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: 1707

Latest Articles

The world’s first pension crisis

In the late in the 5th century BC, the government of ancient Rome came up with a new idea that has lasted for thousands of years.

I’m not talking about their roads, republican form of government, or water sanitation.

Their bold idea was to start paying retirement benefits to Roman soldiers.

This was a pretty big deal. In ancient times, you worked until you died. There was no such thing as retirement.
[...] Click here to continue reading

This guy has eight passports

A few weeks ago I caught wind of a guy who has citizenships from eight different countries.

This “octa-citizen” has passports from Canada, UK, Ireland, Belize, Grenada, Dominica, St. Kitts, and Cape Verde.

Let’s be honest-- that's probably way too many. But the concept of acquiring multiple nationalities is completely sound.

If you have one nationality, it means that a single government has total control over your life, your finances, your business,[...] Click here to continue reading

075: It’s time to start believing in the Impossible

I’ll start today with a confession: I’m an unabashed optimist.

I believe that this is one of the most exciting times in all of human history to be alive. And with good reason.

Think about it-- compared to thousands of years of violent warfare that ravaged most of the world’s major cities, we live in an era of relative peace.

Pockets of conflict will always exist. But right now there’s no major[...] Click here to continue reading

Just a quick reminder: the Federal Reserve is almost insolvent.

September 10, 2008 was one of the last “normal” days in the world of banking and finance.

That afternoon, the US Federal Reserve published its routine, weekly balance sheet report, indicating that the central bank had total assets worth around $925 billion.

Just a few days later, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, kicking off the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression.

And almost immediately the Fed launched a series of[...] Click here to continue reading

Nine years later, Greece is still in a debt crisis…

Sometimes you have to marvel at the absurdity of the financial universe in which we live.

On one side of the Atlantic, we have the United States of America, which triggered yet another debt ceiling disaster last Thursday when the US government’s maximum allowable debt reset to just over $20 trillion.

Of course, the US national debt is pretty much already at $20 trillion.

(That’s roughly $166,000 per taxpayer in the Land[...] Click here to continue reading

This new bubble is even bigger than the subprime fiasco

In 1988, a bank called Guardian Savings and Loan made financial history by issuing the first ever “subprime” mortgage bond.

The idea was revolutionary.

The bank essentially took all the mortgages they had loaned to borrowers with bad credit, and pooled everything together into a giant bond that they could then sell to other banks and investors.

The idea caught on, and pretty soon, everyone was doing it.

As Bethany McLean[...] Click here to continue reading

The “justice” system killed this guy for stealing $14

During the winter of 1796, a Frenchman named Eugene Francois Vidocq was sentenced to eight years of hard labor after being convicted of document forgery.

It was a remarkably harsh punishment for a non-violent crime, especially in Vidocq’s case as there was not even a victim.

Yet this took place during the chaos that ensued after the French Revolution. The scars from the Reign of Terror still remained.

Long sentences were typical,[...] Click here to continue reading

Demand for physical gold is collapsing

I serve on the Board of Directors of a large Singapore-based company that’s in the gold and silver business.

And, last night during our quarterly conference call, the management team gave me a lot of intriguing information.

Sales of physical gold and silver are collapsing across the entire industry.

At the US Mint, for example, sales of US Eagle gold coins fell by 67% between February 2016 versus February 2017.

And[...] Click here to continue reading

What do these CEOs know that we don’t?

Last night a good friend of mine came over for dinner.

He’s originally from Poland, and growing up there he heard a lot of bizarre stories about what it was like during the Nazi invasion and World War II.

In 1939, even as 1.5 million German soldiers prepared to invade, the general mood in Poland couldn’t have been more carefree.

My friend’s grandfather once told him that, just prior to the Nazi[...] Click here to continue reading

What’s next with America’s enormous $20T debt?

Thousands of years ago, as far back as 3000 BC, the ancient Egyptians had developed a highly advanced system of writing using hieroglyphic symbols.

The used hieroglyphs for numbers as well.

A single line, for example, represented the number 1. Two strokes represented 2. Nine strokes for the number 9.

Since the Egyptians had not yet invented the “zero” in 3000 BC, representing the number 10 required a new symbol-- a sort[...] Click here to continue reading

The US government now has less cash than Google

In the year 1517, one of the most important innovations in financial history was invented in Amsterdam: the government bond.

It was a pretty revolutionary concept.

Governments had been borrowing money for thousands of years… quite often at the point of a sword.

Italian city-states like Venice and Florence had been famously demanding “forced loans” from their wealthy citizens for centuries.

But the Dutch figured out how to turn government loans[...] Click here to continue reading

How one Silicon Valley entrepreneur lost his faith in the system

Today I’m going to introduce you to my friend Ben, easily one of the most unique, intelligent people I know.

I first met Ben at my summer Liberty and Entrepreneurship camp several years ago.

He had recently dropped out of Harvard after winning the prestigious Peter Thiel fellowship, which has an incredibly competitive selection rate of less than 1%.

