Offshore Living Letter https://www.offshorelivingletter.com Build Wealth and Protect Your Assets Tue, 18 Sep 2018 19:27:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 68055050 Our Lives Are International, But Panama Feels Just Like Home https://www.offshorelivingletter.com/our-lives-are-international-but-panama-feels-just-like-home/ Mon, 17 Sep 2018 12:30:38 +0000 https://www.offshorelivingletter.com/?p=49250 The post Our Lives Are International, But Panama Feels Just Like Home appeared first on Offshore Living Letter.

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Diversification Is Key... But Coming Home Again Is Good, Too

Touching down in Panama yesterday, after five weeks on the road, I embraced the strong sense I felt of coming home.

Technically, Lief and I live nowhere. Official empty nesters since our son graduated high school, we’re footloose and fancy-free… with the frequent-flyer accounts to prove it.

We hold residency in Panama but are no longer based here full-time. These days, we’re moving around the globe as business and personal wanderlust dictate, organizing our travel calendar on the fly.

This year we’ve spent time in 11 countries and counting.

Sounds great, right?

Yes, this first year as parents without kids has been productive for the business, allowing us to chase opportunity when and where it has presented itself… from Portugal to Spain… from Colombia to the Dominican Republic… and from Thailand to Singapore…

And, for sure, it has been fun and exciting to be able to pursue back-to-back adventures across four continents.

These past several months have also, though, frankly, been a bit unsettling… and a little tiring.

Living nowhere can be hard work.

Settling back in the taxi as we pulled away from Tocumen International yesterday afternoon, I relaxed as I haven’t in some time. Lief and I, I reminded myself, weren’t headed to yet another hotel. We were on our way to our own little apartment on Avenida Balboa…

Where we’d be able to unpack (after living out of suitcases for weeks)… to sit together on our own couch to enjoy our evening glass of wine (rather than in the lobby bar of a hotel)… and then to sleep in our own bed.

Driving from the airport into the heart of the city, I watched for all the familiar landmarks… and smiled at the new construction since we were last in town. You can’t blink in Panama City without the landscape in front of you changing before you reopen your eyes.

Today we rose early, dressed, and drove to the office… our usual commute even if we haven’t made it for weeks… picking up where we left off…

What’s news since we’ve been away… we wondered of our Panama City team…

The Next Singapore

Panama City turned 499 last month and has begun the countdown to the 500th anniversary of its founding… meaning fiestas galore through next August.

Also last month, Panama City’s Mayor José Isabel Blandón unveiled an overarching plan for further infrastructure and social projects. Billed as Panamá Resiliente (Resilient Panama), the program includes 45 initiatives to do with public transportation, education, environmental awareness, streamlining of municipal services, citizen involvement, and green infrastructure.

Bottom line, the idea is to improve city parks and avenues, create gymnasiums and other active spaces, plant more trees, and connect the whole of the city with free Wi-Fi.

This city continues to push aggressively to make a name for itself on the world stage as the next Singapore.

Having spent time in Singapore recently, I’d say Panama City has its work cut out for it.

At the same time, driving home along Avenida Balboa yesterday afternoon, I noted that it wasn’t too many years ago that this part of this city looked very different.

When we initially took up residence in Panama in 2008, the park-lined 10-lane thoroughfare that today runs through the heart of this country’s capital all along the Bay of Panama was in its earliest stages.

That is, it didn’t exist.

Avenida Balboa was six lanes with no median, no shoulder, and, in some sections, not even as much as a sidewalk separating the traffic from the fronts of the apartment towers.

Nary a tree or a flower anywhere in sight.

That first year living in Panama City, we’d watch as crews worked around the clock and seven days a week to meet the deadline for the completion of the first phase of the mammoth city-center improvement project known as the Cinta Costera.

Today, a decade and four Cinta Costera phases later, traveling this part of this city you could, in fact, imagine yourself in Singapore.

Step by step… bold infrastructure improvement venture after bold infrastructure improvement venture… a new garden here, another bike path there… this place continues to push ahead with its Next Singapore agenda.

The little engine (backed by the great big Canal) that could.

Kathleen Peddicord
For Overseas Opportunity Letter

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What Everyone Should Know About Emergencies Offshore https://www.offshorelivingletter.com/what-everyone-should-know-about-emergencies-offshore/ Thu, 13 Sep 2018 22:59:36 +0000 https://www.offshorelivingletter.com/?p=49223 The post What Everyone Should Know About Emergencies Offshore appeared first on Offshore Living Letter.

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What If The Doomsdayers Are Right? Here’s How To Prepare For The Worst

Last year my pregnant niece, her husband, and baby had to be rescued from a second-story window during Hurricane Harvey in Texas. They climbed out of the window, dropped down into a boat, and rode to safety.

After the hurricane passed, they moved back into their house and started to rebuild it.

Their biggest concern was a car. Harvey had destroyed both of their cars. They’d been hauled off. Now they needed to buy a new car, to be prepared when the baby was due. Dealers were out of stock, though, and decent cars were hard to come by.

The family finally got a car, and a fine baby boy was delivered, but the incident got me thinking of how to prepare for an emergency, evacuation, whatever.

In another case, Argentine friends who live west of Houston assured us they were doing fine. Then one day I opened Facebook and saw their latest post on Harvey:

Nos evacuamos.”

They’d prepared the house as best they could, put on rubber boots, and walked out with their two children and a few things in backpacks. Someone picked them up and took them to a friend’s house. Unlike my niece and nephew, these Argentines had a couple of days to prepare.

Last summer Vicki and I had a fire scare one morning in our hotel in Vancouver, B.C. The fire alarm insisted we evacuate. We and others had to decide, quickly, what to take. We grabbed passports, computers and cables, phones and money belts. Forget clothes, we decided. Even if we were in our pajamas, we could quickly arrange for new clothes.

Here Are Some Tips…

At home you should keep a list of what matters, what to grab in an emergency. You may want to keep certain papers in a fireproof box in the closet or in a safe deposit box at a bank.

