Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

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Erik T.
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Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

The purpose of this thread is to have an open discussion about leaving the United States and moving abroad. I am creating it here for two reasons:

  1. From several other discussion threads and also from e-mails and PMs I've received from other PeakProsperity.com users, I know that several site regulars are entertaining the possibility of leaving the USA.
  2. I recently left an e-mail alias on the Financial Sense question line, intending to contact one guy in Argentina to ask him some questions about life there. Within 48 hours my inbox was overflowing with almost two dozen e-mails from other FSN listeners who were interested in the topic and wanted in on the conversation! Since I don't have the resources to facilitate a 20-way e-mail conversation, I thought that directing them here instead would be a good way to address the need and also make more people aware of this website.

If you are new to PeakProsperity.com and came here from FSN: Before participating in this conversation, please have a look around this site, and particularly, please consider watching the Crash Course, a free 3.5-hr video seminar that does an outstanding job of explaining the economy and how it interacts with Energy and the Environment. This site is just as great a find as FinancialSense, and I think you'll find it worth your while to check  out everything the site has to offer. Also, please know that the discussion forums here are probably the most grown-up, respectful online discussion community on the net. Please read the posting guidelines when you sign up for your free account, and please help us uphold the higher standards of conduct that we enjoy in contrast to other online discussion forums. Name calling, ad hominum attacks, and disrespectful attitude towards others simply aren't tolerated here the way they are on many other Internet discussion forums.

Some background on my own experience with Getting Out

As graduates of the Crash Course know, Dr. Martenson and his family made the decision to leave behind the "yuppie life" of an oceanfront home and an extravagant lifestyle in favor of a simpler life in a rural town where everyone knows their neighbors and a strong sense of community exists. The Martensons made that change in large part because of what they saw coming: The inevitable crash of a debt-laden economy that is dependent on exponential growth to stay viable butting up against the finite resources of a finite planet, the reality of peak oil, and the inescapability of major economic changes coming in the next 20 years.

For a family man like Dr. Martenson with a strong network of extended family in New England, those choices made perfect sense. And I suspect that for most people on this site, Dr. Martenson's choices serve as a good role model. But as I evaluated my own situation, I came to very different conclusions about what was best for me. I continued to live in the inner city, not because I "didn't get" the message of the Crash Course, but because I am a city person at heart. Rather than worrying about sustainability in my own primary residence, I focused on agility and backup plans - being ready to move fast if TSHTF. I rented my city homes rather than owning them specifically because I wanted to be able to walk away if things really took a turn for the worse. At the same time, I made preparations to use my summer home on the coast of Maine as a safe haven if city life ever became unsafe or impractical.

When I considred the very worst possible scenarios, like the possibility of a complete collapse of the U.S. economy or even a Soviet-style sovereign collapse, I didn't find the "survivalist argument" compelling. I know some very smart people who are equipping their homes with months of food and potable water, and preparing to live off the grid if necessary. I'm sure that makes sense for them. But for myself, as a single guy with no real constraints on where I live, it made more sense to me to have multiple backup plans to move myself out of harm's way rather than gear up to live through whatever might come. When you look at the history of events like the collapse of the Soviet Union, being Jewish in Nazi Germany, or living through the Argentina hyperinflation, you don't hear much about how some person was fine because he was prepared with a garden and supplies to live off the grid. To the contrary, the stories you hear tend to be about the people who got out in time.

I want to be clear: I do not think the sky is falling on the United States, I do not think there is any iminent crisis, and I do not think it makes sense to flee the United States in fear of something terrible happening next week or next month or even next year. My own decision to leave evolved from what was originally a contingency plan. I intended to stay in the USA, keeping my summer home in Maine as a place to go if serious civil unrest developed in the next wave of the economic crisis. But I also thought about those stories about people getting out in time before something really bad happened in their country. I did not (and still don't) think there is imminent risk of mass calamity in the United States, but I wanted to have as many backup plans as possible. So almost exactly one year ago I went on a reconaissance mission to answer the question If it suddenly became undesirable to stay in the United States, where would I go? My goal was just to have a contingency plan ready, just in case.

Following Jim Rogers to Asia

As I thought about where I might want to go if I ever needed to leave the United States, I was reminded of Jim Rogers oft-repeated observation that (in his opinion) moving to Asia in 2007 (when he moved to Singapore) was like moving to London in 1807 or to New York in 1907. Rogers' rationale was that this is Asia's century from an economic perspective. He sees the trend toward Asian economic dominance continuing, and he wanted his two young daughters to grow up speaking Mandarin fluently.

I had no idea what Singapore was like and wasn't even sure I could find it on a map, but I knew Rogers to be a smart guy, so I figured if that was his choice I should probably at least make a stop there to see what the place was like. As I started to reserach Asia I realized that a key requirement would be to choose a place where English is spoken by everyone, since I don't speak Chinese and only know a few words of Thai. I also felt that I should focus on "first world" rather than "third world" destinations. I very much enjoy visiting third world countries on holiday, but can't envision myself living in one full-time. Aside from the cold weather, New York City is my favorite place on earth, and I think of myself very much as a city person. I prefer not to own a car and I use public transit for everything. So places like rural Thailand or Vietnam were ruled out.

Admittedly, there is good reason to question the idea of living in a major city at all when the natural resource scarcity problems anticipated by the Crash Course come to roost. But I felt those scenarios were not likely to occur any time soon, and I still prefer city life. So I narrowed my list down to Sydney, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. Of those cities, English is [one of] the official languages in all but Tokyo.

"Wait a minute! I don't need to wait for the Crisis!"

Having already been to Sydney and knowing what it had to offer, I booked a trip to spend two weeks each in Singapore and Hong Kong, two cities I had never been to before. I vowed not to be a tourist and do tourist things, but to instead try to recreate my day to day life (in a hotel room), and try to feel what it would be like to live there. Again, the agenda was only to get a sense of these places so that I could consider them if and when it ever became necessary to leave the USA in an escalating financial/monetary crisis.

