Posts by Simon Black

Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter Notes from the Field is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom, make more money, keep more of it, and protect it all from bankrupt governments.

  • First post: 16/06/2009
  • Posts written: 1814

Latest Articles

079: How we could see Facebook, Apple and Amazon fall 20% in a single day

In today’s podcast, Sovereign Man’s Chief Investment Strategist Tim Staermose joins me to talk about the risks in today’s market…

We cover the rise of passive investing, and why we think it could cause chaos when the market turns – with some of the biggest and most popular stocks (like Apple and Amazon) falling 10% or 20% in a day.

We also discuss the massive amount of debt in the system today[...] Click here to continue reading

This billionaire’s “$5 million test” will make you a way better investor

In 1982, a man named Jim Tisch bought seven supertankers for $42 million. He found them by cold calling companies he found in the Yellow Pages.

Yes, $42 million is a lot of money… but these tankers were each four football fields long. That’s a lot of steel. And they could carry between 2-3 million barrels of oil.

And these ships were built just eight years earlier at a cost of $50 million[...] Click here to continue reading

Own this currency [no, it’s not a cryptocurrency]

With the nearly daily moves to record highs among the hundreds of cryptocurrencies that currently exist, talking about ‘regular’ currencies seems about as out-of-fashion as that hideous shoulder pad trend from the 1980s.

[Millennial readers: see here if you’re confused.]

But there are actually a few currencies out there worth talking about right now.

And top among them, especially for anyone holding US dollars, is the Hong Kong dollar.

The Hong[...] Click here to continue reading

Here’s how people get fooled into buying bankrupt companies

In 1906, American entrepreneur William T. Grant opened his very first “W.T. Grant Co 25 cent store” in a small town outside of Boston.

The store became popular and fairly profitable. So Grant opened another. And another.

Three decades later, Grant’s retail empire was generating $100 million in sales (an enormous sum back then). And by the time of Grant’s death in 1972, there were over 1,000 stores bearing his name.

[...] Click here to continue reading

The one way governments could actually kill Bitcoin

Something pretty miraculous happened recently.

It appears that Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, went nearly TWO WEEKS without bashing Bitcoin.

This must be a record for Mr. Dimon, who seems to have barely been able to last an hour without calling out Bitcoin as a “fraud”, or a refuge for criminals and North Koreans.

Mr. Dimon finally broke his Zen-like meditative silence late last week, once again returning to[...] Click here to continue reading

078: Eating used coffee grounds for breakfast and black-market cash deals with taxi drivers

Today’s Notes is a bit different…

I recorded a conversation I had with my colleague Sean Goldsmith about my recent travels to Venezuela. I explain how I exchanged my US dollars on the black market for Bolivar (with a taxi driver I’d never met before)… and how the situation in Venezuela will get worse before it gets better. Plus, I share observations and stories of things I saw on the ground in one[...] Click here to continue reading

This is the craziest mortgage scheme I’ve ever seen

The Great Financial Crisis happened because Wall Street was financing homes for people who couldn’t afford them.

Leading up to the GFC, there was a voracious appetite from investors for “AAA”-rated mortgage debt. So lenders would make lots of loans to subprime borrowers and sell them to Wall Street. Wall Street would pool them together and one of the major ratings agencies (like Moody’s or Standard & Poor’s) would stamp the steaming pile of[...] Click here to continue reading

Strangely enough, Vanuatu proves why Bitcoin can never be banned

In the late 1500s, an Englishman named William Lee invented a revolutionary knitting machine that could efficiently do the work of dozens of men.

Given how important the garment industry was at the time in English, Lee’s invention was truly disruptive.

But Queen Elizabeth wasn’t so excited.

When Lee came to visit her to demonstrate the power of his new technology, the Queen grimaced, lamenting that the machine would put too many[...] Click here to continue reading

Science tells us this is all true

On April 30, 1934, under pressure from Italian-American lobby groups, the United States Congress passed a law enshrining Columbus Day as a national holiday.

