overview of sensible investing for digital nomads. 

We’re covering the strategies you can use to preserve your money, ensuring you can afford this lifestyle as long as you want. Whether you’re freelancing from an exotic beach or working remotely in bustling city-centre cafés, financial stability should be a priority.

But wait! 

Before you can start investing, you need to have money left over from your income. This all comes down to having an effective budget, so let’s start there…

Budgeting tips for remote workers

This sounds boring, but budgeting is your friend in this lifestyle!

This is especially true at the very beginning, when you’re figuring out how you can be a nomad without money

I know the dreaded feeling of opening up your online banking app once a month, your stomach dropping as you check your balance and realise how much you’ve spent. This is the worst way to go about it!

If you’re always in the dark, you’ll always be anxious about your spending. You need a solid spending plan so you know roughly where you stand. Start checking your banking app every day to ensure you don’t miss anything.

This also helps you realise if someone has fraudulently accessed your account, which is more likely when you’re travelling around.

Look at how much you’re making each month and calculate what percentage goes towards necessities. Then think about how much extra you want to spend on activities and other luxury spending.

Break this down into how much you can spend each day, while keeping in mind any future spending commitments you already have planned.

This article is more focused on investing, so for budgeting tips check out this guide on living cheaply as a nomad.

Read More: 15 Best Finance YouTube Channels (Meet Your Personal Finance Goals)

solis portable wifi

Invest in yourself and your business first

Let’s get the cliché advice out of the way early…

The reason people advise you to invest in yourself is because it works!

online business

The main goal is to increase your earning potential. If you’re spending money on self-improvement, ideally it should help you earn more money. Always look to expand your knowledge and increase the value you provide to the world. People will pay you for this value.

There are countless free sources of information online. Many topics and skills can be learned by reading articles or watching Youtube videos. We live in such a privileged world when it comes to information access, so use this to your advantage.

Widen your skillset and be transformed from a remote worker to a successful online business owner.

Another benefit is being able to do things for yourself. If you can reduce the amount you need to pay for other peoples’ services, this is just as good as making extra money.

If you can’t find the information for free, consider using paid courses. Make sure you research these thoroughly, so you only spend money on the best resources.

Essentially, when investing in yourself you’re looking to go down one of two paths:

  1. Widening your knowledge in order to increase your employability and climb the corporate ladder, or;
  2. Learning the skills necessary to start/grow your own business, whatever that may be.

If you’re reading this article, then you’re likely falling into the second category. So, let’s take a more detailed look.

Investing in your business

One of the best ways to invest in yourself is to invest in growing your business. You need to take your small business seriously from the outset, otherwise it may always be small!

A good way to approach this initially is outsourcing low value tasks once you start making money. Make a realistic estimate of how much your time is worth per hour. Use this as a starting point.

If you know your business generates roughly $20 for every hour you put into it, try outsourcing tasks if the going rate is less than $20. Freelancers can be found online for pretty much any task on sites such as Fiverr and Fiverr Business. You can even check their reviews beforehand to ensure they’re reliable!

Once you start growing, you can invest in hardware and software to increase business performance. You might even invest more time into the business by quitting your regular job or going part time. 

If you’re already a full time digital nomad, you could find someone to look after parts of your business to free up your time and focus on new income streams.

This route provides you with a great amount of freedom. You can get paid to do something you love, or make enough money to free up your time to do things you love. The choice is yours, but they both sound pretty great to me.

Best investments for digital nomads

While I don’t think it’s sensible to tell people what they should invest in, I do think it’s important to provide people with valuable information and allow them to assess their options.

digital nomad make money

Investing for digital nomads is slightly different though. Any suitable option needs to be pretty passive, as you’ll likely be travelling around in different time zones. This makes it difficult to stay on top of high-maintenance investments.

There is one obvious option which springs to mind – index funds!

Index Fund Investing for Digital Nomads

Low cost index funds are really well suited to nomad investing. To be honest, investing in low cost index funds is one of the few methods most people should follow in general.

What’s the reason for that? 

Well, it’s been shown time and time again that most people simply can’t beat the stock market when choosing their own individual investments. In fact, a study found that nearly 90% of professional active fund managers failed to beat their respective benchmarks.

If professional investors can’t beat the market, then most casual investors can’t either.

So, what’s an index fund?

Index funds are an investment which track a specific sector of the stock market.

For example, the S&P 500 index tracks the 500 largest listed US companies. So if you buy an S&P 500 index fund, you’ll essentially be investing a small amount of your money into each of the top 500 companies in the US. You’ll own a small portion of Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and 497 other top US companies.

This is better suited to new investors as you don’t have to gamble on individual company stocks!

The aim with index funds is to slowly build up your investment and hold it for the long term. There are no guarantees in the stock market, but since its inception the S&P 500 has returned an average of 11.82% per year. 

Of course, your timing could be bad and the market could fall after you buy in. The best way to limit this risk is to invest smaller, regular amounts (known as dollar cost averaging) and hold on for long periods of time. The longer you hold, the less affected you are by poor timing.

If you started from nothing and invested $500 per month with an 11.82% interest rate, after 10 years your investment would be worth around $110,000! Not bad for a totally passive income method which doesn’t require any work on your part. That growth will only become more impressive as the compound effect really takes hold over time.

The reason why index funds are great is because they’re able to passively track the best companies. This means if a company starts performing badly and drops outside the top 500 (or whatever number your chosen index uses), it’ll simply be replaced by a different company which is performing better. This is a great way to spread risk.

Many people also wonder whether they need a financial advisor, but by sticking to index funds your affairs are simple to self-manage.