If you travel, as most of us do, I propose what I’d call nightstand essentials. Keep these two essential items next to your temporary bed in a hotel room, friend’s house, Airbnb, whatever.

First, keep your valuables in a bag next to the bed. Valuables include documents, phone, money, credit cards, watch, and so on. I wear a money pocket under my clothes, and keep it stocked with passport, credit cards, and money. I stick the stocked pocket in the bag along with glasses and watch. If we’re at a hotel rather than a private home, we typically put our valuables in the hotel safe.

If you tend to grab your phone first thing when something out of the ordinary happens, by all means put the phone in that bag, too.

Important documents include passport, driver’s license, Medicare (or insurance) card, and checkbook. Keep a copy of your passport on a thumb drive or in the cloud. That way you can print a copy in case of loss. I’m told if you lose your passport but have a copy, U.S. consuls around the world will replace your passport in about two weeks. If you don’t have a copy, to get a replacement takes an act of God.

The second item next to your bed should be a flashlight, either on the floor or on the nightstand. Last summer a friend was visiting his daughter and her family in New Jersey. He got up in the middle of the night, tripped over something on the floor, and hurt himself badly. I hear of these incidents all the time. And a flashlight makes for a simple solution. Whether you’re simply going to the bathroom or responding to a fire alarm, grab that flashlight first thing.

So much for natural disasters, so much for emergencies. What about man-made disasters? Specifically, you and I have a few bucks in our pockets. But most monetary wealth resides in banks and brokers. We believe our money awaits because we receive statements, either online or in the mail, purporting to show our money awaits. If Bank of America says we have a hundred, we have a hundred.

But what if Bank of America no longer knows we have a hundred? What if some hacker attacks the global financial system so that reliable numbers disappear? What if hackers disable the internet, or connected computers, or backup systems?

North Korea, Russia, and Pakistan certainly have talented tech people running around. Those people, with or without a government request, might want to cause global chaos. Perhaps the biggest risk comes from Silicon Valley, from some techie who goes postal. Instead of shooting people in Las Vegas, he or she could tank the global financial system.

What Can We Do Now To Prepare?

First, we can recognize that in a collapse we’ll all be in the same boat. Everyone, everywhere, will lack access to hard numbers. We’ll all need to scramble, to keep our wits about us.

I think the chances of making it are pretty good. Vicki and I were in Argentina during the meltdown there back in 2001. Government incompetence caused paper money to disappear, banks to close. Argentines quickly adjusted. They moved to barter. Strangers did business with strangers on street corners. Various fiat currencies soon traded on the black market, including hand-written IOUs.

Within a few weeks it was over. Most people survived.

I also point out what will probably not happen…

We’ll likely refrain from violence as a first recourse.

I remember back before the Y2K crisis. You’ll recall that on Jan. 1, 2000, world info systems were going to collapse because of a programming bug. It never happened. But most warnings ahead of time centered around violence. People were going to kill for food. If you don’t have enough to eat, you come shoot me to get my food.

But as a first recourse humans tend to cooperate rather than kill, to deal rather than threaten. Some will cooperate more than others. Some are better at cooperation than others. Whatever, our first instincts will be to do what we always do, that is, take a reasonable approach, try for a win-win, make do.

Finally, perhaps the best preparation of all is to diversify. We can keep our wealth in different banks, in different countries, different currencies, different assets. All banks and other bodies will scramble to come up with good numbers. Some will do better than others, and just one will likely be enough to get you started back to a normal routine.

What are the chances of a global information meltdown? My gut says very low. On the other hand, the risk is high enough to make me think about it… and plan for it.

Paul Terhorst

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3 Things You’ll Need If You’re Deciding To Retire Overseas https://www.offshorelivingletter.com/3-things-youll-need-youre-deciding-retire-overseas/ Mon, 10 Sep 2018 12:30:30 +0000 https://www.offshorelivingletter.com/?p=7666 The post 3 Things You’ll Need If You’re Deciding To Retire Overseas appeared first on Offshore Living Letter.

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Live From Las Vegas—Here's The Scene At This Year's Retire Overseas Conference

“The world is alive with opportunity.

“Specifically, in the context of this Retire Overseas Conference, the world is alive with opportunity for an interesting, rich, full, adventure-filled, and, sometimes, very affordable retirement in a place that is welcoming, beautiful, friendly, and engaging.”

“That’s our starting point…”

So I’ve explained to all those assembled with us here in Las Vegas this week… and so I’ve tried to show, over these four days, with the help of many dozens of normally far-flung correspondents, colleagues, expats, and experts. The bunch of us have been doing our best to present the best current options worldwide for where to reinvent your life, in retirement or otherwise, depending on your personal circumstances, priorities, and agendas.

We’ve walked attendees, in detail, through the eight issues anyone making a move like this faces, no matter where in the world you decide to relocate, from health insurance and medical care to residency visas and figuring your retirement budget.

We’ve also tried to remember the big picture, because, in truth, retiring overseas isn’t for everyone.

Who should live overseas? To make a success of this, you need:

  • An open mind…
  • A spirit of adventure…
  • A good sense of humor…

I’d say that everyone in the room with us in Las Vegas this week has an open mind and a spirit of adventure. They’re all here because they’re looking for something new, something better, something bigger, something different, something other. I’d say that those who’ve made the trip to Las Vegas this week are ideally suited to make a great success of this adventure precisely because they’re considering it.

Our program this week has been conceived around a series of eight panel discussions intended to provide full-spectrum information and insights—pluses and minuses, good and bad—and to showcase as many different points of view as possible.

Our Experts Cover Many Different Aspects of Overseas Retirement

First up on stage were Lief Simon and Lee Harrison, our resident bean counters, the two guys I know who are most experienced and most expert at tallying costs and calculating budgets. Lief and Lee walked the group through the thinking that goes into figuring out where you can afford to retire.

“The question,” Lief explained, “is not how much does it cost to retire overseas?

“The question,” he continued, “is how much money do you have to retire?”

