Getting Your Financial Assets Out Of The U.S.

Protecting what you own and making sure it is available to you in your new home


If you have an IRA, a 401(k), RRSP, pension fund, savings account or other monetary assets in the United States, you will probably want to move them offshore to protect yourself from the declining value of the dollar, and the meltdown of the U.S. economy that is sure to follow in the wake of America's enormous budget and trade deficits. You're going to be living in a foreign economy and paying for everything in a foreign currency, so the dollar exchange rate matters to you much more than it does to the average American living at home.

For this reason, you will need to prepare yourself, before you leave, to begin to transfer your assets out of the U.S. and into an offshore bank account or other financial instrument so your funds will be readily available to you as you need them. This will require some advance planning, as it can have some serious consequences for you, particularly in terms of taxes and ease of transfer of the funds.

The first thing you need to be aware of is that, as a "U.S. person," the United States government severely restricts where and under what terms you, as an American, can open a bank account, invest in a mutual or hedge fund, transfer money to and from, and engage in other economic activities that facilitate the protection of and access to your assets. Ostensibly, this has been done in the name of fighting money laundering, but it has the effect of severely restricting your freedom of financial movement.

For this reason, I would strongly recommend that you discuss your situation with a certified public accountant or certified financial planner, one who is familiar with these issues as they relate to expatriates, and with your investment advisor if you have one. Between the two of them, they should be able to come up with a plan that enables you to get your money safely out, and into a situation where you can have a reasonable degree of security and ready access to it.

There are at least two creative methods of quickly getting your money out of the States, regardless of the amount: Perth Mint Certificates and Swiss annuities. A Perth Mint Certificate is a depository receipt for your purchase of gold. You buy the certificate in the United States from an authorized dealer, and leave the physical gold on deposit with the Gold Corporation, a corporation that is owned by the government of the State of Western Australia and is located in that state's capital, Perth. Since the certificate is legally merely a "receipt," it is neither cash nor a negotiable monetary instrument, and therefore need not be declared for customs or treasury purposes.

Once you arrive in your new destination, you then sell the certificate to an authorized dealer nearest your destination, outside the U.S. There are authorized dealers in Panama, the Bahamas, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Switzerland where this can be done. The dealer then wires the proceeds to your new bank account in your new home. Note that your new bank account should be a non-dollar account, and the transfer should be denominated in a non-dollar currency; otherwise, the transfer, if greater than $5000, will likely be routed through the United States anyway, and will be subjected to examination and approval by U.S. Federal Reserve. See below.

The Swiss annuity is a refundable annuity contract you buy from a Swiss insurance company through an authorized broker. Most Swiss annuity contracts can be cashed in at any time; so you buy it in the States, and when you arrive in your destination country, you notify your broker that you would like to cash it in, and have him wire the proceeds to your new bank (see the comments in the paragraph above about the wire transfer). I am not in a position to be able to recommend any of the hundreds of Swiss insurance brokers; you can do a Google search and find dozens of their web sites. Because it is a contract, it is a non-negotiable document (an asset, not a money instrument) and since it isn't a monetary instrument, it need not be declared to a customs inspector or reported to the U.S. treasury.

Since Swiss annuities can be denominated in a range of currencies, and Perth Certificates are based on the value of gold, they are both also good vehicles to guard against the decline of the value of the dollar while you are in the process of moving your money.

Some of the mechanics of moving money around of which you should be aware:

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