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AMERICA – THE GRIM TRUTH
Americans have the worst quality of life in the developed world – by a wide margin.
Strong stuff from one Lance Freeman, writing for or found by (it is not clear) Information Clearing House. Basic message: If Americans took the time to actually look at what life is like in the rest of the world, they would realize their lives stink compared to the other developed countries – including the socialist European ones.
This is a subjective assessment ... to a degree. He has a stats on vacation time to buttress his assertion, and could undoubtedly have come up with some more on the healthcare system which would have provided similar support if he had wanted. Mostly it is a rant in the style of the late/great George Carlin, and it rings every bit as true as Carlin’s unexpurgated verbal and written essays. We especially like the part on just how “free” Americans are.
Americans, I have some bad news for you:
You have the worst quality of life in the developed world – by a wide margin.
If you had any idea of how people really lived in Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and many parts of Asia, you would be rioting in the streets calling for a better life. In fact, the average Australian or Singaporean taxi driver has a much better standard of living than the typical American white-collar worker.
I know this because I am an American, and I escaped from the prison you call home.
I have lived all around the world, in wealthy countries and poor ones, and there is only one country I would never consider living in again: The United States of America. The mere thought of it fills me with dread.
Consider this, you are the only people in the developed world without a single-payer health system. Everyone in Western Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand has a single-payer system. If they get sick, they can devote all their energies to getting well. If you get sick, you have to battle two things at once, your illness and the fear of financial ruin. Millions of Americans go bankrupt every year due to medical bills, and tens of thousands die each year because they have no insurance or insufficient insurance. And do not believe for a second that rot about America having the world’s best medical care or the shortest waiting lists: I have been to hospitals in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Singapore, and Thailand, and every one was better than the “good” hospital I used to go to back home. The waits were shorter, the facilities more comfortable, and the doctors just as good.
This is ironic, because you need a good health system more than anyone else in the world. Why? Because your lifestyle is almost designed to make you sick.
Let’s start with your diet: Much of the beef you eat has been exposed to fecal matter in processing. Your chicken is contaminated with salmonella. Your stock animals and poultry are pumped full of growth hormones and antibiotics. In most other countries, the government would act to protect consumers from this sort of thing; in the United States, the government is bought off by industry to prevent any effective regulations or inspections. In a few years, the majority of all the produce for sale in the United States will be from genetically modified crops, thanks to the cozy relationship between Monsanto Corporation and the United States government. Worse still, due to the vast quantities of high-fructose corn syrup Americans consume, fully one-third of children born in the United States today will be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives.
Of course, it is not just the food that is killing you, it’s the drugs. If you show any sign of life when you are young, they will put you on Ritalin. Then, when you get old enough to take a good look around, you will get depressed, so they will give you Prozac. If you are a man, this will render you chemically impotent, so you will need Viagra to get it up. Meanwhile, your steady diet of trans-fat-laden food is guaranteed to give you high cholesterol, so you& will get a prescription for Lipitor. Finally, at the end of the day, you will lay awake at night worrying about losing your health plan, so you will need Lunesta to go to sleep.
With a diet guaranteed to make you sick and a health system designed to make sure you stay that way, what you really need is a long vacation somewhere. Unfortunately, you probably cannot take one. I will let you in on little secret: If you go to the beaches of Thailand, the mountains of Nepal, or the coral reefs of Australia, you will probably be the only American in sight. And you will be surrounded crowds of happy Germans, French, Italians, Israelis, Scandinavians and wealthy Asians. Why? Because they are paid well enough to afford to visit these places AND they can take vacations long enough to do so. Even if you could scrape together enough money to go to one of these incredible places, by the time you recovered from your jetlag, it would time to get on a plane and rush back to your job.
If you think I am making this up, check the stats on average annual vacation days by country:
The fact is, they work you like dogs in the United States. This should come as no surprise: The United States never got away from the plantation/sweatshop labor model and any real labor movement was brutally suppressed. Unless you happen to be a member of the ownership class, your options are pretty much limited to barely surviving on service-sector wages or playing musical chairs for a spot in a cubicle (a spot that will be outsourced to India next week anyway). The very best you can hope for is to get a professional degree and then milk the system for a slice of the middle-class pie. And even those who claw their way into the middle class are but one illness or job loss away from poverty. Your jobs are not secure. Your company has no loyalty to you. They will play you off against your coworkers for as long as it suits them, then they will get rid of you.
Of course, you do not have any choice in the matter: The system is designed this way. In most countries in the developed world, higher education is either free or heavily subsidized; in the United States, a university degree can set you back over US$100,000. Thus, you enter the working world with a crushing debt. Forget about taking a year off to travel the world and find yourself – you have got to start working or watch your credit rating plummet.
America has the illusion of great wealth because there is a lot of “stuff” around, but who really owns it?
If you are “lucky,” you might even land a job good enough to qualify you for a home loan. And then you will spend half your working life just paying the interest on the loan – welcome to the world of American debt slavery. America has the illusion of great wealth because there is a lot of “stuff” around, but who really owns it? In real terms, the average American is poorer than the poorest ghetto dweller in Manila, because at least they have no debts. If they want to pack up and leave, they can; if you want to leave, you can’t, because you have got debts to pay.
More bad news: America is actually among the least free countries on earth.
All this begs the question: Why would anyone put up with this? Ask any American and you will get the same answer: Because America is the freest country on earth. If you believe this, I have got some more bad news for you: America is actually among the least free countries on earth. Your piss is tested, your emails and phone calls are monitored, your medical records are gathered, and you are never more than one stray comment away from writhing on the ground with two Taser prongs in your ass.
And that is just physical freedom. Mentally, you are truly imprisoned. You do not even know the degree to which you are tormented by fears of medical bankruptcy, job loss, homelessness and violent crime because you have never lived in a country where there is no need to worry about such things.
But it goes much deeper than mere surveillance and anxiety. The fact is, you are not free because your country has been taken over and occupied by another government. Fully 70% of your tax dollars go to the Pentagon, and the Pentagon is the real government of the United States. You are required under pain of death to pay taxes to this occupying government. If you are from the less fortunate classes, you are also required to serve and die in their endless wars, or send your sons and daughters to do so. You have no choice in the matter: There is a socio-economic draft system in the United States that provides a steady stream of cannon fodder for the military.
If you call a life of surveillance, anxiety and ceaseless toil in the service of a government you did not elect “freedom,” then you and I have a very different idea of what that word means.
If there was some chance that the country could be changed, there might be reason for hope. But can you honestly look around and conclude that anything is going to change? Where would the change come from? The people? Take a good look at your compatriots: The working class in the United States has been brutally propagandized by jackals like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. Members of the working class have been taught to lick the boots of their masters and then bend over for another kick in the ass. They have got these people so well trained that they will take up arms against the other half of the working class as soon as their masters give the word.
If the people cannot make a change, how about the media? Not a chance. From Fox News to the New York Times, the mass media in the United States is nothing but the public relations wing of the corporatocracy, primarily the military-industrial complex. At least the citizens of the former Soviet Union knew that their news was bullshit. In America, you grow up thinking you have got a free media, which makes the propaganda doubly effective. If you do not think American media is mere corporate propaganda, ask yourself the following question: Have you ever heard a major American news outlet suggest that the country could fund a single-payer health system by cutting military spending?
The American political process is among the most corrupt in the world.
If change cannot come from the people or the media, the only other potential source of change would be the politicians. Unfortunately, the American political process is among the most corrupt in the world. In every country on earth, one expects politicians to take bribes from the rich. But this generally happens in secret, behind the closed doors of their elite clubs. In the United States, this sort of political corruption is done in broad daylight, as part of legal, accepted, standard operating procedure. In the United States, they merely call these bribes campaign donations, political action committees and lobbyists. One can no more expect the politicians to change this system than one can expect a man to take an axe and chop his own legs out from underneath him.
No, the United States of America is not going to change for the better. The only change will be for the worse. And when I say worse, I mean much worse. As we speak, the economic system that sustained the country during the post-war years is collapsing. The United States maxed out its “credit card” sometime in 2008 and now its lenders, starting with China, are in the process of laying the foundations for a new monetary system to replace the Anglo-American “petro-dollar” system. As soon as there is a viable alternative to the U.S. dollar, the greenback will sink like a stone.
While the United States was running up crushing levels of debt, it was also busy shipping its manufacturing jobs and white-collar jobs overseas, and letting its infrastructure fall to pieces. Meanwhile, Asian and European countries were investing in education, infrastructure and raw materials. Even if the United States tried to rebuild a real economy (as opposed to a service/financial economy) do think American workers would ever be able to compete with the workers of China or Europe? Have you ever seen a Japanese or German factory? Have you ever met a Singaporean or Chinese worker?
