Asset Protection Comments

Your assets are in the crosshairs This page contains short periodic commentaries on the subject of asset protection. Their creation is typically provoked by recent news items, recently discovered books or websites, or new or “reborn” asset protection products discovered a member of the WIL team.

These commentaries, even when considered as a whole, are hardly exhaustive. Nevertheless, we believe they will alert and remind our readers of the always-pressing need for implementation of a sound asset protection plan, encourage critical analysis of the various means of asset protection that are available, and help stimulate creativity in the implementation of one’s chosen strategy.

Stumbling on the Future
Summary : Human beings’ instincts are poor at accurately predicting the future or how we will feel about possible outcomes. Far more accurate forecasting of both is in fact possible, but this requires using our heads and dispassionately gathering data – which we are not inclined to do. WIL believes this has implications for asset protection planning.
The Buddha on Happiness and Asset Protection
Summary : The Buddha lived and taught approximately 2,500 years ago. Included in the principles that he advised people live by was asset protection. Human nature has changed very little in the last 25 centuries.
What Makes “Smart Money” Smart?
Summary : Smart investors are focused, contrarian, selective and patient. How might these concepts apply in the realm of asset protection?
General Sherman and Denial
Summary : When the Union army was marching towards Atlanta in 1864 a few individuals figured out that they were potentially in harm’s way and moved, thereby saving their lives and some property. Many did not. Living in denial of real but abstract threats is the human way. It is time to get real about the threats facing your assets and move some of them offshore.
Buying Flood Insurance Before the Storm
Summary : The time to buy insurance is before the insurable risk appears on the horizon. Once the risk is imminent the insurance will be expensive, if available at all. It is still possible, and inexpensive even, to insure a portion of your assets by moving them offshore.
Too Late Is ... Too Late
Summary : Most people do not think about protecting their assets until they are under attack. By then it is too late. Most stratagems at that point are ineffective and often illegal. Make your moves before the first whiff of danger appears.
The First Rule of Asset Protection Is ...
Summary : In the cult hit movie Fight Club, all club newcomers were informed that “The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.” That was also the second rule. The rules apply equally to the Asset Protection Club.
“Dumb Money” Can Smarten Up
Summary : The average investor displays an uncanny knack for buying and selling assets at the wrong time. Dumb money. Avoiding dumb money mistakes and unnecessary losses is very much an asset protection measure. It is largely a matter of applied common sense.
Investing in Emerging Markets for Diversification and Profit
Summary : Well-considered investments in emerging economies in such assets as timberland, export crops, service-oriented businesses, real estate, etc. provide the opportunity to establish a non-U.S. dollar denominated income stream, and are very much less at risk of attack or confiscation than assets located in one’s home jurisdiction.
=>More Commentaries


In Daniel Gilbert’s instructive, entertaining, and frequently hilarious Stumbling on Happiness, the author identifies key quirks in how the human mind works that cause us to consistently “misconceive our tomorrows and misestimate our satisfactions.” The mistakes we make when we try to imagine how our futures are going to look are predictable and systematic. He characterizes imagination as having three major shortcomings:

  1. Realism. The imagination fills in and leaves out critical details without us being aware this has happened. In particular, features and consequences we fail to consider often turn out to be important. We anticipate the thrill of result X, but fail to imagine that life will for the most part follow its same old pattern afterwards, thus dulling the thrill. Likewise, we dread result Y, not realizing that the reality is that life will continue on largely as before.
  2. Presentism. When the imagination paints a picture of the future, many details are necessarily missing. The gaps are filled in with details borrowed from the present. How we feel now can unduly and erroneously influence how we think we will feel later.
  3. Rationalization. Imagination fails to recognize that things will look different once they happen. In particular, dreaded outcomes will be put in context and the experience will end up being much less traumatic than we can conceive of beforehand.

In short, we imagine futures with details that will not be there and that omit critical details that will. When imagining how we will feel later, we find it impossible to ignore how we are feeling now and are unable to recognize how we will think about what happens later. (In one study researchers telephoned people in different parts of the U.S. and asked them how satisfied they were with their lives. Even when asked to imagine their futures, people who were experiencing good weather reported that their lives were relatively happy, and those having bad weather that day reported that their lives were relatively unhappy! They were unaware that their brains were doing this, and confused their current feelings with “prefeelings”.) A reasonable starting point for ameliorating these mind quirks is to take to heart the philosophical aphorism, “It is a wise man who knows that he is ignorant.”