Lief and Lee then proceeded to show attendees how to determine the answer to that question.

“Once you know the size of your retirement nest egg,” Lee explained, “then you can figure out where that nest egg will buy you the retirement you want.

“In fact, though,” Lee continued, “I’d say that’s not the way to approach this. That’s backwards. Start by thinking through the life you want. Imagine your ideal lifestyle. Then look at the numbers in that context. Where will the budget you’ve got buy you the lifestyle you’re looking for?”

Lief and Lee remained on stage… and were joined by Kat Kalashian, Rachel Jensen, and Wendy Howarter, for the next panel discussion, on Latin America. Lee, Kat, Rachel, Wendy, and Lief then introduced attendees to the pluses (accessibility, affordability, great weather, and lack of regulation) and the minuses (unreliable or nonexistent infrastructure, the mañana mentality, and lack of regulation) of the region where they each, for different reasons, have, for decades, been focusing their time and attention.

Next up, our Europe-experts: Kat Kalashian, Joel Nagel, Mike Herndon, João Gil Figueira, and Lief Simon. Advantages of Europe, according to this group? Developed infrastructure, culture, overall quality of life, and health care.

Disadvantages of Europe? The flights from North America are long. Language could also be a challenge, as, living almost anywhere in Europe, you’d have to learn another one. Exceptions include Algarve, Portugal, where the large and established British population means English is common, and Paris, for example, where it’s possible to get by with English alone (though we don’t recommend it).

In the past, we’ve highlighted the cost of living as a downside to Europe. Today, though, a strong Greenback and depressed local markets mean that some of the most appealing corners of the Old World are more affordable than they’ve been in a long time. It’s possible right now to embrace retirement in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Malta, and beyond, even if your retirement budget is modest. Our Europe experts are walking through the details and running the numbers for all in the room.

Finally, our Asia pros: Charles Conn and Lief Simon, fresh off an extended stay in this part of the world.

Pluses of Asia, according to our Asia experts? In this case, there’s one great big serious plus: the cost of living. As they put it, “Everywhere in Asia where you’d want to retire is cheaper than the cheapest options anywhere else in the world.”

That puts things into perspective.

Downsides to Asia? It’s exotic, it’s far away, and you’ll struggle to be understood, sometimes even to read a restaurant menu. For the right person, though, the unbelievably low cost of enjoying the exotic delights of this part of the world can more than offset the associated challenges.

As I write, we’re going over banking issues for the retiree overseas, including the particulars of how to open a bank account in another country and how to identify your best banking options in this post-FATCA, anti-money-laundering age.

Kathleen Peddicord

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You May Be Surprised At How Low Taxes In Europe Can Be https://www.offshorelivingletter.com/you-may-be-surprised-at-how-low-taxes-in-europe-can-be/ Thu, 06 Sep 2018 12:30:33 +0000 https://www.offshorelivingletter.com/?p=49176 The post You May Be Surprised At How Low Taxes In Europe Can Be appeared first on Offshore Living Letter.

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So You Wanna Live In Europe?

People often take Europe off the list of possibilities for where to move or invest overseas because they assume the residency options are too limited or the tax implications too onerous.

The truth is that residency can be easier to obtain in some European countries than it is in some Latin American countries… and the tax burden of living or investing in Europe isn’t necessarily more burdensome than it can be in the United States.

Sometimes it can be less burdensome.

It all depends on where, specifically, you want to live and how your income is derived.

Portugal, our number-one overall choice for where to live or retire overseas for the past four years running, is also the number-one destination in Europe for both ease of residency and minimization of taxes.

As a nonresident, you can spend up to 90 days in any rolling 180-day period in any country in the Schengen zone, including Portugal.

That could be 90 days straight in a Schengen country followed by 90 days outside the Schengen zone… or you could spend 30 days in and 30 days out on an ongoing basis.

If you’d like to be able to stick around in Portugal indefinitely, all you have to do is to show income of at least 1,200 euros (US$1,400) per month per person. Do that, and you’ll likely be approved to become a Portuguese resident.

Following this residency path, you’ll be required to spend at least 183 days in Portugal. Then, thanks to your residency status in Portugal, you’d be able to spend the rest of the year in any Schengen country(ies) of your choosing. As a legal resident of one EU country, you can spend as much as 90 days at a time in any other EU/Schengen country.

As a resident of Portugal, what would your tax obligations look like?

Portugal currently offers what it calls a Non-Habitual Resident Tax Regime. The poorly named tax law allows new residents who haven’t been tax resident in the country for the last 5 years to apply for a 10-year tax break.

Bottom line, this means that the bulk of your income during those 10 years will be tax-exempt in Portugal.

In addition, Portugal offers a Golden Visa program whereby you can obtain residency by making an investment in real estate. Going this route, you’d be required to spend but a week a year on average in the country (rather than the 183 days per year required under the proof-of-income option).

The invest-for-residency option suits someone looking for a path to EU citizenship but not wanting or able to spend the majority of his time actually living in an EU country.

Regardless which path you pursue to establish residency in Portugal, you can apply for citizenship after 5 years of legal residency… and after 10 years of illegal residency.

Yes, you read that right. Portugal allows you to apply for citizenship if you can show you’ve been residing in the country illegally for 10 years or more. I love Portugal.

Portugal isn’t the only European country where you can gain residency simply by showing you can support yourself. France, Spain, Italy, and Ireland all also offer residency options based simply on how much income you can prove.

Taxes As An American In Europe

Ireland’s program is the most onerous. The minimum-income requirement to qualify is 50,000 euros (US$58,000) per year per person. The biggest possible monthly U.S. Social Security check adds up to less than 30,000 euros (US$35,000) a year… meaning no American with only Social Security income to show for himself is going to pass the test.

Ireland put these minimum-income requirements in place several years ago, and no one I’ve spoken with in the country really understands why. You don’t need 50,000 euros per year to live comfortably in Ireland.

Also note that the residency permit you are issued under Ireland’s income program doesn’t come with a path to Irish citizenship.

