Articles Related to Jeff stern

--David Morrill, on the benefits of living in Cuenca

"Ecuador is unique in that foreign retirees living here with a pensionado visa are allowed to get a job if they want to. In most other countries, pensionado visa holders are prohibited from working..."

--Attorney Bruce Horowitz, on options for acquiring residency in Ecuador

"One big plus for us living in Ecuador is the medical care. It's so much more personal than in the United States. We have two young children. We can speak with their pediatrician anytime we want to, and he'll spend an hour or more at a time answering our questions. Of course, it's nice that health care is also so much cheaper here than in the States..."

--American expat-entrepreneur Jeff Stern, on why he and his wife have chosen to raise their family in Ecuador

"One thing I still appreciate very much about Ecuador is that it is a genuinely non-intrusive government. Nobody's reading your e-mails here..."

--Lee Harrison, on why Ecuador

"Americans are very trusting. This is partially a cultural thing, but it's also because Americans count on recourse. We come from a place where there's a functioning judicial system...and where the Better Business Bureau is always on our side. You need to recognize that Ecuadoreans don't come from the same background and don't approach life or business from this point of view..."

--American expat-entrepreneur Jeff Stern, owner of Gianduja Chocolate, www.giandujachocolate.com, on doing business in Ecuador

"One of my favorite things to do on a Sunday in Ecuador is drive to Ayanque beach, about 30 minutes north of Salinas, where I live, and have a lobster lunch. Tables and chairs are right on the beach. I take off my shoes and dig my toes into the sand while I crack open my lobster and watch the surf. I order a couple of beers and make an afternoon of it. Great day...for all of about US$8..."

--American expat Mike Sager, on the beach life in Ecuador

"If you buy a US$40-a-square-foot house, you're getting a US$40-a-square-foot house...remember that as you compare real estate prices and values..."

--American expat and property developer Mike Cobb, on investing in real estate in Latin America

"You learn that you have to pick your battles. Things work the way they work here. You'll run out of time and energy before you'll change anything. You need to accept that..."

--American expat-entrepreneur Jeff Stern, owner of Gianduja Chocolate, www.giandujachocolate.com, on doing business in Ecuador

"Historically, the United States has taken a self-assessing approach to taxation. This has made the country unique in the world. We Americans report our own income and figure our own tax due. No more. FATCA is the end of this. Now the IRS is going to take the tax itself, pro-actively, at the border..."

--U.S. tax attorney Chris Braun, on preparing for the implications of FATCA legislation

"At first I loved the lack of regulation in this country. Then I realized that this is a double-edged sword. I could make a U-turn or go the wrong way down a one-way street without worrying about getting a ticket, for example. But I didn't appreciate it when I encountered another guy coming at me the wrong way down a one-way street..."

--Lee Harrison, on the pluses and the minuses of living in Ecuador

"My best advice for anyone going into the import-export business in Ecuador is to start small. Focus on a few specific products of really good quality. Avoid commodity items. You want a better margin than that..."

--Exporter Roberto Ribadeneira, owner of Ecuador Shop (aka Latin America Shop), www.ecuadorshop.net

"One big selling point for products from Ecuador is that they are handmade. This isn't China. We don't mass-produce things here. Everything is special and therefore more sellable...more competitive..."

--Exporter Roberto Ribadeneira, owner of Ecuador Shop (aka Latin America Shop), www.ecuadorshop.net

"Don't use the public health care...avoid the long-distance buses (because they have horrible safety records and crash regularly)..."

--American expat Jeff Stern, on things not to do in Ecuador

"Ecuador is definitely a 'pay-as-you-go' choice when it comes to health care. That is, I'd say that the cost of care is definitely so low you don't need to worry about investing in health insurance..."

--Lee Harrison, on considering your options for health care in Ecuador

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. These are a handful of the topics, ideas, recommendations, insights, discoveries, and tips shared during last week's Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference in Quito. Every presentation by every speaker was recorded and is being edited now to create our all-new Live and Invest in Ecuador Home Conference Kit.

Today only, this everything-you-need-to-know-about-Ecuador resource is available at a pre-release discount that saves you more than 50% off the retail price.

This pre-release offer ends at Midnight tonight, Feb. 19. Go here now to take advantage of the prelease of our Live and Invest in Ecuador Home Conference Kit while you still can.Continue Reading:

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I moved to Ecuador in 2007 with my wife Maria and our two kids, aged 9 months and 3 years at the time. For years we had been looking for another opportunity to relocate overseas, as both of us had worked in the international development field and spent numerous years living in various countries including South Africa and Nicaragua. That opportunity never came. We finally realized we'd have to create it for ourselves. We sold our house just before The Great Recession, packed up everything, and relocated to Quito, Ecuador.