After 17 days in Singapore, I concluded that I could live there but had some serious reservations. It was culturally different enough that I felt it would be a sacrifice to my personal lifestyle, but after 17 days I finally convinced myself I could do it if I ever really had to. Then I came to Hong Kong and fell in love with the place within 20 minutes! It felt like Asian New York City with Manhattan City life, Florida Weather, and a San Francisco-like interface between inner city and very beautiful natural surroundings just outside the city.

In a surreal moment I'll never forget, I was enjoying a beer at a sidewalk cafe along the mid-levels escalator when I caught myself almost hoping that the worst would happen in America so that it would become necessary for me to move here! Then I caught myself and thought, "Wait a minute, just because I came here to research a contingency plan doesn't mean I have to wait for a crisis to develop at home before I move here. I like it better here so why not move now, crisis or no crisis?" That was a defining moment I'll never forget. I found a realtor the very next day and started looking at apartments.

My own choice to leave now didn't really have much to do with the possibility of an escalating economic crisis in the USA, even though that was the original impetus for my trip. It took me a while to figure it out, but what I eventually realized is that I had spent 44 years of my life living in one country when there were over 200 to choose from. More to the point, I feel that the things that used to make America special and unique are no longer true. Governments always try to grab as much power as they can, but what is going on now in the United States is different: The people are, for the most part, cheering on the loss of personal liberties and civil rights in the name of supposedly increased security. If the government were taking away Americans' rights against the will of the people, I would have felt a civic duty to stick around and fight for what's right. But the masses seem to welcome the loss of the freedoms and liberties that once made America unique. So I decided it was time to move on and see what the rest of the planet had to offer.

A Contingency Plan is still needed!

As noted above, my own choice to move to Hong Kong last fall was not made because I think Hong Kong is a better or safer place to weather a global economic storm involving resource scarcity. To the contrary, as a small island with incredibly high population density and a dependence on foreign imports for everything, this place would be a disaster in a true global crisis brought on by natural resource depletion. I came here because I love it here, now, while the exponential growth economy is still functioning. I still feel the need to have a contingency plan - a safe place to go in the countryside if TSHTF in a really big way, making city life impractical. I still have the house in Maine for that reason, but it's on the exact opposite side of the planet from where I now live, and getting there in a crisis might be impossible.

So my own near-term plan is to stay here in Hong Kong because I love life here and much prefer this life to staying in the USA and reading every day about yet another constitutional right I thought I had but now suddenly don't. But despite how much I enjoy life here, it's resoundingly clear to me that if a global resource crisis were to develop, this would be the worst place to be.

So my goal is to find a replacement for my home in Maine. A location that, like Maine, could serve as a vacation home in good times but also be ready to provide a safe haven if TSHTF really badly and city life became impractical. In difficult times, racism and nationalism are always hightened, so another goal is to have a place to go where I look like the natives. Australia and New Zealand seem to be the best choices in that regard.

What I hope to accomplish with this thread

When I reached out to Richard in Buenos Aries to ask a few questions about life there, I was shocked by how many e-mails I received from FSN listeners who were interested in the same topic. There seems to be a very popular desire among Americans considering getting out to hear from other American expats about what living in a particular place is really like.

So what I hope to achieve with this thread is a place to network with people all around the world about what life is like there. Obviously, there are plenty of existing "expat forums" such as AsiaExpat.com and GEOexpat.com, but the people there generally don't have the perspective on sustainability and the crises that may be coming in the next 20 years that exists here. I will begin by writing a couple of brief reviews of my impressions of Singapore and Hong Kong, the two places I evaluated carefully before moving to Hong Kong. I hope that my new friend Richard in Buenos Aries will be kind enough to write a similar review about life there and that this will inspire others around the world to chime in with similar reviews. Meanwhile, discussion about any other aspects of leaving the USA for greener pastures is quite welcome.

Thanks for reading, and sorry this post got so long! I'll follow up with separate replies about Singapore and Hong Kong.

Erik

 

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Erik T.
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Singapore

[Disclaimer: This review is based on my one and only visit to Singapore for 17 days. Perhaps someone who lives there will write a more comprehensive review]

When I first contemplated my recon mission to Asia, I knew almost nothing about Singapore. What little I'd heard about the place amounted mostly to horror stories about totalitarian legal system epitomized by the Michael Fay incident in 1994. Having read all of Jim Rogers books and having a sense that he shares many of my own views on life, I was dumbfounded to understand why a guy like that would have moved to a place with a reputation like that of Singapore, and I was curious to find out.

On the plane ride to Singapore, I was questioning why I was even going. I'm very much a freedom and liberty kind of guy, and what little I knew of SIngapore seemed to be on the opposite end of the spectrum. Would I be caned for J-Walking? What would it be like to visit a place where Big Brother was in charge of everything? Although it turned out not to be for me in terms of a place to live, I'm very glad I went. I came away with a radically different view of Singapore and a more enlightened view of the world and governments.

Yes, it is true that crime of any kind is not tolerated, and punishment for disobedience is extreme. The rumors you hear about how you can be arrested for chewing gum in Singapore are greatly exaggerated and give a completely incorrect impression. In truth, the sale of chewing gum has been outlawed in Singapore, and this reflects the general view that if something is seen as a problem (like the mess made when people spit chewing gum out on the sidewalk), the government has no compunction about just outlawing it. I don't much care for that sort of legal system, but I must say that I was pleasantly surprised overall to find it wasn't nearly as much an imposition as I expected.

Yes, there are TV cameras everywhere, and yes, the government uses them to enforce a very strict policy of civil obedience. But frankly, I found the situation in Singapore in this regard to be exactly identical to what now exists in the United States, with one big difference: In Singapore, nobody insults your intelligence by pretending you have rights that in practice you really don't have. They are clear and forthright in telling their people how the system works: You obey the law or face extreme consequences.

