Lifestyle

Best Places in the World to Retire

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If you had $20,000 a month to retire on — you could live lavishly pretty much anywhere on the planet. But we’re interested in the places where you can live that lifestyle on one-tenth the budget…

Places where you can have a maid clean for you…hire a gardener… wake up to a view…have great health care, eat well, enjoy the finer things in life — for less than $2,000 a month. You may be surprised how many there are…

Months ago, our far-flung editors and in-country advisers began collecting all the data and details that inform our annual Retirement Index.

To compile it, we evaluate and rank countries around the world according to eight crucial categories: real estate, special retirement benefits, cost of living, ease of integration, entertainment and amenities, health care, retirement infrastructure and climate.

 

This is a qualitative assessment, based on real-world data gathered on the ground. For each category in our Index, we looked closely at what matters most to you when you’re considering an overseas retirement spot — everything from the price of bread to how easy it is to make friends or stay in touch with family.

We considered a vast range of data points, from the average humidity to the cost of a taxi. And with costs in mind, we examined prices for real estate, rentals, and utilities like water, electricity, and cable TV. We looked at costs for groceries, eating out, even specific medical procedures. We took into account what kind of discounts retirees can get on travel, taxes and entertainment. And we considered whether there were direct flights back home…how many and how long they are, too.

And we asked: What is the Internet like? Do you need a car? Can you catch a movie in English? Are the people friendly? Does it rain? In effect, we asked all the questions you should ask when you’re considering a retirement overseas. This year’s Top 19 foreign locations are listed below:

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Numbers and rankings don’t tell the whole story, of course. When it comes to relocating overseas, there is no such thing as “one size fits all.” So the staff and global correspondents of International Living also recorded a wide range of boots-on-the-ground testimonials from folks who have retired to these various foreign locales.

Take Daphne Newman, who lives in Caribbean Honduras. She’s spending just $1,400 a month to live yards from a white-sand beach on the island of Roatan. Only a three-hour flight from the US, English-speaking Roatan with its world-class reef just offshore, is an easy place to make friends and fit in. It lands mid-table in this year’s Index.

Jack Griffin and his wife Margaret have opted, by contrast, for city life in Nicaragua. When the stock market crashed and the value of their home in the States plummeted by 30%, they began to worry about how to fund their retirement. The final straw came with a 37% hike in their annual health-insurance premium. At age 60, they felt they deserved the retirement they had worked for all their lives, so they found a new home in Managua, the country’s capital.

Today their international medical insurance costs them 62% less than their policy did back home (yet their local hospital is internationally accredited and the doctors speak English). Retired now without money worries, they spend their days exploring, horseback riding, going to the beach or gym, and doing yoga. They have a full-time maid and a gardener and, says Jack, “We do it all for less than half the cost of a moderate lifestyle back home in Atlanta, Georgia.”

Chuck and Jamie Bilbe, ready to retire in Florida, found themselves in a situation similar to the Griffins’. “We were concerned that our retirement savings wouldn’t see us through, so we began looking overseas for a place where our ever-shrinking nest egg might last longer,” says Chuck. Now they live in Corozal, Belize, their cost of living is much lower than it was in the States, but that’s not the greatest appeal. What they say they like most is the Old-World lifestyle. “Like Florida in the 1950’s,” they say. “We’re eating better, sleeping better and enjoying social activity much more now than we did before.”

It’s not just destinations south of the States that appeal. Pam Griner Leavy and her husband Jim are just two of the more than 100,000 American expats living in France. They’re retired in Paris on a reasonable $3,149 a month. “There are so many things for free here, or reasonably priced…big-city life is good,” says Pam.

In Asia you can live comfortably for less than $1,000 a month on a powder-sand beach in Thailand. Up the budget just a bit and you can afford First-World comforts and conveniences in colonial Penang Island, Malaysia. Keith Hockton and his wife Lisa live there, where they rent a sea-view apartment for $1,000 a month — it comes with a shared pool and gym — and they eat out five nights a week, keep a small sailboat, enjoy cycling through the botanic gardens. Their total budget is $1,719 a month.

