Since I write so much about financial fiascos, debacles, nightmares, and entanglements, I’ve been asked by my readers about ways to protect assets in this environment. I had to disappoint them: I don’t give financial advice. Even if I did, I wouldn’t have all the answers. But I just finished reading an excellent book on precisely that topic, so I decided to review it.
Going Global 2013, A Special Report from Casey Research, starts with the premise that we live in interesting times, in a world that has, let’s say, some issues. Particularly concerning financial safety.
- There is the toxic mix of the “dubious dollar,” mauled continually by the Fed’s money-printing operations, and the gigantic US deficits and debt.
- Then there is the risk of “lightning-fast asset seizures,” such as when the IRS thinks you haven’t paid your taxes or when a government employee gets your name confused with someone on a blacklist, and suddenly your bank and brokerage accounts are locked. You might not even have access to cash to hire a lawyer to help recover your property.
- Not like it hasn’t happened before: “gold confiscation” is something the US government resorted to in 1933, and might resort to again. “Investment controls” were practiced in the US in the 1940s and 1960s; if imposed again, it might become impractical or illegal to buy or keep assets outside the US, whether for effective diversification or for taking advantage of profit opportunities.
- Already a reality, or becoming one: “Rising income taxes” and “exorbitant estate taxes and shifting rules” that make tax optimization that much more important. And finally, one of the craziest risks in the US, “predatory lawsuits” that can hit anyone, particularly those with deep pockets.
But there are strategies to deal with these risks: true international diversification. The authors – six of them, all specialists in their field – begin step by step with the simplest measures, though in today’s interesting times, even they aren’t simple anymore.
So the authors lay out how to open foreign bank or brokerage accounts – a form of currency diversification that is becoming increasingly tough for US citizens because many foreign banks no longer accept them as clients. Later in the book, they propose tactics, such as establishing a non-US Limited Liability Company (LLC), which conveys numerous advantages, including a warmer welcome at foreign banks. Such an LLC can open accounts where an American cannot; it can discourage “would-be lawsuit attackers”; and it can be crucial in estate planning.
They dive into the issues of gold storage in the US vs. overseas, stock markets in other countries, and foreign annuities and life insurance. Then they move to more ambitious topics: setting up a self-directed IRA, such as an Open Opportunity IRA, which reduces the hassles of a regular self-directed IRA. It can invest internationally, buy real estate or rental property down under, for example, or get a brokerage account in Singapore.
But the “permanent solution” is an international trust that places your assets in a more benign legal environment – the arrangement can be involved and might require a leap of faith: “The only way to achieve complete protection for your wealth is to let someone else own it for you!” the authors write. Though few people have an international trust, the advantages are enormous, and the authors walk you through the ins and outs.
To complete internationalization, the authors also discuss how to buy a second home in a foreign country, and how to obtain a second passport. Legally! They provide an overview over the countries that allow dual citizenship, what their rules are, and how long it takes. And they add some interesting but crucial tidbits: for example, a Singaporean passport is the only one in the world that allows for visa-free travel to China, the EU, and the US!
US taxpayers who internationalize their assets are subject to some hairy reporting requirements; the authors sort them out and provide essential information, down to the IRS forms that have to be dealt with.
Going Global dissects the pros and cons of individual countries. It provides numerous links, in addition to contact information of foreign banks, other financial institutions, organizations, and companies that can offer further information or be helpful in setting up these strategies.
Who Going Global is for: Anyone who doesn’t yet have vast holdings and complex structures overseas but wants to find out more about it, get started on the right foot, learn how to do it legally, and avoid the many pitfalls along the way.
Who Going Global is not for: Broadly internationalized investors with dual passports, and with homes, bank accounts, trusts, and LLCs scattered around the globe; or anyone wanting to evade US taxes. “If you dream of a numbered account stuffed with a string of zeroes’ worth of money secretly earning undeclared income behind Uncle Sam’s back… wake up! Those days are gone, and financial privacy is dead, snuffed out by US reporting regulations that blanket the world’s financial system,” the authors write. And they warn: “Do not attempt to evade taxes in the name of financial privacy; the penalty for noncompliance is wealth-crushingly severe.”
Going Global is short (about 110 pages); a fast and interesting read with a refreshing lack of jargon. It’s expensive: $99. But for those who want to learn more about how to protect their assets, and with an eye on the mounting financial challenges of our times, it may be the best money ever spent. Available exclusively from Casey Research. Click here for more information.
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