Before going there, I would have labeled such a totalitarian system as all wrong. After the experience, I have a very different view. In the United States where citizens derive no apparent benefit from the loss of liberties that has occurred in recent years (I don't buy the argument that we are somehow safer from terrorism and I believe the opposite to be true). But after visiting Singapore, I feel that I now have an appreciation for the opposing viewpoint (strong government control as opposed to free society). Singapore may very possibly be the safest place on earth. Crime is almost unheard of there because the consequences are so dire. The place is beautiful - many public sidewalks are granite or marble, and the subway stations are extremely elegant with stone floors featuring beautiful artistic inlays of metal and stone. Along Orchard Road, there are numerous glass sculptures. Everything is spotlessly clean and beautiful, and they can do things that would be impossible in the USA because vandals would destroy them immediately. When I was there they were replacing the granite sidewalk on Orchard Road, and there were several carts with huge pieces of 3"-thick solid granite in large sheets that were to form the big tiles of the sidewalk. In the USA they would need an armed guard because each of the dozens of big granite sheets would be worth several thousand US$ as a high end kitchen countertop. Dozens of these were left outdoors overnight in the construction zone, with no security whatsoever, and nobody would ever have thought of taking them. The consequences are just too great. So crime is practically non-existant.

Speaking for myself personally, I subscribe to the adage that he who would give up liberty for the sake of security deserves neither. So Singapore wasn't for me. However, I now feel that I've seen the other side of the argument. In my humble view, those in the USA who believe their lives are somehow safer or more secure because of the erosion of civil liberties that has occured since 9/11 are kidding themelves. Nothing is safer or better in the USA as a result of those changes. But if you subscribe to that mentality, Singapore is your place. They really do deliver their citizens a lot of benefits in exchange for living under their super-strict legal system. It's not my cup of tea, but I do see the argument in favor of this system now, and I also noticed that assuming you're a law abiding person, there really is no direct downside and a whole lot of upside from this system.

Singapore is easily the cleanest place I've ever been. They have a territorial tax doctrine, which means that you pay taxes on Singapore-derived income, but offshore income is tax-free. For foreigners moving there, this means that all your investment income can be tax-free if you invest in overseas markets.

Being only 85 miles from the Equator, Singapore is really hot, all the time. I don't mind that so much but it could be a deal killer for a lot of people.

If we experience a really serious crisis in coming years, Singapore just might be the best choice in this part of the world, because it's undoubtedly the safest place to live. For now, I'm not willing to give up my freedoms to the extent necessary to live there, but I would observe that their supposedly "totalitarian" system really isn't much different from what now exists in the United States. The difference is their citizens get some benefit from that system, whereas Americans don't.

Erik

 

 

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Erik T.
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Hong Kong

I moved to Hong Kong in September 2009 and have absolutely loved it so far. I have yet to endure the hot, wet summer season, however. To me, Hong Kong can be summarized as Asian New York City with Florida weather and a San Francisco-like juxtaposition of city and naturally beautiful surroundings, except that Hong Kong's surroundings are more tropical. Imagine being in Times Square (downtown Manhattan, NY), and being able to take a US$15 taxi cab ride to arrive at a tropical beach in the Bahamas. That's Hong Kong.

For me, this place is absolute paradise, for now. The reason I stress "for now" is that I do believe that a major global economic crisis much larger than the 2008 event is coming. Nobody knows exactly what the Peak Cheap Oil shock is going to feel like or when it's going to hit. But as Crash Course grads know, a global crisis involving food shortages and natural resource depletion could very well be in our future in the next 20 years. If something like that happens, any city will be the wrong place to be. But for now, with the exponential growth economy still functioning, I absolutely love it here.

It never ceases to amaze me how many Americans think Hong Kong is "a city in China, which is a communist country". That's analagous to saying "The pacific Island of Samoa is a typical American City". Yes, it's true that American Samoa is technically a territory of the United States, just as Hong Kong is technically a territory of China. But the culture and legal systems are completely different. Under the one country, two systems doctrine, Hong Kong is guaranteed by treaty to retain its own legal system (based on British Common Law) and to remain a capitalist economic system, through 2047. In most respects, Hong Kong operates as its own country. When Hong Kongers speak about China, it's definitely a disucssion about them, not about us. In contrast with the People's Republic of China which is in fact a communist country, Hong Kong is closer to the U.S. in terms of its legal and economic systems.

City Life feels almst equivalent to NYC to me. Admittedly, we don't have broadway theatre or world-class Opera, but those things never interested me much in New York. Like NYC, Hong Kong is going 24/7, and there's always something to do. New York will always be #1 worldwide in terms of being home to the very best restaurants, but frankly that's only relevant if you're willing to spend upwards of $500 per person on dinner. In my opinion, the middle of the road quality level restaurant selection is even better in HK than in NYC. It's a foodie's paradise in many ways.

Cost of Living is the big downside. Residential real estate here is unbelievably expensive - even more so than pre-crash Manhattan. A 1400 sf highrise condo with a sea view costs US$2.5mm to purchase or about US$6,000/month to rent. And I'm not talking about lavish, super-deluxe accomodations. I mean in a 20-year old building in a nice neighborhood, but nothing fancy. Rents upwards of US$15,000/month are not at all unheard of for the A-list addresses, and luxury homes on the exclusive Peak sell for upwards of US$10 million! 

The good news is that although real estate is frightfully expensive, everything else is dirt cheap by comparison. A taxi cab across town generally costs less than US$5, and restaurant meals are generally considerably less expensive than the same fare in any major U.S. city.

Hong Kong also offers a Territorial Tax Doctrine, which is a key benefit. There is a 15% tax on income earned in Hong Kong but all offshore investment income is tax-free.

Hong Kong also offers a reasonably attractive Capital Investment Entrant Scheme, which basically allows foreigners with sufficient assets to qualify for residency by making an investment in Hong Kong. That investment may be in stocks or other securities listed in either Hong Kong or China, or in Hong Kong real estate.

Reports of excessive pollution are overblown in my opinion. It certainly is true that hazy skies obscure what would otherwise be an incredible view of the surrounding mountains, but pollution like you hear about in Beijing where it's difficult to breath or exercise outdoors simply isn't an issue here. We hike and run outdoors all the time and have never noticed the pollution as an issue.

The Climate here isn't for everyone. Most people find it too hot in summer. I don't mind the heat so much, but was surprised to learn than in winter it's barely any warmer than San Francisco (too cold for me). Our apartment doesn't have a heating system, so we ended up buying space heaters to get through the winter months comfortably. The rest of the year feels about like Florida - too hot for most but just fine for my taste.

