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: 2174

Latest Articles

Guns and Fortune Cookies

The sight of nuclear missiles being paraded down the street in a perfectly crisp formation is simultaneously revolting and awe-inspiring.  Yet the Chinese government knew exactly what it was doing when it orchestrated its most prominent display of military hardware in the middle kingdom's history.

This week is China's biggest holiday week of the year, celebrating 'National-day,' when Mao's communist revolutionaries took control of the country.  The government  kicked off festivities earlier this week[...] Click here to continue reading

The window is closing

I need to start off today's missive with an important update. Last month I wrote a few articles about something that I believe is an absolute no-brainer if you have retirement savings-- setting up a self-directed IRA.

Most retirement savings plans are locked in to a handful of investment options-- employees are forced to make a selection among four or five choices, most of which are poorly managed funds run by the same institutions[...] Click here to continue reading

Gold, China, and the dollar

While I was en route to China, somewhere over the Sea of Japan, gold hit a record high on 'concerns' about the long-term value of the dollar.

Frankly, 1974 was probably the time to be 'concerned' about the long-term value of the dollar.  The remaining institutional investors who are only now finding reasons to be concerned about the dollar are probably the same ones that thought Ford and Fannie Mae were bargains last year.
[...] Click here to continue reading

Could it BE any more obvious?

Stunned.

That was the word used to describe the aghast crowds gathered in Chicago this past Friday upon hearing the news that their beloved city had been passed over for the 2016 games by the International Olympic Committee.

Based on the poll numbers, most Chicagoans (and Americans for that matter) were confident that they would be selected over the other finalist candidate cities-- Rio, Tokyo, and Madrid.

Why? Because they were convinced[...] Click here to continue reading

It’s all about who you know…

Network
Apparently I've been traveling too much, because I was recently caught out of the loop.

On Wednesday I published an article about Panama's Resolution 52; the law effectively makes it illegal for landlords to rent property in Panama for less than 1-year.

I predicted in the letter that, based on the past track record of Panama's National Assembly, the law would be repealed shortly due to significant pressure from the real estate industry[...] Click here to continue reading

Why US real estate is still heading south

Years ago, in my early 20s, I had my first taste of investment success.  I wish I could dazzle you with a great story about a goldmine in the jungle or negotiating land rights with warlords... Unfortunately, no. All that would come later.

Rather, my first deal was a set of very plain brick apartments on the wrong side of the railroad tracks.  They weren't very sexy, but I was able to pick them[...] Click here to continue reading

Panama: Don’t let this law affect your decision

I've received a few questions recently about a piece of legislation recently passed in Panama known as Resolution 52.

A bit of background-- the construction boom and ensuing real estate bubble for Panama City condominiums lasted from 2003 until approximately 2007.  Tens of thousands of units were designed and sold off-plan to speculators, usually months before the developers broke ground.

Speculators were buying up pre-construction units so quickly that developers were encouraged to[...] Click here to continue reading

Why you need an offshore email account

Last month, a Wyoming bank employee was routinely emailing some loan documents to a customer's personal Gmail account. It sounds like a simple enough task, yet somehow the employee made an enormous error.

Not only did he erroneously attach a file to the email that included the names, addresses, tax IDs, and loan information for 1,325 customers, but he sent it to the wrong Gmail address!

We've all been there... victims of our[...] Click here to continue reading

Panama and the OECD

"We are very concerned with what's happening in Panama, or to put it another way, what's not happening."

-- Jeffrey Owens, director of the OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration

Earlier this month, a group of tax commissioners, finance ministers, and NGO representatives descended upon Los Cabos, Mexico for the 5th annual "Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information" sponsored by our friends at the OECD.

You will[...] Click here to continue reading

“X”

First of all I really appreciate all of your thoughts and comments this week; I would definitely encourage you to spend a few minutes reading the comments on 'Give me Liberty or Give me Boarding Pass' posted on Tuesday.

One question in particular that I would like to address came from Amanda:

"Simon aren’t foreign governments even more likely to seize foreigner’s assets since they have no votes to lose?"



[...] Click here to continue reading

What capital controls in the United States will look like

Roughly $100 billion.

Even in today's world where politicians throw out the word 'trillion' as if it were a casual dinner garnish, $100 billion is still a lot of money... especially when you're desperate to sustain glimmers of economic growth and trying to plug a budget shortfall that amounts to 13% of GDP.

And yet, roughly $100 billion is exactly what got sucked out of the United States in July by foreigners: "Net[...] Click here to continue reading

Give me liberty or give me boarding pass

I'm in the United States through the end of next week out of necessity... I need to tie up some loose ends (read: taxes!).  Once I get my confession mailed out to Uncle Sam, I'll be out the door once again.