However, the book cites several studies that show that when people use others as surrogates, they get a very accurate readout about how they will feel later. Quiz your fellow humans who are undergoing the experience now about how they are feeling in order to figure out how you are likely to feel in a similar future situation you are contemplating. Most people do not do this. The typical person does not see him or herself as typical. We fail to realize just how similar we all are, including in our emotional lives. Thus we reject the demonstrably realible method of using others as surrogates and rely instead on our error-prone imaginations and memories.

The upshot is that despite an abundance of consultants, role models, New Age gurus, coaches-for-hire, self-help books, etc., and all the information one can absorb at one’s fingertips, people often make poor choices regarding the most important elements of their lives. The average American moves 6+ times, changes jobs 10+ times, and marries more than once. We humans reject a lot of good advice, and accept a lot of bad advice. Beyond all the causes outlined above which impair our abilities to assess the advice we get, one might well ask just where does all the bad advice come from? Do our friends and family intentionally mislead us?

As with genes, a belief will increase its incidence within a population if it has some property that encourages its propogation. One such property is accuracy. If a belief is useful we pass it along because it helps us and our friends. But while accuracy may be sufficient, it is not necessary. It turns out that inaccurate beliefs can also be passed along and increase the number of minds they take up residence in if they promote communication and a stable system that provides a medium of transmission.

For example, it is a widely found research result that wealth increases happiness when it lifts people out of poverty and into the middle class, but that it does little to increase happiness thereafter. So why do people not quit the rat race once they are comfortably above the poverty level? Because delusional beliefs about happiness and wealth promote a vigorous economy, which promotes a stable society, which serves as a system for the propogation of such beliefs. Holding this belief causes people to engage in the activities that perpetuate it.

Another example is that every human culture inculcates the belief that having children will make people happy. People focus on the imagined high points of bringing up their future offspring, and gloss over the costs and sheer amount of mostly dull work involved. Those who have been through the experience also remember the high points and have deceptively fond memories of their past experience. Research measuring actual satisfaction in real time quite clearly shows that couples generally start out happy in their marriages, become progressively less satisfied as they go through their child-rearing years, and reattain their original level of connubial bliss only when the kids leave home. Careful observations of women indicate that looking after children is only slightly more pleasant than housework, but less pleasant than exercising or watching TV. But the idea “children bring happiness” generates the communication that creates the belief’s transmission. (Grandchildren, after all, do reliably bring happiness. Would-be grandparents are snake oil peddlers of a sort!) The opposite – apparently more accurate – belief would put any culture that holds it out of business after a couple of generations. The human cultures we observe must hold this belief or they would not be around for us to observe.

So ideas can flourish if they preserve the social systems that facilitate their transmission. These ideas must disguise themselves as prescriptions for happiness if they are going to dupe individuals into participating in the transmission game. One might think that experience would debunk the myths in time, but our memories of the experience are often inaccurate. We may believe that we are having children and trying to increase our wealth and income in order to increase our happiness, we are actually nodes in a system that is driven by its own logic. We continue to toil and mate, and are continually surprised when the promised joy is not forthcoming.

How does all this apply in the arena of asset protection and wealth preservation? For one, the waggish saw that “All forecasts are dangerous. Especially those that concern the future,” shows up in a way that, if not exactly counterintuitive if you really think about it, is nevertheless surprising insofar as we humans so routinely beautify and fail to learn from the past.

More directly apropos, we at W.I.L. continuously warn about the dangers to your accumulated wealth from various threats – threats which are vague and hard to emotionally lock into until they are being experienced. The human mind’s foibles that lead it to inadequately grasp the significance of future scenarios are, we think, a major explanation of why people devote too little time and effort to protecting what they have. Try talking to or reading about someone who has had their bank account summarily seized. That will make it real!