Public Transit in Hong Kong is easily the best in the world, in my opinion. You seldom wait more than 4 minutes for a subway train (it's called MTR here), or 5-10 minutes for most public busses. All public transit vehicles are considerably cleaner and safer than their U.S. counterparts. An electronic cash card system called Octopus allows you to just wave your wallet at a scanner on any train, bus or other transit vehicle to pay the very low fare. The same card can be used for parking meters (if you drive which there's little need to do), vending machines, or even to buy a 6-pack at 7-11. It almost completely eliminates the need to carry cash and is extremely convenient.

Smoking in Public is an issue that concerned me a lot as a devout non-smoker. Thankfully HK is very civilized in this regard. Smoking is prohibited in all bars, restaurants, and public places, and even in open air areas of ferry boats. Smoking on the public sidewalks is legal but thankfully fairly uncommon.

Erik

 

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LogansRun
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Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

Eric,

Thanks for starting this thread.  As you know, my family and I are very interested in getting out of the US within the next 2 years.  Obviously cost, type of living (farm/city/etc..) are our main concerns right now as is the fact that my kids are young and will need interaction with others their age for a proper upbringing IMO.  While we're blessed to be in a much better financial position than most, it's still a nest egg that I don't want to break.  

My other concern is not having access to firearms.  I know, Mike (DTM) will be all over me on this one.  But if you haven't grown up with it being a HUGE part of your life then you can't understand.  The argument of "you don't need them because no one else has them" doesn't hold water with me.  The authorities have them, and if you understand the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution you'd understand that the "right to bear arms" was specifically intended for the American Citizen to protect themselves against their own gov't.

Thirdly, where do you go?  This has been brought up many times here on CM.com and Dr. Martensen has specifically stated that "there's nowhere to hide".  Eric, while I understand and appreciate your reasons for choosing HK, I absolutely not be able to bring myself to move from a country that's moving toward totalitarianism (it's closer that most think or it's already there and we just haven't admitted it yet), to a country that IS a totalitarian state.  HK may be a province, but China could come in today and lock that sucker down and you'd be stuck.  I couldn't put my family into that position.  

Anyway, just some thoughts.  Just about to get the kids ready for school so time is short.  Thanks again Eric for starting this sucker!  It'll be interesting to hear thoughts and comments.

LR 

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Erik T.
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Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

Hi LR,

BTW, Jim Puplava is interviewing Mark Ehrman, author of Getting Out, a book on the subject, next week. www.financialsense.com.

I hear you on HK and the China thing. If I had a family with kids I probably would have moved to Australia or NZ for the safety and stability there. But I am a city kind of guy and am taking my chances with HK for now, while simultaneously making plans for where to go when TSHTF.

Erik

 

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Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

Wow Erik T. I had no idea this site was here. Thank you ! I am going thru the Crash Course now. I also turned everyone I knew would be interested in it, onto it. I will have more questions soon enough. I am looking forward to the Mark Ehrman interview. I look forward to Jim's show every weekend ! Thanks again....

Eric G.

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Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

Got out 10 years ago on a sailboat, and still living on the same boat. Sailed from Florida to the Med. and still there.

It's cheap for marina fees (usually necessary for 6 months in the winter), have a diesel main engine and a smaller diesel generator, which powers a 110v desalinator, battery charger and refrigeration. Food is over the side and on shore - pretty cost effective.

There is a surprisingly small community of 'live-aboards', who look out for one another.

With the financial crash there are a ton of boats on the market and located all over the world, so one does not have to buy 'at home' and sail an ocean to get away, but fly over to where you want and buy there.

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Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

Erik - Thanks for doing this thread. Even though I really have no desire to leave the Northeast USA, I do appreciate the foreign perspective, having been a worldwide traveler myself.

Now, IF I was to leave, and my opinion is a bit biased as I am Italian, I would go for Italy. Once you get outside the cities, everyone is a farmer or at the very least grows some food, and very GOOD food no less! The climate is fairly reasonable. I am a big fan of public transportation and Italy has very good transit systems. We talk about collapse here all the time, Italy has had something like 50 governments since WWII, the Mafia, rampant corruption, and yet still chugs along somehow. My one concern would be immigration. They have had huge problems with immigrants in recent years from Eastern Europe(Albania/Yugoslavia) and most recently northern Africa. But find a remote village in Tuscany that is on the train line to Florence, and your good to go!

You mentioned Australia. I would shy away from there. I had an Aussie tell me once that if all Aussies that were traveling(if you don't know, they travel like crazy) were to return home at the same time, there would be food shortages. There is just not enough water and farmland to support the full population.

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Erik T.
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Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

Welcome ericg. In addition to the Crash Course, be sure to check out the daily digest. It can be addicting! There's also a strong presence of FSN listeners here. Indeed, it's an amazing site. The reason I put this conversation here rather than someplace like mises.org is that I figured the other FSN listeners who e-mailed me about Argentina would enjoy finding everything this site has to offer.

John99, I had no idea you were living aboard. Perhaps you know my good friends John and Linda on Guardian? I lived aboard myself for several years as well.

Erik

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West Oz 9999
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Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

Hi Jomanc

To interpret the Aussie sense of humour.. The "return home to food shortages" is a joke.. (You knew that right)

The "water shortages" is true.. (under normal conditions)

Regards

West

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Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

Erik,

Don't know Guardian. In our marina (south Turkey) we have about 5 US boats, same for Canadian, Aussie and 4 New Zealander's. The majority are German, with French a further 2nd. Great group in total.

The cruising lifestyle can be a very low cost option for 'pulling the plug', even if one has kids to home-school.

Good thread, J

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Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

If cost is a priority, in addition to the many other factors Sovereign Man evaluates in terms of a good "2nd flag" or relocation, he recommends...

- if looking in Asia: Malaysia (as good of a relocation program as Panama) and of course Thailand, both of which he says are far more stable, delightful, developed than some think.  He recounted his recent health emergency in Thailand and it sounded like utopia...unlike waiting in a US emergency room for hours, filling out endless paperwork, and being treated like a widget, the doctors go to your house, you can have a team of nurses attending to your every need for less than the price of a dental checkup in the US, etc.

- if looking in S America: Colombia (little known secret since the media keeps Americans terrified of the country; Medellin is supposedly a "perfect climate" city) and Uruguay

He recommends Panama as the best overall, but it's not super cheap unless you get away from the city and avoid expat towns like Boquete.

