Was I dead?
I could be forgiven for thinking so. After all, I was in an unfamiliar place, and before me was the eerie silhouette of a human figure, outlined by a brilliant halo of light. Only when the figure spoke did I realize the mundane truth:
At the end of last week, Bruce Greenwald, the founding director of the Heilbrunn Center for Graham and Dodd Investing at Columbia Business School, sat down for a Fireside Chat with Li Lu, the founder and chairman of Himalaya Capital as part of the 13th Columbia China Business Conference. The chat spanned many different topics, Read More
I had fallen asleep on the sofa at my friend’s flat in East Finchley, and it was morning.
It had been a late night, for sure. I hadn’t seen my expat friends in some years. We’d been young musicians in Cape Town in the 1990s … when the world had seemed like a promising place. Like so many of their generation, they’d drifted off to Britain to pursue their fortunes. There’d been much catching-up to do over pints of dodgy English ale.
Of course, given my profession, I’d asked a lot of questions about their lives in post-Brexit Britain … the answers to which underlined the importance of my mission there.
Things were not working out as they’d hoped.
It has been a tough call for young South Africans used to sonskyn en braaivleis (sunshine and barbecue). They’d left southern Africa for a rainy island their ancestors had abandoned generations before. But that island was a gateway to a much larger world than they could hope to reach from the other end of it.
That gateway was about to close, leaving them stranded. Unlike their fellow Londoners, the majority of Britons out there in the shires and decaying cities outside the metropole had voted for Brexit and to leave the European Union.
The consequences for them were dire. One was a professional musician who earned much of his living on tours to the Continent. Because of Brexit, he now faced the prospect of visas and work permits that would make him unattractive to his employers. Another was an associate professor at Oxford. European research grants to her department had already been canceled, and her job was threatened.
Borrowing From the Future
I remember thinking to myself in the late 1990s and early 2000s that I was living in a remarkably favorable time. The global economy had seen uninterrupted growth since the 1980s. Funding for development work in Africa and Asia was plentiful, and my nonprofit bank had its pick of donors.
All of that evaporated in 2008/2009, just after I’d arrived in the U.S. to take up a new post with a major international development agency. Like my London-based friends, I learned the hard way that nothing lasts forever. Borrowing against the present to build the future, a strategy that seemed so sensible in good times, now stood revealed as a ruinous choice.
If only my expat friends and I had known then what I know now: that life can take unforeseen twists — and you need to safeguard yourself.
Investing in the Past
For example, an investor who’d put $100,000 into a basket of rare collectible British stamps in 1995 would have an asset worth nearly half a million dollars now. That’s about 150% more than the FTSE 100 Index, and double the comparable investment in gold or real estate. Mixed baskets of collectibles, like rare books, documents, movie posters — even whiskies — can achieve even greater appreciation.
Before I’d met my London friends, in a cluttered attic a few blocks from the Thames, I’d examined documents signed by America’s first and greatest presidents — George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Their ghostly signatures were plain to see.
I’d held in my hand the surprisingly substantial coinage of Rome, Byzantium, the Mughal emperors and the Sinhalese kings of Ceylon. My colleague Jocelynn Smith had gingerly leafed through a first edition of A Farewell to Arms, signed by author Ernest Hemingway.
These objects had one thing in common: People valued them for their rarity … more so over time.
The remarkable thing is that such an investment would actually have grown in value during the 2008/2009 financial crisis. In fact, that’s when rare collectibles saw one of their biggest short-term jumps ever.
Collecting an Investment Strategy
In The Bauman Letter, I’ve recommended a growth and wealth preservation strategy that includes a carefully calculated portion invested in rare tangible assets like these. When combined with the right balance of precious metals, equities and bonds, such a portfolio regularly achieves much more stable and higher returns over time than a conventional portfolio.
Recognizing this, my friends at Stanley Gibbons of London have developed investment products that allow anyone to invest as little as $30,000 in a starter portfolio that can help protect your wealth against the uncertainties of life. You can get expert help putting together a portfolio that is stored securely outside the U.S and the U.K. — the Channel Islands, to be precise — and is nonreportable under FATCA and FBAR.
Smart investments in collectibles beat the market every year and tend to jump in value during a crisis. The fact that such investments are not only non-correlated with conventional values — they are actually anti-correlated — is even more remarkable.
I’ll admit, it took me awhile to come to terms with the fact that the steady, market-beating value of investments in rare collectibles is one of the few things in life that seems constant, like death and taxes. But it’s not something most people can or should try to do on their own. That’s why I went to London — to meet with the folks who can help you do it.
In times like these, I strongly recommend that you explore the opportunity presented by rare collectibles.
As my expat friends have learned the hard way, life can take unexpected twists and turns … it’s up to you to hedge against them.