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Picking the best low-hanging fruit where few others look -- for cents on the dollar

Why it can pay to be unorthodox and venture
off the beaten path

Off the beaten track

While on safari in Mikumi National Park earlier this week, my family and I were fortunate enough to see all the Big Five game animals that exist in that park: lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo. Only rhinos don’t live there.

It got me thinking. While everyone wants to see a pride of lions, or a leopard, as we were lucky to do, few people pay close attention to the less glamorous things, such as trees. And yet, without the unique and interesting trees of the African savannah, such as baobab, tamarind, marula, mahogany, ebony, and acacia trees, to name but a few, the ecosystem would be incomplete.

All my life I have found myself attracted to investments and opportunities outside the mainstream, often among those less popular. I studied Korean at a time when it was 100 times more popular to study Japanese. I bought gold when everyone was calling it a relic and selling it down below $300 an ounce in 2001. I left a generous six-figure salary job at a bulge bracket Wall Street investment firm to work for a small independent boutique investment research publisher.

Taking the path less trodden has served me well. There’s less competition. You can still make a good living from it. But best of all, for someone with my personality, you don’t have to conform.

It’s worth thinking about. You probably don’t want to devote your career to something too specialized and obscure, such as the archaeology of Ancient Egypt, where employment opportunities are, by definition, limited. However, it does not hurt to venture off the beaten path to a certain degree.

Jobs that are less glamourous, but essential, often pay very well, too. I have a friend who retired at 30 after a career as a fireman, for example.

He didn’t saddle himself with debt by going to college. He decided to knuckle down and work hard and save up some capital. Now he leads a similar lifestyle to me, scouring the world for interesting investment opportunities.

That worked for him. It’s almost certainly not for everyone. It depends on many things. If you are a person who is good at making friends and building networks, the opportunities afforded for that sort of thing by attending university or graduate school can be invaluable.

Simply put, you need to find what’s right for you. There is no one path to success. The first step is to recognize that and think about it. Then try some different courses of action that might lead you along the right path. Some trial and error is inevitable. It doesn’t matter at what stage in life, either.

Now could be your chance to seize the opportunity for change

The current state of the world, amid the radical policy reactions to the Covid-19 pandemic is an environment that’s ripe for change, amid the turmoil.

If you have ever harboured ambitions to try something different and venture off the beaten path, you’re unlikely to get a better opportunity in your life than right now, when so many things have been upended and are in a state of flux.

It doesn’t have to be something totally radical either. Even just taking advantage of the ability to work from home, and the change in many companies’ policies to allow this to continue, could throw up the opportunity to move somewhere more idyllic, further away from the city, and more inexpensive, inside your own country.

That’s the beauty of the interconnected world we live in. Depending on the type of work you do, you don’t always need to physically travel somewhere to work, meet new people, find new followers, or attract customers. Much can be done in cyberspace.

I’m living proof. Earlier this year during a six-month period confined to my villa and immediate surrounds in Bali, I started Global Value Hunter, and African Lions Fund from behind my desk in a rural area of southern Bali.

Now I’m sitting in the Mufindi Highlands at the Fox Family’s farm in southern Tanzania, south of the city of Iringa, talking to my broker in Dar es Salaam about buying blocks of shares for the African Lions Fund and writing this column to you.

Contrary to what you might have read or been told, all this is possible even now…

While some countries are keeping borders shut, others are welcoming
new immigrants with open arms

Some countries are changing their immigration rules with the hope of attracting location independent workers. Bermuda, Barbados, the Republic of Georgia are some I can think of off the top of my head. A friend of mine lives in Georgia. They’ll give a year’s visa on arrival to just about anyone who wants to go and live there.

But it’s not only immigration laws. In other places the investment climate is changing for the better as governments realize they have to do something. In Indonesia, parliament just passed a radical new law that overhauls many archaic and cumbersome regulations and rules on labour and investment.

One of the provisions in this so-called “Omnibus bill” was to change Indonesia’s tax system from one based on residency to one based on where the income is earned. In other words, Indonesia will become like Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Panama, among others, which only tax their residents on money that is earned INSIDE the country.

That’s a game changer for people such as me, who earn income from overseas, but spend time in Indonesia.

It pays to keep an eye out right now for these sorts of radical developments. This particular law in Indonesia was winding its way through the legislature for well over a year, and has nothing to do with the Covid-19 situation per se.

But I think the rude shock that Indonesia’s worst economic performance since 1998 has delivered to some lawmakers emboldened them to vote for this radical step-change. I hope the new law works as intended and attracts more investments and talent to Indonesia in the long run. But we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out.

The point is, the winds of change are in the air all around the world. You have a choice. You can embrace that and let them carry you to a better place. Or you can stay rooted in place and try and withstand them, bending but not breaking.

Going forward, I think the world will probably divide more along the lines of people who share similar world views, have the same interests and are involved in the same activities. We already see this in the broadest sense, in the deep divisions between those of different political persuasions.

Many countries are deeply divided. If you are a believer in big government and being told what to do by the majority and happy to fall into line, you can find plenty of places in the world where this view is shared by the majority. Most western countries seem to fall into this category now.

But if you don’t like to live in that sort of a society, are more independent minded, and have the ability to fend for yourself, there are other places you can go. There is no right or wrong way.

We can each choose the path we desire. For me, it’s always been the path less travelled. I’ve never liked to be too dependent on any one place or organization, and certainly I’ve never depended on any government.

I live my life accordingly. So, should you, according to your own wishes and desires. With that in mind…

Until next time,

Good Investing!

Tim Staermose
Global Value Hunter

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