There are only two possible futures facing the United States, and neither one is pretty. The best case is a slow but orderly decline – essentially a continuation of what has been happening for the last two decades. Wages will drop, unemployment will rise, Medicare and Social Security benefits will be slashed, the currency will decline in value, and the disparity of wealth will spiral out of control until the United States starts to resemble Mexico or the Philippines – tiny islands of wealth surrounded by great poverty (the country is already halfway there).
Equally likely is a sudden collapse, perhaps brought about by a rapid flight from the U.S. dollar by creditor nations like China, Japan, Korea and the OPEC nations. A related possibility would be a default by the United States government on its vast debt. One look at the financial balance sheet of the U.S. government should convince you how likely this is: Governmental spending is skyrocketing and tax receipts are plummeting – something has to give. If either of these scenarios plays out, the resulting depression will make the present recession look like a walk in the park.
The United States is like the former Yugoslavia – a collection of mutually antagonistic cultures united in name only.
Whether the collapse is gradual or gut-wrenchingly sudden, the results will be chaos, civil strife and fascism. Let’s face it: the United States is like the former Yugoslavia – a collection of mutually antagonistic cultures united in name only. You have got your own version of the Taliban: Tight-wing Christian fundamentalists who actively loathe the idea of secular Constitutional government. You have got a vast intellectual underclass that has spent the last few decades soaking up Fox News and talk radio propaganda, eager to blame the collapse on Democrats, gays and immigrants. You have got a ruthless ownership class that will use all the means at its disposal to protect its wealth from the starving masses.
On top of all that you have got vast factory farms, sprawling suburbs and a truck-based shipping system, all of it entirely dependent on oil that is about to become completely unaffordable. And you have got guns. Lots of guns. In short: the United States is about to become a very unwholesome place to be.
Right now, the government is building fences and walls along its northern and southern borders. Right now, the government is working on a national ID system (soon to be fitted with biometric features). Right now, the government is building a surveillance state so extensive that they will be able to follow your every move, online, in the street and across borders. If you think this is just to protect you from “terrorists,” then you are sadly mistaken. Once the shit really hits the fan, do you really think you will just be able to jump into the old station wagon, drive across the Canadian border and spend the rest of your days fishing and drinking Molson? No, the government is going to lock the place down. They do not want their tax base escaping. They do not want their “recruits” escaping. They do not want YOU escaping.
I am not writing this to scare you. I write this to you as a friend. If you are able to read and understand what I have written here, then you are a member of a small minority in the United States. You are a minority in a country that has no place for you.
So what should you do?
You should leave the United States of America.
If you are young, you have got plenty of choices. You can teach English in the Middle East, Asia or Europe. Or you can go to university or graduate school abroad and start building skills that will qualify you for a work visa. If you have already got some real work skills, you can apply to emigrate to any number of countries as a skilled immigrant. If you are older and you have got some savings, you can retire to a place like Costa Rica or the Philippines. If you cannot qualify for a work, student or retirement visa, don’t let that stop you – travel on a tourist visa to a country that appeals to you and talk to the expats you meet there. Whatever you do, go speak to an immigration lawyer as soon as you can. Find out exactly how to get on a path that will lead to permanent residence and eventually citizenship in the country of your choice.
You will not be alone. There are millions of Americans just like me living outside the United States. Living lives much more fulfilling, peaceful, free and abundant than we ever could have attained back home. Some of us happened upon these lives by accident – we tried a year abroad and found that we liked it – others made a conscious decision to pack up and leave for good. You will find us in Canada, all over Europe, in many parts of Asia, in Australia and New Zealand, and in most other countries of the globe. Do we miss our friends and family? Yes. Do we occasionally miss aspects of our former country? Yes. Do we plan on ever living again in the United States? Never. And those of us with permanent residence or citizenship can sponsor family members from back home for long-term visas in our adopted countries.
In closing, I want to remind you of something – unless you are an American Indian or a descendant of slaves, at some point your ancestors chose to leave their homeland in search of a better life. They were not traitors and they were not bad people, they just wanted a better life for themselves and their families. Isn’t it time that you continue their journey?
Read the source article.
CARIBBEAN RETIREMENT PAGES ANNOUNCED
Caribbean Property and Lifestyles Magazine is starting a Caribbean Retirement Pages section, edited by our favorite writer from that e-zine, Carter Clews. The e-publication already covers many, many subjects pertinent to retirees over the course of an issue. The new section is evidently designed to make the coverage more focused and consistent.
We are promised that each month the Caribbean Retirement Pages section will focus on the four most important areas to one’s retirement and “refirement” decisions: finances, health and fitness, safety and security, and “up close and personal.” The later can best be described by the intended content: interviews with people actually living the Caribbean life.
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four?
~~ Paul McCartney, at age 24
Consider this a “Preview of Coming Attractions” (sans the popcorn and the annoying couple talking too loud in the row right behind you). Beginning in next month’s issue of Caribbean Property and Lifestyles Magazine, you will see an expanded version of Clews’ Views. Oh, yes, it will be the same old Clews (for better or worse). And my Views will continue to be about often obscure destinations where you may wish to root anew. But, the column will now be part of a new section in the magazine titled Caribbean Retirement Pages.
So from now on, if you want to read Clews’ Views, that is where you will find it. And since I will also be a section editor of the Caribbean Retirement Pages section, let me tell you what else you will find – and, even more importantly – ask for your feedback on what you want to find in the months, and hopefully, years ahead.
First, let me share with you a little about the Caribbean Retirement Pages as envisioned at this time. But, please remember: what I am about to say is not set in stone. This new section of the magazine will be entirely reader driven. Your wants and needs come first ... consider me your humble servant. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart.
The new Caribbean Retirement Pages is primarily for Baby Boomers. By definition, that includes all of us born between 1946 and 1964. In short, from the time we toddled around in leak-proof “Boaters” to the day we donned a “White Sports Coat and a Pink Carnation,” all dressed up for the dance. That does not mean everyone else isn’t invited to join the party – in fact, please do. It just provides a point of reference for what to expect and why.
From the very first, we Baby Boomers occupied a unique position at life’s center stage. Returning World War II troops, clearly enthusiastic about being reunited with those they had “loved long since and lost a while,” produced the single largest demographic spike in American history. Never before or since have birth rates shot up and remained so high for so long.
For the next several decades, the world seemed to revolve around us as it had no other previous generation. Advertisers, ever eager to garner our business, told us how to encase our tiny teeth in “an invisible protective shield,” how Brylcream’s “little dab will do you” (“use two only if you dare”), and how we could properly enjoy a “Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and a thing which tells time” (as long as we didn’t put your eye out with that thing).
Throughout the ‘60s, well into the ‘70s, we had “the world on a string, that string around our finger.” For better or worse, we redefined morals, mores, and manners. We rejected what “ain’t my bag.” We immersed ourselves in “doing our own thing.” We declared ourselves the “Me Generation.” And when those over 30 (whom the Beatles had warned us not to trust anyway) objected, we echoed our nasally minstrel to inform them, “The Times, They Are A-Changin’.”
Now, we are over 30 ourselves. Well over 30. In fact, at least half of us are twice 30. And counting. ... And you know what? It is not that bad, is it? Perhaps, as fellow Baby Boomer Lauren Hutton proclaimed from the cover of one major magazine in 2003, “Sixty is the New Thirty!” Which, if it is true, means we have “got a lot of living to do.”
And that is precisely why Caribpro.com has created the new Caribbean Retirement Pages, beginning with the magazine’s next issue.
We believe that most Baby Boomers, accustomed as we are to the finer things in life (often tied with a bow and delivered to our door) are not quite ready to sit back with our hands folded and “go gently into that good night”. No way. Not now. Not ever.
We did not work around the clock (once we had finished rocking around the clock) to endure the “Golden Years” living on a shoestring and asking the younguns if they would like fries with that order. We did not save up in order to sit down and shut up. And we have no intention of watching inflated prices and rising taxes force us to turn down the thermostat, shiver in the cold, and look up recipes for “Cat Food Casserole.”
Quite frankly, today’s Baby Boomers do not intend to “retire” (in the traditional sense) at all. They intend to refire. All they – excuse me, you – need is a place to go where you will be fully appreciated for your unique skills and derring-do. A place where you can breathe free and live well on what you have. A warm and sunny place where you can live the good life at a great price.