In Hooked! Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume, a book edited by Stephanie Kaza that came out in 2005, a discourse given to a layman by the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautam) on actions and conduct that lead to the welfare and happiness of family people is summarized. The Buddha counseled that people comport themselves using these four principles as guides:

  1. However we earn our living – farming, business, therapy, teaching, or some other craft – we need to practice persistent effort: to be skillful and diligent, investigating what it takes to succeed at our work.
  2. We need to practice asset protection, to guard the wealth acquired by our efforts and skill. This is taking proper care of righteously-gained wealth. It is wise to invest or protect our resources so that neither thieves nor the government can unjustly rob us, unloved heirs cannot make false claims, and the vagaries of the asset markets cannot undercut our gains.
  3. We should learn the value of good friendship, associating with people who are of mature virtue, accomplished in faith, generosity, and wisdom.
  4. It is wise to lead a balanced life, neither extravagent nor miserly, so that our income exceeds our expenditures. This means reducing household debt and managing household and civic budgets wisely.

Naturally item #2 caught our eye, although we certainly appreciate the other three as well. The Buddha lived and taught during the 5th Century B.C. (precise dates are uncertain). Evidently human beings and governments have changed very little in 2500 years. Any student of history and human nature will not be surprised. But we do find some grim amusement that one of the greatest spiritual teachers ever saw fit to make protection against theft – officially sanctioned or otherwise – one of his basic precepts for living.


Rude Awakening” is a recurring source of articles featured in the W.I.L. Finance Digest. They recently published a two part article (here and here) provacatively titled “What Makes the ‘Smart Money’ Smart?” As one might guess from an article with the words “smart” and “money” in the title, the primary focus in these pieces was on investing. We are going to generalize here and and extend the concept to asset protection. The four key ideas from the articles are:

  1. The Smart Money is focused.
  2. The Smart Money is contrarian.
  3. The Smart Money is selective.
  4. The Smart Money is patient.

Let us try these concepts on for size as the apply to asset protection.

Focused. We have never, ever, counseled that anyone make asset protection an obsession or even a major priority in his or her life. We do not dismiss the spiritual idea that if you focus too hard on keeping something the universe will take it away. But we do counsel that when you think about protecting your assets, i.e., your lifestyle and ultimately, to some degree, your physical wellbeing, that you give it your undivided attention. Set aside some “quality time,” educate yourself, seek advice (hint, hint), and make a decision that best reflects your discoveries and thinking. That decision may be to do nothing, but have that be a conscious decision.

Contrarian. In investing this basically means you should deem the conventional wisdom – the crowd’s group thinking – suspect. In asset protection this amounts to thinking ahead. In a culture of instant gratification and constant ego massaging, planning ahead means settling down and thinking about how the future could have some unexpectedly rough things in store. Not necessarily very fun. As we have discussed in previous AP101 pieces – and, indeed, all over the site – things could be not-very-pretty in the near or intermediate future. This is not just general psychic fear seeking something to fasten upon. A study of history and economics shows why the existing economic order cannot continue forever. Only the timing of its demise is inconclusive. The crowd does not care. It probably does not even think about such things. Think for yourself. If the crowd is not wrong at least it is safe to say the crowd is not very intelligent.

Selective. In baseball this means wait for your pitch – don’t swing at offerings outside your strike zone. For investing this means invest only in what you understand. In protecting your assets this means make sure you understand what you are doing. Your strategy should be complex enough to handle your situation, but no more complex. It should comply with the letter and the intent of the governing laws (well, besides the intent to intimidate you into doing nothing). If you do not understand what you have done, and your asset protection services provider is either nowhere to be found or is only available for consultation at $500+ per hour, then you probably should have been more selective.

Patient. This writer has been worried about a depression since, oh, 1982. There is a saying that “Wall Street’s graveyards are filled with men who were right too soon.” “Easy” Alan Greenspan warned of “irrational exuberance” in 1996 – 4 years and 6000 or so Dow Jones Industrials points too soon. Here is a recent article with examples of brilliant investing minds who were early to a fault. So it goes.

