Emigrate Now, Avoid the Rush

By: Marygwen Dungan | Mon, Feb 1, 2010
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Only a few years late to the party, publications like Forbes, Business Week and the WSJ recently ran articles on preppers, who they call the new survivalists. Just last week, Yahoo Finance featured an investment advisor who counselled that a well-balanced portfolio should include stored food, water and arable land. He didn't specify, but shortages are predicted so I suppose you'll want to take physical delivery of that stuff. Marc Faber, BTW, is giving the same advice and so is Jim Rogers.

Listen up folks, I've found the latest survivalist must-have. If you want to be ahead of the pack, impress your friends and evade your enemies, outfit your home bomb shelter with a radiation test kit and thyroid pills to counteract radiation poisoning. This guy sells them online: http://www.ki4u.com/guide.htm What's that you say, no bomb shelter? Shane's site also gives simple, DIY instructions for building one. Not to fear though, if a nuclear attack occurs before you get up to speed, some plastic sheeting, duct tape and a swig of iodine will tide you over.

So here's what you gotta do to stay safe in the US of A these days: learn how to grow and then store two years of food; buy and learn how to use a short-wave radio, back-up generator, firearms, and farm equipment; you also should raise livestock and raise and train attack dogs; and don't forget potable water and ammo. To this list you now must add nuclear attack preparedness (it's not just me sayin' so, it's a new Homeland Security category; no colour for the alert selected yet; I'm partial to fuchsia).

But then I got to thinkin', the buying part's fun, even learning how to can wasn't bad, but I still haven't taken the food dehydrator or pressure cooker out of the box and that's because, basically, I really don't like doing these things nor do I like living this way. Maybe I should just move someplace safer, like Latin America. They've got problems too you say? That's true, but so far, no one's itching to nuke Latin America.

History and Herstory

This past summer my next-door neighbours stealthily, or so they thought, built a fallout shelter. They are immigrants from rural Europe and, despite the manor house and expensive cars, they largely keep to the old ways. They have a gut sense of what's going on: she through a belief in the bible and Revelations, and he through watching his road-building business collapse due to federal and state funds drying up. They no longer see the US as a country to immigrate to; it's a country to emigrate from for opportunity elsewhere.

That sentiment was voiced recently by the CEO of a major house builder who thought that many US workers would leave the country if they could. As it is, he's seen large numbers of his self-employed, contract workers go back to wherever it was they came from. So many workers have returned to Mexico, for instance, that remittances for full-year 2009 fell more than 11% from 2008, with a month-over-month decline of 36% in October and 14% in December 2009. This compares with a 3.3% decline for full-year 2008. The trend is accelerating.

Debt and Taxes

After a miserable, retching death from radiation poisoning, what's the next worse thing that could happen to you in the States? For me that would be being impoverished by confiscatory taxes. All kinds of existing taxes are going up and a slew of new ones are being proposed due to, in a nutshell, increased spending and decreased revenues. You know what else? They're after individual retirement accounts again. This time there's actually been a bill introduced to, why mince words, confiscate retirement accounts and turn them into Social Security-type annuities, identical to, but separate from, the current Social Security scheme. Contributions would be mandatory. And another thing, if the health-care bill is ever implemented, that's going to cost you too.

Hahaha, you say, I don't have a job, so who cares? Do you still have a house? If so, that's where the confiscatory part comes in. Your house could be mortgage free, but don't pay the taxes and that will be the end of it. You have more to fear from your local tax collector than from anyone other than the IRS. Local authorities can't imprison you, what a relief, but they can take your house.

Without belabouring the issue, perhaps you've noticed the feds have done a lot of spending lately. In addition, all the GSEs have been nationalized and the FDIC is broke. The states are in even worse shape. Many can't meet day-to-day expenses, public-sector employee pensions are dangerously underfunded, funds for unemployment are exhausted, and their tax revenues, too, are down. Those that can't print, tax; those that can print, print and tax. Local governments will have to tax.

At some point, somebody is going to have to pay for this. Who's that going to be?

Patriotism, Misplaced

There are a lot of people who say they won't go down without a fight; they've got guns, they'll march, they'll protest. They've already sent many emails and faxes to their congresspersons, so there. To them I say, and with all due respect and even admiration, go right ahead, but I don't think you'll get very far. About 50% of the population directly receives government largesse of one kind or another: food stamps, unemployment benefits, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, educational grants, and student loans. I'm sure I've missed a few; what do you get BTW?. These people are clinging to the status quo by their bloody fingertips. Take all that stuff away and I'm sure there'd be a violent reaction; but as it is now, unlikely.

Starving the beast by boycotting the financial system or not going to work for a day, for example, is a good form of passive aggression, but why not leave the beast's lair altogether?

Last Chance to Sell Real Estate

So, how'd you like those fake, outa sight GDP numbers? Mish and Barry Ritholz both analyze the data and point out that GDP wasn't really up 5.7% for 4Q09, it was more like 2.2%, but up nonetheless. Released a few days prior, consumer confidence was up too. The stock market is hanging in there and interest rates are still low. If you still have equity in your real estate and want to sell, it's now or never. That's my opinion and what I plan to do.

Selecting your New Domicile

Here are some of my criteria for a new place to live: no nuclear-armed enemies (that leaves out the entire US); low taxes (again, not the US), especially real estate taxes (a big ditto); good and affordable healthcare and low living expenses (same); not essential to be fluent in the local language (OK, this one's in the US's favour); a large American/Canadian colony (harder to find in the US everyday); cultural activities and significant architecture; and crime no worse than a comparable-size US city.

You may be surprised at my choice: the colonial cities of Mexico and, in particular Mérida, capital of the Yucatan. I'm going on a house-hunting trip in a week and depending on the interest from you, dear readers, as evidenced by the volume and intensity of both fan and hate mail, I'll let you know what I find.

A Closing Note: So, in addition to Goldman Sachs's employees packing heat these days, I understand their offices are barricaded and the building is patrolled by bomb-sniffing dogs. Hope you enjoy the world you've created guys.



Author: Marygwen Dungan

Marygwen Dungan

Marygwen has worked in banking and securities for 25+ years. Her first job after the University of PA undergrad and Wharton grad was as an investment banker at Paine Webber. After a stint in international commercial banking, MG returned to Wall St. as a risk-arbitrage sales trader, initially working for Merrill Lynch.

For the last ten years MG has been a supervisory analyst and editor of institutional equity and economic research for several multi-national financial firms including Banco Santander, Credit Lyonnais and Fox-Pitt, Kelton, a subsidiary of SwissRe. She currently writes for BlownMortgage and contributes to other top-rated blogs. Personal interests include historic restoration and organic farming.

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