Whenever I am in the United States, I always think deep thoughts about liberty. This place has changed so much since I was a child that it is hardly recognizable.

When people[...] Click here to continue reading

Three ways to diversify out of the dollar

Updated 9/23/2009 (thanks JES)

People ask me this question a lot-- what's the best way to diversify US dollar holdings into other currencies?

Well, 'best' is certainly relative... I prefer commodities and precious metals as a way to protect my savings, but I can't exactly pay my American Express bill with the bullion that I have locked away in South America.

Living in the 21st century among our modern conveniences nearly requires[...] Click here to continue reading

A loophole at the border

He was brown.

A few inches shy of 6 feet tall and well-dressed in a tailored suit, my guess was that he was of Lebanese origin given his easy command of French, English, and Arabic... but regardless, he was standing in the US citizen line at the airport immigration checkpoint.

I don't know exactly what was said between the man and the border patrol agent, but the encounter was brief; within 30-seconds he[...] Click here to continue reading

Confused about China?

"Dear Simon- Jeff Clark from Growth Stock Wire recently wrote that 'China is a fraud' and that 'If Americans aren’t buying big-screen TVs or $100 sneakers, Chinese stocks are ultimately headed for trouble.'  I would like your opinion on his view."
Great question. I like Jeff Clark and generally agree with his analysis... but like I said in Monday's essay, I am puzzled that a few notable figures in the financial community are bearish on[...] Click here to continue reading

Asia has decoupled

I'm flipping through channels at 1am here in Seoul, and do you know what I see? Math problems-- nutty professors, Korean-style, working out complex partial differential equations and geometric progressions with the intensity and flair of a concert pianist.

In fact, it's not just one channel... it's five, roughly 20% of the entire late night channel line-up.

When you think about it, this makes perfect sense. South Korea, once dismissed as an Asian[...] Click here to continue reading

Gold mania in China

Gold is quickly reaching the mania phase in China, and there are clear signs of it on the ground.

About a month ago, we reported that for the first time ever, the Chinese government is promoting gold and silver as investments.  And by "promoting," we meant cramming it down people's throats.

We knew this was ground-breaking news at the time-- a clear indication of long-term demand growth, as well as a sign that[...] Click here to continue reading

Where to make a fortune in China

If you're an entrepreneur and want to make an absolute fortune, you need to head to Asia.

The last several weeks on the ground here have only reinforced my long-held premise that Asia's economies represent vast, wide open potential.  These economies are growing, and shall continue to grow thanks to solid macroeconomic fundamentals like a large pool of savings, lack of reliance on credit, and dual trade/budget surpluses.

Nowhere is this more clear[...] Click here to continue reading

China’s growth is real

There are a lot of people in the financial community, including a few notable figures, that are highly bearish if not outright suspect of China's growth.

I'm always puzzled by this opinion. I've been to the country several times before and keep regular tabs with influential players and insiders, and my own assessment has always been quite positive on the country.

This trip, though, was specifically designed to check my premise and make[...] Click here to continue reading

Work with me 1 on 1

"Simon - Are you ever available for a consult? I have several business related questions I would like to review."

Each day, without fail, people ask if they can hire me to help them with their problems... these are usually unique in nature ranging from "I want to liquidate and move somewhere" to "can you help raise money for my business" to "do you know anyone in the woodchip industry in Burma..."

I[...] Click here to continue reading

Asia’s best kept secret

Today I found out first hand how much Chinese are looking to avoid taxes.

I attended a conference today sponsored by the government of Labuan, Malaysia at the Grand Hyatt here in Shanghai.  Labuan is Asia's newest financial center, and the government there is heavily courting wealthy Chinese investors and businesses to migrate their capital.
There are a lot of rich Chinese businessmen who are looking for a way to reduce their tax burden,[...] Click here to continue reading

Hong Kong Gold

In full disclosure, I am heavily biased.  Hong Kong is one of my favorite cities in the world.

Remember those '7 expat categories?' well, I am definitely a mix of several... maybe all. But Hong Kong ticks all the boxes for me, and always has-- I've been coming here for years and love it more every time.

To give you an example, I like having access to modern conveniences and the availability of[...] Click here to continue reading

Singapore financial overview

I've explored Singapore in the past, but on this particular trip I really wanted to broaden my understanding of the country's legal framework and financial infrastructure. With only 72-hours on the ground, I would have to work fast... so the trip was a whirlwind tour of bankers, lawyers, gold dealers, corporate secretaries, and international tax planners.

Here's the good news: Mission Accomplished. I learned far more than I expected, caught up with old connections,[...] Click here to continue reading

Why Jim Rogers is right about Singapore

Two years ago, Jim Rogers sold his New York home, packed his bags, and left for Singapore.  If you spend no more than three minutes on the ground here, you will see why.