You can invest in index funds on platforms such as eToro.

Nomad Real Estate Investing

What happens if you’re a homeowner when starting out on this journey? What do you do with your home when becoming a digital nomad?

Well, you become an accidental real estate investor, of course!

nomad real estate investment

Okay, this doesn’t apply to everyone, but if you’re able to rent out your home while on your travels it’s a great way to preserve wealth. You could receive rental income to cover your monthly mortgage, so you benefit from any growth in the property price without having to pay off the loan yourself.

You could always sell your property if this doesn’t appeal to you, but make sure you consider your options.

If you’re not already a homeowner, decide whether property investment is right for you. If you’re living abroad full time, you’ll likely need an agency to look after the property. 

Whether you rent it out long term or let on Airbnb, the agency will manage bookings, cleaning and complaints. This is essential work which can’t easily be done from abroad.

This comes with fees.

It also comes with inconvenience! The last thing you want when you’re lying on the beach is a frantic call about a faulty boiler. Property investment can be great, but if you’re just starting out as a nomad it may not be the easiest time to buy your first property.

Perhaps a better option is investing in a REIT

A REIT is a real estate investment trust – this allows you to invest in property passively without needing to do any work. It requires much less money, too! REITs work similarly to index funds, so you invest whatever amount you want and basically own a portion of the numerous properties held by the REIT.

Again, you can invest in REITs on platforms like eToro.

Building wealth as a digital nomad

Can you build wealth as a digital nomad?

This depends on what your goals are. Do you simply want a couple of great years living it up abroad, while earning enough to fund the lifestyle? If so, you likely won’t build wealth. 

But that DOESN’T mean you shouldn’t be investing! Investing is a great way of preserving wealth, so you’re in the best possible position when you return to ‘normal’ life. That’s if you ever want to…

investing-for-digital-nomads

If you’re truly in this for the long haul, then wealth building is really important. Someday you’ll want to retire, and you’ll need to pay for it! So you better get stacking your assets in the meantime.

The goal here is to increase your net worth each year. 

Your net worth is the total value of all your assets, minus any liabilities (car loans, mortgages etc.). Building this takes time, but by making good investment decisions it becomes fairly passive.

It’s also an exponential process, meaning your growth in 10 or 15 years will be much higher than in the beginning. This is due to your investments compounding over time.

The biggest factor is ensuring that your income exceeds your expenses. If you’re spending more money than you make, you simply can’t build wealth. I suppose you could win the lottery or get a massive inheritance, but let’s not bank on that.

Financial planning for digital nomads

Now that you know how to control your spending and set aside money for investing, what’s next?

You need to ensure your future is secure, just as it would be if you had permanent employment. It’s easy to get complacent once you reach a solid level of income from self employment.

Perhaps you’ve reached the same level of income you used to receive from your job, so now you plan to take it easy. This could be a costly mistake.

personal finance planning

Never forget about the added benefits that come with most corporate jobs! Aim for higher income levels to help cover things such as taking time off, healthcare and dental bills and slow periods in the business. 

On top of this, how do you invest for retirement?! For most people in the UK and US, this will involve contributing to some form of private pension or retirement plan. This could be a personal pension plan, a SIPP, a Roth IRA or a 401(k).

There are loads of different investment platforms or brokers offering such plans, and you’ll simply pay a platform fee for the service. Some plans will invest your money for you, while others are self-invested. If you do choose self-invested, you may want to consider what we mentioned above about low cost index funds.

Having a retirement portfolio consisting of a US index fund, a worldwide index fund and a fund focused on bonds is a common strategy.

Pension plans are popular for a number of reasons, including the generous tax benefits which can come along with them. Contributions are often excluded from your taxable income, reducing your tax bill in the year you set the money aside.

If you’re not confident, you might want to pick a reputable scheme which invests the money for you. These can offer fixed returns or performance based returns, depending on your risk appetite.

I don’t want to make this section too complicated. The goal here is just to put some money away on a regular basis, ensuring you have extra income later in life.

Passive income ideas for digital nomads

Here is a list of realistic sources of passive income for digital nomads:

  1. Dividend income from stocks
  2. Income from investing in REITs
  3. Income from letting out property (long term lets or holiday lets)
  4. Selling digital products on Etsy
  5. Selling online courses on your specialist subject
  6. Income from a faceless Youtube channel
  7. Blogging income
  8. Sponsored social media posts
  9. Selling AI generated products
  10. Income from high yield savings accounts
  11. Income from your small business (managed by someone else)

If you want more ideas, check out these ways for nomads to make a living online!

Conclusion

Investing as a digital nomad doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, you should make it as straightforward as possible so you don’t need to spend your time making investment decisions and keeping on top of the latest market news and events.

For me, nomad investing should mainly include passive investments such as low cost index funds. Diversify by investing back into your own business and finding more revenue sources within it.

It’s always worth going after the low hanging fruit in investing – small business owners and digital freelancers are in a unique position which allows them to invest simply by expanding their day to day work.

If you can expand your online business and find ways to make it more passive, you can focus more of your time on building new revenue streams.

Real estate is also an option, but I’d only recommend this if you’re already a homeowner. Alternatively, REITs are a great way to invest in property without buying a house. Side note – don’t fall for the scammers you see on Instagram promoting their Airbnb course! They won’t make you rich.

If you’re in this lifestyle for the long haul, one of your aims should be building wealth. This will be crucial when you finally want to retire.

Your focus should be on building income and reducing expenses, that way you can save and invest the difference. Over time, your investments will compound and build up a healthy pot for later in life.

Remember, time is your friend when it comes to compound interest. The earlier you start, the better!

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