Dateline: Vilnius, Lithuania
I have to admit, living smack in the middle of Old Town Vilnius has put me in an excellent mood during my stay here. Looking out the window and seeing the charming capital city, with its cobblestones, endless pedestrians, and excellent restaurants just next door is quite the way to live.
However, there is one thing that has bothered me this week. And considering I write about the source of the bother as my business, that’s really saying something.
What’s been bothering me is the huge level of frustration I’ve encountered trying to open an account with an international bank.
It’s not that I don’t know HOW to open an account with them. I know all of the hoops they make you jump through for the privilege of putting some of your money in their bank.
I’m aware of the “Know Your Customer”, anti-terrorism, anti-money laundering policies that bankrupt governments — under a banner called the OECD — have forced banks around the world to put customers through.
However, this offshore bank has lost my application twice, had multiple private bankers call me at all hours of the day and night (someone traveling isn’t something they understand at this “international” bank), and generally bungled the process.
Bigger isn’t always better
While there are some cool workarounds that allow you to open an offshore bank account from your living room couch and move funds from one country to the next while waiting for your Pop-tart, I prefer to stay away from the international megabanks that make things so difficult for customers.
In a way, offshore banking is like anything else: the bigger the bank, the more bureaucratic and less accountable they are.
It’s that reason — often combined with higher interest rates on my deposits — that I tend to look for local and regional banks in countries that interest me.
These smaller, locally run banks are more nimble and easier to work with. And, like smaller governments being more receptive to welcoming you, these smaller banks tend to offer better terms.
For example, the highest-yielding savings account you can get over the counter in Turkey right now is around 9.5% (on Turkish lira and not US dollars, of course). Overall, the bank I’d go with is paying about a point less.
Meanwhile, the large international banks in town are paying as little as half of the local banks’ headline rates. That’s a big difference, especially on a currency that has fluctuated quite a bit lately.
If you travel a lot or want to play the currency diversification game, an international bank with hubs in many countries could be an excellent place to start.
The how-to’s of opening an offshore bank account
But let’s talk about how to open an offshore bank account if you’re just looking to stash some money away and build a tunnel for your money if things get bad at home.
In that case, you can often open accounts with very little money. In one case, as little as $500. The only catch is that the account isn’t some super-sophisticated bank account where you can hold Japanese yen while shorting the pound.
Earlier this year at my Passport to Freedom event, I invited the president of one of Central America’s most highly-recommended banks to speak. And he really wowed the crowd. I’m still having people mention his speech to me when we speak on the phone, or when readers who attended send in emails.
And I’d like to introduce you to him and help you open your own offshore bank account, no matter how much money you have.
When we talk about growing and protecting your wealth overseas here, some people get the wrong idea. They hear the word “wealth” and conjure up images of smoke-filled rooms and me speaking to the Rockefellers or the Carnegies.
But in reality, “wealth” is whatever assets you have. It’s relative. If your net worth is composed of $10,000 in a savings account, you surely can’t afford to lose that money.
In fact, that $10,000 to you is probably more valuable than $10 million to some billionaire who sees such a sum as a rounding error. No matter how much money you have, it’s important to protect yourself.
Opening an offshore bank account with a small minimum deposit is a good way to dip your toe in and get started. In the above example, I wouldn’t recommend you send all $10,000 to your new offshore account. After all, you’ll need working capital, and international “diversification” means just that: diversification. You should never send every last dime you have into just one offshore account.
However, as western governments increasingly tighten the screws on financial freedom, there may come a time in the very near future when capital controls get a lot more onerous and you’ll need to take action to protect your money fast.
In cases like that, you wouldn’t have time to open an offshore bank account, send in the paperwork, send a deposit, and then wait for them to approve the account. Planning on doing that would be like trying to buy fire insurance just as you drop a match on the carpet.
Where to learn more
I’ve been going through the footage from Passport to Freedom and was just watching the video of my Central American banker friend. It was quite entertaining. And I’d like to share all of the details with you on just how to open a bank account with him.
You can Google “bank account introduction” and see dozens of offshore companies — some legitimate, some not — offering to open a bank account for you in any number of less than desirable jurisdictions.
Some of these guys charge hundreds of dollars ($400, $600, $800) to open accounts in countries like my banker friend. I was just contacted the other day by an outfit that wanted me to offer you Hong Kong bank accounts for $1,200. Ridiculous.
If you need help finding the right offshore bank for you, apply for a Strategy Call so we can determine your best options as part of a personalized and completely legal offshore plan.