For the internationalist, Singapore is as close to 'perfect' as could possibly be imagined:



1) It's clean. And I mean eat-off-the-streets clean.  Most big cities (Buenos Aires, New York, even Paris) feel like they need a good pressure[...] Click here to continue reading

Gold report: A free gift

I'm writing today from an extraordinarily beautiful place...

The infinity pool where I sit is perched atop an emerald-azul lagoon encased by rocky cliffs and pristine wildlife. It's dusk. and it's quiet.

The word "paradise" would come to mind if I could stop absorbing the beauty long enough to form a complete thought.



I'll give you a few hints... my undisclosed location is in the south Pacific. It's a small island[...] Click here to continue reading

Manila may be for you

Remember the 7 expat categories from last week?

Well I have to say that Manila is paradise for a few of them...

I come through here from time to time on business and it definitely ranks as one of my favorite places in Asia-- cheap, modern, relatively clean, but still with a hint of seedy underbelly to it.

I discussed the financial infrastructure yesterday; until recently, the Philippines had one of the[...] Click here to continue reading

Banking in the Philippines

With tax rates ranging from 5% to 35%, the Philippines can hardly be called a tax haven.

And yet, in a very public "guilty until proven innocent" attack several months ago, the OECD black listed the Philippines along with Uruguay, Malaysia, and Costa Rica.

The OECD is an aged, irrelevant organization comprised of mostly insolvent western nations; the organization has a penchant for bullying smaller countries into changing both their laws and local[...] Click here to continue reading

Your IRA: What to do right now

Maximizing the flexibility of your retirement account is an enormous untapped area of Low Hanging Fruit for US investors.

In fact, this might be the single easiest thing you can do right now to grow your retirement assets while shielding them from the lost decade yet to come.

With a properly structured, self directed IRA, you can gain complete control over your retirement funds, and, according to IRS rules, invest in anything other[...] Click here to continue reading

A Chinese Mega-trend

It normally takes me less than five minutes to pack, even for a three week trip.  In this case, though, I'm having a tough time-- too many climate zones in Asia, too many events. I need to cram SCUBA gear, beach clothes, professional attire, and formal wear all into one little suitcase...

... plus leave plenty of room for all the custom suits I'm going to have tailored.

I haven't been watching the[...] Click here to continue reading

Help me prepare for Asia

Sometimes I wake up and don't know what continent I'm on.

I'm serious.  It last happened a week ago when I woke up in the very elegant Cosmo 100 hotel in downtown Bogota... I had to look around the room for clues and within 60 seconds finally realized that I was in Colombia.

Most of the time this happens because of my travel frequency... it can be hectic sometimes-- 2 days here, 3[...] Click here to continue reading

Saving your savings overseas

I can barely type today... I'm actually one-handing it this morning. Why? Because my other hand is thrust victoriously in the air celebrating the renomination of Comrade Bernanke to his post at the Federal Reserve.

Yes, the man who has overseen the most unprecedented expansion of the central bank's balance sheet in history is going to get a few more years in the saddle.

As you know, I normally don't comment too much[...] Click here to continue reading

The 7 expat categories

People ask me this question all the time:

"Simon, I really want to leave the country, but where should I go?"

Quite literally, there is a world of possibilities out there, each full of richness and opportunity. But as you could imagine, it depends on what kind of person you are. What would be a great expat haven for some seems like a hellish nightmare to others.

Over the years I have[...] Click here to continue reading

Black Paper Launch— Plus, Answering your Questions..

I received quite a few interesting comments this week (many of which I kept private at the request of the sender).  Remember, posting a comment to the site is the best way to reach me: I read all of them personally. Email goes to support staff.

- SOLDIERS IN THE STREETS-

Kelly asked a great question on Tuesday-- is there any country in the world that has the total package?

Naturally, this[...] Click here to continue reading

This sector is in serious trouble

She works the graveyard shift at a Florida motel off Interstate 75... but she doesn't seem to mind much.  A rather buxom blond with more curves than hard angles, Stephanie would definitely be considered a "people's person" and enjoys meeting so many out-of-towners.

Friendly and outgoing, she's also incredibly smart... which is probably why she was such a great commercial real estate (CRE) agent.

Stephanie's story is typical of the industry. She quit[...] Click here to continue reading

This country can make you rich

I'll admit, even I was surprised.

When I think about Asia growth and investment opportunities, places like Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and even the Philippines come to mind.  But lately, in my regular discussions with key Asia contacts-- brokers, sovereign wealth fund analysts, etc., one place keeps coming up again and again.

Mongolia.

Mongolia is one of the largest, most resource rich countries in the world with a population smaller than Panama-- that's[...] Click here to continue reading