How to Be Jason Bourne: Multiple Passports, Swiss Banking, and Crossing Borders

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Is it possible to become invisible without breaking the law? (Photo: gravitywave)

LOS ANGELES, MID-JUNE 2008

Sitting on a plush couch in the neon-infused nightclub, I asked again:

“What’s it about?”

Neil Strauss glanced around and looked nervous, which I found strange. After all, we’d known each other for close to two years now. In fact, he was – as New York Times bestselling author of The Game and others – one of the first people to see the proposal for The 4-Hour Workweek and offer me encouragement.

“C’mon, dude, give me a break. Don’t you trust me?”

“Guilt. That’s good. Use guilt,” Neil said. But the Woody Allen approach wasn’t working.

“I can’t let the meme out early” he said, “I trust you—I’m just paranoid,” he offered to no one in particular as he downed another RedBull. So I fired a shot in the dark.

“What, are you writing about the 5 Flags or something?”

Neil’s heart skipped a beat and he stared at me for several long seconds. He was stunned.

“What do you know about the 5 Flags?”

I was in.

The 5 Flags

Neil’s new book, Emergency, teaches you how to become Jason Bourne.

Multiple passports, moving assets, lock-picking, escape and evasion, foraging, even how to cross borders without detection (one preferred location: McAllen, Texas, page 390)–it’s a veritable encyclopedia of for those who want to disappear or become lawsuit-proof global citizens… Read More

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Rethinking Investing – Part 3 – Spotting Mistakes in Jon Stewart vs. Jim Cramer

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The Daily Show: Jim Cramer Interview – Hulu. Having trouble? Try installing AnchorFree, and if that fails, get a taste with this clip.

The unanimous conclusion after stockmarket pundit Jim Cramer appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last week was: Jim got his ass kicked.

Be that as it may, were the facts straight? I will defer here to Mark Hanna, Trust Officer at Clayton Bank and Trust in Knoxville, TN. I first met Mark at the 2008 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder’s Meeting, where he was wearing a manager badge and discussing complex financial instruments.

Clayton Homes
was sold to Berkshire Hathaway in 2003, and founder Jim Clayton hired Mark to start a Trust Department within his bank — Clayton Bank and Trust — to manage proceeds from the sale. Mark didn’t want me to share his personal annualized track record, but trust me: it’s phenomenal… Read More

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Rethinking Investing – Part 2 (Plus: Election Thoughts)

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Successful “investing” requires some uncommon questions. (Photo: Me at Burning Man ’08)

“If the market felt fidgety, if people were scared or desperate, he [senior Salomon Brothers bond trader] herded them like sheep into a corner, then made them pay for their uncertainty.”
-Liar’s Poker, Chapter: A Brotherhood of Hoods

Connecticut, 2003

There were 4-6 screens per person, and chairs were lined up at a single 30-foot desk in hierarchical pecking order. Commands would come down the line and trades were made.

“Who the f*ck are you?” asked one of seniors, swiveling back to his glowing screens before I could answer.

It was my first time inside one of the largest investment banks on the planet, and I was just observing a friend in the hopes of learning something. Before I knew it, lunch had arrived and a 20-minute break was announced in a poetic slew of 4-letter words.

“Name a company.” It was a voice I didn’t recognize, but it was clearly directed at me.
“Uh… sorry. Excuse me?” I asked to the room and no one in particular.
“Name a company.”
“Uh…”
“Any company — doesn’t matter.”
“OK. Ah… Genentech.” It was a shot in the dark with no rhyme nor reason.
“F*ck Genentech!!!” came the chorus.

“OK, we just sold 100,000 shares of Genentech. F*ck those guys. Lost a ton on them last week.”

100,000 shares of Genentech sold because a no-nothing guest had pulled the name out of thin air.

That was my introduction to how truly rigged the stock market is… Read More

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Rethinking Investing: Common-Sense Rules for Uncommon Times

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I first saw this video at the May 2nd, 2008 Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting. Prophetic and not to be missed.

I’ve learned quite a few things in the last 18 months of exploring—and experimenting with—the world of investing. This post is my first attempt to share the findings.

The lessons have come from not just reading books, but trial and error, and picking the brains of some diverse and fascinating people:

-Warren Buffett, the richest man in the world, and CFOs/financiers at Berkshire’s portfolio companies
-Chief economists at top investments banks
-Dot-commers who have turned $40,000 into $2,000,000 in stocks using massive leverage
-Conservative entrepreneurs (still self-made millionaires) with all-bond portfolios
-Money managers of the ultra-rich and ridiculously famous
-Ivy league professors who not only trade options exclusively but also bet up to $500,000 per night as no-limit hold ‘em poker players.

In all cases, excluding blog reader feedback (how could I know?), the principles I will offer are from people who have made millions in their respective investments, not armchair quarterbacks (advisers) who take a management fee from the people willing to take real risks… Read More

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Investment Series Preview: The "Good Bye and F__k You" Letter

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Is this a hedge fund manager? (photo: dannyhammontree)

I’m in the process of preparing a series of posts on the investment lessons I’ve learned in the last 18 months.

To preface the series with some humor (and insight), I thought one particular farewell letter would be appropriate. The author is hedge fund manager Andrew Lahde, who produced a one-year 866 percent return betting on the subprime mortgage collapse.

Today, he announced he was leaving the hedge fund business with a rather hysterical letter… Read More

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Picking Warren Buffett's Brain: Notes from a Novice

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The richest man in the world — $62 billion and counting. (Photo: CBS/AP)

“Excuse me. Where is the most difficult to reach microphone?”

I was out of breath from running up the steps but had managed to find one of the microphone stands, manned by two headset-wearing volunteers.

More than 10,000 people had waited on the sidewalks overnight to be first in the doors of the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting, and I had made a choice: I would go for the mics instead of the front row.

Given a choice of shaking Warren Buffett’s hand for a five-second photo op or asking him a question, I opted for the latter, and in ten seconds, I’d be sprinting to the corner of the top floor. After all, lunch with Buffett once auctioned off for $620,100, and I’d planned it all out.

These are my notes on what happened and what I learned… Read More

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Lifestyle Investing: "Compound Time" Like Compound Interest?

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berkshire-hathaway-vs-nasdaq.jpg
Berkshire Hathaway vs. Nasdaq (orange), 1984-2004

I met David Hassell in Omaha at the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting, and he asked me an interesting question:

Do you think that the value of time can compound like interest?

Three glasses of wine into a post-event party with Cirque du Soleil performers, I didn’t have a good answer, but David recently sent me a thought-provoking e-mail I thought I’d share. Read More

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