In Brazil, expats with $2,150 a month can live a block from the country’s best beaches in Fortaleza. In Boquete, Panama, Karl and Liz Parker need just $2,000 a month to fund their life in a place that provides lavish highland views in a near-perfect climate. Panama’s retiree-benefit program provides them discounts on nearly everything, too, which helps keep their costs down.

In Cuenca, Ecuador, Douglas Willis, his wife and two children live on just $1,000 a month. In Costa Rica’s Central Valley, Sharon and Lee Harris bought a townhouse in Heredia for $75,000, and pay only $40 a month for healthcare coverage as members of the Caja, the country’s excellent national healthcare system.

Wherever the locale they’ve chosen — beach, city, highland, valley — these expats all have one thing in common:  They’re living the lives they’ve always wanted for much less than they ever dreamt they could.

This 2012 Retirement Index covers all the bases, revealing a wealth of choices when it comes to comfortable retirement living abroad. Choices you don’t have to be wealthy to take advantage of.

Regards,

The International Living Team
for The Daily Reckoning

Copper Continues to Confound the Commodities Crowd

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Loyal subscribers know I often opine that world markets are in the midst of a secular bull market for commodities, or “stuff”, as my recently passed friend Clyde Harrison was so fond of saying. Despite his traitorous penchant for Coors Light (instead of the classic St. Louis-brewed lagers), Clyde was one of those fellow Missourians who always had to be shown, and we all miss his wry wit, sense of humor, and insight into the speculative commodities markets. 

 

You may also be aware of my many writings and interviews on the supply-demand fundamentals of copper, the metal with a “Ph.D. in Economics”. Copper is the one commodity that most directly reflects the near- and mid-term health of the world’s economy.

 

The modern copper industry started in the early 1900s with advent of large, mechanized open pit mines that could mine lower grades thru economies of scale. Development of these mines was coincident with the demand for and delivery of electricity to the industrialized world. Copper cable and wire is necessary for efficient transmission of electrical power and remains the main use of the metal.

 

Plunge-o-Meter Predicts Real Estate Lows of Spring 2005 to be revisited on the way down

 

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The chart above shows the detached housing prices for Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa* and Montréal (*Ottawa are combined residential). In December 2011 Canadian real estate prices resumed the trend down (Click HERE or on the image for Larger Chart) especially in Toronto, Ottawa and Calgary with M/M drops of 6%, 4.4% and 3.6%. Year end sales dropped off (Scorecard) and we will have to wait for January-February figures to get a glimpse of buyer appetite which certainly is not being held back by the cost of money (Yield Chart). Borrowing costs are low and asset prices are high. Should you be a buyer or a seller… start with figuring out your ROI here.

 

Powers Energy Investor Editor Bill Powers doesn’t shy away from microcaps; he embraces them. In this exclusive interview with The Energy Report, he explains why triple-digit oil is here to stay and how the best-positioned companies will be sitting pretty when natural gas prices rise—as will investors who time the rebound right.

COMPANIES MENTIONED: ADVANTAGE OIL AND GAS LTD. – ARSENAL ENERGY INC. – CHESAPEAKE ENERGY CORP. – CONNACHER OIL & GAS – DENBURY RESOURCES INC. – ENERGY XXI – EVOLUTION PETROLEUM CORPORATION – FAIRBORNE ENERGY LTD. – PETROBAKKEN ENERGY LTD. – PETROBANK ENERGY & RESOURCES LTD. – PETROMINERALES LTD. – QUICKSILVER RESOURCES INC – SM ENERGY CO. – SOUTHWESTERN ENERGY CO. – TOTAL ENERGY SERVICES – ULTRA PETROLEUM CORP.

 

The Energy Report: Is it fair to say that you are a value investor?

Bill Powers: Absolutely. I’m very much a value investor focused on fundamentals and finding companies that can grow reserves, production and cash flow without taking on too much debt and/or diluting shares. Those are the companies that can have very strong long-term outperformance. That is my theme, and I think it is really powerful right now. The companies I’ve identified do not currently reflect future prices that their stocks will be receiving.

TER: Clean balance sheets, steady cash flow and a depressed market price: would that sum it up?

BP: Yes. The Canadian junior market has changed in the last 10 years markedly. It’s matured greatly. Many companies have proven management teams and very good cash flow but are trading below their net asset value. 