Ireland doesn’t seem to want more foreign residents or dual nationals.

The U.K. has a retiree program that requires only 25,000 pounds (US$32,000) of annual income.

Required minimum-income figures for France, Spain, and Italy are in line with those for Portugal.

Many European countries have no set income requirements. The amount you’ll be required to show to establish residency will depend on the immigration officer you’re assigned and the region of the country where you submit your application.

This is one reason I recommend using an immigration attorney to help you with the process. A good immigration attorney can help guide you through these subtleties.

The administrative process associated with a residency application differs country to country. In some cases, you must begin the process at the nearest consulate before traveling to the country; in others, you apply after you’ve arrived.

What about your tax burden as an American in Europe?

We’ve addressed the situation in Portugal.

In general, a retired American shouldn’t owe any more in taxes on his pension and/or Social Security income than he would were he living in the States.

Every EU country except Croatia has signed a tax treaty with the United States. These determine which country gets to tax pension and Social Security income. Typically, the United States gets to tax the Social Security income of an American overseas and the country of residence gets to tax that American’s other pension income. This is not always the case, though, so check with a tax professional to confirm the treaty specifics for the country where you want to live.

All that said, as I said, bottom line, if your only income is retirement income, you shouldn’t pay more in taxes as an American retired overseas than you would as a retired American living in the States.

If you have a portfolio that kicks off rental income, dividends, or interest income, you’ll want to dig a little deeper into the details of the relevant tax code. However, again, in most cases, you’ll likely find that you’ll not be taxed more by living in a European country. You may be taxed less depending on the country and its tax rates and bands.

The biggest tax hit in Europe can come from social charges. Social charges associated with earned income are paid mostly by the employer. However, in some places, social charges are also imposed on passive income… another reason to take professional tax advice before making a move.

You’ve probably also heard about wealth taxes.

France’s wealth tax is notorious. Historically, if you were a resident of France, the country’s wealth tax applied to your worldwide assets, including jewelry (difficult to track and to value). If you hit the threshold (1.3 million euros, US$1.5 million), the tax started at a fraction of a percent.

In 2018, France changed its wealth tax law. Now only real estate is included when calculating the value of your assets to determine whether or when the wealth tax applies. The threshold of 1.3 million euros remains. If you’re a real estate tycoon wanting to live in France, you should speak with a French tax advisor before establishing residency to understand what you could do to mitigate any potential wealth tax hit.

France gets a bad tax rap, but, in fact, Italy and Spain are probably more painful tax regimes… because of how each country calculates the amount of tax owed. The tax bands are similar among all three, but France divides household income by the number of units living in the household before applying the tax bands.

Spain imposes a wealth tax that varies by region. Italy charges a wealth tax on financial assets held outside the country… so you should consider moving your stock portfolio to an Italian broker if you’re planning to become an Italian resident.

Also, when comparing what you’d owe as an American living in the States versus what you’d owe as an American living overseas, don’t forget state taxes.

When it comes to taxes, everyone’s situation is different. My overriding point is that you should not give up on your dream of a new life in Europe because you fear you’ll owe more in taxes as a resident in that part of the world than you would if you just stayed home.

I’d be surprised if that’s the reality.

Lief Simon

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Is Singapore A Suitable Destination For Diversification? https://www.offshorelivingletter.com/is-singapore-a-suitable-destination-for-diversification/ Mon, 03 Sep 2018 12:30:03 +0000 https://www.offshorelivingletter.com/?p=49150 The post Is Singapore A Suitable Destination For Diversification? appeared first on Offshore Living Letter.

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Asia's Most Impressive Turnaround Tale Of Success

Singapore sits on the path of ancient shipping lanes… which is why it has long been an attractive destination, first, among Asian kingdoms and then, starting with the Portuguese, Europeans.

Eventually, the British ended up with the island as part of their empire and they didn’t give it up until 1963, when Singapore joined the Federation of Malaysia… from which, two years later, it was expelled.

In 1965, this newly formed little country faced big problems, including high unemployment, limited resources, and hostile neighbors in both Malaysia and Indonesia.

However, it took the Singaporeans just 20 years to reinvent their situation. By the mid-1980s, the island boasted an economy growing at average annual rates of 8%. During the same period, unemployment fell from 12% to but 3%.

Today, Singapore is an ultra-modern trade, banking, shipping, and tourist destination that turns out to be a great place to hang out.

This could also be a good option for diversifying… if you can afford it.

The easiest flag-planting opportunity can be to open a bank account… again, if you’ve got the funds to fund it. Account minimums aren’t as big as in, say, Switzerland, but the Singapore banks open to taking on new American clients will ask you to deposit at least S$350,000 (US$255,000) for the privilege.

Further, you won’t be able to invest those funds. Thanks to SEC regulations, you’ll only be able to use your money on account to hold different currencies… which still can be a reasonable reason to keep an account here.

Want to become a Singapore resident? You’ll have to invest S$2.5 million, or about US$1.85 million, in a business or an approved investment fund.

Do either of those things, and you’ll automatically become a permanent resident. After you’ve held that status for two years, you can apply for naturalization.

Note, though, that if you become a citizen of Singapore you will be required to give up any other citizenships you hold.

In addition, if you’re male, you’ll acquire a military obligation. You’ll have to serve in the Singapore military until age 40 as an enlisted soldier or until age 50 as an officer. The required service period is 40 days per year. Not everyone would be up for taking on that kind of responsibility.

On the other hand, if you were to acquire Singapore citizenship, you’d hold the best passport currently available for visa-free travel. With your Singapore passport, you’d be able to travel to one more country visa-free (or visa-on-arrival) than someone holding a German or U.S. passport.

Singapore takes a jurisdictional approach to taxation—meaning you pay tax to Singapore only on income earned in Singapore. Income tax rates are relatively modest—the marginal rates top out at 22%.

The country imposes no capital gains tax.

Other Reasons To Consider Singapore

As I said, all things considered, this little island with such a long and intriguing past is more a place to visit than to plant a flag.

