foreign real estate

Two interesting opportunities in Panama

June 9, 2010
Panama City, Panama

Panamanians are generally a carefree lot... but there are a few things that they curiously take very, very seriously. Mother's Day is one example-- it's held in December, and the entire country shuts down for the day, including banks and government offices.

Voting is another example-- it's actually compulsory in Panama to go to the polls, and the government ensures that you don't have any excuses by[...] Click here to continue reading

Questions: Gold in your retirement account, attitude, sustainable community

May 28, 2010
Chicago, IL, USA

Chicago is a really beautiful city-- one of my favorites in the United States, actually, along with Austin, TX and Sheridan, WY. But while I enjoy being back in the US as a tourist from time to time, I'm itching to get out of here.

The travel I've just scheduled is a bit insane. Next week, I'm traveling to New York for an Atlas 400 event. Immediately[...] Click here to continue reading

Selling snake oil in the Valley of Longevity

April 22, 2010
Vilcabamba, Ecuador

There must be something in the water down here.  They call this place the "Valley of Longevity" because it's not uncommon for people to live well past the century mark... and it's true.

Driving around the town last night and this morning, I couldn't help but notice so many elders going on about their business. Mind you, I didn't exactly card anyone (record keeping here is quite poor),[...] Click here to continue reading

Pricing in Ecuador

April 21, 2010
Cuenca, Ecuador

Last night I ate at one of the fanciest restaurants in Cuenca.  Everything except for the Chilean wine was locally grown and absolutely delicious, right down to the banana flan for dessert.

The total bill for my beautiful companion and I rang in at $40.02, including 3 courses with wine.

For lunch, I ate at a local cafe-- another 3-course meal with a chicken soup to start[...] Click here to continue reading

Important information about capital controls

April 19, 2010
Quito, Ecuador

I don't have to tell you that world governments are collectively pushing hard against people who abusively hide money overseas.

Governments' primary motivation at the moment is to make sure that no one is evading their tax obligations; for now, they don't care much if you pay taxes on your income, and then transfer after-tax earnings overseas.

In a way, though, their offshore crackdowns have become a[...] Click here to continue reading

What emerging markets have in common with puberty

April 8, 2010
Panama City, Panama

Do you remember that really awkward phase we all went through as adolescents?

Growth spurts, voice changes, menstruation, and yes, pimples-- in the end, while we all came out of it more mature and grown up, there was a difficult and sometimes painful transition period in which we had to learn how to deal with new realities.

Developing countries go through the same sort of transition,[...] Click here to continue reading

The strongest Latin economies for buying property

March 31, 2010
Panama City, Panama

It appears that not all is amiss with sovereign debt: Panama may be one of the only bright spots, at least in the western hemisphere... the country recently had its debt rating upgraded by Fitch to 'investment grade' with a positive outlook.

Now, I have been quite vocal about my disdain for the ratings agencies... these organizations completely missed the boat before the financial crisis, slapping AAA[...] Click here to continue reading

Questions: Panama sustainability, offshore incorporation, Thai banking, housing

March 26, 2010
Vancouver, BC

I'm headed to Panama shortly where I look forward to meeting up with my friends and colleagues in the Atlas 400 group. We're going to an exclusive deep-sea fishing resort for a few days, and afterwards I plan on taking up some unfinished business in Panama.

One of the things on my agenda is to revisit the sustainable community concept that I began discussing a few months ago.[...] Click here to continue reading

Questions: Jobs update, a dollar crisis, gold banking in Singapore, sustainable community

February 19, 2010
Bangkok, Thailand

I really need to start out today's letter by expressing how truly humbled I am to be part of such a fantastic community.

Matt and I have spent much of the last few days combing through resumes (200+ so far) for the job openings that I posted on Monday, and the caliber of talent and energy is really impressive.

Applicants vary in age from 17 to 70.[...] Click here to continue reading

This survey will make you want to leave immediately

February 17, 2010
Bangkok, Thailand

I couldn't believe what I was hearing... and I found myself wondering out loud- "Are these people insane??"

Apparently, yes.

I was watching Richard Edelman this morning on Bloomberg Television discussing the latest results of his research and PR firm's annual "trust survey."  Edelman takes a scientific poll each year, drawing on a global pool of educated, well-informed people from G20 nations.

The theme is always[...] Click here to continue reading

Questions: Travel, buying property, moving gold, second passports

February 12, 2010
Pattaya, Thailand

I'm happy to report that I seem to be in the final throes of my Asian jet lag-- I finally managed to go to bed and wake up at a reasonable hour.