 

 

 

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Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

Eric

 Interesting thread!

 With due respect to the comments from “Richard in Buenos Aires,”  I thought you might be interested to hear from a real expert on living in Argentina—Fernando Aguirre.  

 If you don't know, Mr. Aguirre, also known as ferfal, wrote a book, "The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse" and also runs a blog (http://ferfal.blogspot.com/) that chronicles his experiences as an Argentinian following the country's collapse in Dec 2001 to the present, and, how he has personally dealt with living in a country as it descends from first world to third world status. 

 They are both well worth reading, especially for anyone how might think of following “Richard in Buenos Aires.”  

 I excerpt below a few of ferfal's comments on the topic of "relocating" (http://ferfal.blogspot.com/search/label/relocating):

 My friend, stay in USA, that’s what I would do. Lets not get paranoid either, there’s always something to worry about, but the important thing is having alternatives.

As for plan B and C. There’s places in Europe where the socialist and communist BS isn’t flying anymore and there’s hope in the future. For South America, I’d go with Uruguay or Chile.

 

 ”Move to Argentina and live like a king” “Move to Mendoza, the ultimate survival retreat!” As we say here, its not gold everything that shines. The exchange rate is good, yes, but life is still pretty expensive here. A report not long ago showed how it can be more expensive to live in Bs As than to live in Miami. As for the inner provinces, its’ cheaper to live there, San Luis is specially cheap, but they have lots of problems, many you wouldn’t even think of in a place like USA, like medieval times politics where the governor rules like a king. So while it can be done, its not some lost paradise.

 

Argentine people are usually very friendly towards tourists.  There’s a growing anti-American propaganda being spread by our petty government since we felt to unquestionable 3rd would status with the K regime (“K”, that’s the way the Kirchenr family refers to itself, as surreal as it may sound we even have “K Youth” …. Yes… comparisons with other extremist “xx youths”.. lets better talk about something else)

 Anyway, as I was saying, the K regime is pretty close to Castro, Chaves, Evo Morales and some other wonderful human beings, so they outspokenly promote hatred towards Americans and the American culture in general.

 But remember what I said about the slow slide, and about Argentina once being a rather prosperous nation? Well, it’s true.  And there’s still some of that cosmopolite attitude left. The hatred hasn’t settled yet. Maybe the next generation will be brainwashed by the K, if they manage to stay in power that long.  But for now the people of Argentina openly welcome tourists, specially those from 1st world countries.  People coming here from other 3rd world countries are sometimes less welcomed, given the already high unemployment rate.

 There’s not much you should worry about, other than the things I often talk about regarding security.

 If you make the mistake of going into a wrong part of town, understand its different from American bad neighborhood. Go into Villa 31 by mistake for example and they’ll swarm like rats from the building to rob you. You have to be more careful generally speaking, for obvious reasons.

It would be interesting if Jim Puplava would read this book and interview ferfal on his show.

osteoporosis contango bang dango

ericg's picture
ericg
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Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

I like the idea of living on a boat. Almost bought a 48 foot cabin cruiser to live on several years ago. I'm thinking a sailboat would be a better choice now...?

 I've heard that even though you leave the U.S. you still have to pay taxes on income for ten years. Is that true? There is so much I don't know.

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Erik T.
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Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)
ericg wrote:

 I've heard that even though you leave the U.S. you still have to pay taxes on income for ten years. Is that true? There is so much I don't know.

No, that's no longer true. Actually, it still is for people who expatriated prior to June 2008. But after June 2008 the 10-year rule is replaced by the Rangel exit tax. See www.nestmann.com for info on expatriation.

As for the boat, keep in mind that even before the economic collapse, cruising sailors often found it necessary to carry firearms (sometimes legally, sometimes not) to deal with the very real threat of piracy. As the economy gets worse, the size of the safe-from-piracy cruising grounds will shrink considerably.

Also, having lived aboard myself, I would say that it's something you really have to love for the sake of being a boat nut. It's a lot of work.

Best,

Erik

 

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John99
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Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

Sorry, can't help on the tax advice, but one the question; sailboat verses motor boat, well there really isn't anything to debate :-)

Peak oil - no problem, the wind is free. The sailboat cruises at the perfect trolling speed, about 6 knots. Just right for tuna and mai-mai.

Cruisers move from gas station to gas station, sailboats traverse the world.

 

Erik T.'s picture
Erik T.
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Disappointed by Ehrman interview on FSN

FSN released their mid-week show on Wednesday featuring Mark Ehrman, the author of Getting Out, a book about the present subject. I really appreciate Jim Puplava for doing this interview after I suggested it, but I have to say I'm embarassed to have recommended this guy without reading the book first. After making that suggestion I did order the book, and found it mildly disappointing. The fact that Ehrman's country-by-country analysis completely ignored the question of whether each country has a territorial tax doctrine but does include comments about the availability of marijuana in each country says a lot about his priorities.

I found the interview even more unimpressive than the book. Jim tried hard to lead him to the pertinent topics but he didn't have much to say. I thought his treatment of expatriation and dual citizenship was both misinformed and somewhat ignorant, and he didn't discuss economic citizenship at all. The other guy I recommended (Mark Nestmann, www.nestmann.com) would have been a much better choice for the FSN audience, IMHO.

Erik

 

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John99
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Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

Erik,

You talked of the real estate costs in Hong Kong, what about Singapore, say for a rental?

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Brainless
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Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

My destination is Thailand.

Having lived there a few years i appreciate the laid back lifestyle more and more. You can choose Bangkok for a metropolis that rivals many other cities in the west. It has everything you expect from a big city + its own unique features. Hospitals, restaurants, movie theaters, parks, it has it all. It is busy, disorganized, vibrant. Living costs are compared to western countries low. Moving there will give you a better livestyle. You do however need to take care of yourself. The freedom that is enjoyed there needs you to be 'street' wise. Something many people never learned. If you're willing to learn that you will have a very pleasant stay. If you keep on reminding people that in your own country everything is much beter organized, think again what it has cost you in other parts of your live. I have met many people from a lot of different countries and 99% of them would stay if their finances would allow them. I guess people that already have the courage to travel to distant places and are not afraid for new experiences and change will find it exhilerating and eye opening.