Even passing through, you’ll be struck by the high cost of being here. You don’t have to try to mirror the lifestyles of the characters depicted in “Crazy Rich Asians” (which Kathleen and I went to see over the weekend… fun to watch this movie set in Singapore while in Singapore) to feel the pressure on your wallet.

Though there are bargains if you know where to look for them.

When I was last here, about 15 years ago, I had two suits made. They’ve served me well… and I figured that this return trip would be a good chance to replace them.

I’m happy to report that you can still arrange for a tailored suit for as little as or less than you’d pay for an off-the-rack suit from Men’s Warehouse. Tailored shirts are less than what I pay at Nordstrom… and I only buy on sale.

And, of course, the materials, the craftsmanship, and the fit of a custom suit don’t compare with a department store suit.

Here I am ordering my two new custom suits from Harry at Happy Harry’s Tailors on South Bridge Road…

Lief ordering new suit

I plan to debut my new bespoke duds at our Retire Overseas Conference in Las Vegas starting this weekend.

Plans To Return

If you like history, the museums here in Singapore will both educate and inspire you. They are remarkably well conceived and put together. Try to arrive on the hour at the Asian Civilizations Museum for the free tour.

When we planned this trip earlier this year, I worried that a week would be too much time to allocate to Singapore. But Kathleen had never been here and it’d been years since my one visit… so we decided to carve out enough time to settle in.

I’m glad we did. While we’ve seen and done a lot this trip—from long walks through Chinatown and Little India, and several temple visits to drinks at the harbor-view SkyPark of Marina Bay Sands and too many hawker meals to remember—this is the only place in the world where hawker food stalls have been awarded Michelin stars—we sense that we’re only just beginning to get to know this city-state with such an impressive turnaround track record.

We’ll be back.

Lief Simon

The post Is Singapore A Suitable Destination For Diversification? appeared first on Offshore Living Letter.

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Thailand Aquaponics Project (And Profits) Continue To Grow https://www.offshorelivingletter.com/thailand-aquaponics-project-and-profits-continue-to-grow/ Thu, 30 Aug 2018 12:30:36 +0000 https://www.offshorelivingletter.com/?p=49125 The post Thailand Aquaponics Project (And Profits) Continue To Grow appeared first on Offshore Living Letter.

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Earn Up To 14.5% Quick-Flowing Cash From This Now Proven Investment

Two years ago I made a quick trip from France to Thailand to visit with a developer embarking on a new agricultural opportunity that piqued my interest.

The developer Andrew was launching an aquaponics/hydroponics project to grow lettuce and fish to sell into the local Thai market… with an eye to expanding the operation over time to grow enough to export regionally—to China and Singapore—where his harvests could yield higher margins.

Earlier this week I returned to Thailand to see in person the progress since my first visit. Andrew has kept me and all investors updated along the way, sending pictures of greenhouses as they were being constructed and of lettuce crops being harvested. However, I wanted to see the farm operations in person to get a better idea of the advancements made.

I wasn’t disappointed. The photos I’ve seen have been impressive, but walking through the active greenhouses gives you the real picture.

And it’s exciting.

In the R&D greenhouse, Andrew is testing new varieties of lettuce and herbs.

In addition, he has installed tanks to test the production of crayfish.

“Why crayfish?” I asked.

Because, Andrew explained, they have lower death rates and lower running costs than the tilapia fish he has been farming. Plus, crayfish are hot in this part of the world, on menus from Bangkok to Shanghai, and can command a better price than tilapia.

All of this research and testing benefits both the developer and his investors. The end goal of the R&D is straightforward—to generate more revenue from each aquaponics and hydroponics system by producing higher-margin products.

Early investors have already begun receiving revenue from their farm systems.

That’s thanks to one key benefit of aquaponics over traditional dirt farming—crops grow quickly… meaning it’s not long from the construction of a greenhouse and the installation of the aquaponics and hydroponics systems until crops turn over and cash begins to flow.

Walking through the greenhouses, Andrew explained that everything we saw growing—thousands of heads of lettuce—was already sold.

During my first visit two years ago, one of my biggest questions for Andrew was to do with who he imagined would be buying his harvests. He explained that he was speaking with a number of potential buyers… but everyone was telling him to get back in touch when he actually had something to sell.

Not ideal… still, I sized up the risk of not selling the production as small.

Lettuce production in Thailand is limited due to the weather and the traditional farming techniques employed by the locals. Limited supply coupled with growing local demand (from both grocery stores and hotels and restaurants enjoying fast-growing demand from their guests… especially their ever-greater volumes of Chinese guests) convinced me Andrew would have no problem selling his end product.

Turns out to have been a well-placed bet. Andrew is turning away potential customers and advising would-be buyers that they need to pre-order to guarantee access to his increasingly sought-after lettuce.

In fact, the pre-ordering works in the buyer’s favor, as growth cycles of Andrew’s various lettuces are short enough that Andrew is able to customize production according to demand… and to adjust harvest focus quickly.

He’s able to change crops every 17 to 21 days!

The only thing keeping Andrew from selling more lettuce is the number of greenhouses operating.

Your Chance To Profit

That’s where you can come in. You can own your own system and tap into the infrastructure—both physical and operational—that the developer has put in place over the last two years.

In addition to erecting nine production greenhouses, two R&D greenhouses, an education center, and worker housing Andrew has replaced the single-phase electricity from the main road with three-phase electricity so the water pumps and other equipment can operate more efficiently. And he’s installed a small cold room where he can store lettuce during harvest days until it’s shipped to or picked up by the buyer.

Operationally, fully trained and specialized staff is now in place. One team places the seeds in the germination mediums. Another checks the lettuce in the systems each day for any problems with bugs, growth rates, or taste quality. The nutrient systems are automated, and the electronic gauges for these are checked twice a day. In addition, Andrew’s team carries out a physical check each morning to confirm the readings on the gauges.