Each month in the CRP section we will focus on the four major areas I believe you will find most important to your retirement and “refirement” decisions. I can tell you, they are the areas of interest that most concern me as a fellow Baby Boomer; the areas I most seriously considered when making my own recent decision to resettle in my new home in El Pino, Honduras:
(1) Personal Finances – I put this first simply because if you cannot afford to live somewhere, nothing else much matters does it? Otherwise, I would be writing to you today from my private quarters at the Palace of Versailles. So, Personal Finances comes first.
As Baby Boomers, we have long-since learned the value stretching every dollar until George yelps. The politicians may have blithely obliterated the federal budget, but we have balanced our family budgets (which is one reason we now want to live it up a little).
Each month on the Caribbean Retirement Pages, we will tell you where to get the best deal on the nicest homes at, or near, a pristine beach or majestic mountains. Where to dine like a prince (and/or princess) on a pauper’s budget. How to get special Caribbean “pensionado” deals strictly reserved for those of us who have achieved six decades – and counting. And how you can finally kiss the rapacious tax man goodbye once and for all!
And that is just the beginning. Each month, we will also talk about ...
(2) Health and Fitness – As Baby Boomers, we are probably in the best shape of any “senior citizens” in the long history of this country (right now, I am writing to you from Fairfax, Virginia, USA). And that is not by accident. We eat better, run further, lift more, and smoke less than our parents ever even considered possible.
My workout regimen is an hour and a half a day, six days a week. And, not to brag, but I am more fit at 63 than I was at 21. (Of course, at 21, I was a Teke at Frostburg State College, where it was so cold, you needed to fill yourself with second proof “antifreeze” just to keep from getting hypothermia.)
I have a feeling you may be at, or near, the best shape of your life, too. And you want to stay that way. Or, perhaps, you (or someone you love) are suffering from some of the geriatric ailments that can befall us all. In either case, you want to know where you can get the best health care available 24 hours a day – without breaking the bank or going into debt.
And, believe it or not, that is very often in the Caribbean.
Right now, in hospitals all over Central and South America, you can get health care that is as good as – if not better than – most U.S. hospitals. And you can get it at a price 70% – or less – than at equivalent U.S. health care facilities.
No wonder Andres Oppenheimer recently wrote in the Miami Herald, “My opinion: Mexico and much of Latin America are bound to become growing U.S. retirement and medical tourism destinations, much like Spain has become a permanent living place for Germans, Britons and Northern Europeans.”
Throughout the Caribbean, a day in a first-class hospital cost as little as $30. A doctor’s visit costs as little as $15 (and they still make house calls!). And health insurance costs next to nothing. Each month on the Caribbean Retirement Pages, we will fill you in on the details.
Plus, we will give the straight talk about ...
(3) Safety & Security – Most Baby Boomers remember the day when kids could play safely in the park, the elderly could take evening strolls, and the biggest behavior problems at the local high school were chewing gum in class and the rascally Charlie Brown smoking in the men’s room (“Who, me? Yeah you!”)
Well, it is still that way in much of the Caribbean; particularly the West Caribbean where I hang my hat. Oh, I know that if you read the State Department advisories, you would think that you need a phalanx of heavily armed Hulk Hogan-like body guards to walk from the front door to your armored car. And you might want to keep your Doberman close at hand. But, that is a trifle overstated, to say the least.
Now, I am not saying that Latin America is crime free. And you need to know where to go and what to do to remain safe (like stay out of Cuidad Juarez, Mexico). But, the truth is, you are safer in Caribbean cities like La Ceiba, Honduras; Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic; and Managua, Nicaragua (in 2005: 200 cars stolen in Managua; 22,000 in Las Vegas), than you are in most major U.S. cities today. And each month on the Caribbean Retirement Pages, we will analyze safety issues with no-holds-barred and no quarter given.
As to security – and by that, I mean, your right to live free of government intimidation or oppression – I have been a geo-political analyst for nearly a decade. Plus, quite frankly, I am a Jeffersonian limited government advocate to the marrow of my bones. So, when I tell you each month which countries are relatively free from government coercion (including ruinous taxation) – and which are Big Government hell-holes – you can take it to the bank.
Finally, each month on the Caribbean Retirement Pages, I will share with you the insights of insiders as we get ...
(4) Up Close & Personal – While we all like to get the hard facts, sometimes it is also nice to feel the soft touch. And that is what this section will be all about.
Each month, the Caribbean Retirement Page will feature an interview with, article about – or even article from – someone who is actually living the Caribbean life. Ofttimes, we will feature an expat, relating his or her day-to-day experiences as they endure the difficulties and enjoy the advantages of living in a “faraway place with a strange-sounding name” (just as I did last month in Clews’ Views when I wrote about my first full week living in El Pino).
And occasionally, we will feature natives who can share their experiences growing up where you might one day live. They will tell how best to get along with their fellow countrymen; where the “locals” shop, eat, and turn for entertainment; and even what they consider the best “secret ingredients” for their favorite national dishes. In fact, I have a feeling you might enjoy this section most.
So, there you have it: A brand new section in the Caribbean Property and Lifestyles Magazine designed especially with you, the Baby Boomer, in mind. According to U.S. Census reports, 5 million American retirees now live abroad. Of those, 2.2 million are in the Western Hemisphere – mostly in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Brazil. And I can almost assure you that those numbers are going to explode exponentially over the next decade as prices in the U.S. rise and the quality of life – particularly for senior citizens – continues to plunge.
That said, here is what I promise you right now: If you will join me in following the sun on the Caribbean Retirement Pages, you will never have to ask:
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four?
Because in the Caribbean countries we cover, you will be feeding yourself very well, thank you; needing remarkably little; and living large – while you bask in the surf of your own turf, 24/7/365.
See you next month on the new Caribbean Retirement Pages.
Please give me your feedback on the new Caribbean Retirement Pages at email@example.com, on my Twitter account: @caribcarter. And don’t forget to sign up for your special “CaribAlerts” emails keeping you up to date on breaking events and opportunities throughout the month. I look forward to hearing from you.
Read the source article.
MAYAN TEMPLES AND FISH EATING BATS
More on affordable living in Belize.
Reverend Macarena Rose is featured frequently in these pages. She is an unabashed promoter of Belize’s natural and archeological attractions, and its virtues as a place to live. Example: “You can cancel those anger management classes – once you become an expat here. The cost of living and lifestyle in Belize are very conducive to a happier, more satisfied state of being!”
Rev. Rose’s business, Rainforest Realty, is there to help anyone who chooses to accept her invitation to move to Belize. She promises that her forthcoming e-book, Why Belize, which “will walk you through the expat process and get you on your way,” will be available real soon.
The array of fabulous activities, sights (and archeological sites) awaiting your pleasure in Belize is endless. From golden sun, sand, sea and surf along the coast to the lush mountains, jungles and forests of the western interior – where Maya temples glory in their mystery and antiquity – all will provide endlessly amazing experiences.
Whether you are on vacation or living here as an expat – your time in Belize is going to be exciting and fun!
And even better – it will be very affordable!
That is not a misprint; you read it correctly – very affordable. There is good news to be had when there really is a place on planet earth where your dollars stretch sooooooo far and provide home ownership and the good life for you and your family.
Living in Belize is like winning the expat lottery. Desirable, affordable property is available in Belize and you will still have money left in the bank. When you become an expat here, you will have your own home and enjoy life with your family – on the same income that does not do doddle-squat in the U.S.!
What glad tidings – Belize is an affordable paradise with reasonably priced property. Money leftover in the bank, less stressed lifestyle – sounds good to you? I will bet you have said over and over that you would give anything to own your own home and not have to worry about providing the good life for your family.
My readers are accustomed to me by now – you know the motto – JUST DO IT. All I can tell you is that Belize beckons so why not heed the call!
Belize offers the right time, the right place, and the right economy for you to make it all happen.
You will not have to sell your soul or pledge your firstborn to achieve the good life here. You can realize your hopes for a better life. One that does not drain your pockets or your heart – and leaves you with money in the bank and renewed zest for living! Belize represents a casual luxury and lifestyle that you can afford! Plus, Belize is an English speaking country of genuine welcome, no taxes – and still reasonably priced real estate.
After you relocate, buy property you fall in love with and cannot live without, and begin your expat existence, here is my suggestion. ... Get in that chair on the front porch of your wonderful new home – and rock. Breathe deeply. Play checkers. Read. Sit a spell and start to unwind and relax. ... Let those cares and woes slip away. Go ahead – you can serenely contemplate your navel or the gorgeous views. Then off you go to your nap. Have you tried the hammock?