Asset protection’s fundamental nature is that of insurance. We fervently hope we are wrong that asset protection is a good idea. But we are not optimistic. Benjamin Graham, the brilliant “Father of Security Analysis,” said (approximately) that “You are not right because you agree with the consensus. You are not right because you disagree with the consensus. You are right because your facts and reasoning are correct.” This complements what we said above about the crowd. As long as your considered conclusion remains that engaging in asset protection is advisable, there is no reason to feel let down if certain envisioned scenarios fail to come to pass. With luck the problem and your assets just end up getting passed on to your heirs!


No sooner had we penned last week’s AP101 piece (below), than we found two other Web pieces also published last week by authors expressing similar thoughts. More on these later. We also belatedly recalled an article from several years back, which no amount of search engine excavating has so far dug up, that was likewise apropos. This article – as best as we recall – told of how an ancestor of the author lived in Georgia (or nearby) during the U.S. War Between the States (1861-65). Later in the war, with Confederate armies in retreat and Union armies obliterating every economic asset in their path, said ancestor took a look at a map and noted that his farm lay on the path that Union General Sherman’s army was likely to take on their march to Atlanta. Having noted this, he then moved his family to northern Florida – beyond where the fighting took place – and sat out the rest of the war. Obviously he must have lost a lot, but he preserved some property and, more importantly in this case, his family members’ physical well-being.

Although the actions taken in this case seem so obvious as to be hardly worth commenting on, our sense is that in fact they were and are rare. Most people wait until the wolf is at the door before taking action. Evidently the human emotional system is not well-equipped to deal with abstract threats, threats that we cannot feel, even when the evidence is overwealming.

Which brings up the first of the two articles published last week mentioned above. In a very interesting article on short selling (summary is in the 2007-03-19 Financial Digest) the author notes that “millions of investors ... continue to see warnings in their everyday lives, but take comfort in the fact that their friends and advisors are all doing the same thing. They ignore reality and trust theories that have worked well (for the last 3 decades) in an ever-expanding sea of credit. So why do most individuals, maybe even those reading this article, never take steps to protect their capital from a bear market?”

Why indeed? Article author Doug Wakefield draws on the work of evolutionary biologist and Pulitzer Prize winning author, Dr. Jared Diamond. According to Diamond, pollsters ask people who live downstream from a dam how concerned they are about the possibility of the dam bursting. Those living further away from the dam are understandably less concerned about the dam breaking that those that live closer to it. But for those who live closest to the dam, concern about the dam breaking falls off to zero! Diamond theorizes that these people, who would drown if the dam breaks, must believe that the dam will not break in order to preserve their sanity. This ability to suppress or deny thoughts that cause us great pain is known as psychological denial.

Diamond suggests that such denial, common to individuals, could apply to groups as well. Doug Wakefield advises that the only way that investors will be able to take constructive financial steps before this credit cycle contracts, is to step outside of the powerful forces of the herd. From there they can begin to address the unpleasant reality of that which is currently unfolding and how we got here. Denial will only lead to unnecessary losses and increased pain.

We wholeheartedly agree. Of course we think – we are sure you will be shocked! – that stepping outside the herd group-think force field involves moving some of your assets offshore. We have said as much loudly and often. Helping people do this is our business and our purpose.

The second article published last week, subtitled “How the U.S. wrecked the world’s most robust economy and impoverished its own people” makes a case that “imbalances and systemic problems have become so severe that the economic downtrend in the United States will almost certainly accelerate dramatically at some point in the months and years ahead. ... if economic timing and velocity are not predictable, the direction and amplitude of future economic events seem clear: data strongly suggest that we are moving towards a Greater Depression, or perhaps something even worse.”

Article author Glen Allport concludes the introduction: “The tipping point could happen before this column is published, or not for several more years. I lean towards ‘soon’ however; I will be surprised if we get through the next year (or even this year) without our current Rube Goldberg economy coming unraveled. I urge you to do your own research and analysis and come to your own conclusions, but please give this issue the time and consideration it clearly deserves.” In a somewhat involved piece, he then goes on to defend his thesis and analyze our dilemma from economic, political, psychological and spiritual perspectives.

So ... big deal, we found some people who agree with us? All we can say is the evidence that a major disruption in the economic and political spheres – and in life as we experience it to be day-to-day – appears to be in the offing. General Sherman’s metaphorical descendents are on the march, and your assets are in their path. As today’s young would express it, denial is SO 2006!