After searching for market opportunities in Ecuador, both online and on-the-ground during numerous visits to Quito (Maria was born and raised here), we finally hit upon chocolate. I was an aspiring chocolatier and professional cook before we came to Ecuador, and we tested our sweets in Quito on several occasions, selling by word-of-mouth to friends and family. Our plan was to be the first high-end producer of sophisticated bonbons and other chocolate products for the local market. You can guess how that worked out. Life is what happens to you while you're making plans...the best-made plans of mice and men...etc.

For the kids, our time here in Ecuador has been wonderful. It's the first and foremost reason we stay. They are both fully bilingual and bicultural. And while they face many of the same issues children (and their parents) face everywhere, I do find they face less commercialism and enjoy more personal interaction than they might in the United States. They also get to watch their parents struggle with the challenges of doing business in Ecuador.

Business In Ecuador

Our first year, we had high hopes with our "first-mover" advantage. We had little to no competition. We landed a few regular accounts and did a number of Christmas bazars and other events for publicity and sales. But we also found out all the challenges a small business in Ecuador can face...

Bureaucracy in the form of long lines. Arbitrary answers to our questions that seemed to depend on who you were talking to, what time of day it was, maybe the phase of the moon. Answers to the same questions that would differ radically from one person and one day to another person the next. Regulations that seemed to have no basis in any logic we could process.

Nonetheless, we persevered and pushed forward. Our business did not take off as fast as we had hoped, but we managed to pay our bills and our one employee.

I learned, only after some time here, that Ecuador is the world's largest producer of "fine aroma" cocoa (only 5% to 10% of the world's cocoa is considered fine aroma). This is the cocoa that goes into the chocolate industry for the world's best chocolates, pastries, and desserts. Banking on this advantage, I learned as much about and met as many people working in the industry as I could.

Fast forward five years. We are now fairly well known in Quito and somewhat in Guayaquil. A lot of tourists find us thanks to our dedicated blogging and the fact that travel bloggers, including Andrew Harper, have written us up very favorably. Making chocolate pays the bills but is only one of many income sources we've developed. Like any small business, we have diversified our activities and are always looking for new opportunities. I now know all the major and some minor players in the chocolate industry and where to go for advice, manufacturing, and anything else cocoa-related.

Having gained an in-depth knowledge of the chocolate industry, I not only run my chocolate workshop, but offer tours to cocoa-growing regions of the country to teach people about chocolate and its origins. I have partnered with both Ecole Chocolat, an online chocolate school, and The Gourmandise School, a culinary school in Santa Monica, to broaden our market and reach. I provide consulting and industry advice to both local and foreign companies wanting to source cocoa or chocolate products from Ecuador.

We're not sure we're staying in Ecuador indefinitely, but we've definitely made our mark here. Business ebbs and flows, but, after more than five years, we've established a hard-earned credibility and recognition that would be hard to leave behind. The journey hasn't been easy and nothing has worked out has planned, but isn't that the way life usually works? It's been nothing but bittersweet.

Jeff Stern
Ecuador Expat and Entrepreneur
Gianduja ChocolatesContinue Reading:

Image source: Destination Ecuador 

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Expat information

If you're planning to move to a country where we host a conference, I say confidently and without hesitation that the best way to establish the in-country infrastructure you need is to attend that conference. Over nearly 30 years of covering this beat, I've watched and helped tens of thousands of people (no kidding) make this kind of move. Trust me. The most cost-efficient way to arm yourself with all the expat information and resources you need to make a success of whatever move you're planning is to spend three days with us at one of our live events. We'll introduce you to everyone you need to know, and each of these introductions will be based on personal experience and come with our personal endorsement.

The first resource you need is an attorney. Your attorney in the country where you're planning to live or retire is your most important ally, and finding a good local attorney, one who speaks English and who has had experience with expats and foreign retirees, should be your number-one priority once you've figured out where it is you intend to relocate. In Quito, we'll introduce you to two, our two preferred Ecuador attorneys based on years of personal experience in this country.

Next you need a banker and a local bank account. Again, in Ecuador, we'll put you in touch with the two banks we recommend.

You need help understanding and deciding among your residency options. In some countries, your residency application must be made for you by an attorney. Not so in Ecuador. In this country, you can manage the process entirely on your own if you'd like. Our residency experts will show you how.

Wherever in the world you decide you'd like to relaunch your life, you'll also need contacts to help you shop for a home (either to rent or to buy); to help you consider your health insurance options; to show you how to get your mail and set up utilities in your digs; to learn a little of the local lingo if you don't speak it already...

In Quito next month, we'll introduce you to real estate agents you can trust, as well as folks we trust to help you shop insurance (health, homeowners, car, if you need it) and put all the other pieces of your new life into place.