Belize is going to revive you. Being in Belize as an expat will bolster your battered ego and bank account! Well, I know – I am repeating myself. But there is a reason. I get constant feedback from friends about how emotionally and physically draining it is struggling to pay the bills – to stay financially afloat in the U.S. The downturn of the economy has been a nightmare. You cringe from the phone ringing with yet another creditor. You break down at getting the notice of foreclosure on the house you worked day and night to provide.
We all know the depressing headlines – lost jobs, high unemployment, lowered incomes, plummeting pensions, and huge number of foreclosures – and now more sad news is leaking out. The economic downturn may actually be worsening in the future – both in the U.S. and globally. There are many hints (think Greece, Spain ...).
So be prepared. Now is the time to pay close attention and plan ahead. Today, right now – it is the time to get that expat experience going. Ok, you have arrived and you are finally feeling relaxed. Let’s go! I know you love the beach and water life in Belize. Who would not? But, you lucky person you, there are endless wonders that await you throughout all of magical Belize.
If you are wild about water sports, you will, of course, be relocating to a country that has them all – and they are all world class. Last month I wrote about the incomparable Great Blue Hole of Belize that awaits your astonishment. There are also great dives and snorkeling throughout Belize along with boating, kayaking, tubing through caves, etc. The beach and water life in Belize are a glorious existence – one of many happy experiences to enjoy here.
Another and different experience lies farther inland to the west – in interior Belize – where I live. Just beyond my town of San Ignacio are the lush, dense rainforests, scenic mountains, and exotic jungles that you thought existed only in fevered dreams and Indiana Jones movies ... You will probably feel like you are in a dream as you move along jungle paths and take in the exquisite, exotic beauty that surrounds you.
But indeed you are wide awake and it is not a movie set. It is all amazingly real; an entirely different aspect of Belize. So go ahead and take in the luxuriant flora and fauna found in western Belize. Trust me – you will be gasping with pleasure. And taking about a 1000 photos, for starters! Wherever you go in Belize, there is a fabulous sensory overload – of sights, scents, and sounds ... which includes the fauna in the west. Here is just one of the endless surprises.
Do you have a thing about bats? If you are a bat aficionado, get ready for this special present. You will go totally “batty” for sure!
Hint: It’s huge and hunts fish.
I just made a new discovery (something you will do all the time – it is one of the rewards of being here). These are not those cute little bats hanging upside down. These bats have evolved to hunt fish. Big. Fast. Who knew – certainly not me. They are enormous bulldog bats that go by a nickname, “the fisherman.” When did you last hear of a bat in nature with a nickname!
It gets even better – these bats have two foot wings and fly at 40 mph after 11pm to catch fish. It sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it? But it is all true. Your kids are going to love this biology lesson, aren’t they? And should get an “A+” on their school report! And, not to worry, the bats have no interest in humans!
Now then, as you continue trekking through the rainforest ... behold one of the fabled ruins of ancient Mayan civilization. Prepare to be stunned as you approach. There it stands, proud and shrouded in mist and mystery – rising up out of the jungle growth. Your first encounter is one of those moments in time you will never forget.
Because viewing these ancient temples of the revered Maya culture in Belize affects everyone. They are awesome and inspiring! It could be love at first sight (site)! The enduring architectural legacy of the Maya found there in steamy rainforests is yours to explore for a day – or a lifetime if you become an expat.
Even if you do not start out mesmerized – you will be when you are standing in front of a magnificent, intriguing temple and wondering like me – how did the Maya build those fantastic structures anyway. Calling all you would-be engineers, architects, and daydreamers – this could engage your mind and imagination for the rest of your lives!
If you are so inclined, you can join the effort to untangle the many mysteries that remain to be solved. You do not have to be a professional. And by the way – what you are able to see there in the rainforest today is only a part of what is believed to remain hidden ... just waiting for you to discover!
One of the interesting facets of Maya research is that as soon as one mystery is resolved, another one always appears. That is why your input is more than welcome and will be carefully evaluated to see if it adds to the body of knowledge about the Maya.
What about the astounding astrological and mathematical calculations of the ancient Maya. Want to discuss their grasp of the concept “0” with an on-site anthropologist? It does not matter if you hated math in school. This is fascinating!
How about the Maya calendar and its prediction for 2012. Heard about it? Think you can get into that? (I will – next month. And there is good news!).
Just think how you are going to enjoy being where the action is – on a site with professionals and other amateurs like yourself conducting archeological digs and research. Maybe this was not your thing before moving to Belize. But who knows – you may want to immerse yourself and revel in the scientific literature emerging every month. You may be the one who uncovers another answer!
Or writes your own book! There are new discoveries and new information being put forth on a continual basis. When you are an expat living here – you can partake of it all firsthand – up close and personal.
The enchantment of Maya culture continues as you learn that modern day descendants in Belize continue their ancient traditions and language. Most people are not aware that Belize was a major area occupied by Maya civilization. Modern Maya trace their ancestry, language, myths, and traditions back directly to early inhabitants of Belize.
I myself am a student of the Maya language. It is thrilling and very spiritually satisfying to feel so connected with this revered culture – both modern and old.
You will be enthralled by Maya dances and musical performances at special festivals throughout the year. The famous Maya deer dance is an elaborate allegory about the relationship of man and nature that takes place over nine days. There is feasting and celebrating included every day along with the dramatic presentations. You might even become a groupie! It is another unforgettable experience in Belize – don’t miss it. You will not have to if you become an expat here!
Interest in Maya civilization is understandably worldwide. For those of you who are still living in the U.S. (perhaps planning your “escape” and making arrangements to relocate!) – you are fortunate. The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts is hosting a new exhibit based on recent scholarship about the Maya. It is titled, “Fiery Pool – The Maya And The Mythic Sea.” [Exhibit ended July 18.]
“Fiery Pool” is the name for the sea – as translated from a Maya glyph. The Maya had a highly evolved and complete writing system of hieroglyphics. This current exhibit explores the relationship of the Maya to the waters they lived around and depended upon. While you will be visiting temple ruins in the western rainforests here, there are ancient Maya signs of occupation all over Belize and, of course, water was paramount to survival.
The Maya conducted extensive trading along their waterways and were also famed for their irrigation skills. Indeed, irrigation gave them the means to be extremely productive. Because of it, they were able to raise huge amounts of corn, squash and chili paper as food staples to feed ever growing populations. Hunting provided the rest of the Maya diet – just as it does today.
I wondered why Salem, Massachusetts – famous for its witch trials in colonial times – would host this Maya exhibit. Then I realized Salem was also a great seafaring town in the past and would understand the relationship.
The theme of the Maya exhibit is the centrality of the sea to its culture. Recent excavations of ancient works of art depict powerful images of sea creatures and waterfowl carved in stone and clay artifacts. From this evidence, scholars theorize that the sea relationship went far beyond the practical and entered into the spiritual realm for the Maya. Hence, the Maya reverence for the mystical Fiery Pool inspired works of art that affect us today. We feel their power and their message.
It will be exciting to see what ongoing research reveals next!
By the way, it is interesting to note that Belize is current with the modern trend toward eco-tourism and many expats arrive wanting to explore these issues. You can live here and get involved. There so much that awaits you!
The crocodile, for instance! No, no – not to worry. Do you like to keep crocodiles at a distance? Oh, you will. They are protected in Belize and there are major efforts to conserve the dwindling population ... and keep them away from you. You will not be able to get near them. For their sakes! LOL!
However, if you want to help in their preservation – that is another story. Your volunteer efforts are sought after and appreciated.
Got your bags packed yet? You should. If you have been debating about living the expat life in Belize, here is a convincing reason why you should relocate. Now is an excellent time to buy property. The incredible prices on real estate here can turn your fervent daydreams into solid reality. Don’t wait or hesitate. Take the expat plunge!
My company in Belize, Rainforest Realty, is here to support your efforts. We have got what you need to know about relocation and buying fabulous, very affordable property here. We are also renowned for our superlative customer service. You become one of us when you email, call or walk through the door. We are your Belize family and we welcome you into the fold. We take care of our expat family!
That is why we are about to publish Why Belize – the new e-book which will be available this summer and give you all the information you need to relocate. This will be the definitive guide on making your expat transition to Belize! By now we do know the in’s and the out’s of living and becoming an expat in Belize. Becoming an expat in Belize is a life strategy that is doable and works!