President Franklin Roosevelt quickly signed the bill into law, and the very first Columbus Day was celebrated in October of that year.

Undoubtedly people had a different view of the world back then… and a different set of values.

Few cared about the plight of the indigenous[...] Click here to continue reading

The US government lost nearly $1 trillion in FY2017. Again

There was a time, centuries ago, that France was the dominant superpower in the world.

They had it all. Overseas colonies. An enormous military. Social welfare programs like public hospitals and beautiful monuments.

Most of it was financed by debt.

France, like most superpowers before (and after), felt entitled to overspend as much as they wanted.

And their debts started to grow. And grow.

By the eve of the French[...] Click here to continue reading

Investment advice from Paris Hilton

Angelina Umansky, a 39-year-old spa owner from San Francisco, was visiting a friend in Miami two weeks ago when she heard about a new condo development downtown.

Hoping to find a vacation home, but worried that others were interested, too, Ms. Umansky arrived at the sales office at 8 a.m. the day after seeing some model units.

About 50 other buyers were already in line. Two hours later, a sales agent summoned her[...] Click here to continue reading

Nightstick Democracy at its finest…

The last several days in Venezuela have been absolutely mind-blowing.

Pretty much all the stories you’ve heard are true-- countless people eating out of garbage cans, the appalling shortages of basic staples like food, medicine, and even soap… and the lines.

Oh boy, the lines.

The longest lines I saw, in fact, were not at grocery stores, but at banks.

Hundreds of people were queuing up, many of them to pull[...] Click here to continue reading

This is what $100 buys you in Venezuela

The gunfire on the streets near my hotel started around 9pm last night.

The sound is unmistakable, especially at night on an otherwise quiet city street.

I had recently returned to the hotel after a few evening meetings. And coming back after dark it was as if they had rolled the sidewalks up -- restaurants with no patrons, bars and clubs that were totally empty.

There was an incredibly striking[...] Click here to continue reading

On the ground in Venezuela: this country is being cut off from the rest of the world.

The first thing to understand about Venezuela today is that it’s becoming exceedingly difficult to even get here.

Or get out.

Nearly every major regional and international carrier has discontinued service to/from Caracas.

Due to safety concerns amid all the chaos and violence here, Lan Airlines in Chile (now merged with TAM in Brazil as Latin America’s biggest airline) no longer serves Venezuela.

Aerolineas Argentinas, based in Buenos Aires, stopped[...] Click here to continue reading

Update from Puerto Rico: People are running out of cash, ATMs aren’t working and groups of looters are posing as police

My friend Adam (not his real name) lives in Puerto Rico and sent me a startling update…

Adam and his family evacuated the island for the hurricane, but he’s been in close contact with his friends who stayed on the ground.

And the situation is bad.

According to his contacts on the ground, people in Puerto Rico are running out of cash. And ATMs aren’t working.

That’s[...] Click here to continue reading

Man caught smuggling 1 kilogram of gold in his rectum

Earlier today in Sri Lanka’s Colombo International Airport, a passenger was arrested by local authorities and found to have stuffed nearly $30,000 worth of gold into his rectum.

That’s nearly 1 kilogram of gold. In his ass.

The gold had been carefully wrapped in plastic and included four small bars and multiple chains of jewelry.

Airport police were tipped off when they noticed the 45-year old man “walking suspiciously.” No sh*t,[...] Click here to continue reading

077: The reason why ICOs have been going through the roof…

First it was Pets.com, and all the unbelievably stupid Internet businesses in the 1990s.

Investors were so eager to buy dot-com stocks, all you had to do was put an “e” in front of your business or product and you’d immediately be worth millions.

It didn’t matter that most of these companies didn’t make any money. Investors kept buying.

Later on after the dot-com bubble burst, another big craze developed in junior[...] Click here to continue reading

Today the music stops

Today’s the day.