After a few years Bangkok i moved to a more quiet place. About 400km south of Bangkok. It is a small town on the east coast. A big change, lots of room, more community as in a few weeks you already know a lot of people. If you take the effort to speak some Thai it is much appreciated and making friends becomes more easy. Having a local market where you can buy fresh foods like vegetables, many kinds of fruit, fish, chicken all locally grown. Having rented a house there for a few months we knew that it would be our place to call 'home'. We still have to build so in the meantime we still live and work in Bangkok. Occasionally, as right now, we are in The Netherlands for family and friends. In october we go back.

Being married with a Thai woman and having 2 dual nationality children, staying in Thailand is easy. for people without family ties it is more difficult. However there are a number of possibilities to get a visa. If you're 50 years or older a retirement visa is the best option. Can be extended every year and for that you need around 800.000 baht on a bankaccount OR 65.000 baht monthly income OR a combination of both totaling at least 800.000. 1 US$ = 32 baht, 1 euro = 42 bath.

There are many other options all with there own requirements. None of them are difficult if you are serious about living in Thailand,

As Thailand is compared to western countries cheap, foreigners are not allowed to buy land. For some this is an obstacle and trying to circumvent this law is daily practice for a lot of lawyers. As we all (should) know is that once a developer and a legal office are working together there is a potential for conflict of interests. To me it is unbelievable what some people do to get ownership while it is clearly forbidden. Someday it will hurt them. Following the law and staying within its 'spirit' is easy and it actually is a lot cheaper too.

Renting is an obvious choice, there is so much for rent that you will always find something you like and within your budget. Most popular with the landlords are rolling 3 year contracts. These are favorable for the landlord as it does not need to be registered and usually the contracts have to be renegotiated on renewal. it all depends on the landlord, but is that not true everywhere. For renting a condo or house with the intent not to stay there for a long time this is a good start to at least settle down for a moment and start exploring the area. I found out that being at least 6 months i a place gives you the time to find out if the area is to your liking. The ability to move easy is very important as this will give you the freedom to find something that suits your needs. Once you find such a place it is time to look for something more permanent. A condominium is the only thing you can own freehold so for a lot of people this is what they do. Others don't mind to keep renting and that also is possible. However if you really find something you like and it involves land you have two options. One is a usufruct, the other a lease. There are differences but in practice the difference that counts is that with a usufruct it can be for 'live'. A lease can be maximum 30 years, NO exceptions!

Renewals in lease contracts are not strong as they are not 'real' rights. A renewal written in a contract is a personal agreement. Once land is sold or inherited by someone else this personal agreement has no more meaning.

Thai culture is rich and a lot of it is connected to Buddhism. Not a religion in itself but it is practiced like one. If you are into Buddhism you will have lots to explore and learn. Being agnostic myself i find that Buddhism is very open and free to people with other believes. I never experienced anything mean or otherwise rejecting someone because of what they choose to believe. A lot of the culture is also rooted in much older believes and traditional rituals can still be found. Thailand however is changing and more of these older traditions disappear as younger generations are moving away from it, trying perhaps to copy their western counterparts. This is more true in Bangkok then the more rural places.

My own intentions are to build a house on the land we already own, and probably use most of the land to build up a sustainable garden. I am however not experienced so i will have to rely on locals and a lot of internet searches to educate myself. :)

To connect this to CM's crash course, i found that Thailand is an ideal location for the simpler live that we all are going to experience sooner or later. Local communities are still strong, food in abundance, you will never freeze to death :), and growing into a sustainable live is not that of a daunting task as energy needs are a lot lower. Combine that with friendly people, nice surroundings like mountains, islands and beaches and not forget a lot more Freedom and you have a good combination that is hard to beat.

If anyone wants to have some more information about Thailand you can always send me a pm, and i will be glad to help. 

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Erik T.
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Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)
John99 wrote:

Erik,

You talked of the real estate costs in Hong Kong, what about Singapore, say for a rental?

John,

Singapore real estate is definitely cheaper than Hong Kong, but not by all that much. I looked at a few nice apartments in the downtown area near Orchard Road, and they were quite pricey - US$4k/mo or so for a nice 2-3br place in a highrise. But I had the impression the rents came down considerably as you got out of the center of town.

One thing to keep in mind is that in both HK and Singapore, there are no closets! It's a cultural thing - Asians seem to prefer free-standing wardrobes (i.e. furniture) to hold their clothes. So although there is usually a "shoe closet" near the entry door, bedrooms generally don't have closets. Most relocated westerners end up converting the smallest bedroom in a flat into a large walk-in closet. The moral of the story is that you generally need one more bedroom than you think you do.

Erik

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Erik T.
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Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

Brainless,

Thanks for the excellent and very informative info on Thailand!

Chiang Mai is one of my favorite places on earth, and I've been seriously considering a 2nd home there as a safe haven in case the time comes to leave HK. The prohibition on ownership of land is the biggest deterrent. I'll have to look into "usufructs" - I am not familiar with that term.

Also, I thought the age limit for retirement visas was 45 as opposed to 50, but I could be mistaken.

Erik

 

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Brainless
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Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

Erik,

A good website with a lot of legal information is http://www.samuiforsale.com/real_rights.html . The link is to the part specifically for usufructs (and other real rights). Notice in the text that there is a difference between natural person and juristic person. I have searched the web for a long time about these subjects and talked to many people and lawyers. My conclusion is that except for the official government websites this is the only one giving the information as it is.

Another way to 'own' land is by the so called 'company route'. This however is only legal for real functioning companies that do real trade and have Thai shareholders. This 'solution' was used a lot because many counted on the relaxed enforcements of the law in this respect. To be fully legal (to own land) you need at least 51% Thai shareholders. This can be a solution if you want to start a company to make a profit, like any company should. Setting it up to circumvent the law is just that, circumventing the law and it can end badly. Having Thai relatives makes this also easier as finding suitable business partners is something not to be taken lightly. Using nominees is against the law, but many lawyers still use this (Especially the ones targeting foreigners). Accountability is lacking and as such they have free play and count on the lack of knowledge of people. As you can see on the link i included in this post there are official documents and laws for anyone to read. These are from the Thai government and are fairly straightforward.  I only use these sources for my information after experiencing myself the lack of knowledge with many lawyers, agents and developers. Many prey on the new arrivals. One of the hardest to kill scam is the 30+30+30 leases. As only the first 30 years are enforcable this is really the worst that can be done. Imagine 30 years later when you are old and get kicked out.