There are many books written about Belize. None of the authors live or work here or has started a business here. You know me – I am an expat who lives here, works here, and has a successful real estate business I started here. Our mission is to support your expat journey – every step of the way including the purchase of exciting, affordable real estate.
We hear your pain – of what life has become in the downturned U.S. economy. Our e-book is written for those of you who want to leave the economic insanity in the U.S. behind you. We recommend it!
Do yourself a favor. I think you can get rid of those ulcers, migraines, and reduce your blood pressure. You can cancel those anger management classes – once you become an expat here. The cost of living and lifestyle in Belize are very conducive to a happier, more satisfied state of being!
So look for the e-publication this summer of Why Belize. The way to prepare for its arrival is start packing to depart! Why Belize will walk you through the expat process and get you on your way. Your dreams of property ownership and an affordable lifestyle are about to be realized.
Why Belize – indeed. Oh, maybe because it is an irresistible value in today’s world. Both the country and the e-book! Get ready to enjoy life again – and affordable living.
Then you will truly be rocking – in that comfy chair on your own front porch of your own delectable property in Belize. And giving thanks for your good fortune.
Read the source article.
THE FUTURE OF OFFSHORE BANKING AND FINANCIAL PRIVACY
U.S. persons are persona non grata among many foreign banks these days, as this writer semi-humorously reports. Yet it is still possible to obtain a foreign bank account without having to in effect buy your way in with the promise of a large deposit. However, as we ongoingly reiterate, once your foreign financial account value equals US$10,000 at any point during the year you are required to report it to the U.S. Treasury. The penalties for being caught violating this law are substantial.
The writer here proposes taking advantage of the apparent loophole that precious metals deposits are not deemed a “financial instrument” under the reporting law. Ergo one could move, say, $9,900 into a bank account, buy gold, move another $9,900 into the account, buy gold ... and lather/rinse/repeat until you are done. You could accumulate more than the $10k limit in value without triggering the privacy-compromising reporting regulation. The writer happens to have knowledge of an Asian bank which readily converts currency to gold and back. (The first question that occurred was what are the bid/ask spreads?)
A good question is whether precious metals may one day lose their hands-off status. It could happen overnight, at which point your accumulated stash has to be reported. Even if that happens at least the notice would not be made until well after the initial transfers were done ... which counts for something. In any case, just as we do the writer recommends “offshore banking as a crucial first step towards your financial freedom.”
Just the utterance of the title makes some people cringe with fear and lower their voice in public. In January I was at an investment conference in Zurich and met with several bankers who would barely speak to me once they heard my American accent. One beautiful, young woman with a very well-known private Swiss bank even asked me to lower my voice when I asked her if they would accept American clients.
I approached a group of 5 men that worked for another private Swiss bank and the men over 40 scattered as if I had tossed a grenade in the middle of the group. The guy that remained must have been low on the totem pole as he was about 28 years old. He was left to explain to me why Swiss banks will not accept U.S. clients anymore.
Of course it is not hard to understand why considering what is going on in the news lately. But it does seem to dampen the spirits of those who are implementing their own asset protection plan.
Even my 70 year old mother is aware of UBS handing over nearly 5,000 names of U.S. citizens with private Swiss bank accounts. The Germans, Italians and French are in no better shape than the Americans at this point. The Swiss now are seemingly ready to hand over names to any OECD country that requests it. And the reporting requirements for Swiss banks to maintain American clients make it cost prohibitive.
But what does this mean for you? First of all, all is not lost with Swiss banking, but that does not make it your best choice either. There are ways to open an account and maintain your privacy. But you need to know someone. But generally this means depositing large sums of money and in many cases you will need to work with a private family office. If you have a net worth of $5 million USD this is not necessarily a bad idea. But for those less capitalized, you need to find another option.
Just to be clear, the U.S. government requires reporting of all offshore financial assets over $10,000 in a calendar year. To clarify a bit, if your offshore financial assets, in aggregate, total over $10,000 at any point during the year you are required to file form TD F 90-22.1, also known as FBAR (foreign bank and financial accounts) reporting.
(As an irreverent, freedom-loving libertarian, I call this form the FUBAR. If you don’t know what that means, Google it.)
I do not advocate failure to report foreign bank accounts at this point as the penalties are quite high. You can be fined $10,000 per account, per person, per year with no statute of limitations along with any penalties and fees. The Treasury department is very, very serious about this.
But as with any problem, there always lies the seeds of opportunity. The U.S. government does not consider precious metals as a financial instrument. This is rather ironic as gold has been the only stable form of money for thousands of years. Only in the past century has paper money become so widely accepted.
What we have been recommending recently to clients are gold accounts. We have found an Asian bank that offers all of the normal banking services you are used to in the western world, in addition to gold deposits.
What this allows you to do is make a cash deposit of less than $10,000 for account opening, then you can buy any amount of gold in the account that you desire. As you draw down your cash, you can convert gold and transfer it into your cash account in order to stay below your $10,000 threshold of the reporting requirement.
For those of you interested in complete banking privacy, this is a fantastic option. You can hold an unlimited amount of wealth in your gold account while maintaining less than the $10,000 of reportable financial assets in an offshore bank account. In addition to the bank account, you could also form an offshore LLC or IBC as the account owner for maximum privacy and security.
In addition to the services offered by this particular bank, this Asian country is not an OECD country and has no intentions of ever complying with the tax and financial asset reporting requirements imposed on all member countries. Essentially this means this country has said they intend to maintain their sovereignty and have no intentions of imposing these draconian laws on their citizens and foreign investors.
In truth, I am not terribly bullish on the prospects of financial privacy in the coming years. With the U.S. and most western European countries desperately in need of cash, they will be pursuing any means necessary to get their hands on your wealth.
With our clients, we recommend offshore banking as a crucial first step towards your financial freedom. As the saying goes, you do not want all of your eggs in one basket. And with increasing financial controls coming, every freedom loving individual on this planet should consider asset diversification.
By having an offshore bank account, you are taking step one in your asset protection planning process. You have given yourself options. I did not coin the phrase and do not remember the source, but geo-arbitrage is the process of having your assets, residence, citizenship, and business in different countries. And offshore banking is a critical component of this.
Read the source article.
WHERE TO FIND THE WORLD’S CHEAPEST STOCKS
Buying U.S. stocks now and holding them for the long term is a mug’s game.
The P/E ratio of the S&P 500 is 24. Now earnings predictions are always wrong, so who knows whether the “E” is even accurate, but forget that for now. That is just a high number historically and absolutely. There are some cheap stock markets in the world, the lowest among the major stock markets being Buenos Aires with a P/E of 11.40.
That does not mean it is time to buy into Argentina. Just that it is relatively cheap. Unless you know what you are doing find someone who does to make your investment decisions for you. Or construct a passive investment plan yourself – see here and here.
Want to know how much money you are likely to make on your U.S. stocks over the next, say, seven years?
According to storied investor Jeremy Grantham, about 0.4%. Pretty crummy, right?
It gets worse. If you factor in the current rate of inflation of 2.3%, that means you will actually lose 1.9%.
Of course, inflation could be a lot higher over the coming seven years. Factor in the kind of inflation we had 20 years ago ... and your losses will run to over 10%.
No one can tell for sure what kind of inflation rate we are going to see over the next decade or so. But we can tell with a good deal of confidence that buying U.S. stocks now and holding them for the long term is a mug’s game.
It all comes down to valuations and something called the price-to-earnings ratio of a stock – or P/E, as it is often referred to.
Today, the P/E of the main U.S. stock benchmark, the S&P 500, is about 24.
This is really just a measure of how much investors are will to pay for a dollar of a company’s earnings. The higher the P/E, the more investors are willing to pay for every dollar a company makes. Today, investors are willing to pay $24 now for every $1 of company earnings.
The historic average for U.S. stocks (all the way back to 1880) is a P/E of 16. So you can see right away that stocks are now valued way above their historic average.
Think of it this way: At a P/E of 24, it would take 24 years to get your principal back, assuming earnings stay flat.
The real problem with buying at these high valuations is so basic an eight year old could grasp it. To make money in the markets you have to buy stocks when they are cheap and sell them when they are expensive. If they are expensive to begin with, that is not possible.
You are left with trying to sell your stocks when they are even more expensive. This is a dangerous game ... and a path to the poor house.
So, if U.S. stocks are too expensive, where are stocks cheap? The short answer is: Very few places.
I have just spent the last month in Buenos Aires with value investor and emerging markets expert Rob Marstrand. Rob is a former investment banker with years of experience inside one of the world’s biggest banks. And he knows international stocks inside out.