As an investor in an aquaponics/hydroponics system today, you benefit from the extensive work, learning, and training already invested in to get this point. From here expansion is a matter of “copy/paste.”

Except that the developer isn’t simply copying and pasting. He’s constantly improving.

You can invest today for US$31,000.

That investment buys you two racks of tubes with a total of 1,320 grow holes, water pumps, nutrient tanks, and the fish tank. You also get the benefit of the now in place electricity and greenhouse infrastructure.

The projected yields start at 10% a year once production starts… expanding over time to generate a projected 20-year IRR of more than 14.5%.

And, in fact, these projections are from the launch of the operation two years ago… meaning they don’t reflect the higher revenues expected from the specialty lettuces and the crayfish that Andrew is ready to begin growing as part of the next round of systems.

The sooner your system is up and running, the quicker you can begin receiving your income.

Of course, many more details are available. To speak with someone about this opportunity, get in touch here.

Lief Simon

The post Thailand Aquaponics Project (And Profits) Continue To Grow appeared first on Offshore Living Letter.

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What I’ve Learned Owning Rental Properties Around The World https://www.offshorelivingletter.com/what-ive-learned-owning-rental-properties-around-the-world/ Mon, 27 Aug 2018 12:30:33 +0000 https://www.offshorelivingletter.com/?p=49104 The post What I’ve Learned Owning Rental Properties Around The World appeared first on Offshore Living Letter.

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When It Comes To Rental Yields, This Can Make Or Break You

My first rental property was a three-flat apartment building I managed myself in the United States. I lived in one of the apartments and rented out the other two long term and unfurnished. I might have had an empty apartment for a few days between tenants during the two-and-a-half years I owned the building… but my occupancy rates were very high. Better than 95%.

All in all it was a positive experience despite a few tenant issues like a broken window when the second floor had a party and they tried to blame the window or the time the hot water heater for the building decided to die on New Year’s Eve (thankfully, Sears was open on New Year’s Day).

That personal rental-management experience didn’t prepare me for the short-term furnished rentals I would own overseas.

Not living where the properties are located required hiring a local rental and property manager. Rental management is a low-margin, high-volume business where service can be atrocious if the management company doesn’t have serious systems in place.

My first experience with this was in Buenos Aires, where the real estate company that I bought the apartments from ended up setting up their own rental management company to service their international clients. In fact, this is what most real estate companies who have mostly foreign buyers end up doing. It helps them make sales.

However, while they may understand the sales market for real estate in their country, running a rental management company is a different animal.

The company in Buenos Aires put one of their top administrators on the job to get the rental management up and going. The year and a half she was running things the reports were timely and the rental yields were good.

At that point, the owners thought the business and systems were established enough that the lady who started things could move on. She did, but the rental business went downhill rapidly. Reporting was no longer timely and rental yields fell as they didn’t keep up with the marketing.

We switched to a long-term furnished rental for a while and then sold the apartments for a nice profit. Overall, the rental yields for the time we owned the one apartment were good despite the hiccups, but it was my first lesson in how different your yields can be depending on the rental management company.

Renting Properties In Paris

The next lesson came in Paris where the first apartments we bought there were placed with a rental company recommended by the real estate sales agent. The properties were set up for short-term rentals and they started renting… but no reports were coming.

We were seeing deposits into the bank account. The apartment was renting and the yields were good. We just weren’t getting reports.

The lack of reporting was frustrating as it was impossible to tell what rental rates were being charged or what occupancy rate we were getting. All I could calculate were the rental yields which, again, were good. Nevertheless, we needed better… or any… reporting.

So we switched rental managers to someone a friend was working with.

We started getting regular reports showing the rental rates and occupancy. Unfortunately, the numbers were low and the yields went down.

The first company was great at filling the apartment… and probably too busy marketing and managing renters to get to reports. The second company was great at reporting, but fell short on filling the apartment.

From a pure investment perspective, the first company was better for returns. However, without any reports, it was impossible to say if they couldn’t have been doing better.

Eventually, we moved on to a third company where reporting and returns were fine.

Similar stories can be told for most rental properties I’ve owned overseas.

The Importance Of A Good Property Manager

A new company set up to help buyers in a specific location can do well until it’s turned over to a new manager. Besides Buenos Aires, this has happened to me in Panama City where the first year of a short-term rental property had huge returns… then the manager left and returns dropped. In that case, the market had changed a bit, as well, so it was a double whammy. The new manager simply didn’t do anything and the demand in the market was down.

In that case I simply switched from a short-term furnished rental to a long-term furnished rental… and took over management myself because I had moved to Panama by that time.

The only lesson to take from my experience is that there are good rental managers out there and there are bad rental managers… and a good rental management company can go bad with a change of staff.

So how do you choose a rental manager for your property overseas?

Referrals are the best option. If a company has happy clients, then that’s hard to argue with. However, just because they have an unhappy client doesn’t necessarily mean they are not good at their job. The property does play a role.

One reader bought in Medellín back when the rental yields were well into the double-digit range for short-term rentals in certain neighborhoods. However, the reader bought outside of the area the rental manager recommended; an apartment that wasn’t really suited to short-term rental. Her yields didn’t match what others were achieving at the time because of the property… not the rental manager.

A friend of mine starts his search for an investment rental by finding a rental manager first and asking them what and where to buy. Rental managers know what they are renting so they should be the best source for what to buy as a rental.

This has worked for me in the past… and, of course, finding a rental manager before you buy a property helps take some of the uncertainty out of the equation.

Lief Simon

The post What I’ve Learned Owning Rental Properties Around The World appeared first on Offshore Living Letter.

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What You Need To Know About United States Travel Warnings https://www.offshorelivingletter.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-united-states-travel-warnings/ Thu, 23 Aug 2018 12:30:30 +0000 https://www.offshorelivingletter.com/?p=49077 The post What You Need To Know About United States Travel Warnings appeared first on Offshore Living Letter.

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A Warning About Travel Warnings

It’s one of the most frequent comments I get in my feedback from readers. Every month or so, someone writes in to chastise me for suggesting people look at diversifying their lives in places like Mexico or Colombia.

