EDITORIAL, International Real Estate
The American Dream Is Still Possible, Just Not in the US
By Ron Holland - October 22, 2014

Although there are no firm statistics on the number of Americans living outside the US, the US State Department estimates that somewhere between 3 and 6 million Americans now live offshore. I think this is a low estimate and the number is clearly growing.

I now live in Canada but often travel back to the United States. Driving through Customs near Buffalo is usually not a big ordeal but it does involve a time-wasting delay much like visiting the post office or any other US government bureaucracy. But governments should police their borders, as this is one of the few legitimate functions of a central government.

Still, whenever I'm there I do notice the America I grew up in and once knew has really changed since 9/11. The trend toward a more militarized and aggressive police force continues to quicken. I know most Americans accept this as part of the consequences of the War on Terror just as they do the loss of financial privacy, increased fines and asset seizures.

The Canadian government recently warned citizens to be careful when taking cash to the US because of the risk of police taking their cash for hyped-up offenses. Did you know that in the last 13 years, over $2.5 billion has been stolen by law enforcement in almost 62,000 cash seizures? I have to say that as an American, I'm outraged at the situation and always on guard when in the USSA.

I fear many Americans who don't travel internationally might have become somewhat immune to the intrusive, arbitrary nature of today's American government and its institutions. Here in Canada, law enforcement is almost always professional and courteous and even the bureaucrats are friendly and helpful, which simply amazes me.

So to my American family, friends and business associates, I want you to know it is still possible to achieve the American Dream of a simple life with opportunity for wealth creation, fun, freedom and good times without an overly intrusive, threatening government … just not in the United States. Many other nations, in Central and South America and elsewhere, certainly also experience corruption and inefficiencies but government threats remain outside of everyday life for most citizens and expats.

Following are a few things I've noticed recently pertaining to international real estate and lifestyle decisions many people are considering, ranging from a new presidential executive order to mouth-watering Austrian chalets.

I mention the latest presidential executive order not because it concerns your lifestyle or real estate but because this is how you are likely to lose more liberties, have your gold confiscated or your bank safe deposit box frozen during a future real or contrived crisis. Roosevelt used this governmental tool to illegally confiscate private gold in 1933 and there is no immediate defense or remedy to a presidential executive order. Yes, Congress can act over time but exactly how this would help after the fact is a question no one can answer.

When retiring overseas, many countries require a minimum pension or retirement income in order receive the coveted benefits of expat retirement and your Social Security benefits can be all or part of this package. Therefore, leaving the US does not mean you lose your "promised but not guaranteed" Social Security benefits … at least not until Congress starts to "means test" Social Security in order to end benefits to the wealthy and middle class. It is possible to continue to receive your benefits. Read more here.

A couple of weeks ago I was flying back to Canada from a Casey Research conference in historic San Antonio, TX. The American Airlines flight magazine had an excellent article on the radical transformation of Colombia from a crime haven to a tourist haven and now the toast of South America. I have visited Colombia several times recently and you must put this exciting country on your bucket list for a visit. Read about it in "A Radical Transformation."

I don't have a compulsive bone in my body except for being on time and I unrealistically expect everyone else to be on time. This is a minor problem for me in the United States, Canada or Europe – other than in Switzerland where everyone and everything is done in a timely manner. But in Central and South America, nothing happens by the clock. This is something potential expats and others considering living in Latin cultures will want to be aware of. While this article focuses on Ecuador, it provides excellent insight into the entire region.

The Colombia economy is booming and is viewed increasingly by international investment managers as a good candidate for global diversification. The earlier long years of political upheaval and guerilla violence means that much of the reserves of this resource rich country including oil, gold and coal have not been explored and the reserves are still unaccounted for. Read what the NASDAQ has to say about the country at "Colombia Represents A New Vision in South America."

Of course, going offshore isn't restricted to the lower cost, tropical venues of Central and South America. Some people may enjoy the opportunities for cold weather sports and the history of a wonderful country like Austria. Think of Austria as similar to Switzerland or Germany but a place where locals and visitors alike have a lot more fun. While Austrian real estate is not a bargain as it still is in South America, compared to Switzerland it is an excellent value. Here are a few chalets to tempt your wandering eye.

The opportunities still available are truly amazing and I encourage you to takes steps to ensure your lifestyle and wealth now, while you can.