He was working on an intriguing new business, and after conducting our own[...] Click here to continue reading

The most shocking revelation from the CIA spying scandal

It happened again-- another spying scandal in the Land of the Free.

Yesterday Wikileaks released 8,761 CIA documents detailing the agency’s hacking of smart phones, routers, computers, and even televisions.

These files reveal that the CIA can and has hacked devices that were supposedly secure-- iPhones, iPads, and Android devices.

The documents further reveal that the CIA is deliberately infecting personal computers with spyware, including Windows, Mac OS/X, Solaris, Linux, and other[...] Click here to continue reading

Here’s an example of a bank you want to avoid

A few weeks ago, one of our Europe-based Total Access members reached out to ask us about a bank account he was considering for his new business.

This is important stuff.

As I’ve written before, most people spend more time thinking about what they’re going to have for dinner than even considering whether or not their bank is safe.

In finance there’s hardly anything more critical.

Never forget that the moment[...] Click here to continue reading

Finding a safe bank that actually pays a solid interest rate

Probably around the time I was 12 years old, my parents opened up a bank account on my behalf.

Decades later, even though 99% of my assets are outside of the United States, I still maintain a small balance at that bank.

I appear to be suffering from some sort of bizarre financial nostalgia.

This morning I received an email from the bank informing me that they were increasing the interest rate[...] Click here to continue reading

How to earn a safe 10% return with minimal risk

This is total madness.

The European Central Bank (ECB) is currently in the midst of a ridiculous crusade to buy an unbelievable 2.3 TRILLION euros worth of European government debt.

In the ECB’s estimation, by conjuring trillions of euros out of thin air and using that money to buy the debt of bankrupt governments, they’ll engineer economic prosperity across the continent.

It’s genius!

The really sickening part about this scheme is[...] Click here to continue reading

Here’s one alternative, but it’s extremely unpopular

It’s my usual custom whenever I land at a major airport to stop by the rental car counters and inquire how much it costs to rent a vehicle.

For me this is a sort of informal, albeit imperfect, economic indicator.

High prices suggest strong demand from plenty of business travelers and tourists, which will likely have a positive economic impact.

Cheap prices, conversely, suggest that there’s something wrong.

Well, there’s definitely[...] Click here to continue reading

This is a potentially life-changing investment

Education is a potentially life-changing investment
Yesterday I wandered out to the hotel pool to cool down from my workout, only to find a handful of Americans in the midst of a screaming match.

There were 6 or 7 of them altogether. Some pro-Trump, others vehemently anti-Trump.

They were shouting… literally shouting… at one another about transgender bathrooms, Islam, Obamacare, the border wall, and just about every other trending topic in the Twitterverse.

The temper tantrum from both[...] Click here to continue reading

The US stock market is highly overvalued. Here’s why…

The US Stock Market is overvalued
This is really starting to get out of control.

No doubt you’re familiar with the S&P 500, the stock index that measures the performance of the largest US companies.

And as we’ve discussed before, one of the most important benchmarks in measuring whether stocks are overvalued or undervalued is the Price/Earnings, or P/E ratio.

Looking back through more than a century of financial data, the long-term average P/E ratio for the S&P[...] Click here to continue reading

Reconsider holding these Dividend Aristocrat Stocks

On May 23, 1719, one of the greatest financial bubbles in the history of the world kicked off when the Compagnie Perpetuelle des Indes was granted a monopoly by the French monarchy over all the trading rights of all French colonies worldwide.

The company’s stock price quickly soared, from 300 livres per share to more than 1,000 just a few months later.

It was quite a jump. But the enthusiasm continued for more[...] Click here to continue reading

This is a great option for anyone’s Plan B

It seems like every time I come to Panama now the first word that springs to mind is “impressive”.

I first traveled to Panama back in 2003… fourteen years ago.

I remember landing at Tocumen International Airport for the first time-- it was a depressing backwater that was barely functioning.

And on the way into town there was hardly any sign of civilization; everything seemed completely impoverished.

Basically Panama was just[...] Click here to continue reading

The biggest transformation story in the world

I’ve written before a number of times about the long laundry list of reasons why I base myself and most of my business operations in Chile.

I could go on forever about this, but in short the country presents an exceptional mix of business, investment, and lifestyle opportunities that are extremely difficult to find just about anywhere else in the world.

But people ask me a lot-- if not Chile, where else?

[...] Click here to continue reading

Boy was I wrong about this place…

In 1927, US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously wrote that “taxes are what we pay for civilized society.”

This quote is enshrined at the Internal Revenue Service, and it’s a rallying cry for people who constantly argue for higher taxes.

Almost everyone completely misunderstands what he meant.

First of all, tax rates in the United States were about 3.5% back in 1927, just a tiny fraction of what they are[...] Click here to continue reading

Fed president says US banks have “half the equity they need”

In a scathing editorial published in the Wall Street Journal today, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Neel Kashkari, blasted US banks, saying that they still lacked sufficient capital to withstand a major crisis.

