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: 2139

Latest Articles

To Bail, or Bail out… that is the question.

I'm really disturbed by what's happening in Alabama.

You've probably heard-- Jefferson County/Birmingham's board of knucklehead politicians has managed to drive local finances into the ground over the last few years. Faced with unserviceable debt and a string of large losses from complex derivative instruments, the county is effectively bankrupt.

The good news is that the government is being forced to make deep, deep budget cuts, including 'essential services.'  Personally, I have no[...] Click here to continue reading

You are safe in Colombia

I know what you're thinking.

"Why the hell would he be in Colombia?"

I get that a lot.  The vast majority of the world only knows two things about Colombia-- drugs and terrorism (though in all fairness, 'one man's freedom fighter...')

People recall hearing about kidnappings, lawlessness, and of course that scene from Clear and Present Danger... that must be the reality in Colombia, right?

Wrong. To think that cartels and[...] Click here to continue reading

Cost of Living in Bogota, Colombia

A sample of basic household items in case you are wondering what is the cost of living in Bogota, Colombia--

All prices have been converted to US Dollars at 2,000 Colombian Pesos (COP) per dollar.

Cost of living in Bogota, Colombia as of August 2009 @ 2,000 Colombian Pesos (COP) / Dollar

Apples, 6-pack: COP 5,210 = $2.60
Bananas: COP 700/500g = $0.31 / lb
Beef, flatiron: COP 13,800/kg = $3.13/lb
Beef,[...] Click here to continue reading

Weekly updates

Greetings! I'm going to dive right into the questions from this week:

== TRANSPORTING GOLD OUT OF THE COUNTRY ==

I appreciate all the comments and anecdotes in response to Tuesday's letter about my run-in with TSA. . Based on the questions I received, there are a couple of things that should be clarified:

1) In most cases (see below), you don't have to tell the US government that you're leaving the[...] Click here to continue reading

Panama’s real estate market

It was a nice enough place... about 1500 square feet, 3 bedrooms, nicely furnished, and even had a sliver of an ocean view. Best of all, it wasn't in gringo-ville.

"How much rent are they asking?" I posed to the real estate agent who was fawning closely on my heels. He reeked of tobacco and his alligator skin shoes still seemed to breathing.

Pausing for a moment to review his mental inventory, he[...] Click here to continue reading

The Chinese Gold Market

I've been spending a lot of time this week talking to my sources in China, one of whom is inside one of the country's sovereign wealth funds (SWF).

He could not discuss the details of the Rio Tinto bribery scandal, but indicated that it was far more about saving face and establishing position than anything else.

He also indicated that the SWF analysts were working around the clock trying to put deals together...[...] Click here to continue reading

The Capital of Latin America

For Latin Americans, Miami has been a lot of things-- the major financial center, the cultural Mecca, prime tourist destination, the business capital, and a symbol of international success.

The city made its riches and opportunities available to all nationalities, reaching the point during the most recent real estate boom where one could become financially successful and never speak a word of English.

Truly, Miami was a frontier island between North and South,[...] Click here to continue reading

Weekly update

I'm taking a quick break in Miami to see friends and family before heading down south again to dive head first into a large, complicated, and very exciting business dealing... so next week I will be writing to you from Panama once again.

While I am in Panama I plan on putting the finishing touches on the Black Paper that I have mentioned before-- this will be a "who's who" list of banks, brokers,[...] Click here to continue reading

“Theirs”

Did you ever notice that when you put the words "The" and "IRS" together it spells "Theirs" ? How appropriate.

One of "Theirs" initiatives that I pay attention to is its voluntary disclosure program. This program provides steps for people who have not reported overseas income (and bank accounts) to come clean without criminal penalty.

Recently I found out that more people have come forward to confess their sins under the program guidelines[...] Click here to continue reading

My China insider

It's no secret that China is already starting to dominate the world economy.

Understanding the country, its culture, and its economic infrastructure, however, is a daunting task, particularly for outsiders.  Official reports and media accounts are hardly worth basing an investment opinion on-- it's critical to have boots on the ground.

I have spent a fair amount of time in the country and built up a list of valuable contacts who live and[...] Click here to continue reading

Cost effective first class travel

I'm going to let you in on a few secrets.

I've learned through a great deal of experience over the last several years about travel.  People often ask me about my travel habits because I do so much of it... and one of the common questions I get is "How much do you spend each year on travel???"

Honestly... quite a bit. But I recognize that my travel breadth and frequency is abnormal. [...] Click here to continue reading

Dispatch notes from Poland

Travel mishaps occur from time to time... though the airline completely losing my reservation is a new one for me.