There is a saying to the effect that you should buy flood insurance while the river is low, storm insurance while the sun is shining, and other variations of that idea. It expresses the pretty axiomatic piece of wisdom that, in so many words, one should prepare ahead of time for the worst ... not when the worst is imminent. Not only will that be cheaper, but protection may not be available at any price when a possible threat becomes highly probable.

We saw some astute financial markets observers allude the above saying earlier this year. In January and part of February they noted a very high, almost spooky, level of complacency in the markets notwithstanding the fragile underpinnings they observed. The world financial leaders had a meeting in Switzerland where, with only a few cautionary words, we were assured that everything was just great. U.S. major stock indices had sustained a record-long streak without a substantial correction. The complacency was understandable given how the human emotions seem to weigh recent experience so highly and longer-term memory so lightly.

Market volatility measures were at recent and extreme lows. Protection against an increase in volatily (via VIX options – we will omit details here) was correspondingly cheap. Also, the cost of buying insurance against a debt instrument’s default (via the derivatives market) was quite low. One market observer deemed the selling of such debt default insurance as equivalent to selling flood insurance after a period of unnaturally low storm activity. Just pocket the insurance premium and never have to pay out any claims! Why not? So far, so good!

We all saw what happened to Florida in 2004-2005 after the long hiatus from hurricane visits ended. And we all have recently seen what happened recently when the financial markets got jolted from their complacency. One of the jolts came in the form of news that suddenly made the fact that many “subprime” housing boom/bubble mortages were to borrowers with questionable ability to pay and were backed by overvalued collateral too obvious to keep ignoring. This and other events had market participants refocus from grabbing every profit opportunity that came their way to the possibility of loss. The cost of volatility and debt default insurance increased dramatically virtually overnight.

The point of this long preamble? Bear with us! We observe that the average adult acts in a very complacent manner vis a vis how he or she deals with non-market risks to his or her financial affairs. As we have explained at length in Introduction to International Asset Protection, your financial wellbeing is under threat from a myriad of sources. Threats from goverments lead the parade. People may have an underlying unease about the current situation – anyone over 25 can see how things have changed since our youths, and we do not just mean all the post-Sept. 11 alarmism – but that does not manifest itself in action for the most part. The checks and balances built into the U.S. lawmaking and enforcement apparatus has changed dramatically, before our very eyes, since W.I.L. was founded. But people act as if this were a minor detail ... as if life can be expected to pretty much continue as it always has. We doubt it.

Which brings us, at last, to our point. You can still, in effect, insure yourself against whatever the future has in store by moving some of your financial affairs offshore. And inexpensively at that. We view the recent financial market disruptions as a small preview of coming attractions. Not just financial markets, but the whole world economic system is built on an inverted pyramid of debt. When the realization that many of those debts are unsound can no longer be ignored, the system is at risk. Not just one’s wealth, but the whole Western lifestyle is at risk. The remaining legal niceties still extended to your assets will be early casualties of the disruption. Make some of your assets harder to grab while you still can. And while it is still relatively affordable, no less. Buy flood insurance before the rain starts falling!


Sometimes even we can be surprised by the apparent lack of protection – insurance, if you will – obtained by those with more than enough assets to be worth protecting ... and with more than enough resources to pay for good advice. Our eyes were caught this week by the headline, “Greenberg Puts $2.2 Billion AIG Stake in Wife’s Name”.

For those unfamiliar with the ongoing AIG drama-cum-scandal: Maurice “Hank” Greenberg was recently ousted after almost 40 years as CEO and chairman of the world’s largest insurance company, American International Group, which is also one of the world’s great companies period (this article is a good starting point for understanding the strength of its franchise). However, there has long been a suspicion that AIG “managed” its earnings, by over-reserving for losses in good years and under-reserving in bad years – a game available to any insurance company whose lines entail loss experiences that stretch out over several years – thereby providing the smoothly increasing reported earnings so beloved by Wall Street. Now it appears that Greenberg will be accused of being complicit in essentially stretching the rules of that game too far, thereby illegally propping up AIG’s stock price, with concomitant criminal and civil legal exposure.

