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The Real Secret To Our Success Investing Overseas (Hint: It’s Trust)

12 Dec
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The Real Secret To Our Success Investing Overseas (Hint: It’s Trust)

We’ll Begin With Cocktails On The Terrace In Medellín…

Even I… a woman who really prefers to do things for herself and by herself… have learned an important lesson:

Life the way we live it is much easier with help.

For Lief and me, life can be complicated.

Our constant priority is diversification. This is both a risk-aversion strategy and a personal preference. We like to spread our money and our lives around, first, because that means we’re never at the mercy of any one market or any one situation… and, second, because we appreciate change and contrast.

We both have itchy feet and insatiable appetites for discovery that spur us ever-onward to find out what’s around the next corner and across the next border.

The flip side of diversification can be hassle.

Moving our persons, our children, our businesses, and our money around as we do creates not insignificant management demands.

Our lives are puzzles with ever-expanding outer edges. The new pieces must be fitted together with the existing ones in the best ways possible remembering what we want the picture to look like in the end.

In the past 18 months, for example, Lief and I have further diversified our property portfolio to include a rental apartment in Lagos, Portugal… an office building in Panama City, Panama (that serves as the headquarters of our Live and Invest Overseas business)… a beachfront lot in Brazil… a vineyard in Argentina… and a turnkey agricultural offering in Panama (growing limes)…

We’ve partnered with friends in Cayo, Belize, to launch a small hydroponics operation (growing lettuce and tilapia)…

And we continue to fund construction of the Founder’s Lodge at the Los Islotes community we’re developing on Panama’s Azuero coast.

In those same 18 months, we’ve opened new bank accounts in Portugal, Panama, and the Dominican Republic…

Where we’ve also established backup residency. We spent a week in Santo Domingo last month collecting our residency visas and our cédulas.

Meantime, in 2015, our daughter was married…

And in spring 2017 our son will graduate high school. We’re helping him to prepare for his next steps.

Our Live and Invest Overseas business has nearly doubled in size since the start of 2015. Today, our El Cangrejo office houses a hard-working team of 35.

As I said, I like to do things myself. Lief perhaps even more so…

What Do We Know About Going Offshore?

However, we realized years ago that, if we were going to build the lives we’d long imagined, we’d be fools to try to go it alone.

At the same time, we’ve bounced around emerging markets long enough to have developed a healthy skepticism. We’ve been burned and scammed. We’ve made bad investments, bad hires, and bad partnerships.

Today, more than 30 years into my living and investing overseas adventures, I don’t trust quickly or easily, and I pay almost no attention to what anyone says.

I pay attention to what he does.

The challenge for Lief and me at this stage is allowing for the possibility, when meeting someone new, that he or she might be on the up-and-up. We assume that every new real estate agent, property developer, investment expert, and money advisor who crosses our path is just another one of those guys (or gals)…

Just someone else out to make a quick buck and move on.

Like many other things, I distrust bucks made quickly and the folks who promise them.

High-interest CDs from offshore bank accounts… quick-flip pre-construction deals… rental markets returning net double-digit yields short-term… shortcut residency offers… fast and cheap second passports…

For me, unless you can show me real proof, these are the stuff of fairy tale.

Explore The Different Offshore Opportunities

On the other hand, assuming that every offshore opportunity you come across is bogus puts a serious crimp in an overseas diversification agenda.

More than anything, Lief and I want to continue down the global diversification path. How can we do that if we dismiss as shakedown, hoax, fraud, or rip-off every offer presented?

We rely on guidance and counsel from a small circle of advisors, many of whom we’ve worked with for decades.

We don’t make new friends today as easily as we did 20 or 30 years ago. Lucky for us, therefore, that, 20 and 30 years ago, we made the acquaintance of a handful of smart, honest, like-minded people who, like us, have carried on these intervening decades exploring the world with an eye toward making money and having fun.

As Lief and I have grown up, so have these folks. We remember them as adventure-chasing 20- and 30-somethings from back in the day… but, today, these are some of the most experienced and successful global businesspeople and investors you’ll find.

These are the folks we go to for help fitting every new piece of our global diversification puzzle into the ever-expanding plan.

How should we take title to the rental apartment we bought in Lagos?

What name should go on the title to the office building in Panama City?

What are the pluses and minuses for us of a Nevis company versus a Belize LLC?

What’s the best backup residency for us… what do we need to know about taking money into Colombia… or out of Belize?

Should we invest in a trust… and on and on…

In 2017, Lief and I are planning an important repositioning. After our son graduates high school in Panama in June, we’ll be returning our home base to Paris.

This creates more complications.

We aren’t walking away from Panama (and never could). We’re in Panama for the long haul and happily so. However, now we need to think through how we complement what we’ve built in Panama with a satellite operation in France.

We’re speaking with potential business partners, one in Panama who, like us, wants to expand his activities to Europe… and a second already operating in France and interested in perhaps translating our Live and Invest Overseas product line into French…

More pieces to be fitted together.

Lief and I know enough to know that, even after all these years of investing and building businesses around the world, we don’t know everything.

In fact, the older I get, the less sure I am of anything.

So we turn to our longtime friends… the guys who knew us when we had nothing but wanderlust and big ideas to our names.

These are the guys who form our circle of trust.

It’s small, but it does increase. Lief and I work hard to balance our lack of confidence in any new acquaintance with minds open enough to allow at least for the possibility that not everyone we meet will shortchange or otherwise disappoint us.

This openness has brought us, in the past few years, new experts in Portugal and the Dominican Republic… who have become part of our small advisory league.

These new counselors from Lisbon and Santo Domingo join attorney friends from the United States, Panama, Colombia, and beyond…

Kathleen Peddicord