I was all set to leave Europe a few days ago when a rather unfortunate 'booking oversight' derailed my plans for spending the weekend in New York City.  In this case, I was 'stuck' in Poland.

Not to worry-- I realized at the airport that, despite having spent over a week here in[...] Click here to continue reading

Weekly update

LATVIA / SWEDISH BANKS


The link between the fate of Latvia and the stock price of Sweden's major banks became even more apparent this week.  On Monday, Latvia's government announced that it had rejected a bailout deal with the IMF, spurring new concerns of devaluation.

In response, investors sold off shares of Sweden's Swedbank to the tune of a 5% decline.  The market sees these two parties as inextricably linked: as Latvia[...] Click here to continue reading

Storing gold in Austria

As much as I love the city, I'm here in Vienna today on a mission-- gold storage.  After yesterday's missive about Panamanian safety deposit boxes, I thought it appropriate to follow-up with a couple of strong solutions for offshore gold storage, and Austria certainly fits the bill.

First of all, if you love mountains, you definitely need to check out Austria. The Austrian Alps command some of the most breathtaking views in the world,[...] Click here to continue reading

Important Panama banking update

Something is afoot in Panama that I want to tell you about.

Several banks, including Banvivienda and HSBC, have recently announced that they will discontinue renting safety deposit boxes.  Customers who currently rent boxes will have until the end of the year to vacate their belongings.

Furthermore, some banks that formerly used to work with US customers, including Banco General, Credicorp, and Global Bank, will no longer open accounts for Americans unless they[...] Click here to continue reading

About that Croatian commando…

Remember that Croatian commando-turned-entrepreneur from dinner last night?

Well it turns out he's an aerobatic stunt pilot too... he's got an old Soviet-made aircraft that is only designed to do one thing-- be as unstable as possible. It does the trick.

This morning around 11am Central European Time, we met at a private airfield outside of Zagreb. He strapped me in to the cockpit, took me up to about 2,500 feet, and proceeded[...] Click here to continue reading

A late dinner in Zagreb

Croatia, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and the drive down here has been spectacular.  From Budapest, the drive to Croatia took me south along highway M7, which arcs gently across Hungary's rolling hills and hot springs.

But what brings me here is not the beauty of the drive, nor the sun-seeking Europeans on vacation... I came to town to visit a friend of mine who has[...] Click here to continue reading

This currency is overvalued

Burgers make better economic indicators than official statistics ever could.

As I travel, I typically perform an informal price study of my own basket of consumer goods-- a loaf of bread, a pack of cigarettes, a liter of petrol, and a handful of... non-family friendly wares.

This is the type of information that is most valuable for me because, everything else equal, goods of similar quality should cost the same around the world.
[...] Click here to continue reading

The Truth About Nationalized Healthcare

Nationalized healthcare doesn't work, and I'll tell you why:

I hold as my personal mantra in life that governments screw up everything they touch... and this goes for all governments, not just the United States Congress.

As I travel the world looking for great opportunities, I always try to understand the quality and efficiency of the local healthcare system. Sometimes I even go through it myself.  My conclusion? Most, if not all public[...] Click here to continue reading

What I am doing in Poland

Poland-- it's a beautiful, inexpensive country with a stable economy, gorgeous women, and fantastic food... so what am I doing here exactly?

Looking for citizenship.

The country has been dominated, broken apart, and put back together so many times, Poland actually has multiple nationality laws on the books for former migrants, refugees, and their descendants to reclaim citizenship.  The government recognizes that many Poles were coerced to give up their citizenship, or they[...] Click here to continue reading

Friday Mailbag

All- there were a lot of great comments and questions this week, I will review several here:

LATVIA

Excellent insights on Latvia and the way to trade the devaluation. Johan from Sweden asks if we are too late shorting Sweden's banks. I think not, and here's why:

Swedbank, one of the largest Swedish banks in Latvia, posted a 2 billion kronor ($250 million) second quarter loss just hours ago, compared to the[...] Click here to continue reading

What’s your breaking point?

You probably know the story of the boiling frog.

The premise is simple.  If a frog is placed in a pot of water that is already boiling, it will immediately sense danger and jump out, relatively unscathed. If it is placed in a pot of cool water, the frog will happily stay in the pot while it is slowly heated to a boil.  By the time the frog realizes the danger, it is too[...] Click here to continue reading

Four reasons to short Sweden

A final note on Latvia today before I put the Baltics to bed for now--

Yesterday I argued that Latvia is definitely headed for devaluation, and that European governments are practically bending over backwards to make sure we know about it.

In comments yesterday, the astute Mr. Marriott pointed out that the grey economy is now flourishing in Latvia; this is undeniably true, and we see evidence of dark economies around the world[...] Click here to continue reading

You Can Profit from this Country’s Devaluation

Yesterday I talked about the demise of the Latvian economy and how it will foretell the future of California. Today I want to talk about the opportunity I see to profit from it.