Further details are available to anyone who cares to go look for them, and with Warren Buffett’s reputation possibly suffering some collateral damage (and politically ambitious, publicity-loving Eliot Spitzer involved) AIG is likely to keep generating news for a while, but we now come back to the headline. We are no more privy to the details of Mr. Greenberg’s personal financial affairs than anyone else who reads the article sporting the above headline, but the timing of the reported transaction is indisputably eyebrow raising – and a lesson for everyone. The article quotes a law professor: “If it’s transparently a gift to his wife, it presumably wouldn’t work. The courts are going to say phony baloney – we’ll simply take the stock from the wife same as we’d take it from the husband.” He further explains that Greenberg could lose the stock if he is convicted of a financial crime, and that prosecutors can freeze assets before a trial gets under way.

Enough said, really. With the accusations of wrongdoing, formal or not, already in the air, the time for asset protection measures of the type that the stock transfer may be is well past. As we explain in this section of Introduction to International Asset Protection, transferring assets into the name of a spouse or child is a very weak protection measure in any case. But whether you are protecting $2 billion or a tiny percentage of that amount, the strategy has to be implemented before the first (specific) whiff of danger arises. As we conclude in this section of IIAP, “Too late is exactly that ... too late.” We also would take note of the virtual throwaway line about how prosecutors can freeze assets before a trial in any case. If you do not have the resources to defend yourself, you are as good as convicted before the proceedings begin.


In the demented classic cult movie Fight Club, Brad Pitt and Edward Norton are the ringleaders of a secret club where men bond and discharge their excess testosterone away from the prying eyes of the Nanny State and its agents and informers. At the start of a Club meeting the Pitt character, Tyler Durden, announces for the benefit of all newcomers that “The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is you DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB!” As there always are newcomers at each meeting, obviously that rule had been broken. But the implication is clear: You do not share the knowledge of the Club’s existence except with those who can be trusted and are ready to join.

We believe that this rule applies well to your financial affairs in general, and protecting your assets in particular. Human beings are social animals who live within a language-created world of concepts and beliefs. With this comes a fundamental need for intimacy, i.e., a need to share what is going on inside our minds with someone. With no one to listen to us we quickly feel invisible, which becomes unbearable in time – thus the ancient tribal punishment of shunning was extremely effective. Similarly, if you choose to withhold too much you will feel alienated from the world. However, in a world awash in verbiage and interconnected as never before, our instincts no longer necessarily point us in the right direction as they once may have. It is almost always a good discipline, and an avenue of personal growth and developement, to become aware of and question one’s wiring. Ask yourself why you feel the need to share such information. If it is to show how clever you are, think of some other way to release (or transcend) the desire.

Second, asset protection measures such as moving some of them to a foreign jurisdiction is clearly discouraged and viewed with suspicion by those who one would rather not draw the attention of. We are, of course, ultimately referring to Uncle Sam (or his equivalents in other countries) and his employee-beaurocrats. Wantonly spreading the word about your finacial manoeuvering might find its way to the desk of such people, for example, when some person who is dependent on the government or envious of your initiative “informs” on you. Even if you have followed every single rule with great precision and nothing comes of the “leak”, you will now have a permanent entry on some database ... which surely does not qualify as a benefit.

Which brings us to a third point. Respected international investment pundit Doug Casey has once again issued a warning about what could happen if the world economy deteriorates. In this article, he writes, “Perversely, ... the more inconvenient and potentially dangerous it becomes to have a financial presence offshore, the more important it is. As outlandish as it may sound now, after the world has been financially and economically liberalizing in most regards over the last 20-some years, I expect the U.S. to come up with a regime of foreign exchange controls at some point in the fairly near future.” When the U.K. had currency controls in the 1970s, those with foreign accounts were forced to repatriate them. (Doug Casey recommends buying land, on the theory that you cannot be forced to repatriate that, but there are other similarly effective approaches.) If history should repeat itself, you certainly want no more people to know about the distribution of your assets than is absolutely necessary.

In an example of life imitating art, it seems the government itself is not above following Fight Club-like rules. It refuses to disclose the rule that requires one to produce an ID in order to board a U.S. domestic flight – for national security reasons, or some variant (of course). Use the same logic in divulging your own personal information.