After months of preparing financial markets for this news, the Federal Reserve is widely expected to announce that it will finally begin shrinking its $4.5 trillion balance sheet.

I know, that probably sound reeeeally boring. A bunch of central bankers talking about their balance sheet.

But it’s phenomenally important. And I’ll explain why-

When the Global Financial Crisis started in 2008, the Federal Reserve (along with just[...] Click here to continue reading

Advice from the trader who made $1+ billion in 1929…

[Editor’s note: This letter was co-written with Tim Price, co-founder of the VT Price Value portfolio and editor of Price Value International.]

In the late spring of 1720, Sir Isaac Newton decided to sell his stocks.

Newton had been an investor in the South Sea Company, a famous enterprise which effectively commanded a trading monopoly with South America.

The investment had already made Newton a lot of money, he was up more[...] Click here to continue reading

“If you were a drug dealer, a murderer. . .” open an account at JP Morgan

On Tuesday afternoon, Jamie Dimon, the CEO of banking giant JP Morgan, let loose on Bitcoin.

He was speaking at the Barclays Financial Services conference, and when asked whether his bank employs any Bitcoin traders, he responded-

“If we had a trader who traded Bitcoin, I’d fire them in a second,” calling any trader who deals in the cryptocurrency “stupid”.

He went on to say that Bitcoin is a “fraud” and “won’t[...] Click here to continue reading

Bubble? Tech companies “express themselves” through architecture

On August 2, 2004, Bank of America broke ground on its 2.2 million square foot, NYC headquarters – the Bank of America Tower.

The all-glass tower would rise 57 stories above midtown Manhattan, with a giant spire taking the height to 1,200 ft. It’s currently the fourth-tallest building in New York City, and it cost $1 billion.

The next year, investment bank Goldman Sachs broke ground on its $2.4 billion headquarters in downtown[...] Click here to continue reading

The real story behind America’s new $20 trillion debt

Late yesterday afternoon the federal government of the United States announced that the national debt had finally breached the inevitable $20 trillion mark.

This was a long time coming. It should have happened back in March, except that a new debt ceiling was put in place, freezing the national debt.

For the last six months it was essentially illegal for the government to increase the debt.

This is pretty brutal for Uncle[...] Click here to continue reading

With scumbags like this, it’s easy to understand why Bitcoin is at $4600…

File this one away under ‘utterly repulsive’.

As you probably heard, yesterday the US-based credit reporting agency Equifax announced a massive cyberattack that affects as many as 143 million consumers.

Names. Birth dates. Addresses. Social Security Numbers. Even some credit card numbers were stolen.

Literally over one third of the entire US population is at risk of identity theft now thanks to Equifax’s bungling.

Bear in mind this is the THIRD[...] Click here to continue reading

The world’s most powerful bank issues a major warning

In 1869, a 48-year old Jewish immigrant from the tiny village of Trappstadt in Germany’s Bavaria region hung a shingle outside of his small office in lower Manhattan to officially launch his new business.

His name was Marcus Goldman, and the business he started, what’s now known as Goldman Sachs, has become the preeminent investment bank in the world with nearly $1 trillion in assets.

They didn’t get there by winning any[...] Click here to continue reading

Why you might as well paint a giant bulls-eye on your bank account

Vegetarians be forewarned… you won’t like what follows.

We slaughtered a pig yesterday at the farm. I have two freezers full of pork now, and countless strips of bacon curing in the kitchen.

I’ve written about this before-- out here at the farm I’m able to organically produce almost everything that I eat... meat, eggs, rice, nuts, and just about every kind of fruit and vegetable imaginable. A lot of it gets canned[...] Click here to continue reading

China lets some air out of the ICO bubble

Earlier today the government of China banned ICOs-- initial coin offerings.

We talked about ICOs last week-- it’s the latest application of cryptofinance technology for companies to raise capital without having to rely on traditional methods like banks, brokers, and venture capital firms.