Rob recently sent me a break down of world stock markets by valuation. Here are the three cheapest major stocks indexes in the world right now. (There may be cheaper indexes on the periphery, but Rob’s list covers the major international markets.)
1.) Argentina’s Merval (Buenos Aires Stock Exchange) – P/E of 11.40
2.) The iShares MSCI Turkey (Istanbul Stock Exchange) – P/E of 13.11
3.) The iShares MSCI Singapore (Singapore Stock Exchange) – P/E of 15.10
These are tempting valuations. But I do not recommend buying into any of these markets just now. The crisis in Greece ... the lawsuits facing Goldman Sachs…and the BP oil spill are causing major jitters in stock markets around the world. This makes ALL markets highly vulnerable to losses.
Now is the time to keep you powder dry and hunt for bargains after the current wave of panic subsides.
Read the source article.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM THE GOVERNMENT AGENTS
Panama is crawling with them.
Sovereign Man Simon Black fortuitously sat next to one of Uncle Sam’s agents on a flight from Panama to New York. The agent was loquacious, and when he finished regaling Black with his war stories he had left the distinct impression that “a small army of U.S. government representatives” is crawling around Panama. Black reckons that most bank employees in Panama, or Belize, or the Caymans, etc., would accept a bribe of a few hundred thousand dollars from a U.S. fed to provide a list of the bank’s foreign account holders.
Rumours about the IRS bribing Caribbean bank employees for information has been going around for decades, really, so this is hardly new. But the dirty was against financial privacy has been stepped up.
Bottom line: Do not open a foreign financial account in the hopes of hiding money. That will just get you into trouble. Do, however, “open a foreign financial account in order to protect your savings from exchange controls, confiscation without due process, frivolous lawsuits, currency depreciation, and more. It is probably the single most important flag you could plant for your money.” Afterwards, do not make a secret of it. Report it properly.
A couple more useful pieces of advice were that Panama and Belize were reasonable places to park (and report) amounts from $10,000 to $250,000; beyond that “more developed jurisdictions like Switzerland, Hong Kong, and Singapore” are advisable. And if you really want to get your money “off the grid,” go for nonreportable assets like precious metals and real estate.
My weekend in New York City with fellow Atlas 400 members was really spectacular and first class all the way. There were about 50 of us in total, all with varied and interesting backgrounds from all over the world – a renowned heart surgeon, a music business mogul, a couple of best-selling authors, successful entrepreneurs, etc.
I want to tell you a lot more about the event because I think it underscores how important it is to develop diverse personal relationships bound by common philosophical beliefs ... but today I want to spend a few moments talking about something else – Panama.
I stupidly booked myself on a rather unfortunate 6 a.m. flight from New York to Panama on Sunday morning. I am not a morning person, so I don’t quite know what I was thinking, but it ended up being rather serendipitous.
Prior to takeoff as I was resting in my seat trying to ward off the prior evening’s wine selection, a man sat down in the seat next to me and immediately began striking up some idle banter ... I am sure you have been there – chatted up by an early morning type-A personality who apparently receives caffeine intravenously?
In most cases I would be polite enough to explain that I need to snooze ... but for this gentleman, one quick glance out of my half-opened eyes sent the alarm bells blazing ... his entire appearance screamed “U.S. government agent.” It might as well have been tattooed on his forehead.
I perked up and look around a bit more, noticing 5 or 6 more of the usual suspects – all of whom were with me in the first class cabin, mind you ... that is U.S. federal tax [debt] dollars at work.
Given my past experiences with these types, I have found that a lot of them take pride in what they do, and they want you to know it. For “security” reasons, they cannot tell you exactly what they do, but they will dance around the issue until you are convinced that they are either Jack Bauer or James Bond, even though it is not true.
As a rule of thumb, the guy who tells the loudest war stories is the one who was the furthest away from combat. Needless to say, my seatmate regaled me with “hypothetical” stories about drug busts, asset seizures, and money laundering operations, with the standard caveat of “well I can’t give you any specifics, but ...”
Here is the big takeaway that I want you to understand: Panama has a small army of U.S. government representatives crawling around, including military and drug enforcement in particular.
It has also been reported that the IRS is even setting up an office in Panama, though my sources on the ground here have indicated that this has not happened ... at least, not yet.
A few years ago, Germany shocked the world when it announced that one of its intelligence agencies had infiltrated Liechtenstein’s LGT bank by paying a €5 million bribe to a bank employee for information on 750 foreign account holders.
It seemed rather strange to me that Germany publicly acknowledged that it had covertly invaded another sovereign nation, and induced a local of that sovereign nation to violate the law.
Most people did not seem to take notice of the legality of Germany’s actions ... instead, the global community cheered Germany’s efforts to crack down on financial privacy.
Governments are waging a dirty, no holds barred fight against financial privacy, and the penalties are severe.
Frankly, I would not be surprised if the U.S. government were engaged in similar activities. I do not know of too many bank employees in Panama (or Belize, Cayman, etc.) who would turn down a few hundred thousand dollars to provide a list of foreign account holders.
Here is the bottom line: Governments are waging a dirty, no holds barred fight against financial privacy, and the penalties are severe. If you do not disclose a foreign account as a – taxpayer, the IRS thinks that it is entitled to 50% of the account value. In Australia it is even more Draconian.
Consequently, you should not open a foreign financial account in the hopes of hiding money ... that will just land you in court next to Wesley Snipes.
You should, however, open a foreign financial account in order to protect your savings from exchange controls, confiscation without due process, frivolous lawsuits, currency depreciation, and more. It is probably the single most important flag you could plant for your money.
Afterwards, do not make a secret of it. Ensure you follow the proper disclosure protocols for your home country ... in the United States, that could mean IRS 1040 Schedule B and Treasury form TDF 90-22.1.
Despite the presence of so many government agents, I still think Panama is a reasonable place to bank, especially for smaller account sizes. The institutions are solid and well-capitalized, and many of them still work with North American citizens.
Belize is another jurisdiction to consider for smaller account sizes, between $10,000 and $250,000. Beyond that, I would strongly suggest more developed jurisdictions like Switzerland, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
Meanwhile, if you are really looking to go “off the grid” with your money, your best bet will be nonreportable items like precious metals and real estate ... but we will save that for another time.
Read the source article.
IT IS TIME FOR SOLUTIONS
The problem: Politicians are richly rewarded for increasing the number of net beneficiaries at the expense of a shrinking pool of net providers.
Anyone here probably understands that analogizing governments to parasites is a plenty accurate approximation, especially viewed from the perspective of the productive. If those on the tax collection dole just did nothing that would be one thing. Instead a lot of them compound their position as spongers by imposing pointless but costly regulations, wasting materials and energy to make weapons and then creating more enemies with them, having surveillance equipment installed so they can intrude further on our lives, etc., etc.
A classic C.S. Lewis quote applies here: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
If government players would just conspire among themselves to be efficient and lazy thieves we would all be better off. They would figure out when to stop plucking feathers from the goose, and actually be incented to encourage the goose to grow.
Governments do see the need to keep the populace placated by giving some fraction of tax collections back to the tax-payers. But, as Simon Black puts it: After sprinkling a few dollars here and there to the net beneficiaries they dump “truckloads of dollars to their crony friends and insiders. ... The value equation is highly skewed, though. If the government collects $1,000 from the net providers, the beneficiaries might end up with $100, and the other $900 is wasted or given away in corrupt schemes.”
His solution? “[M]y goal is to exist outside of this system as much as possible by pitting competing governments against each other to my advantage ...”
I am impressed by many insightful responses we received from yesterday’s letter. I would really encourage you to browse the comments section and see how everyone weighed in on the topic of politicians protecting their interests at the expense of our civil liberties.
It is important to explore these issues from time to time – they serve as a reminder to take action while we still can. But rather than dwell on the political negativity that seems so pervasive these days, I really want to get us refocused on solutions.
After all, there are a multitude of options and opportunities out there that lead to increased wealth, asset protection, and a fuller, more independent lifestyle. Each of us has the power to exploit these.
Before discussing solutions, though, I first want to give you a much better understanding about the philosophy of where I am coming from. I think it is probably obvious at this point – you realize that I am no fan of government, but I want to explain why.
The greater concern is that these rapidly expanding governments routinely destroy value and make things more difficult for productive individuals.
Sure, I am dismayed when I see signs of increased authoritarianism, such as what happened at the G8/G20 summits in Canada. The greater concern I have, though, is that these rapidly expanding governments routinely destroy value and make things more difficult for productive individuals.