I appreciate the emails that I received giving me advice about how to deal with it more effectively... honestly though, I think time is the best remedy for everything.  With jetlag, I take a "sleep when[...] Click here to continue reading

Three real estate traps in Panama

February 3, 2010
Panama City, Panama

Panama is a popular destination for expats, and for good reason. But there are some critical property traps that you should be aware of if you’re looking to buy.

The first trap to watch out for is the tax law; for years, the government stimulated the real estate industry by promising property tax exoneration for up to 20-years. In order to qualify, a project must have been[...] Click here to continue reading

Your questions: Central American healthcare, Swiss banking, Panama foreclosures, Belize

January 29, 2010
Boquete, Panama

It's a beautiful day in the Panamanian highlands, and I'm taking the opportunity to explore the countryside for undervalued land deals.  The Chiriqui province of Panama, where I am now, is sort of like the Panamanian version of Texas-- fiercely independent and proud... locals consider themselves to be citizens of Chiriqui first, and Panamanians second.

As we've discussed in previous letters, I have been sincerely exploring the idea[...] Click here to continue reading

Why you don’t want to go at it alone

Blair is in her early 40s from Southern California.  She's intelligent, fairly aggressive, and an experienced financial executive at a mid-sized manufacturing company. In total, she has about $250,000 in savings, some of which she used to buy property in Panama.

She is single with no children and has been traveling to Panama to plant flags since 2006. She plans on (semi) retiring there in another 5-years and has unfortunately learned a lot of[...] Click here to continue reading

Panama vs. Costa Rica

January 27, 2010
El Valle, Panama

For a future expat, there are three places worth seriously considering in Central America-- Panama, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.  Much is written about Panama, and rightfully so; the country is the most stable, economically liberal, and business oriented.

Not to be completely ignored, though, Costa Rica has its own merits that are certainly worth an honorable mention.

First, to understand Costa Rica, you need to get[...] Click here to continue reading

A sustainable community in Panama

January 26, 2010

Panama City, Panama

I've been on the ground in Panama for a week, and thus far, the majority of my time has been spent investigating the sustainable community concept that I wrote about several weeks ago.

To refresh your memory, the idea is to develop a small, cost-effective, subscribers-only expatriate community in Panama that focuses on sustainability over luxury. Frankly, other developers laugh when I discuss the concept and[...] Click here to continue reading

Case Study: Multiple Flags in Venezuela

January 19, 2010
Mexico City (DF), Mexico

For such a pale skinned gringo, his Spanish was impeccable. We were both sitting in the business class lounge at the airport, and the fluidity with which he was prattling away in Spanish on his mobile phone caught my attention.

Ordinarily, given his very light complexion and European fashion sense, I would have guessed that he was Argentine; his accent, however, was devoid of the traditional[...] Click here to continue reading

How to avoid living in a police state

If I have been too subtle in the past, let me be absolutely clear this afternoon: the time to do something, the time to take action to safeguard your future and your families livelihood, is NOW.

I'm more impassioned than usual this morning... and with reason.  Reluctantly, I tuned in to Team Obama's press briefing last night about the ongoing saga of the Nigerian underwear bomber.  Obama's is clearly trying to cultivate a fear[...] Click here to continue reading

How to value foreign property

January 6, 2010

Reporting from: Estepona, Spain

I'm sitting now in lovely Estepona, Spain-- a coastal town on the Mediterranean that experienced a massive property boom over the last decade.

The community I'm in is anchored by a five-star Ritz Carlton golf resort, and surrounded on all sides by the mountains or the ocean.  Ancient military tacticians marveled at the defensibility of such a position and likely did not envision it being[...] Click here to continue reading

Panama, Inc.

If he keeps this up, they might start calling it Panama, Inc.

Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli has been in office less than 6-months, yet to the extent that it is politically possible, he seems bent on running Panama with the same vision as when he ran the chain of supermarkets that made him one of the country's wealthiest men.

Step 1-- eliminate corruption in the government. All side deals and back room handshakes[...] Click here to continue reading

Real Estate in Thailand

First of all, thanks to all the well-wishers (especially Dusty) after my accident... your concern is much appreciated, and I'm feeling a lot better.

Today I want to talk about real estate in Thailand, and particularly here in Pattaya.  I've spent the last few days scouting property, and talking to agents, developers, and buyers.  Overall, some aspects of the market are reasonably attractive in the long-term, but I need to give you a bit[...] 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

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

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

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

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

Six “Must Do’s” to Maximize Your Freedom

I'll tell you why Honduras is really starting to trouble me... I have a few friends left at Joint Task Force- Bravo stationed at Soto Cano Air Base about 50 miles from the capital city of Tegucigalpa, and the situation appears quite tense.

Officially the 500+ US military forces on the ground have been ordered back onto the base and to stay out of sight for the time being... SOUTHCOM, the military command that[...] 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