Nick Giambruno: For centuries, wealthy people have used international diversification to protect their savings and themselves from out of control governments. Now, thanks to modern technology, anyone can implement similar strategies. Doug, I’d like to discuss some of the basic ways regular people can internationally diversify their savings. For an American, what’s the difference between having a bank account at Bank of America and having a foreign bank account?
Doug Casey: I’d say there is possibly all the difference in the world. The entire world’s banking system today is shaky, but if you go international, you can find much more solid banks than those that we have here in the US. That’s important, but beyond that, you’ve got to diversify your political risk. And if you have your bank account in a US bank, it’s eligible to being seized by any number of government agencies or by a frivolous lawsuit. So besides finding a more solid bank, by having your liquid assets in a different political jurisdiction you insulate yourself from a lot of other risks as well.
Nick Giambruno: Moving some of your savings abroad also allows you to preempt capital controls (restrictions on moving money out of the country) and the destructive measures that always follow.
Doug Casey: This is a very serious consideration. When the going gets tough, governments never control themselves, but they do try to control their subjects. It’s likely that the US is going to have official capital controls in the future. This means that if you don’t have money outside of the US, it’s going to become very inconvenient and/or very expensive to get money out.
Nick Giambruno: Why do you think the US government would institute capital controls?
Doug Casey: Well, there are about $7 - 8 trillion, nobody knows for sure, outside of the US, and those are like a ticking time bomb. Foreigners don’t have to hold those dollars. Americans have to hold the dollars. If you’re going to trade within the US, you must use US dollars, both legally and practically. Foreigners don’t have to, and at some point they may perceive those dollars as being the hot potatoes they are. And the US government might say that we can’t have Americans investing outside the country, perhaps not even spending a significant amount outside the country, because they are just going to add to this giant pile of dollars. There are all kinds of reasons that they could come up with.
We already have de facto capital controls, quite frankly, even though there’s no law at the moment saying that an American can’t invest abroad or take money out of the country. The problem is because of other US laws, like FATCA, finding a foreign bank or a foreign broker who will accept your account is very hard. Very, very few of them will take American accounts anymore because the laws make it unprofitable, inconvenient, and dangerous, so they don’t bother. So it’s not currently against the law, but it’s already very hard.
Nick Giambruno: What forms of savings are good candidates to take abroad? Gold coins? Foreign real estate?
Doug Casey: Well, you put your finger on exactly the two that I was going to mention. Everybody should own gold coins because they are money in its most basic form—something that a lot of people have forgotten. Gold is the only financial asset that’s not simultaneously somebody else’s liability.
And if your gold is outside the US, it gives you another degree of insulation should the United States decide that you shouldn’t own it—it’s not a reportable asset currently. If you have $1 million of cash in a bank account abroad, you must report that to the US government every year. If you have $1 million worth of gold coins in a foreign safe deposit box, however, that is not reportable, and that’s a big plus.
So gold is one thing. The second thing, of course is real estate. There are many advantages to foreign real estate. Sometimes it’s vastly cheaper than in the US. Foreign real estate is also not a reportable asset to the US government.
Nick Giambruno: Foreign real estate is a good way to internationally diversify a big chunk of your savings. What are the chances that your home government could confiscate foreign real estate? It’s pretty close to zero.
Doug Casey: I’d say it’s just about zero because they can make you repatriate the cash in your foreign bank account, but what can they make you do with the real estate? Would they tell you to sell it? Well, it’s not likely.
Also, if things go sideways in your country, it’s good to have a second place you can transplant yourself to. And I know that it’s unbelievable for most people to think anything could go wrong in their home country—a lot of Germans thought that in the ’20s, a lot of Russians thought that in the early teens, a lot of Vietnamese thought that in the ’60s, a lot of Cubans thought that in the ’50s. It could happen anywhere.
Nick Giambruno: Besides savings, what else can people diversify? How does a second passport fit into the mix?
Doug Casey: It’s still quite possible—and completely legal—for an American to have a citizenship in a second country, and it offers many advantages. As for opening up foreign bank accounts, if you show them an American passport, they’ll likely tell you to go away. Once again, obtaining a foreign bank or brokerage account is extremely hard for Americans today—that door has been closing for some time and is nearly slammed shut now. But if you show a foreign bank a Paraguayan or a Panamanian or any other passport, they’ll welcome you as a customer.
Nick Giambruno: The police state is metastasizing in the US. Is that a good reason to diversify as well?
Doug Casey: It’s a harbinger, I’m afraid, of what’s to come. The fact is that police forces throughout the US have been militarized. Every little town has a SWAT team, sometimes with armored personnel carriers. All of the Praetorian style agencies on the federal level—the FBI, CIA, NSA, and over a dozen others like them—have become very aggressive.
Every single day in the US, there are scores of confiscations of people’s bank accounts, and dozens having their doors broken down in the wee hours of the night. The ethos in the US really seems to be changing right before our very eyes, and I think it’s quite disturbing.
You can be accused of almost anything by the government and have your assets seized without due process. Every year there are billions of dollars that are seized by various government entities, including local police departments, who get to keep a percentage of the proceeds, so this is a very corrupting thing.
People forget that when the US was founded there were only three federal crimes, and they are listed in the Constitution: treason, counterfeiting, and piracy. Now it’s estimated there are over 5,000 federal crimes, and that number is constantly increasing. This is very disturbing. There is a book called Three Felonies a Day, which estimates that many or most Americans inadvertently commit three felonies a day. So it’s becoming Kafkaesque.
Nick Giambruno: Thanks, Doug. Until next time.
Doug Casey: Thanks, Nick.
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The article Doug Casey’s Top Two Ways to Store Wealth Abroad was originally published at caseyresearch.com.