Reporting from: Bangkok, Thailand
Remember when you were a little kid and you’d go to your friends’ birthday party to eat cake and play party games? Even at seven years old, I was overly anxious for my age, and one game in particular really got me going: musical chairs.
You’d run around and around in a circle, waiting for the music to stop, only to hope you could find a place to sit before all of the exits were blocked off.
I look at offshore banking today in much the same way. If you live in a bankrupt western country, your government is likely slowly closing off the escape hatches to economic freedom. Sure, you may be able to get a seat now, but the government knows that most people still believe “freedom is on the march” and aren’t worried about moving their money out of the country.
Just like you never know when the music is going to stop, you never know when your government is going to pull the rug out from underneath you — or when the other players are going to rig the game.
To be honest, I haven’t set foot in a bank in a couple months. Normally, my travels have me talking to various bankers and other experts in the offshore banking sector on a regular basis, but Southeast Asia is better known for its emerging market status and affordable quality of life than it is as a place to open an offshore bank account.
In Vietnam, most of the time you’ll get flat out denied to open a bank account, just for being white. Cambodia is a bit easier, and even offers very high interest on some non-bank accounts, which I’m not really enthusiastic about (although one of my emerging markets investor friends is).
As for Thailand… well, would you really want to bank in a country that so arrogantly thought it could ban Bitcoin?
As an Asiaphile and a long-time believer that the twenty-first century will be owned by Asia, the two most classic and well-known offshore banking jurisdictions are still the best: Singapore and Hong Kong.
The only problem is that, as I reported this summer, Hong Kong banks are making it harder to open an account. They just don’t need your money when they’ve got every rich mainland Chinese tripping over himself to push, pull, or drag his assets over the stripe in the sand that separates Shenzhen and the world’s freest economy.
In fact, when I was in Hong Kong helping a former associate of mine find a Hong Kong office, one of the American leasing agents said that even he — a bonafide expat with a local corporation — had so much trouble opening an account with one of the strong, stable local banks that he gave up and went with HSBC.
Not sharing a land border with Mainland China, Singapore has been a bit more accommodating over the years. Everyone speaks English there, and while Hong Kong has become a bit less internationally-focused as it turns more to the Chinese-speaking market, Singapore is constantly becoming more and more international.
For one, I keep seeing articles in major financial publications about how more people are moving their offshore gold holdings to Singapore, just as I predicted.
Just the other day, however, I got some bad news from an American expat friend of mine living in Vietnam. He purchased my Guide to Banking in Singapore and got on a plane to open a bank account there. He was ultimately successful in opening his offshore bank account with about $1,000, but he had to use one or two of the tips in my guide to do so.
Afterwards, he told me that a Singaporean friend of his was amazed that he was able to open an account without much fuss. His friend said that the country is beginning to make it harder for foreigners to open bank accounts in Singapore.
Yes, it’s still possible to bank offshore in Singapore. But you should be aware that even this bastion of economic freedom is starting to really wake up to the reality that the bankrupt countries of the world are gunning for it. Not wanting to be isolated from the world financial system, it may start to take action that makes it less attractive for people from western countries.
As I always say, why does Singapore really need to deal with US citizens and all of the drama their government brings to the situation when they could just rubber-stamp bank accounts for wealthy Russian oligarchs? Or all of the corrupt politicians with offshore accounts in Malaysia… all of five miles away?
Like Hong Kong, the world is waking up to the reality that… they don’t.
Four percent of the world’s population — no matter how rich they think they are — isn’t enough to crawl over broken glass for. As the US government imposes more laws like FATCA and more compliance measures for offshore banks, Singapore banks may well go back to rejecting US citizens.
I’ve been the subject of a number of radio and print interviews lately where I’ve extolled the virtues of having an offshore bank account to build a “tunnel” to financial freedom. Once the tunnel is built, you can go back and forth as need be, but you’ll always have it if you need to make one final one-way trip out of your home country.
Just as the US government worked to close off the Cu Chi Tunnels in the Vietnam War, governments will work with each other and out of fear of each other to reduce your tunnel-building possibilities. When it comes to offshore banking, however, you can at least have some confidence that your money will be more respected once it makes its way through the tunnel
I have recently written an article about The Best Offshore Banks you need to check out if you are looking for more details.
We list who is a good fit for each country and each bank so you can determine which banks are the best for you. There is no one size fits all when it comes to diversifying your money internationally.
Or, since there is no one size fits all, you can apply for a Strategy Call so we can determine your best options as part of a personalized and completely legal offshore plan.