“Don’t you know that [insert country name] is full of danger? Haven’t you read the travel warning?” is usually how it goes.

I get where they’re coming from. The U.S. State Department issues plenty of travel warnings and alerts for the countries I promote as ideal offshore destinations. Sometimes, these places can be dangerous.

The travel warning reissued for Mexico in August cited “homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery.” It went on, stating “Gun battles between rival criminal organizations or with Mexican authorities have taken place on streets and in public places during broad daylight.”

Perhaps the ghastliest warning was that “In remote areas, cellphone coverage is limited or non-existent.” The horror.

You know where else is dangerous and has limited rural cellphone coverage? The United States of America.

Think about it. St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Detroit are among the top 50 cities with the highest murder rate in the world.

What’s more, the United States has the largest prison population in the world—in both per capita and total number. I’m sure many of those inmates are doing time for nonviolent offenses. However, not too many people come out of prison less violent than they went in.

Imagining A Travel Warning For U.S. Visitors

Can you imagine what a travel warning to the United States would include these days?

“The Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs warns Canadian citizens about the risk of traveling to certain parts of the United States due to rampant killings across the nation. These killings are both targeted and indiscriminate and can include military-grade weaponry or simple motor vehicles, both of which are easily accessible to anyone. 

“In 2016, 477 incidents were recorded where four or more people were shot. These shootings occurred at movie theaters, music festivals, shopping malls, nightclubs, houses of worship, businesses, government buildings, schools, and just about anywhere else. Since 2012, at least 1,700 people have been killed in more than 1,500 mass shooting incidents.

“After the killing of a counterprotestor at an anti-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, visitors are advised to avoid large gatherings, protests, rallies, or public speeches, which have become focal points for violent political conflict. 

“For the second straight year, the FBI has reported an increase in reported hate crimes. More than 6,100 hate crimes were reported in 2016—an increase of about 5% from the year before. Six in ten were targeted because of race or ethnicity, one in five because of their religion, and one in six because of their sexual orientation. Anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim incidents accounted for 55% and 25% of religious hate crimes, respectively. 

“Overdoses from prescription drugs and heroin continue to be the leading cause of unintentional death, and anyone entering a health care facility is at risk. In 2015, 91 people died on average every day from opioid overdoses. If a doctor tries to prescribe you an opioid painkiller such as OxyContin, remember: Just Say No.”

This is all made up, obviously. Canada would never issue this type of warning for such a strategic and close ally. But that doesn’t mean other countries wouldn’t.

Keep Travel Warnings In Perspective

In June 2016, the Bahamas issued a travel advisory for the United States, citing “recent tensions in some American cities over shootings of young black males by police officers.”

But it’s not only foreign countries issuing warnings. Last August, the NAACP issued its first ever travel advisory—aimed at visitors to Missouri—stating that “black individuals enjoying the highways, roads and points of interest there may not be safe.”

Shortly before that, the ACLU issued a travel alert for Texas, warning “anyone planning to travel to Texas in the near future to anticipate the possible violation of their constitutional rights when stopped by law enforcement” due to draconian “show me your papers” laws.

Does this mean you should avoid Texas and Missouri? Probably not. As with the travel warnings issued by the U.S. State Department, take note and plan accordingly, but don’t let these warnings dictate your life.

Lief Simon

The post What You Need To Know About United States Travel Warnings appeared first on Offshore Living Letter.

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Why Portugal Tops The List For Living Or Investing In Europe https://www.offshorelivingletter.com/portugal-tops-list-living-investing-europe/ Mon, 20 Aug 2018 12:30:31 +0000 https://www.offshorelivingletter.com/?p=7193 The post Why Portugal Tops The List For Living Or Investing In Europe appeared first on Offshore Living Letter.

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What's So Special About Portugal?

Europe is comprised of 44 countries according to the U.N…. though I count 46… and, until the U.K. executes its exit, the EU includes 28.

Among these I put Portugal at the top of the list for anyone looking for a place to live, to invest, or to formulate a Plan B in Europe.

What’s so special about Portugal?

I haven’t been to every country in Europe yet, but I have spent time in nearly every one. I’ve also invested in many and lived in two. Portugal stands out from the crowd in this part of the world for two reasons.

First, Portugal offers a competitive residency-through-investment program. You can invest as little as 280,000 euros in a piece of property in this country and qualify for residency under its Golden Visa program. That program requires you to be physically present in Portugal a minimum of only 14 days a year.

Real Estate Investing In Portugal

If you don’t want or don’t have the funds to invest in real estate to qualify, you could obtain residency in Portugal by showing as little as 1,100 euros a month in income from outside the country. The downside here is that this residency option comes with a bigger in-country presence requirement of 183 days, enough to make you a tax resident in Portugal.

However, the second advantage Portugal offers compared with the rest of Europe is its Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) program. This unfortunately named program isn’t about residency but taxes. Once you have established legal residency, you can apply for NHR status. If you qualify, you enjoy significant tax benefits for your first 10 years of residency in this country.

Of course, other European countries offer residency through an investment in real estate (including Spain, Ireland, Malta, and Latvia, for example), and other places in Europe qualify as low- (even lower-) tax jurisdictions. In Portugal, though, these advantages are coupled with great weather, low costs of living and of real estate (30% lower on average than anywhere else in Western Europe), and the ability to get by with English if you locate yourself in an expat area such as Algarve or Lisbon.

Portugal’s sunshine has been attracting Northern Europeans for decades. The Algarve enjoys more than 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, more than most any other destination in Europe. While summers can be warm, even hot by some standards, reaching into the 90s, most of the year is comfortable, with lows in the 40s during December and January.

One downside to the Algarve is that many of the towns are seasonal. Restaurants and services shut down when the tourists go home.

The good news is that all those tourists haven’t jacked up prices. You can take a friend out for a nice dinner in a nice restaurant for 15 euros a person even in the heart of the tourist zones. Venture off the tourist path in the Algarve, and you can enjoy an excellent meal for less than 10 euros a person. You’ll have more fun, too.