You don’t have to play by the rules of the corrupt politicians, manipulative media, and brainwashed peers.

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Posted in EDITORIAL, International Real Estate
  • Bruce C

    Miami, Florida has become incredibly congested lately so maybe word will get out that South American countries (Columbia in particular) are really more wonderful than foreign ex-pats think. From what I can tell, every South American person/family that can afford to get out of “paradise” does so. The only ones who maintain ties have family or businesses.

    I agree that the US has changed for the worse, but I’m not convinced other countries are that much better or will remain so if/when the US really starts to implode. I’m not a frequent international traveler but it still seems that “when the US sneezes the rest of the world gets the flu” still applies. It certainly works the other way around – when the US does well, so does everywhere else.

    Besides, I understand the basic concept that people emigrate to improve their lives when the home front becomes oppressive, but I would rather stay here in the US and deal with the Devil I know than scuttle off to some other country as though I have nothing to do with what’s going on here.

    There is something really hypocritical about leaving the US yet still demanding (or finding a way to receive) entitlement benefits like Social Security. Like it or not, the Social Security taxes you’ve paid were to support current retirees during those years. It’s not a “savings account” system. By demanding Social Security or any of the other entitlements like Disability or food stamps is asking US taxpayers to subsidize you even though you have voluntarily rejected and abandoned that society.

    • Edwin

      Of course you should still be able to receive Social Security if you leave the US in retirement age! If you spent a lifetime paying into a “promised” system that you are FORCED to pay into, you really should be be able to take out the money you were promised at the beginning. US residence or not.

      Social Security was not sold to Americans as a right, it was an entitlement. Meaning you EARN the benefits by spending a lifetime paying into it. This is NOT like the welfare, food stamps, etc. programs where you get benefits for simply being an American who’s down on their luck.

      • Bruce C

        That’s not true. Social Security is a “socialist” program in which you are mandated/”FORCED” to subsidize retirees while you’re working and future workers are mandated to subsidize you when you are retired. It is NOT a savings/investment/or pension program. I’m sorry that so many people never understood that, but that’s the fact. The only “promise” was that the scheme would last in perpetuity, but that doesn’t mean that it would be economically or mathematically sustainable.

        Ditto for all the rest. That is why the “unfunded liabilities” of the US are between $60 and $200 trillion.

      • “you really should be be able to take out the money you were promised at the beginning”

        But there is nothing to “take out”! If you accept Social Security it is coming directly from US taxpayers. It is therefore only permissible to keep for yourself the portion of it which is equal to the taxes (of all kinds including all fines, licence fees and hidden taxes) that you paid in the tax year in which you received the SS. The rest should ethically be returned to those from which it was stolen in taxes. My suggestion would be to distribute it to libertarian friends who have paid taxes that year up to the total which they have paid.
        However the logic of this approach (something that I worked out many years ago after a lifetime of initially deciding to totally reject SS) implies that it is totally wrong (essentially equivalent to the receipt of stolen funds) to accept any part of SS if you are not paying US taxes of any kind.

  • Tom

    As an American retiree I’m enjoying Social Security. However, being a young 67 I’m looking for a management gig with a waterfront business in Central America. I was leaning hard toward Panama, but have since shifted toward Belize. Maybe because my Spanish isn’t as good as I would like, and learning a new language at my age is difficult at best.

    I don’t think it’s wise to think we can rely on incomes from the States – even though those incomes may be useful in getting residency approvals in smaller nations south of Mexico. If/when the USA economy implodes, I’m pretty sure that our incomes will go as well. So taking your special talents and skills with you and starting your own business should get you accepted by the government. They typically don’t want you taking salaried jobs from their locals, but welcome you to bring a new business that will pay taxes and potentially hire their indiginous people.

  • davidnrobyn

    My wife and I live in the US but own a house in Canada, and we have family and many friends in Canada. So we travel there frequently (though not as frequently as I’d like:-)). The difference between dealing with the US and Canadian border guards is becoming very noticeable. And like you said Ron, even the bureaucrats are nice. I have to deal with the Canadian tax authorities, and I’m always amazed at how nice they are. Where do they find these people to staff their phones?? Yes, I know Canada is a very socialist society, but somehow that doesn’t seem nearly as important as the overwhelming decency I encounter there. Just wondering, though–whether today’s shootings in Ottawa were designed in some way to get the Canadians on the same page with us…paranoid thought.