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

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

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

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

Banking in Austria

Yesterday I was on a mission in Vienna to buy and store gold; today I was on another mission that is honestly quite sensitive, but I'm going to share it with you anyways.

Banking.

For years, Austria has been one of Europe's best destinations for 'private banking'-- professional wealth and asset management by conservative, responsible stewards who ensure that return on savings will beat the rate of inflation.

While Switzerland has closed[...] 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