China’s Depreciating Yuan: How to get money out of China
Written by Trey Archer on November 09, 2015.
At the time of writing, the yuan is at 6.34 to the greenback, which is not great news for expats working in China. In mid-August 2015, after several months of relatively steady performance, the yuan’s value against the dollar fell 4% from 6.2 to more than 6.4 over the course of just two days. Many expats watched their salaries nosedive in real terms nearly overnight, and have since started to wonder what they can do to stop this madness.
As an independent expat financial advisor, here are the answers to the questions I have been asked many times by worried clients over the last few months on the subject of the depreciating yuan:
Should I exchange my RMB into another currency?
According to an August 24 Bloomberg financial report, “The yuan will fall to 6.5 against the dollar by the end of this year and 6.9 at the end of 2016, bringing it close to a 10% devaluation.” Some Chinese bankers have even predicted that it could reach 1:8 by the end of next year!
While opinions differ on just how far the yuan will fall, economists seem pretty unequivocal that the outlook in the short term is pretty bleak. So yes, I would certainly recommend that those with large amounts held in yuan exchange at least a portion of it into a reserve currency. Even if you plan on living in China forever, it is still a good idea to hold a portion of your savings in USD, GBP or EUR to protect against further devaluation and future devaluations.
What are the best ways to get money out of China?
There are numerous ways to go about this, but two of the quickest and easiest are a) creating an offshore bank account and/or b) using a currency transfer agency.
Offshore bank accounts are perfect for expats since they allow you to exchange and keep your money in a tax free, secure jurisdiction. Contrary to the image portrayed in Hollywood movies, you don’t have to be a multi-millionaire to open one. In reality it is very similar to opening a bank in your home town and much easier than opening one at a Chinese bank. Transferring money from China to your offshore account is also a breeze, and most banks even have 24/7 online banking and an English-speaking support staff to assist you.
For transferring and converting amounts larger than 15,000 USD (or the equivalent) into your offshore account and/or home bank account, currency transfer agencies are the way to go. Local banks impose a 500 USD (or equivalent value) per day ceiling when exchanging RMB to other currencies and anyone who has made transfers through them knows just how agonizing it can be dealing with the authorities over security issues. Using a currency transferring agency or offshore bank will eliminate these migraines.
How long should I wait?
You shouldn’t! I advise you to act immediately to avoid making further losses. A friend who recently relocated back to the US after living in China for many years learned the hard way the perils of waiting. The sizeable nest egg she had accumulated in RMB was not quite so sizeable once the currency was devalued by 4% in August; she was kicking herself for not making the transfer earlier. To make matters worse, she used a Chinese bank and incurred outrageous transfer fees. All in all she ended up losing thousands of dollars as a result of these two oversights.
If you take my advice, you can save your RMB from death by devaluation and also protect your savings from fluctuations in currency markets. The ball is in your court, so take action before it’s too late!
For more information on setting up an international bank account and/or using an international currency transfer service, get in touch by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.