TER: Do you try to stay away from micro-cap stocks?

BP: Absolutely not; I very much embrace micro-cap stocks. As a newsletter writer, my commentary is largely directed at investors who want information on companies that are below Wall Street or Bay Street’s radar screen. I try to find the company that I feel is best positioned in a certain play and that have the chance for the best share price appreciation. Usually, it’s not the large-cap producers who have acreage in the play. 

TER: How do you define a micro-cap?

BP: I consider a micro-cap as $250 million (M) on down.

TER: You recently wrote in the Powers Energy Investor that foreign investors are paying too much for joint venture (JV) agreements with large North American companies. If foreign companies are overpaying, why is that depressing the price of gas?

BP: I’ll give an example: Chesapeake Energy Corp. (CHK:NYSE) made a deal with Total Energy Services (TOT:TSX) to farm out its Utica shale acreage in Ohio. To put this into perspective, there have only been a handful of wells drilled in Ohio into the Utica shale, primarily within one county. This is a speculative play and I am very skeptical of how productive the Utica shale could really be.

That being said, the way these deals are structured is that Total, the foreign company in this case, pays $600M up front to Chesapeake, which will be drilling wells funded completely by Total. So between now and the end of 2014, it will be spending $1.5B on drilling. There are other companies that have done similar deals totaling maybe $20B from largely foreign companies farming into U.S. acreage. This is important because the foreign company will fund drilling for usually two years irrespective of gas price, and when companies drill with somebody else’s money, they are not sensitive to the fact that gas right now is under $2.50/thousand cubic feet (Mcf). It’s a good deal for the American companies, but it’s usually a very, very poor deal for the foreign firms.

TER: Classic economic theory says that if you keep producing like this and prices get very low, people will quit producing. Then, eventually, prices will go back up. When does that happen?

BP: I think it’s going to be happening fairly soon. Right now we have a glut of gas. Part of this is due to Haynesville and Marcellus operators’ drilling acreage to keep leases from expiring. The rig count is really starting to fall, especially in the Haynesville, which is producing 6 billion cubic feet (Bcf)/day right now and is the largest-producing field in the U.S. But that rate has already flattened out, and production will probably start to fall as rigs continue to get dropped. These are very high-decline wells. Texas production is beginning to decrease because the Eagle Ford is not offsetting production declines elsewhere in Texas. Gulf of Mexico production continues to go down. Basically, with gas under $3/Mcf, virtually every field in North America is uneconomic, and we will see a big slowdown in drilling. Very few companies have attractive hedges in place because we’ve had low gas prices for a couple of years. We will see a rebound in gas prices, and it will be quite violent. The challenge is finding the right timing of it. It is not so much a function of when the economics make sense as it is about when other people’s money runs out. We’re seeing that happen right now.

TER: Have we reached the point of maximum pessimism yet?

BP: That’s hard to say. I do think there is a lot of pessimism, but that doesn’t mean a reversal is imminent. I do think that at some time in 2012 we will see that reverse itself, and when that happens we will see gas prices increase substantially.

TER: It sounds like you are playing a very bullish scenario for natural gas. One of the first things I noted in your model portfolio from your Powers Energy Investor is that you have significant personal exposure to natural gas.

BP: Yes, absolutely. From an investor’s standpoint, being a contrarian is easy when your stocks are going up or when your ideas are being recognized by other market participants. What I’m doing in my newsletter is finding gas producers that have been beaten bloody by the marketplace but are low-cost producers that will make it to the other side to see the rebound in gas prices. I’ve identified about five companies that are leaders in certain plays or that have very good leverage to what I think are some of the best North American unconventional resource plays. Those are all places that will continue to produce into the future because they have the better acreage that will become economic once gas prices go back to $4/Mcf. Right now, you’re getting a lot of upside for free because the marketplace doesn’t believe that gas prices will eventually rebound.

TER: Could you talk about those companies you just referenced?

BP: Sure. One of the companies is Ultra Petroleum Corp. (UPL:NYSE), which is a slightly bigger company than I usually cover. It is very active in Wyoming on the Pinedale Anticline, and it’s also very active in the Marcellus. It is a very low-cost producer. This company was a penny stock about a decade ago. 