Kashkari makes a great analogy.

When you’re applying for a mortgage or business loan, sensible banks are supposed to demand a 20% down payment from their borrowers.

If you want to buy a $500,000 home,[...] Click here to continue reading

World’s 2nd largest stockpile of gold leaves the United States

About 20 years ago when I was still a cadet at West Point, my economics professor organized a class trip to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The part of the trip that I remember most was touring the Fed’s high security vault, 80 feet below street level beneath the bank’s main office building downtown.

This vault houses the largest known depository of gold in the world.

None of that gold,[...] Click here to continue reading

Yes, money does grow on trees

If you’ve been a reader of this letter for any length of time, you may have noticed that I try to spend my weekends and free time at our farms in Chile.

I’m still on the road at least 6 months out of the year and travel to 30-40 different countries annually.

But when I’m not traveling or I’m not needed at our offices in Santiago, I go out of my way to[...] Click here to continue reading

The most successful investment strategy in the world

The most successful investment strategy in the world
Education is a BIG part of a having a Plan B… especially when it comes to money.

In light of the obvious risks that we discuss on a regular basis, safeguarding (and growing) our savings is absolutely critical.

Finance can be a little bit scary and seem quite complicated at first.

No one comes out of the womb a financial expert. And they certainly don’t teach this stuff in a government-controlled public[...] Click here to continue reading

World’s largest hedge fund manager predicts bleak future for markets

There are lots of famous investors and hedge fund managers who are legendary stock-pickers.

Warren Buffet is a great example.

Others are hard-core quantitative analysts who build complex trading algorithms.

Ray Dalio, the billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates, is neither.

He’s a macro investor whose fortune was built on an uncanny ability to spot big macro trends.

He predicted in 2007, for example, that the US housing bubble would burst,[...] Click here to continue reading

More unbelievable facts from the US government’s own financial reports

Yesterday I told you that the US government had recently released its annual financial report to the public.

And the numbers are pretty gruesome.

For example, the government’s “net loss” in fiscal year 2016 more than doubled, from MINUS $467 billion to MINUS $1 trillion.

It’s astonishing that anyone could manage to lose so much money, let alone in a year where devoid of major wars, recessions, financial crises, or infrastructure projects.
[...] Click here to continue reading

US government’s 2016 net loss “more than doubled” to NEGATIVE $1 trillion

Every year around this time the US federal government releases an annual financial report to the public.

It would be hilarious if the numbers weren’t actually true.

Just like Apple or Exxon, the government’s annual report contains several important financial statements and detailed commentary about their finances and operations.

But unlike Apple, Exxon, the government can’t manage to turn a profit. Ever.

According to this year’s report, the government’s net loss[...] Click here to continue reading

How I earned 16% in a single week

I don’t understand Snapchat.

I hate sounding like a grumpy old curmudgeon (I’m only 38!), but it’s true.

If you have kids, you may have seen Snapchat… or if you’re one of our many younger readers, you probably use it yourself.

I understand the basic premise-- people share photos with each other, and then add funny ‘filters’ that make them look like a dog with floppy ears.

Last summer at the[...] Click here to continue reading

Meanwhile, over in Zimbabwe. . .

On April 12, 2009, the government of Zimbabwe officially abandoned its currency.

You probably remember the stories; starting in the early 2000s, the Zimbabwe central bank began printing massive quantities of money in order for the government to make ends meet.

This resulted in one of the worst episodes of hyperinflation in modern history.

Zimbabwe’s rate of inflation in 2001 was more than 100%. Prices basically doubled.

But that was nothing.
[...] Click here to continue reading

See if you can flip this switch in your thinking

I’ve always been a big believer in entrepreneurship.

But not in the sense that most people think of that word.

My dictionary defines “entrepreneur” as “a person who organizes and operates a business, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.”

I think this definition is totally wrong.

Entrepreneurship doesn’t have anything to do with owning or starting a business, let alone taking on great risk.

[...] Click here to continue reading

This ancient city would still be among the wealthiest in the world today

In the year 440 BC, more than two decades into the reign of Pericles, an audit of treasury in Athens showed a massive surplus of more than 9700 “talents”.

A talent was a common unit of measurement in the ancient world, especially for gold and silver.

And, based on today’s precious metals prices and the traditional gold/silver ratio (14:1) used by the ancient Greeks, 9700 talents is equivalent to about $700 million today.
[...] Click here to continue reading

Not that there’s any inflation, but . . .

The numbers are pretty startling.

Nearly 7 in 10 Americans have less than $1,000 in savings.

1 out of every 3 Americans has nothing set aside for retirement.

And, according to Federal Reserve data, the median working-age couple has saved just $5,000 for retirement.

How is this even possible?

How could it be that the citizens of the wealthiest country to have ever existed in the history of the world[...] Click here to continue reading