I have seen the face of crisis before, both in the military and as a civilian. But rarely have I seen such a well-telegraphed money making opportunity to profit from crisis.

Sure, there are a lot of cheap assets in[...] Click here to continue reading

Paul Krugman is wrong

I found out this weekend that Paul Krugman is wrong about Latvia.

For months, mainstream luminaries like Krugman have been telling me that Latvia is the next Argentina, and that the country is on the verge of economic collapse... wait, stop-- what does this even mean? Have the lights suddenly gone out? is the garbage is piling up in the streets? has McDonalds stopped selling Big Macs?

Since I was already close by[...] Click here to continue reading

Mailbag: Answering your questions

Greetings-- lots of questions this week so I'm going to jump right into it:
MARK NESTMANN INTERVIEW

Thanks for the emails and comments from yesterday's Nestmann interview, I'll try to do more things like this... and thanks to Matt for doing such a great job on the interview. The most common question was whether there is a great book like Nestmann's Lifeboat Strategy specifically for Canadians.

We asked Mark, and he said[...] Click here to continue reading

Low hanging fruit investment opportunities

Making money is large part of achieving independence and living free.

In my own life, I focus on select entrepreneurial ventures to generate capital, and specific investments which subsequently grow that capital. My investment habits might be best described as 'peculiar,' because, believe it or not, I do not have a strong risk tolerance when it comes to my money:

- I only invest in instruments that I fully understand (or someone I[...] Click here to continue reading

Mailbag: Answering your questions

Today I wanted to get down to the business of answering some of your questions from earlier this week:

First of all, I apologize if I failed to make things clear when I started this letter: I am no longer part of Without Borders; Notes from the Field is not affiliated with Casey Research or Without Borders.  Furthermore, Notes is free and not tied to any other subscription that you might have.

LITHUANIA:
[...] Click here to continue reading

Lithuania: There will be blood

Yesterday I wrote to you about Lithuania and all the great things it has to offer-- it's inexpensive, has second citizenship, a low flat tax, and beautiful women.  These are all great reasons to visit from time to time (and obtain a passport if you are so fortunate), but today I want to tell you why you should not invest any money here, at least not for now.

I don't trust Russia.

Last[...] Click here to continue reading

Lithuania: the good

About a month ago I was attending a private, invitation-only meeting with some of the finest unconventional minds in finance. We gathered for three days at a luxurious oceanside resort on the Maryland coast to have an open exchange of ideas, debate our philosophies, and play poker 'til dawn.  Lobo Tigre, editor of the International Speculator and my former colleague at Casey Research, approached me with an interesting proposition on the last day.

For[...] Click here to continue reading

Argentina is still doomed

Argentina is still doomed.

If you don't know Argentine politics well, I'll give you a quick history: the country has vast natural resource wealth and was once one of the richest in the world. It has been serially run by a group of incompetents ever since the Perons first came to power after World War II.  After years of military dictatorship, several revolutions,  and a crippling financial crisis, Argentina has never regained its status[...] Click here to continue reading

Anarchists in Helsinki

This always happens to me.

Whether in Buenos Aires, Beirut, Rome, Bangkok, Zurich, or now Helsinki, I always seem to get caught up in some sort of protest.  To be honest, I love protests... I think it's great when people finally have enough of the system and demonstrate their unwillingness to continue going along with government policies. This happens frequently in other parts of the world, and the less developed the country, the more[...] Click here to continue reading

Today I confessed my sins to Uncle Sam

Today I confessed my sins to Uncle Sam.

No, I'm not talking about anything sinister. But in a mad dash through a US stopover today, I dropped US Treasury form TDF-90 in the mail:  "Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts."

It went something like this:

"Forgive me uncle for I have sinned. May last confession was April 15th. Here is all the information on my foreign bank accounts, including those for[...] Click here to continue reading

Panama’s Achilles Heel

We have a really intelligent group here.

All the comments from yesterday, plus the dozens of private emails I received, underscore one of the big reasons why I do this in the first place-- to build a community for like-minded, sharp, successful people who are lions instead of sheep... bold winners who think outside the box and take action instead of find excuses.

The comments were spot-on, even the one about the massage[...] Click here to continue reading

More from Panama

I've always loved the women here.

There I said it. I'm only human.

To be honest, this is one of the great things about living free overseas, and I don't just mean romance; when I'm outside of the United States, I have access to a completely different caliber of people-- both expats and locals.

The expats that I come across on my travels have all been exceptional individuals who share a common[...] Click here to continue reading