Another I really like, a smaller company, is Advantage Oil and Gas Ltd. (AAV:NYSE; AAV:TSX). It has a great project in the Montney in Canada. It is an extremely well-run company that I think is doing very good work up there.

There are other companies that offer a lot of value and have seen their share prices decline, such asFairborne Energy Ltd. (FEL:TSX) in the Willrich. It’s a very exciting play in Alberta’s Deep Basin.

This is just a preview of companies that I think have good acreage and that are very leveraged to rising gas prices. 

TER: Those were three of your five favored gas companies. What were the other two?

BP: One is Quicksilver Resources Inc. (KWK:NYSE). It’s a U.S.-based company that has a fair amount of debt on its balance sheet. However, for a small-cap company, it has fantastic acreage in the Horn River Basin, where it is very early stage, but this may turn out to be the best shale gas play in North America. Time will tell. This company has been around for more than 50 years, and it has a very good management team. It has been a leader in a number of shale plays. It had the Antrim shale in Michigan and the Barnett shale in Texas. It was one of the early players in those plays.

The other one I like is a bigger company that continues to produce very good results, and that isSouthwestern Energy Co. (SWN:NYSE) in the Fayetteville shale as well as in the Marcellus. The company has a dominant acreage position in the Fayetteville and has really been able to grow its production quickly in the Marcellus. It is a very well-run company by Steve Mueller. 

So those are just some companies that I try to find. Each is unique. Each of them has different catalysts that will help its share prices more than double once gas prices start to move up. I think these stocks could go up three- or four-fold from here without any problem.

TER: Ok, you love natural gas. What about oil?

BP: I’m very bullish on oil. I think there are some very good factors that will keep the price of oil over $100/barrel (bbl) almost irrespective of how the economy does. With the natural declines from the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea as well as Venezuela and Mexico, a lot of countries are struggling to keep up production. I think the U.S. has been able to increase its production materially over the last five or six years due to breakthroughs in technology, but that does not change the long-term trajectory of oil production in the U.S. We will see declines from California and the Gulf of Mexico, and we will see further production declines in Alaska, which will largely offset some of the very exciting production growth in unconventional plays, such as the Bakken in North Dakota or the Permian Basin in Texas. I do think triple-digit oil prices are here to stay, and I think we could see $150/bbl before too long, especially if there is a disruption in the Middle East. I think the leverage available to investors with small-cap companies is really mindboggling when you look at what oil prices mean to these companies.

TER: What oil-based companies are we looking at?

BP: Arsenal Energy Inc. (AEI:TSX), a very exciting play in the Bakken. It also has acreage in the Willrich and a very good management team. It is growing its production, and it just did an acquisition that grew its production to around 4 thousand barrels (Mbbl)/day. It has a very strong future as far as production growth that’s high net back, high cash flow and reasonable balance sheets. That’s one company that I am very high on. It has a market cap of only about $109M. It is one of my favorites.

As far as other companies that have great leverage that will go up, I’m becoming very keen on oil sands companies. I think companies like Connacher Oil & Gas (CLL:TSX) are going to rebound and continue to rebound. PetroBakken Energy Ltd. (PBN:TSX)Petrobank Energy & Resources Ltd. (PBG:TSX) and Petrominerales Ltd. (PMG:TSE) are all very oil-weighted companies that will be able to really ramp up cash flow in 2012 as oil prices maintain the $100-level.

Then we do see some U.S.-based companies like SM Energy Co. (SM:NYSE) in the Eagle Ford. This is along my theme of trying to find companies with the best leverage to a certain play. I think SM Energy has the best acreage in the Eagle Ford. 

A couple of companies are involved in secondary oil recovery are Evolution Petroleum Corporation (EPM:NYSE) and Denbury Resources Inc. (DNR:NYSE). I think both of those companies are very well-leveraged to oil prices.

So those are some ideas that I think will provide shareholders great returns in the next two years.

TER: Speaking of oil sands, the Obama Administration nixed, at least temporarily, the Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada down to the Gulf Coast. Are the concerns valid? Aside from the developer TransCanada Corp. (TRP:TSX), who does this hurt?

