Five Flags Made Easy
We got right to the point: Diversification.
It’s the surprisingly simple answer to the sometimes seemingly impossible-to-process question:
How do we survive the current age…and the even more troubling one that may be coming?
We didn’t waste time reminding ourselves of the threats and the concerns of our current age. No need to wind anyone up. We all assembled this week in Belize City for Lief Simon’s Global Asset Protection and Wealth Summit are familiar with the challenges. We read the doomsdayers’ blogs. We watch cable news. These are unbelievably volatile times, politically, financially, and economically. The U.S. dollar, the United States of America, heck, even all Western civilization could be on the brink of collapse, according to some who say they know.
We admit that we don’t and let others cover the end-of-times beat.
Ours is how to survive and thrive in the meantime. The threats to your assets, to your privacy, and to your future, both financial and personal, are real, but why spend time belaboring them? We say spend your time instead making a plan to protect them.
That was the starting point for Lief Simon’s opening remarks Wednesday morning. These meetings in Belize City this week are not about woe are we. These meetings are about solutions, strategies, and opportunities.
Keeping Control During Chaos
How can you survive the ups and downs of today and tomorrow, of markets, economies, currencies, and political regimes, when you can’t predict them and you sure can’t control them?
Spread yourself around so that you’re not at the mercy of any one of them, so that no particular down is fatal for you. It is the only sensible course of action, elegant in its simplicity but intimidating, too, when you’re standing at the starting line.
You’ve read about this idea before, I’m sure. It’s often referred to as the “Five Flags” strategy. In fact, it can translate as six or seven flags or maybe only two or three.
I couldn’t tell you what level of diversification you require. That depends on your circumstances and your agendas. Big picture, the objective is to disperse your assets, your investments, your business, and your lifestyle across borders so that they’re all as insulated as possible from outside threats. How far and wide should you spread? That depends on how much you’ve got and what you ultimately want to do with it.
The Easiest Flag: Banking
That said, Lief made one universal recommendation yesterday morning out of the gate:
“The easiest and best way to get started at this,” he told the crowd in Belize City, “can be to open a bank account in a different country. This is a low-key, no-risk first step that will allow you to begin to get your bearings in the offshore arena and that will facilitate further steps toward realizing your ultimate diversification strategy, whatever that evolves to be.”
Lief then, with the help of one of our favorite offshore bankers, a professional with more than 30 years’ experience managing and directing banks in Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas, walked the group through the thinking that should go into choosing where to take this first step.
That is, where should you think about opening a bank account offshore?
It depends on why you want the account.
If you’re planning to relocate to a new country, then you need a personal operating account in that country, this to facilitate paying local expenses. Likewise, if you make an investment in rental property in another country, you’ll want an operating account in that jurisdiction. Otherwise, you’ll be reduced to withdrawing money from the ATM and then going with cash to the electric company to pay your bill each month.
If you’re forming a corporation or starting a business overseas, you’ll need a bank account to support it, again, in the country where the corporation is operating.
The other kind of account you might want offshore is an investment account. This can be a place to park capital, an opportunity to earn dividends, and a means to investing more globally than may be possible through your U.S. investment account.
If you’re opening a bank account offshore for practical purposes (because you’re planning to live, own property, or run a business in that place), then the “where” is straightforward. Not so if you’re interested in opening an investment account offshore. In this case, the where is dictated by the bank’s minimum investment requirement, fee structure, and customer service, as well as by things like whether the bank makes it possible for you to send an international wire transfer without visiting a branch in person and whether it provides debit and credit cards for the kind of account you’re thinking of opening.
In this case, the where can also come down to: Which bank will open an account for you?
In this post-FATCA age, it is harder than ever and harder all the time to open an offshore bank account, especially if you’re an American. Lief and his colleagues made specific recommendations for banks that are still interested, FATCA notwithstanding, in working with Americans, then detailed the requirements and the processes for opening accounts with them.
This week’s program has been built around a series of panel discussions conceived on the Five Flags strategy and intended to help those assembled think through their own global diversification plans with the help of pros with many, many years of experience at this.
First flag, banking…next flag, residency…
More from the scene tomorrow.
“Hey L, K, and y’all, you may wish to purchase the DVD that Mother Earth News magazine has which contains their entire library of articles since inception. You can learn how to improvise, build, survive, garden, farm, etc., using what is available. Anything you need to know is there. Consider compost toilets, rather than septic. Have a great day!”
“Lief, thanks for this informative post about FATCA-compliant foreign banks.
“When I went to the IRS page you mentioned that lists FATCA-compliant financial institutions and searched through the list of ones from Belize, I was surprised not to find Caye International Bank listed. Do you know what the story is on that?”
I checked with the president of Caye Bank, Peter Zipper, who is with me in Belize this week for my conference. Peter explained that the bank met the April 23 application deadline and has provided all the required information for FATCA compliance. The IRS is behind in processing the applications, but Peter expects Caye Bank to be added to the compliant list by year’s end.