One of the comments that I read yesterday from reader “Chengdu Express” summed it up quite clearly. To paraphrase the comment, there are essentially two types of people – those that benefit from the system (government jobs, free health care, generous pensions), and those that provide the benefit (taxes).
Certainly, while everyone pays a share of taxes and receives a share of services, at the end of the day there are clearly net beneficiaries and net providers ... and this system is facilitated by the government.
As governments continue to expand, the number of net beneficiaries will rise, all at the expense of the few remaining productive citizens. Naturally, the bigger the beast becomes, the more people will find their livelihood directly tied to it.
This is what they are facing right here in the UK, where public sector employment already comprises the preponderance of the economy. Yet a recent report published by the center-right think tank Policy Exchange demonstrated that public sector workers enjoy better pensions, earlier retirement, shorter hours, and as much as 30% more pay than their private sector counterparts.
What do all of these public sector workers actually do? According to some accounts, absolutely nothing. For those UK public employees who actually show up to the office, there are a variety of insane laws and regulations to enforce.
For example, the government has mandated, by law, that a shot of alcohol in a bar must be exactly 25 mL in volume ... not 24, not 26. The owner of a private establishment has no flexibility to pour his own drink without violating the law.
Needless to say, there are entire offices of bureaucrats who get paid to inspect and enforce the 25 mL alcohol rule ... just one example of the transfer of wealth to the net beneficiaries at the expense of the productive.
Here is an even more insane example. Over the weekend, the Daily Mail reported that under a new law, British shopkeepers will no longer be able to sell eggs by the dozen, but must rather relabel their packages by weight (“I’d like 322 grams of eggs, please ...”)
Clearly this is the most important priority facing a nation in crisis. And you can bet that there will be yet another office of egg carton inspectors to enforce this new regulation as well, if it passes.
None of these laws makes a bit of difference or provides the slightest benefit to anyone, yet they provide jobs to public sector employees at the expense of everyone else ... and I mean everyone, from the business owner to the investor to the bartenders and janitors that have to pay more in taxes.
To be clear, I am not trying to demonize public sector workers. I know that the majority probably work hard and take their jobs very seriously; the problem is that the regulations they are tasked to administer and perform are incredibly costly and destructive to the value-creation process.
This is the fundamental structural failure in our system – politicians are richly rewarded for increasing the number of net beneficiaries at the expense of a shrinking pool of net providers. And as we saw with the G20 protests, they can hide behind their police forces and do it at the point of a gun.
Conclusively, governments exist to support themselves first and keep the party going. They do so by sprinkling a few dollars here and there to the net beneficiaries, and then truckloads of dollars to their crony friends and insiders.
The value equation is highly skewed, though. If the government collects $1,000 from the net providers, the beneficiaries might end up with $100, and the other $900 is wasted or given away in corrupt schemes.
I hold these truths to be self-evident, and my goal is to exist outside of this system as much as possible by pitting competing governments against each other to my advantage – this is what planting multiple flags is all about, and what we will be discussing in the coming days.
Read the source article.
RENOUNCING U.S. CITIZENSHIP, FOREIGN BANK ACCOUNTS, POSTAL MAIL FOR PT’S
Here is a great short Q&A e-session from Sovereign Man Simon Black, some of which come under the subject of “solutions” that “it is time for” referenced directly above. The foreign bank account question/answer is helpful. If your foreign financial accounts total more than $10,000 and you obey the mandate to report the accounts to the IRS et al, does that make them accessible to frivolous lawsuits? Disclosure does not expose your assets, says Black. The $64 question: Are they more accessible to U.S. government action by virtue of their disclosure? We suspect so.
Long haul flights from South America generally tend to leave in the evening, usually between 7 p.m. and 1 a.m. The airlines do this so that you arrive first thing in the morning and can catch any connecting flight you may need ... which is nice for travelers.
The flight schedule does make things a bit inconvenient prior to departure, though. Even with a late hotel check-out, you will have about 5 hours to kill before heading to the airport.
This happened to me yesterday in Rio, so I took the opportunity to work on my tan a little bit on Ipanema beach. Even though it was just a normal winter weekday afternoon yesterday, you would think they were having a supermodel convention at the beach given the abundance of bronzed beauties.
It is no wonder why Brazilians are so carefree about life ... how can you feel despondent when you are immersed in warm weather, sunshine, mountains, the ocean, and gorgeous, friendly people?
After the 11-hour Iberia flight (average business class, in my opinion), I now find myself in Madrid, where I will spend the day before heading to London to meet up with some friends and Atlas 400 colleagues. ...
I got a chuckle from a comment by Garth this week when he said “the rose colored classes are on,” in response to an article about Rio. I thought I should take a moment and explain something about myself.
Here is my confession: I am an unabashed optimist. I tend to see the good in everything – people, situations, and countries. Even in the midst of chaos, my natural instinct is to see opportunities. There is too much negativity in the world, and I am weary of cynics who dwell on it.
You can always count on me to be candid about my thoughts, but do not expect me to obsess over the negative aspects about a country. I will acknowledge them, and then move on ... if a country’s issues are so serious that I do not think you should consider planting a flag there, then I won’t even bother writing about it.
I recognize that people potentially base major life decisions on the information provided in this letter; this is a responsibility that I take very seriously, and I have a few simple rules that I follow which guide me as I write.
First, I will not ever suggest a country that I would not recommend to my own mother. Second, I only discuss multiple flag tactics (banks, passport programs, corporations, etc.) that I have first-hand experience with and can vouch for.
Third, I will not negatively bias someone’s opinion about a country simply because I do not personally like it ... I realize that not everyone shares my taste. As such, I tend to focus on the good points. If there are not enough good points to consider, then it will not be on my list. Simple.
Moving on, JT writes, “Simon, what are your thoughts on renouncing U.S. citizenship?”
Renunciation is a decision that more and more people are making each year. The movement is still embryonic, but I expect the coming years that there will be great waves of Americans taking this step.
For most people, the chief reasons are generally financial – they no longer feel comfortable making Uncle Sam a 40% partner in everything they do around the world.
One thing is for sure – no one should make this decision for emotional reasons because they hated Bush or hate Obama. These guys are as ephemeral as last night’s meat loaf. The decision should be made pratically with a well-reasoned financial analysis.
It is absolutely possible to mitigate or defer tax liability by properly planting multiple flags, but the ultimate tax break will come only when you renounce.
It is absolutely possible to mitigate or defer tax liability by properly planting multiple flags (i.e., business structured in one location, consumers in another, banking in another), but the ultimate tax break will come only when you renounce.
If you take this step, you have to pay a one-time tax to Uncle Sam as if you had liquidated all of your assets and taken the capital gains. Sammy gives you a $600,000 tax-free allowance and taxes you on the rest. I will have more on this in a future letter; it is definitely a topic worth discussing.
Next, Deiter asks, “If one were to disclose the existence of a foreign bank account, wouldn’t that make it accessible to frivolous lawsuits?”
Great question. One of main benefits of planting multiple flags is diversifying your sovereign risk so that your assets are no longer exposed to government agencies, tax authorities, and the court system.
Just because you disclose your assets, either due to government regulation or in a court-ordered discovery process, does not mean that your assets are exposed.
Just because you disclose your assets, either due to government regulation or in a court-ordered discovery process, does not mean that your assets are exposed. Let’s say you own property, for example, and you lose a court case ... the judge decides that your property should be awarded to the Plaintiff.
Well, if that property is located within the court’s jurisdiction, then the judge can simply have the title conveyed to the other party. If the property is located overseas, far away from the court’s jurisdiction, then they have no power or authority to forcibly convey the title.
The same thing goes for bank accounts, gold stored overseas, etc. When you move assets overseas, you are effectively removing those assets from the jurisdictional authority of your home country. Disclosing those assets as required by law does not eliminate that benefit.
Does anyone still use postal mail?
Lastly, Dave asks, “Simon I’m curious. As a PT, what do you do for postal mail?”
Does anyone still use postal mail? My banking/credit card statements are all email, and if I need a parcel sent to me, I usually just give the hotel address where I expect to be staying by the time it arrives.
If you get a lot of postal mail, you could try the Swiss Post Box service. They’ll receive your mail, scan the envelope, then forward/shred/scan the contents upon your instructions.
Read the source article.
ONE GOVERNMENT THAT IS DOING A LOT OF THINGS RIGHT
Switzerland an interesting case study on how to limit central power.
Democracy may be “The God That Failed,” but if you must be subjected to one Simon Black makes the case that Switzerland would be relatively tolerable. Why?