BP: I think this really hurts American consumers. I don’t believe the concerns over the environmental aspects of the XL Pipeline were valid whatsoever. I think this was almost entirely a political maneuver. Right now, the U.S. still imports a substantial amount of production from overseas, and I don’t think some of these overseas suppliers are nearly as reliable as Canada. We import a lot from countries such as Venezuela and Mexico, which are struggling to maintain their production levels and are increasing internal consumption. So I think it is unlikely we will see material imports from either of those countries 10 years from now. Given the growth profiles of many Canadian oil sands producers such as Imperial Oil (IMO:TSX; IMO:NYSE.A) and Cenovus Energy Inc. (CVE:TSX; CVE:NYSE), I think we will see material growth in the Canadian oil sands from about 1.2 million barrels (MMbbl)/day to maybe 4 MMbbl by 2022, obviously depending on permitting issues and the price of oil. I think the Keystone would have been a very good supply. Eventually, I think the Canadians will get fed up and build a pipeline to Port Rupert and send the oil sands production to Asia if the U.S. cannot find some solution to get the XL Pipeline moving forward.

TER: The differential in price for what Asians are paying could pay for shipping that oil to Asia.

BP: Yes, absolutely. And one of the things we’re seeing in Asia is that some of the biggest producers such as Indonesia are seeing flat to declining production. And China has really struggled to keep its production flat. There have been some very good offshore finds in Malaysia and Vietnam that will replace some of the declines from places like Indonesia, but on an overall basis, those are not keeping up with the growing regional demand. Numerous Asian countries, especially China, would love to tap into the Canadian oil sands. A pipeline will get built. It’s just a matter of whether it leads to the U.S. or to the west coast of Canada. 

TER: You have reviewed Energy XXI (EXXI:NASDAQ) recently.

BP: It’s not in my model portfolio right now, but I was very impressed that it has been able to grow production and that the company has a material oil weighting. It has a very good mix of exploration prospects as well as development prospects. Right now, the market has really turned its back on the Gulf of Mexico producers such as Energy XXI, and it is trading at lower valuations than its onshore peers, but it is able to generate material cash flow. In the case of Energy XXI’s balance sheet, I think some investors were a little scared off by its debt levels, which I see as very manageable given the cash flows it will be receiving over the next two years and its significant material reserves that it can borrow against. I think Energy XXI has a pretty bright future. I’m going to continue to monitor the company and see how it continues to execute over the next six months or so. It has a very good mix of high-impact exploration and lower-risk development.

TER: Bill, you are writing a book now?

BP: I’m currently working on a book that looks at shale gas and what I consider to be the myth of a 100-year supply. While there is a significant amount of shale gas that will be recovered in the next decade, it is nowhere close to a 100-year supply. Shale gas is not the game changer that a lot of people think it is.

TER: What thought would you leave us with?

BP: I think the perceived risks in energy investing have been somewhat overblown given where oil prices are. The space is very volatile, but for investors who can take a longer-term approach and who can identify companies that are well-run and that have legitimate projects, there are fantastic returns available. The energy sector has been out of favor, but the fundamentals are very strong. I think investors who can position themselves in gas-weighted firms ahead of the coming rebound will be richly rewarded, but there are also fantastic returns in oil-weighted companies that will benefit mightily from triple-digit oil prices.

TER: Bill, I’ve enjoyed speaking with you.

BP: Thank you for having me.

Bill Powers is the editor of Powers Energy Investor and previously the editor of the Canadian Energy Viewpoint and US Energy Investor. He is a former money manager and has been an active investor for over 25 years. Powers has devoted the last 15 years to studying and analyzing the energy sector, driven by his desire to uncover unrecognized trends in the industry and identify outstanding opportunities for retail and institutional investors.

Want to read more exclusive Energy Report interviews like this? Sign up for our free e-newsletter, and you’ll learn when new articles have been published. To see a list of recent interviews with industry analysts and commentators, visit our Exclusive Interviews page.

Keeping Rates Low Until 2014?

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While the first reaction is for gold to rally and the pundits to come screaming out of the weeks yealling it’s inflationary, the harsh reality of this statement is….