There is an old saying in poker to the effect that if a half hour after joining a game you do not know who the patsy is then you are the patsy. The adage applies equally well to the investment markets. A consistent, easily observable pattern sees every major bull market – in stocks, precious metals, bonds, or any asset class – drawing in hordes of amateur players and their money after asset prices have risen substantially ... seemingly just in time to help market veterans and insiders dispose of their holdings before prices fall. You do not have to be a conspiracy theory buff to explain this. As quote-fount Mark Twain put it, “Never attribute to maliciousness that which can adequately be explained by stupidity!”

The Daily Reckoning once had a series of commentaries which identified “dumb money” as a creature with an “uncanny knack” for buying or selling stocks at inopportune times. “Dumb money is here to stay, whether we like it or not,” they continue. “So we might as well figure out ways to turn this negative into a positive. ... ‘Dumb money’ takes many forms, but its underlying nature rarely changes. It never becomes ‘smart money,’ for example, though it may masquerade as such for a while.”

Our intent is not to give you advice on how to realize trading gains by playing against the “dumb money” – the subject of interest in the cited commentary. It is rather to suggest that taking steps to avoid membership in the dumb money crowd is a good asset protection measure. No less than losses suffered at the hands of a court judgement, rampaging government agents, or scammers, financial trading losses are losses. To be sure, losses are an unavoidable risk of investing, but dumb losses are not.

Our observation is that bringing a little wisdom into play is sufficient to avoid the crassest of investing mistakes. The old saw that “If something is too good to be true, it probably is,” applies to investing. Let there be no illusions – making a consistent above-market return is hard work. Few people do that, never mind riding the markets to riches (Warren Buffet is a notable counterexample). Yes, there are times when you can profitably sit back and enjoy the ride, but even in these instances most investors sell prematurely or hold on too long and give back their gains. If you merely keep this knowledge actively in your mind, you will greatly facilitate your departure from or avoidance of the “dumb money” class of investors.

Though one might ask where this general idea applies today, we leave market prognostications to the professionals. (Even though we are clearly sympathetic to the idea that lots of “bad stuff” is in the cards, our emphasis is on ameliorating the consequences stemming from such scenarios rather than pursuing active opportunities for advantage.) Clearly, however, the housing market in many U.S. markets is in the well-advanced stages of a major bull market. Our Finance Digest has been covering several articles per week that point to this. Previously disinterested people are pouring into the market, trying to make a quick dollar in the latest “sure thing.” Dumb money, or smart?

When you are ready to join a growing community of smart money players, contact us to schedule a consultation.


What does investing in emerging markets have to do with asset protection? Should investments in emerging markets not be classified as highly speculative? As with everything else, there are multiple ways of looking at the potential for investing in emerging markets.

In previous commentaries we have argued for maintaining a well-diversified portfolio, jurisdictionally as well as among asset classes and investment advice/service providers. Due to the precarious position of the rapidly-falling U.S. Dollar, this time-tested principle could well be more relevant now than ever before. As more and more capital flees the U.S. and U.S. dollar-denominated holdings continue to become less attractive to foreign investors, the likelihood of the U.S. government implementing capital and exchange controls becomes much greater. In fact, well-known investing market and offshore pundit Doug Casey recently saw fit to highlight just this risk. (The source article is apparently no longer available. Our article summary is here – the remark to which we refer is in the closing paragraph.)

Well-considered investments in emerging economies in such assets as timberland, export crops, service-oriented businesses, real estate, etc. provide the opportunity to establish a non-U.S. dollar denominated income stream, and are very much less at risk of attack or confiscation than assets located in one’s “home” jurisdiction. Many of the investments to be found in such markets are commodity-based, which provides a partial hedge against equity and bond market turmoil.

Further, in the event that capital and exchange controls do become a reality, having a portion of one’s investment assets elsewhere will obviously leave one with far more options than would be the case where 100% of one’s assets are maintained at “home”.

As with other types of investments, and perhaps even more so, careful planning and investigation are required if one expects to be successful. In this arena, however, the rewards of careful planning can pay very substantial dividends.

If the idea of investing in emerging markets seems attractive to you, contact Wealth International, Ltd. immediately to learn how we can help you.

=> Earlier Commentaries