Make sure you read contracts caefully and check it with the laws if what is written in the contract is allowed and enforceable. Never get too enthousiatic about an 'oppertunity'. It can cloud your mind and opens you up to mistakes.

One of the better companies to help with visas is http://www.sunbeltlegaladvisors.com/Thailand-Retirement-Visa.php . I am sorry to say the age limit really is 50. 

In my experience doing it yourself is not difficult and it helps tremendously in knowing how things work in Thailand. Your local embassy can help with specific information too.

Amazingly i have never been to Chiang Mai. It is still on my list of destinations to visit. So many places so little time. :)

 

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LogansRun
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Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

Brainless,

Thanks so much for the info on Thailand!  I've been to Bangkok quite a few times but not since the late 90's so my familiarity of the area has probably been outdated.  

Could you please give me some comparison prices to homes (to buy), vehicle/transit, food, etc......  I'd like to get an idea of how far the $ will get you and how my family could live with only the savings we've come by at this point (not including my PM's;-)

Thanks in advance!

 

BTW:  If everyone could give a comparison of prices of goods/living/owning/etc..... in $'s, I think it would be helpful to all.

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Brainless
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Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

LogansRun,

Bangkok changed quit a bit since the late 90's. Especially the skytrain and subway addition makes it much more easy to travel around without being stuck in traffic. Lets start with that. I can almost tell the prices by memory to the different locations as i use this a lot. But having a map and estimated travel times on this website are so much easier: http://www.bts.co.th/en/map.asp don't forget about the taxi's. They are abundant and have a starting fee of 40 baht ($1.3). An hours drive will cost around 200 baht ($7).

Homes to buy?, if you really want to own freehold you are restricted to buy a condominium. Prices vary a lot with location. a pretty good location near to one of the skytrain or subway stations start around 2 million baht. ($63.000) For that you will have a basic unit with at least 1 bedroom. Check http://www.bahtsold.com/ for some real examples, keep in mind that most of those classifieds are targeted to foreigners. Being in country and do some footwork will get you much better prices. Don't dismiss renting as it is a great option.With condominiums most of the time access to fitness area and swimmingpool are within the same building. A service fee is around 500-1000 baht ($15-$30) a month. For electricity with one airconditioner running 10 hours a day is around 2500 ($78). Water about 500 baht ($15). quit often there is a small surcharge for electricity and water but that is more of a worry when you rent.

A few examples. I rented a 1 bedroom bungalow with a garden right on the beach for 8000 baht ($260) a month in Koh Samui. A 4 bedroom house in the center of HuaHin for 12.000 baht ($390). A townhouse in a Bangkok 'suburb' 3000 ($90) a month. Rented a nice appartment in bangkokgardens for 30.000 ($950) a month. There is a place to live for everyone and in all price ranges.

Food prices, that is so different to our prices. It is almost the same price if you prepare it yourself or you buy it ready made from the many streetstalls. If you can eat local food, which btw is very healthy and tasty you would spend at least 300 baht ($10) a day for 2-3 people. This is for breakfast, lunch and dinner, normally consisting of rice, vegetables and pork or chicken meat. If you eat thai food in a regular restaurant you would spend around 100 baht ($3) for 2 people for a meal and some drinks.

If you mis western food, a very good steak dinner in a 4* restaurant will cost you around 1500-2000 baht (45$). A good steak can be had in Sizzler for around 300 baht (imported around 500-600 baht) http://www.sizzler.co.th/en/promotion_imported_beef.php including an amazing salad bar. A burger menu in macdonalds will be around 100 baht ($3). When going out with family (sometimes 20 people) we like to visit a moo-ka-tah restaurant. This is a form of korean barbecue and is an all you can eat for 99 baht ($3) per person excluding drinks. Those drinks cost about 40 baht for a beer (0.5cl) and a coke (2L) is 30 baht. You get a barbecue for every 4 persons and you can get your own meats and fish from a large assortment, buffet style. Rice, noodles, eggs icecream, other sweet for desert, some even have french fries. Pizza hut http://www.pizzahut.co.th/home.php, Pizza company http://www.pizza.co.th/, Subway http://www.thailandsubway.com/ and many others.

Going to the cinema http://www.majorcineplex.com/index.php, go bowling http://www.majorbowlhit.com/. Go to some pilates classes http://www.pilatesanddancestudio.com/rate.php or enjoy free Tai chi sessions in Sirikit park. Watch out when you want to say Qigong because if pronounced wrong you will say that someone is a cheater. :)

Your pm's are probably 1 ounce coins. They have their value everywhere and in Thailand too. in Thailand however the more common form of gold is the 96.5% jewelry, block or coins. They are measured in units of a 1 baht coin (15.224 grams).  everyone will know what they are worth as gold is still treated like it should as a valuable asset and every Thai will know the value of it.

I could go on for a while :) , maybe better if i keep that for some more specific questions.

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LogansRun
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Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

Brainless,

Excellent info!  Thanks for taking the time!  I'm wondering what you're thoughts are on the upbringing of children there?  My kids are young (8 and 5), but have traveled and experienced many different cultures already.  Local food would be our most likely choice as again, my family has been introduced to many many food options.  In fact, the thai food option is probably their favorite as they like the curry's and spice/heat.

I would like to buy if possible as I don't like being reliant on anyone but myself.  I'd also like to get out of the big city situation and be closer to a farming situation and/or beach.  Or I could go for a hillside situation with orchards.  Just some thoughts.  Now obviously, renting for the first year or so would be much smarter and is what I would do but again, owning would be preferable.  

Thanks again for all of the info!  Keep it coming!

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Erik T.
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Posts: 1234
Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

Hi Brainless,

Another question related to LR's: You specifically mentioned that foreigners cannot own LAND. Can they own buildings?