 

Jim Rogers: Paramount Advice to All Investors

In the Investment World, Rogers is remarkable. Unusually gifted. He is a legend. 
 
He first became recognized when his Quantum Fund averaged 420% a year over a 10 year period while the S&P 500 averaged just 5% a year. More recently Rogers forecasted the China Boom and the Commodity Boom well before they began. 
 
On May 2012 he remarked during an interview with Forbes Magazine that “there’s going to be a huge shift in American society, American culture, in the places where one is going to get rich. The stock brokers are going to be driving taxis. The smart ones will learn to drive tractors so they can work for the smart farmers. The farmers are going to be driving Lamborghinis.
 

Jim Rogers: Paramount Advice to All Investors

 

 
 1. To avoid making mistakes in this and future investment markets keep an eye on the Federal Reserve and Washington. 
 
“Mr. Bernanke has no clue about economics or currencies, and no clue about how markets work. You have to be very careful and watch those guys. Many people for some reason have some kind of faith, even worship of the Central Bank like they know what they are doing. Its has only been in the past few decades people even knew who Central Bankers were. Nobody knew about these guys 100 years, 80 years ago yet know they have become exalted and that is a bubble. 
 
Fortunately Central Bankers are going to pop and this particular crisis may well lead to it. In America we’ve had 3 Central Banks, the first two disappeared and this one will too in my view. They are making such horrible mistakes. “
 
 2. “The other thing to watch out for is please don’t follow the crowd. When everybody is doing something, especially these days, you have got to go the other way.”  Gold was up 12 years in a row. “I know of no asset in World History that has been up twelve years without a decline. So Gold has been acting very very strange in the last twelve years and It had to go down for a while. Well it has.” 
 
“Be very very careful when something is accepted, this is age old advice but it is especially true in the markets today. Like the Japanese Yen right now, when over 90% are bearish then you have to go the other way.” Jim is long the Japanese Yen. He knows he may not be right but he knows he will have made an intelligent decision. 
 
3. “There is always Extraordinary Change Going On.” Rogers goes further and says that there has been no time in his life when there hasn’t been “Change Confusion & Complexity”.  
 
streetsmartsWriting is his book Street Smarts he makes the point that:
 
“You can take any year you want in history, then look at the world 15 years later and it is nothing, NOTHING,  like it was before”
 
As an example in 1930, 40, 50 we had Depression,  then War, followed by the beginning of suburban America. Just dramatic changes. “Nothing we know today , everything we think is true today is going to have changed 10, 15, 19 years from now. It always, always, always has been and always will be.”

 
4.  ” The world changed in the 1920’s, 30’s,as Capital moved from the UK to the US exacerbated by a financial crisis and mistakes made by the politicians. We have another change taking place in World History right now. This time Capital is moving from the largest Debtor Nations to the largest Creditor Nations in the world  now which are China, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan. 
 
The assets are in Asia, you know who the debtors are. You just have to look out the window and you will see some of it.”
 
5. “This is the first time in recorded History when nearly every Major Central Bank is printing money trying to debase their currency.” Japan was first, the US second, then the British followed. We have a lot of money being printed around the world. “If you ask me the US has been the major beneficiary because people are afraid of other currencies at the moment.” I expect this to end very badly because throughout history when you have had artificial money printing it has ended very badly in the country that it has happened. But this time it is happening in the whole World!”
 
“Some people are having a lot of fun right now. If you give me a trillion dollars I will show you a very good time. But I don’t think it is going to last.”
 
I hope you are worried, you should be.”
 
 

About Jim Rogers

In the Investment World, Rogers is remarkable. Unusually gifted. He is a legend. 
 
He first became recognized when his Quantum Fund averaged 420% a year over a 10 year period when the S&P 500 averaged just 5% a year. More recently Rogers forecasted the China Boom and the Commodity Boom well before they began. 
 
On May 2012 he remarked during an interview with Forbes Magazine that “there’s going to be a huge shift in American society, American culture, in the places where one is going to get rich. The stock brokers are going to be driving taxis. The smart ones will learn to drive tractors so they can work for the smart farmers. The farmers are going to be driving Lamborghinis.