Speaking English In Portugal

Another significant benefit for anyone shopping for a Plan B destination is that you don’t have to learn to speak Portuguese. Many locals speak English. While some may not be able to debate global economics with you in English, I’ve met few Portuguese who couldn’t get by in English, and in my experience many are fluent.

What about culture? This is Continental Europe, with all the cultural trappings you associate with that status. Portugal is also one of the most historically rich points on the planet.

That said, you’ll find greater cultural options in France and Italy. That is partially a result of population sizes. Portugal is a country of only 10 million people, with 1.3 million living in the Lisbon area.

What about safety? Old maps of Europe show the southwest corner of Portugal as the end of the world. This country is surrounded by water and Spain, meaning limited access. As a result, Portugal has been spared the refugee crisis that other European countries are struggling through.

Portugal enjoys low violent crime rates. The only real safety concern is petty crime in the tourist areas.

What about air access? You have good options for daily flights from the United States to Lisbon. From there you can connect or drive easily to anywhere else in the country. From Lisbon, Faro, and Porto, you have many direct flight options to destinations across Europe.

Again, Portugal makes the grade whether you’re looking to live in Europe full-time, to invest for capital appreciation (thanks to undervalued pricing) and cash flow (thanks to the healthy tourist trade), or a Plan B.

All things considered this is one of your top choices in Europe right now.

Lief Simon

The post Why Portugal Tops The List For Living Or Investing In Europe appeared first on Offshore Living Letter.

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How To Seek Out New Peers When You Move Overseas https://www.offshorelivingletter.com/how-to-seek-out-new-peers-when-you-move-overseas/ Thu, 16 Aug 2018 12:30:30 +0000 https://www.offshorelivingletter.com/?p=49033 The post How To Seek Out New Peers When You Move Overseas appeared first on Offshore Living Letter.

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Tips For Finding Your Peers When Living Abroad

After living overseas for 20 years now, I’ve lost touch with all of my old friends in the States except one. The main reason I’m able to stay in contact with that one is he lives near Washington, D.C. where we visit at least once a year, as Kathleen’s family lives in Baltimore.

Otherwise, none of my friends live in the States at this point. And even the one that I have there still, after 20 years (and we’ve been friends for almost 40 years) he still doesn’t get why I haven’t moved back to the States. He thinks it’s the tax benefits of living and running a business overseas. His wife kids me every time I see her about not paying any taxes… although I do.

Kathleen’s family still doesn’t get why we haven’t moved back to the States either. They’ve come to accept the idea, but they just don’t get it.

Many of the readers I speak with at conferences or via email have similar tales. Their friends and family don’t get why they are thinking about or have already moved overseas.

Unfortunately, they probably won’t get it unless they spend time in other countries themselves.

Many think that we, as a group of offshore-lifestyle aficionados (for lack of a better term), are running from something. Some might be. Certainly many have sought a move to Central America in order to start a new life after some disaster back home… divorce, unpaid taxes, and worse.

However, most of us are looking for adventure. Not necessarily excitement, although that can be part of it, but, rather, interesting life experiences.

Growing up in the United States, I was able to experience much of it… and even over the last 20 years living overseas, I’ve been able to take vacations to the States to see the parts I didn’t before I moved abroad. The thing is that, despite what most Americans think, the United States isn’t the only place in the world that is safe and interesting.

Traveling the world, you can find other Americans, but as far as expat communities around the world go, you generally find more people from smaller countries living abroad. Their home countries aren’t as vast as the States so they are typically more open to going to another country to explore.

It’s with these expats where you’re most likely to find your peers while you’re living abroad. That’s the group you’re most likely to become friends with… as opposed to locals in your new country.

Certainly you can and will make friends with locals, but depending on the country, you’re less likely to find local peers that you can have a conversation with… spend time with.

Seeking Out Your Peers

It’s the peers that is the complicated part.

Even if you live the rest of your life in your new country when you move abroad, you’re not likely to ever fully integrate… especially in relatively poor countries like those in Central America. Even if you’re of modest means, you’ll be considered rich in many countries. You can befriend locals, but they won’t be your peers. Many will simply see you as someone to borrow money from… or worse, steal from.

That’s the unfortunate truth in many places… particularly what we would generally consider third-world countries.

You have to seek out your peers, whatever that may mean for your situation.

One friend who belongs to Rotary starts with local Rotary Club meetings when he travels, even for short trips. It gives him a common base to start from… and in countries where they don’t speak English he’s usually able to find at least a few English-speaking members, as they tend to be educated and well-traveled individuals themselves.

Some friends start with expat groups when they are in a new destination. That can work as a starting point, but don’t assume you’ll find peers in those groups. Being an expat is a starting point, but just because someone else from your home country is living where you are doesn’t necessarily mean they are a peer.

Education and specific interests play a role… and, not to sound elitist, so do financial means.

One couple I know who moved to Belize found that by just doing the activities of one expat group they were limiting themselves both in terms of finding peers and the limited activities of that particular expat group. For the most part, the different expat groups didn’t intermingle. So they started intermingling themselves and selecting the activities from each group that interested them… wine tasting with one group, hiking with another, and bridge with another.

The group you don’t want to be hanging out with is the one in the local bar that sits around most of the day complaining that things aren’t like they were back home. That’s the whole point of spending time in new and different places. If they want “back home” so badly, they should have stayed there. Don’t get mired down by this group. And realize now that this group exists everywhere.

In fact, many expat communities can be equated to high school. Groups become cliquish and gossipy. Sometimes it’s hard to avoid, which can mean, in a small expat community, your choices are become one of them or avoid all of them. In those cases, I generally go with the avoid scenario.

Like back home, you’ll find your friends and your peers as you spend time overseas. It’s generally that the pool of options is smaller.

Lief Simon

The post How To Seek Out New Peers When You Move Overseas appeared first on Offshore Living Letter.

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