We'll also introduce you to the savviest Ecuador expat you'll find, Lee Harrison, with more than 11 years' experience considering and comparing the top retirement options not only in Ecuador but throughout all Latin America. Lee was one of Ecuador's pioneer expats 11 years ago when he and his wife chose to settle in Cuenca. He'll tell you why he still believes this city is the best choice in the region for the retiree looking to enjoy as comfortable a retirement as possible even on a very modest retirement nest egg.

In Quito next month, you'll also meet Mike Sager, who, like Lee, considered all the diverse lifestyle options Ecuador has to offer before making his move. Mike, though, chose to settle on the country's coast, at Salinas. He'll tell you firsthand about the life of a beachcomber expat in this beautiful place.

You'll meet David Morrill, another pioneer expat in this country, who has not only retired to Ecuador but started a successful business, too.

And you'll meet Jeff Stern, who moved to Ecuador with his wife and two young children in 2007. As Jeff explains, "We sold our house just before The Great Recession, packed up everything, and relocated to Quito."

Jeff and his wife weren't ready for retirement. They were raising a family and looking for business opportunity.

Jeff continues:

"After searching for market opportunities in Ecuador, both on-line and on-the-ground during numerous visits to Quito, we finally hit upon chocolate. I was an aspiring chocolatier and professional cook before we came. Our plan was to be the first high-end producer of sophisticated bonbons and other chocolate products for the local market..."

Nearly six years later, Jeff and his family are still in Ecuador enjoying this great adventure. I'll let Jeff tell you more about it tomorrow...

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. Next month's Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference is nearly sold out. In fact, last week, it was sold out. However, Conference Director Lauren Williamson contacted the hotel and managed to arrange for a bigger meeting space. We were able to add 20 seats in the room. Of these, a handful remain available. Details on the Live and Invest in Ecuador are here.

P.S. What else this week?

  • Ecuador Correspondent David Morril writes:

 

Although Rafael Correa has been a controversial figure in his six years as president of Ecuador, most of the country's English-speaking residents will tell you that their lives are better because of him.

Almost certain to be re-elected to a second full term, Correa has pledged to continue the extensive agenda of public welfare and infrastructure projects already under way. These include expansion and reconstruction of the country's highway and bridge system, construction of new hospitals and hiring more doctors to support the country's Social Security health care system, and a top-to-bottom overhaul of public education. In all, spending on public projects has increased 300% since Correa was first elected.

Frequently criticized for his left-leaning politics, opposition to free trade agreements with the U.S. and the EU, and, more recently, his grant of asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Correa says he is working to reverse years of neglect of the country's public services and infrastructure.

He frequently invokes Alexander von Humboldt, the early 19th-century Prussian explorer and naturalist who described Ecuador as a "beggar sitting on a bag of gold." Ecuador must use its resources, he insists, to improve the lives of its citizens. With his background in economics, Correa knows that because those resources, especially oil and gas, are finite, the country needs to build a future based on an educated, healthy, and prosperous citizenry.

The government's public projects, in fact, are funded primarily by oil money. After Correa restructured contracts with oil producers in 2007 and 2008, he dedicated billions of dollars to public works. Other public funds are the result of increased revenues generated by higher levels of tax collection. Although his critics say he is spending too much, Correa points to a healthy national balance sheet that shows a growing GDP and a low level of debt in Ecuador...

  • We report often on the best places in Panama to retire well on little, spots--on the coast, in the highlands, and in Panama City, too--where you can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle on a modest budget, pointing out that, in some parts of this country, it's possible to retire on as little as US$1,000 a month or even less.

 

With that budget, you'd be enjoying a good but simple life, living more like a local than an expat.

On the other hand, at the other extreme, Panama is also a place where you can enjoy what could be described as a luxury lifestyle, the kind of life you could embrace in Manhattan or London, Miami or Dubai. The "penthouse life" you might call it, complete with waterfront two-story penthouses in buildings with saunas, spas, massage rooms, squash courts, and 24-hour concierge doormen and supported by five-star restaurants, trendy bars, and international-brand shopping (Tiffany, Hermes, Cartier, Rolex, etc.) nearby.

We spent four days in Manhattan over Christmas, indulging in that kind of life. We ate at steak houses with white-glove service, stopped for champagne cocktails, shopped Fifth Avenue, and ate US$20 hamburgers for lunch (once). By the end of the four days, Lief and I both were eager to move on. Who could afford to live like that indefinitely? Not us.

At least not us in Manhattan. However, here in Panama, we're realizing, not only is that standard of living available, but it comes at a price that many more of us can absorb.

Specifically, this kind of living is on offer on a little peninsula in the heart of Panama City called Punta Pacifica. On this spit of land, the highest-end of any high-rise towers in this city of high-rise towers have been built, including the infamous Trump Tower. In addition to ultra-modern, ultra-amenity buildings, this area has been developed to include real sidewalks (uncommon in this city), grassy medians (non-existent elsewhere in this city), park areas, and lots of trees and shrubs. As the final few of the towers to be erected here (it's a small area, so only so many buildings are possible) are nearing completion, it's also one of the least congested and quietest spots in the city. Everywhere in Panama City is under construction or renovation in some way, including in Punta Pacifica, but, again, the work in this small region is nearing an end, making Panama unique and accordingly appealing...

