Risk #1: Currency Fluctuation. The U.S. dollar has taken a real beating this past year and is expected to stay down over the long term. Having all of your assets in U.S. dollars (or any single currency) is not sound financial planning. You don’t have a diversified portfolio if all your assets are in one currency. By going offshore and holding portions of your assets in other currencies, you are truly diversifying and protecting yourself from the ups and downs of one currency.
Investing in currencies on your own, without an ETF, can be difficult. Most retail investors are better off with currency ETFs (exchange-traded funds) which track a single foreign currency or basket of currencies by using foreign cash deposits or futures contracts. Currency ETF’s allow investors to speculate in the currency market without the risk of investing directly in currencies and without entering the forex market. Some of the most popular currency ETFs are offered by Wisdom Tree Dreyfus, Rydex, PowerShares, Market Vector and Barclays. But you need to do your homework before diving in.
Risk #2: Rising Taxes. Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, all American citizens will experience significant tax increases, many in the form of hidden taxes and fees. At the same time, U.S. citizens with foreign bank accounts may pay a withholding tax of 30% on transfers of funds to and from these accounts (a provision of the recently amended and little-known HIRE Act). So, if you run your own business, it makes great sense right now to think about moving your business to a more tax-friendly environment offshore. Or, you could stay in the U.S. and keep an account offshore where it is free of U.S. tax obligations.
The key point is that, whatever you’re going to do, you should do it as soon as possible and well in advance of 2013.
Risk #3: Litigation. The U.S. is a litigious society; a new litigation suit is filed every 17 seconds. This may or may not affect everybody. But, if you’re a doctor, for example, or someone with a high profile who’s more susceptible to being sued, then you understand the increased risk. In this case, the best solution is to protect your assets by moving them offshore. Your offshore assets will be outside the realm of U.S. judgment and, therefore, far more difficult for creditors to get at. This should not be confused with the fact that U.S. citizens and green card holders will continue to be taxed on their worldwide income, no matter where they reside or hold their assets. Income tax is unavoidable other than legitimate tax reduction strategies. However, you can minimize litigation risk to your assets by going offshore.