Seems to me like a sensible workaround would be for Thai owners to create a subdivision where you lease your LAND for 30 years buy build and own your own house on that land. Does that scenario work under Thai law? The reason I ask is that I would want to be as self-sufficient as possible. If I had a lease for the land, there's not much dependency on the landlord. But if they own the building, I'd be dependent on them for repairs, etc.

Thanks,

Erik

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Brainless
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Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

LogansRun,

School was one of the reasons i was looking around for other options. Normal schools use a root learning system. I was not comfortable with that. I looked at New Zealand, and of course my home country The Netherlands. My children now attend a school in the Netherlands and i have to say i am not impressed at all. This made me think again what is actually really important for children, mine are almost 7 and 8 years old. 

I came to the conclusion that their surroundings and interaction with other people is way more important then to learn how to calculate and read and write in a school environment. I homeschooled them for the first years and that had so much more results.

I am sorry to conclude that the normal behaviour of people in my area (small city) is almost complete disrespect and self interests. And i see my children being changed by this. Thailand is not perfect of course but there still is much more friendliness and respect for each other. School can be supplemented by homeschooling.

We bought some land in a more rural area but still close to the beach. Right here:http://maps.google.com/maps?q=11.339625,+99.544351&num=1&t=h&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=23.875,57.630033&ie=UTF8&ll=11.340004,99.544222&spn=0.018051,0.033023&z=16&iwloc=A

We are going to make the land on some places higher before the rain season starts as this is good practice to get the most compaction. After that around december/januari we will start to prepare for building a house. The land is an coconut orchard and we plan to convert this into something more diverse using permaculture techniques. It is about 11.000m2.  In this area it is not difficult to buy some land as coconut farming is not really profitable. I would welcome some CM educated neighbours. :)

I tell something more about 'owning' land in a response to Erik T.

Brainless's picture
Brainless
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Posts: 150
Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

Erik,

Yes you can own buildings separate from the land.

The best scenario is the usufruct as this gives complete control over the land for the rest of your live. Hopefully that is longer than 30 years. :)

You can even rent it out to someone else if you wish, but as this can be a way of circumventing the landowner laws this is not always excepted when lease periods are longer than 3 years.

On a usufruct there can be more than one person. If you have children putting the name of your child on the usufruct extends the control over the land and your children will be able to live their too. 

One (major) disadvantage is that a usufruct can not be sold. If you really want that then forming a company and doing some real business is the only way. But for many this is much to complicated. If you just want a place, accept the conditions of the usufruct, you would have no legal worries and complete control over the agreed time period.

My first intentions with the land we bought was to have this in a company and divide the land in pieces of 400m2  and lease them out. Economic reasons and the wish to have a more sustainable live for our family put this on hold and we decided to use it ourselves. The land is in my wifes and children names. I am comfortable with that. 

The normal practice in Thailand is that when a foreigner wants to 'buy' land a lease or usufruct is made and the whole amount that normally would be paid for the freehold title is paid in advance. The lease will be registered on the land title, tax will be paid and as such it is enforcible and not voidable in any way.

I hope this answers your question.

 

V's picture
V
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 14 2009
Posts: 849
Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

I absolutely love Thailand. It is the land of smiles. You need to know what each smile means though.

I had lived in Asia for awhile and considered making it permanent. I then started looking at the entire picture. Laws regarding foreigners can change at the drop of a hat, the food riots over rice got my attention as well. The population boom and the pollution boom were big red flags

After looking at all the issues of the three E's I decided that the best  place for me is in the ol US OF A but of all the places in Asia Thailand was the place. 

No matter where you go there you are and thanks to globalization there is no escape.

V

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jferreiro
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Posts: 2
Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

I would like to mention two places that I have traveled to extensively but have never lived there

#1 Medellin Colombia - Do not believe the reputation this,  city is safe. The upscale parts resemble the developed world, the costs are low and the healthcare is excellent. The women are breathtakingly beautiful and the people like Americans. The climate is a perfect 72 degrees year round with intermittent rain. The landscape is lush and green and never hot. There are direct flights to Miami. The main downsides are that you will need to learn spanish. The upperclass speaks spanish but for everyday life a working knowledge of spanish is essential. Colombians are very hardworking, businesslike people and the country has never confiscated assets.

#2 Buenos Aires One of the great cities of the world and Jim Rogers rates it as one of his three favorite cities. Nice temperate weather, beautiful women, phenomenal food and a sizzling nightlife. Costs are much lower than you would expect but not as cheap  as Medellin. Healthcare is excellent and affordable. If you like New York you would probably love BA, but the people are much friendlier and not obnoxious like NYC. Again the downsides are that you have to learn Spanish. You would not want to have a bank account here since there is along history of confiscations but as far as I know real estate has never been confiscated.

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Moncho
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Posts: 6
Re: Getting Out (FSN Follow-up)

Argentina?

Exponential growth and consumption won't affect everyone equally.  Some individuals and individual locales will enjoy higher and higher standards of living, even if the masses don't.

Economics is the study of what makes a state wealthy.  It was born with Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations."  Economics is not finance.  A lot of false ideas are bandied about, e.g. "landlocked countries are poor" like Uganda, Paraguay, and Bolivia.... I might add Switzerland and Austria.

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2009/07/peter_henry_on.html had a podcast comparing Barbados to Jamaica, former slave colonies, English Speaking, simultaneous independence.  Why did Barbados enjoy economic progress while Jamaica languished?  Government policy.  Jamaica lost about twenty years to stagnation because of Manley's socialist government.  Barbados had positive growth, and it compounded.  Government policy can impoverish a richly endowed nation.  Argentina is the posterchild of this.  At one time, circa 1910 Argentina had a greater GDP than the US.  "As rich as an Argentine" meant really rich.  What happened? Bad government policy. 

crash_watcher's quote of ferfal needs to be considered seriously.  On the other hand, ferfal needs to answer this, "How is the American congress different from the Argentine?  How is Obama better than Cristina?

I'll throw out these as backup relocation possibilities:

  • Paraguay
  • Uganda
  • Peru
  • Columbia
  • Guatemala
  • Belize
  • Panama
  • Malaysia?
  • Thailand?
  • Sailboat?

 

 

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