Through an ICO, any company can raise money by selling ‘tokens’ to investors, who typically pay with cryptocurrency like Ether or Bitcoin.

And those tokens normally represent shares in[...] Click here to continue reading

There’s literally a ‘token’ called F*ck that’s up 370% in the last 24-hours

I vividly remember having a conversation several years ago with a woman about her real estate investments in the United States.

It must have been around 2005 or 2006… the peak of the property bubble.

She was a psychologist from somewhere in the midwest, telling me about how she was flipping off-plan condominiums in Florida.

Basically she would put money down to secure a condo unit in a building before it[...] Click here to continue reading

Where there’s [almost] “blood in the streets” in America today…

In the spring of 1871 after a miserable defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, Paris plunged into a major crisis as local citizens revolted against the government.

Financial markets went berserk as a result, and the prices of French government bonds plummeted.

There’s an old story that an heir to a large fortune came calling to the offices of the Rothschild banking family looking for investment advice.

According to accounts republished several[...] Click here to continue reading

The average American had a bigger savings account… in 1997!

Quite literally as a I write these words to you, the heads of the world’s largest central banks are packing their bags and heading home after a three-day symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Central bankers aren’t exactly mega-celebrities, so their conferences don’t make international news outside of financial circles.

But if people understood what was at stake, they’d probably pay more attention.

Central bankers wield totalitarian authority over their nations’ interest rates.
[...] Click here to continue reading

Negative interest rates have come to America

One of the truly mind-boggling absurdities in modern finance has been the creation of ‘negative interest rates’ around the world.

Negative interest rates are particularly prominent in Europe.

Starting back in 2014, the European Central Bank (ECB) slashed its main interest rate to below zero.

One bizarre effect of this policy is that some banks have passed on these negative interest rates to their retail depositors.

This trend has persisted across[...] Click here to continue reading

Here’s a FANTASTIC security tool you should really know about

Chances are you probably use a cloud service to store at least a portion of your files.

Dropbox. iCloud. Microsoft’s OneDrive. Mega. Box.

There’s so many of them these days. And a few of them, like Switzerland-based Tresorit, focus heavily on privacy and security to keep your data safe.

But let’s be honest-- privacy is definitely not a top priority among most of the top cloud providers.

Dropbox states right on[...] Click here to continue reading

Here’s how the next recession begins

In 1886 there were only 38 states in the United States.

Electric power was still cutting edge technology that few people had ever seen.

The Statue of Liberty hadn’t even been dedicated yet.

But it was that year that a man named Richard Sears founded a small retail company in Minneapolis, Minnesota that would grow into a retail juggernaut.

Sears was truly the Amazon of its day.

Even in the[...] Click here to continue reading

You stand a higher chance of being crushed by a vending machine.

There’s something I’ve always found mesmerizing about watching animals in the wild.

They have the most incredible instincts, honed from countless generations of survival against constant threats.

Animals have a keen sense of danger. They know immediately when something doesn’t feel right, and they act on it without hesitation.

I saw an incredible example of this last year when I was visiting a remote wildlife reservation in Zimbabwe.

It was late[...] Click here to continue reading

Here’s how a few government pension funds are trying to close their $7 trillion funding gap

There may perhaps be no other group of investors that’s more DESPERATE today than pension funds.

Pensions, of course, are the giant funds responsible for paying out retirement benefits to workers.

The idea is that both the employer and the employee typically contribute a set percentage of the employee’s salary throughout his or her career with the promise that, upon retirement, he or she will receive a fixed monthly payment.

Many state[...] Click here to continue reading

The new American Dream: rent your home from a hedge fund.

About a month ago I joined the Board of Directors of a publicly-traded company that invests in US real estate.

The position brings a lot of insight into what’s happening in the US housing market. And from what I’m seeing, the transformation that’s taking place today is extraordinary.

Buying and renting out single-family homes has long been the mainstay investment of small, individual investors.

The big banks and hedge funds pretty much[...] Click here to continue reading