  • Paul Terhorst writes:

 

In predicting 2012 last January I said, "I've been investing for 40 years, and I've never seen a tougher call."

So naturally I went ahead and nailed nearly all my predictions.

I said the stock market would go up, and it sure did go up. We had a terrific year. In the United States, the S&P 500 climbed 13%, the NASDAQ a whopping 16%. International markets did nearly as well. Dividends largely cover inflation these days, so those numbers amount to real returns. Since the stock-market bottom in March 2009, the NASDAQ has climbed almost 140%.

I said energy costs would rise. During the year, the oil price shot up, then fell sharply, then nearly recovered by year-end.

I predicted a tough time for Europe but that the euro would survive. I went out on a limb on this one; most observers predicted the euro would disappear or that some countries would leave the eurozone. Instead European leaders bought euro bonds without limit, avoiding a crisis.

I predicted Obama would win the election, and that Congress would remain gridlocked. In the event, the House stuck with Republicans and the Senate with Democrats.

Finally, I saw a grim economy with slow growth. The U.S. economy grew by only 2% for the year, almost costing Obama the election.

Looking forward to 2013 I find market trends to be a much easier call...

  • If you could retire anywhere in the world, where would you go?

 

As we find ourselves at the start of a brand-new year, that's a question worth asking yourself, because we also find ourselves in a time when it's not only possible but easier than you might ever imagine to launch the retirement adventure of your fondest day dreams almost anywhere on earth that appeals to you.

Last week, I provided five suggestions for the world's top retirement havens for 2013. Now, here are five more beautiful, welcoming, and affordable places for expats to consider this New Year...

PLUS--From resident global real estate investing expert Lief Simon:

Assuming the seven countries still to vote grant approval, Croatia is finally set for entry into the EU. The admission of a new country to the union must be ok'd unanimously by all member countries, creating lots of opportunity for political dealing. Slovenia, for example, wants Croatia to drop a lawsuit demanding that Slovenia make good on €172 million in deposits lost by Croatia when a Slovenian bank went bust.

Croatia is a beautiful country with an energetic population, but right now it's also an economic mess. Over the past eight years or so, the country has worked tremendously hard to improve its infrastructure and to put its ducks in a row for EU ascension. At long last, the effort is nearing the intended payoff. If the vote goes as hoped (and expected), Croatia will enter the EU on July 1 of this year.

When I first visited Croatia in 2004, the country was expecting to be accepted into the EU by 2006. Then the date was pushed to 2009. Now it seems imminent but anti-climactic. Romania and Bulgaria managed to jump ahead of Croatia, entering the EU in January 2007. They were considered more important politically.

Back in 2004, when EU entry was anticipated for 2006, the country's real estate market (which is priced in euro) saw big activity and big gains. Of course, it was a different world back then. This was coincidentally also the height of the global real estate boom. Everyone in Western Europe was interested in owning in Croatia...including me. We bought a shell of a stone farmhouse built in the early 1800s. It's still waiting to be renovated. We last visited it about a year ago, and I was very happy to find, when we did, that my enthusiasm, both for Croatia and for the spot where we decided to buy (on the side of a mountain in Istria), were as great as ever. This is a place where I can imagine settling in happily and long term.

Croatia still has many challenges to address, including reducing corruption and lowering its unemployment rate, which sits around 20%. But the potential is there, a lot of it, both for tourism and as a retirement destination.

As in all markets worldwide, real estate values in Croatia have fallen since the 2006/2007 highs. However, as the mortgage market in this country was very limited, it hasn't experienced anything like the collapses that Ireland and Spain have been suffering through. Tourism is the shining star of the economy and continues to expand. Bottom line, I expect real estate prices to remain steady, especially in the key tourist destinations. Buying a small apartment or house to put up for short-term rental might net you a reasonable 5% to 6% return.

Thinking longer term, this country, once it has finally entered in to the EU, likely will have to streamline its residency permit process, which right now isn't easy to navigate. This will help the country to develop as a retirement option, especially among the Brits and West Europeans, who are always in the market for coastal sunshine. This is one asset Croatia has in abundance. Indeed, anyone looking for a sunny, mild coastal destination would do well to consider this country, which is very competitive in terms of both pricing and amenities on offer. With a long coastline and more than a thousand islands to explore, it's a boaters' playground.

If you had to choose among the distressed countries of southern Europe--Spain, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Croatia--for a place to park some money in real estate, I'd say that Croatia offers the best short-term yield potential and long-term upside. Focus on the tourist regions.

 

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Read more here.

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