The afternoon rain stopped just in time to accommodate our evening cocktail reception poolside. We sipped a ruby Malbec as we chatted about the day’s presentations.
“Everything has so exceeded my expectations already,” remarked one attendee from California. “What a day this has been. So many interesting ideas…”
We’d spent the day considering key questions and opportunities worldwide right now for the would-be expat:
Questions like…what do you do for health insurance?
Kevin Bradley, with 30 years experience in the business, helped attendees to consider the options.
“No, your Medicare won’t move with you,” Kevin explained. “And neither, probably, will your Blue Cross & Blue Shield, for example.
“You’re probably going to have to apply for…and qualify for…new insurance. You have two choices, fundamentally: local insurance, through an in-country agency, or international insurance, through BUPA, for example, which is my top recommendation.
“Whatever you do,” Kevin continued, “don’t buy health insurance over the Internet. I promise you that, if you do, chances are very good that you’ll discover, when it’s too late, that you haven’t actually bought health insurance at all. You’ve bought something else that won’t cover you when you need coverage.
Kevin’s returning to address the group again Friday morning. At that time, he’s offered to help attendees consider particular policy options and costs.
Shifting gears, we talked about money. Where should you keep yours in the wake of the worldwide banking debacles of the past year?
“Look around the global banking landscape,” advised Peter Zipper, President of Caye Bank in Belize, “and you notice that a handful of banking jurisdictions stand out…for two reasons:
“Banking secrecy and liquidity. These are the two things you want to pay attention to when choosing where you want to do your banking.
“Banking secrecy is under attack right now. I worked for many years in Austria, where bank secrecy is written into the country’s constitution. However, even this may change. I spoke with a banker friend in Vienna the other day, and he told me that it appears the bank secrecy references are going to be pulled out of the constitution. The next step, then, would be for Austria to abandon banking secrecy. This will be no small thing.
“Belize takes bank secrecy seriously.
“The other thing you want to look for in a banking jurisdiction is liquidity. After what’s gone on in this industry over the past year, banks right now worldwide are 6.1% liquid, on average.
“In Belize, banks are required by law to be 24% liquid at all times.
“What did banks in Belize think about the debacle of the past year? Nothing. We sat back and watched the world fall apart.
“The truth is, Belize offers the safest banks in the world, not only because of this 24% liquidity buffer, but also because, frankly, Belize is too small for anyone to pay any real attention to. Right now, being small…and therefore off the global radar…has its advantages.”
Belize may be off the global banking radar, but you might do well to put it center of yours, and not only if you’re shopping for a place to do your banking.
Expat Ann Kuffner delighted the group with tales of her adventures in Belize over the past several years. Ann and her husband are now full-time residents of the small village of San Pedro, on Ambergris Caye, off the coast of mainland Belize.
From a high-powered, fast-tracked life in the San Francisco Bay area to a former fishing village on the sand-fringed shores of an island in the Caribbean Sea…
What was Ann thinking?
Ann was thinking she was ready to stop working her way up the corporate ladder…and to start living. Today, she and her husband walk across the sand from the duplex they built for themselves to the business they’ve also built for themselves. They’re indulging their entrepreneurial inclinations while enjoying the “retirement” of their dreams in their adopted isla paradise.
Many among those convened with us here in Panama City this week have entrepreneurial inclinations of their own.
“I’m 50 years old,” remarked one attendee. “I’m ready to make a move, but I’m not ready to check out.”
“Do you think an automated car wash service would work in Panama?” asked another attendee.
“We’re thinking about opening a specialty food and wine shop,” remarked another.
“Ah, that’s exactly what we need in Las Tablas, where I live,” exclaimed Editor Rebecca Tyre. “There’s a big enough foreign community now in that part of the country to support something like that. Right now, there’s nowhere on the Azuero Peninsula to shop for Camembert cheese or proscuitto ham, but there are lots of us there who’d gladly pay for those things if they were available.”
That was yesterday. This morning, as I write, an international tax attorney and advisor friend is helping attendees understand how to mitigate their tax liability as expats. I think I should pay attention…