Switzerland is divided into 26 cantons, each of which is effectively sovereign and autonomous. An individual canton, e.g., Schaffhausen, with a population of only 76,000, has the constitutional authority to negotiate its own trade relations, set tax rates, and anything else that is not specifically reserved for the Swiss federal government. How would the U.S. have evolved had the federal government not continuously arrogated the states’ powers ever since the Constitution was ratified. Perhaps one only has to look to Switzerland to see.
Of particular interest is how this plays out in the fate of Swiss bank UBS’s U.S. client data. The battle has been going of for a while now, but the Swiss parliament is likely to vote to approve the transfer of the data to U.S. authorities. Game over? No – under the Swiss constitution, “If a group of citizens can gather 50,000 signatures against a law, a national vote must be scheduled whereby a simple majority determines if the law in dispute will stand or be overturned.” Any vote to hand over the data vote will surely be put to a referendum. The Swiss Bankers Association alone has over 1/3 of the necessary signatures to call for a referendum, according to Black.
“Power is concentrated at the lowest, least bureaucratic level possible, and responsible citizens have multiple mechanisms to countermand any idiotic decisions made by their politicians. Even for a self-avowed anarchist like me, I can live with that.” Especially when the alternatives are worse.
As a permanent traveler with no fixed home, I am fortunate to be largely insulated from the incompetence and negative consequences of most governments. Through the proper use of internationalization techniques, I am able to reduce my tax burdens, increase my privacy, protect my assets, take advantage of more opportunities, and substantially reduce my exposure to thieving bureaucrats.
Consequently, I generally try to avoid complaining too much about governments in this letter (though I don’t always succeed). I would say it is a given that just about every government is perversely inefficient ... we all know it, so there is need to waste time speaking out about it. Internationalization is a much more powerful statement.
Today, though, I thought I would take a different approach and highlight a government that is doing a lot of things right.
Switzerland is one example, and it should come as no surprise. At a time when other governments are keen to pillage and plunder their citizens and private industries through increased taxes, Switzerland is actually cutting taxes in order to attract businesses.
Switzerland is designed to be as flat, simple, and as efficient as possible.
They are able to do this because of the way the system in Switzerland is designed – flat, simple, and as efficient as possible. Real political power and decision making in Switzerland occurs at the local level because each of the 26 cantons (like provinces or states) is effectively sovereign and autonomous.
To put it more clearly, an individual canton like Schaffhausen (population 76,000) has the constitutional authority to negotiate its own trade relations, set tax rates, and anything else that is not specifically reserved for the Swiss federal government.
With this authority, Swiss cantons are competing with each other, cutting their tax rates in order to attract companies and wealthy individuals. The end result is more jobs in Switzerland, more capital deployed within the country, and greater economic prosperity for everyone.
Meanwhile, western European governments are busy cannibalizing their domestic industries with high tax rates (like the Portuguese “crisis tax”) and unpopular austerity packages. Even Australia has quite disappointingly passed a special tax on resource companies, singling out its most profitable industry for income redistribution.
It appears that they could all take a page from Switzerland’s book.
The Swiss federal parliament is backing a deal to hand over UBS client information to U.S. tax authorities, but this is a hitch ...
You might think I am crazy for lauding the Swiss government at a time when their banking privacy is in critical condition. It is true, the federal parliament is backing a deal to disclose the names and transaction details of 4,450 UBS clients to U.S. tax authorities.
They originally agreed to the deal in August 2009, though a Swiss court blocked the entire process in January 2010 on the grounds that it would violate Swiss law. Now it appears that the deal is once again going forward ... except for one hitch.
Built into the Swiss system is a direct democracy platform that provides a mechanism for both cantons and private citizens to reverse parliamentary decisions.
If a group of citizens can gather 50,000 signatures against a law, a national vote must be scheduled whereby a simple majority determines if the law in dispute will stand or be overturned.
Thus, while the Swiss parliament will likely vote to approve the transfer of banking information to U.S. authorities, it is even more likely that the vote will be called to referendum. The Swiss Bankers Association alone has over 1/3 of the necessary signatures to call for a referendum.
As Churchill once said, “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others ...” Yet as democracies go, one could argue that Switzerland is one of the best.
Power is concentrated at the lowest, least bureaucratic level possible, and responsible citizens have multiple mechanisms to countermand any idiotic decisions made by their politicians. Even for a self-avowed anarchist like me, I can live with that.
It is precisely this flatness and efficiency that makes the free market work so well in Switzerland, and why the economic downturn has mostly bypassed the country.
Going forward, I am convinced that it will be these small governments that thrive while the old, established, mammoth governments collapse under their own weight. That puts places like Switzerland high up on the list of places to consider for residency and eventual citizenship.
Read the source article.
A Reliable Source of Security Tips and Advice
If you are looking for advice and information on how to protect yourself from hackers, phishers, viruses, malware and so on, one of the best online resources I know is Get Safe Online. It is actually run by the Government in the UK, and sponsored by a variety of large businesses and IT organizations. But almost all the advice is generic, and not specific to the UK or any other country.
Read the source article.
A Great Anti-Keylogger for Free
When our clients login to the clients’ section of this site he or she is forced to use a virtual keyboard rather than just typing in the required usename and password, for reasons given here. Here is a short review of another anti-keylogging tool, the free version of which also protects against surreptitious screen and clipboard captures.
It is hard to imagine just how much we have come to depend on computer technology in the last few years, and how the power of that technology has continued to improve. In the mid-1980s I was a writer on a UK-based magazine called Personal Computer World. I worked with a fellow journalist called Guy Kewney, who is now best remembered for a hilarious case of mistaken identity that you can see here. (Warning: the language in the comments which follow that clip is not for the easily offended).
Sadly, Guy Kewney (the real one) died recently, and yesterday I attended a memorial service in his honor. Which is why, on the train to the service, I found myself reading a copy of Personal Computer World from April 1986 which I had dug out from my archive. Among the bargains on offer to readers at the time included a 20 megabyte (yes, megabyte) hard disk for $1200, a database system so advanced that it could index 1000 records in just 40 seconds, and a company offering to transmit international email at just 40 cents for 2048 characters.
How times have changed. And how much more risky our technology-heavy lives have consequently become. We store data in the cloud, we type credit card numbers into web sites, and we communicate via email. Hence the need for a proper security regime on our home and office computers to ensure that our personal data remains, well, personal.
One potentially useful addition to any security-conscious PC user’s armory is spyshelter. It is an anti-keylogger, and also warns if a remote system is attempting to perform a screen caputure or view your clipboard. It runs under all recent version of Windows, and the 32-bit version is completely free. There is also a premium version which offers additional features, including 64-bit support, as you can see from the chart below.
Read the source article.
Two Excellent Free Mind Map Programs
Mind Mapping programs are classically used for free-form thinking/doodling. With the point-and-snap-into-place capabilities of most programs of that type they are efficiently utilized in other tasks as well. A couple of free Mind Map programs are reviewed here. The review commenters have some other ideas worth checking out.
I have always been a fan of a business graphics package called Smartdraw. It is an easy way to do mind maps, org charts, calendars, room plans, flyers, web pages, and just about every other type of graphic you can imagine. However, at almost US$300 it is not cheap.
Edraw is cheaper, at around US$100, and works in a similar way.
A great bargain, however, is that the Mind Map component of Edraw is also available completely free. ... It is an 11 MB download, and runs under Windows XP and above.
It should be pointed out that Edraw’s Mind Map application is not a classic mind mapping outliner, but more of a general-purpose drawing program that includes a collection of icons (bubbles, lines, buttons etc) relevant to creating mind maps. So although you can create some great-looking images, it does take time to drag each individual item to the correct place on the page.
If you are after a classic mind map application, i.e., an outliner that automatically creates a mind map based on the text you type in, have a look at Freemind. This is still my favourite of all the free mind mapping programs.
Freemind is a smaller download (versions start at 4 MB) than the Edraw offering, though it does require Java. This gives it the advantage of running in Windows, Mac and Linux, so if you are a non-Windows user it is definitely worth a look.
Read the source article.
A Great Collection of Web Site Creation Resources
So you have set up a Web server or bought some hosting space on one somewhere. Now it is time to create a fantastic new website for yourself, your club, your school or your company. But there is just one thing. You need a simple Content Management System to allow you to create and maintain your pages. Oh, and you also need a great design template for your site.
As you might expect, everything you need is available for free online. If you want to know where, read on. ...
Read the source article.
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