The siren songs offshore

Overseas economies offer exciting investments, but take care when choosing a fund manager
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Investing overseas - particularly emerging markets such as the Asian "tiger" economies - can be an attractive way to make your savings grow. The theory is simple: in countries with faster economic growth than Europe and the US, your money will grow more quickly. But before you reach for your cheque book, consider the three Rs: returns, risk, and regulation.

Emerging markets offer the prospect of high returns - but many of them are highly volatile; share prices move much more dramatically than they do in Europe.

While it would be an exaggeration to say that they offer every possible outcome, from making a fortune to losing your shirt, you must be prepared to invest for the long term - giving time to smooth out the peaks and troughs. And it is probably wise to keep some of your capital in an easily accessible form in case of emergency, to avoid selling out at the wrong time.

It's also important to understand the distinction between international investment (in which you entrust your money to a fund manager, who invests it overseas) and offshore investment, in which your money is managed outside the UK. So it's beyond the immediate reach of the tax man - but it's also beyond the reach of the investors' compensation scheme.

The confusion arises because many funds which invest in emerging markets are, for tax reasons, themselves based offshore - in Dublin, the Channel Islands or further afield.

Be prudent: look closely at a fund manager's track record, investment strategy and financial strength before you hand over your money

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