Today we have the great pleasure to introduce you to James Turk, a well-known investment guru, international investor, and co-founder of the increasingly popular GoldMoney.com.In this interview, James will talk about:His past and the lessons of relevance to all those who want to live an international life.Current trends and what people can do to protect themselves during these volatile times.His GoldMoney service, one which we receive quite a few questions about here at International Man every month.So, without further ado, let’s begin…International Man: For those who aren’t familiar with you or your work, can you tell us a bit about yourself?James Turk: I have over 40 years of experience in international banking, finance and investments. I began my career with Chase Manhattan Bank, now JPMorgan Chase, which is one of the big New York banks. I then worked with one of the world’s top commodity traders, before moving to Abu Dhabi where I managed the commodity department for its sovereign wealth fund. It was one of the seven countries in which I have lived, but I now live in Europe.I have written extensively over the last 25 years about money and investments. Many of my articles are posted on the Internet, but I am particularly proud of a book I co-authored with my friend, John Rubino, The Collapse of the Dollar and How to Profit from It. It was first published in 2004 and correctly laid out the reason for owning gold and why banks and other financial companies like Fannie Mae were heading for trouble. We also explained why the bubble then prevailing in the housing market was ready to burst.In the late 1990s I formed GoldMoney with my oldest son, Geoffrey, who is now its CEO. Since its launch in 2001 GoldMoney has become a leading provider for buying gold, silver, platinum and palladium online to buyers worldwide. It is presently storing in vaults in London, Zurich and Hong Kong over US$2.2 billion of precious metals owned by customers located in more than 100 countries.Lastly, I am also a director of the GoldMoney Foundation, a not-for-profit educational organization dedicated to providing information on the role of gold and silver as money and currency and their importance to society. I am a firm believer that gold’s use as money is inextricably interlinked with human liberty. The Foundation promulgates this key point through published material, videos and conferences.IM: When did you personally start living and investing overseas?JT: I always wanted to live abroad and travel, which is one reason I joined Chase. They promised an overseas assignment when I completed my training program in New York City, and in 1971 I moved to Thailand. I spent most of that decade living and working in Asia. It was a great experience and provided a strong base on which to build my business career.It was the early 1970s when I first began international investing for my personal portfolio. I don’t remember the year, but I remember the event well. I tried to invest in a fund managed by Robeco, a big Dutch asset management company. They didn’t accept my application because I used my US address, and the fund was not registered with the SEC.That irritated me, being self-reliant and believing that I did not need any government agency watching over my shoulder when I made an investment. It also made clear to me the nanny-state environment in which we lived back then, which in my view has become even more onerous and oppressive today. But that event from 40 years ago had a useful outcome. It set me on a path to learn the ins-and-outs of international investing and the arcane rules governments imposed.IM: What motivated you to look outside your home country for fortune and opportunity in the first place?JT: Though I was born and raised in the States, I had an international perspective as long as I can remember, probably because my father was born in Europe. As Shakespeare so wisely advised, the “world is your oyster”. In this regard, I have always believed that you can do or achieve anything you want in life. It just takes planning and a lot of hard work.Everyone has the freedom to do so, but not everyone has the same motivations. Nor does everyone have the goal to view the whole world as an opportunity to improve their situation in life and to make sure their children have a better standard of living than they did as children. This objective was important to my parents. So maybe I learned it from them, but then again, maybe it is just human nature because I have seen that motivation time and again in many countries and many different cultures.IM: What steps have you taken personally to plant flags overseas?JT: There are many. I live in Europe and have travelled to over 50 countries. The company I founded is European-based, but has a global customer base. My wife and youngest son are British. I could go on, but those are the ones that immediately come to mind.IM: In a previous conversation, it was mentioned to me that Doug Casey’s book, The International Man, was an important influence on your way of thinking. Can you elaborate on that?JT: Yes, it was one of the sources of good information that I read back in the 1970s. There was not a lot of material back then on how to internationalize your life, which was my objective. So I bought a copy and learned a lot from it. There are two ways to gain useful experience – “reading” and “doing”. Both are invaluable.TrendsIM: In a recent article, you mention the “Last Plane Account“, which basically suggested setting up structures overseas so that if all domestic assets were seized, one would have a nest-egg available to still live a comfortable life. When did you first realize such a plan was needed for US citizens?JT: The name “last plane account” was an informal one that we used in Chase to refer to a marketing program that explained the necessity for southeast Asian businessmen to have bank deposits outside their home countries. The idea was that if turmoil wracked the country where you lived, you and your family could get on the “last plane” and live somewhere else in the same manner to which you were accustomed, even if you needed to leave behind many assets – like a house and your company’s factory.Remember, the domino theory still prevailed back in the 1970s, and everyone wondered and worried about what country in that part of the world would be the next to fall to communism. If it did, you clearly would want some of your wealth invested globally so that you and your family could live comfortably if forced to flee your home country, or just because you simply chose to do so. The idea was that you could then return to your home country once a sane political climate was restored with a rule of law that protected property rights.At first I didn’t realize that everyone needs a “last plane account” – even Americans. But my thinking began to change not long after moving to Thailand. I became friends with a wealthy Thai businessman whose family lost a fortune in real estate when the Chinese Red Army under Mao took control of that country. They left China only with their suitcases, which fortunately for them carried some gold and jade. After fleeing China, they settled in Thailand and through hard work re-built their fortune with the capital they were able to bring with them. It was actually a story that I eventually heard many times over the years I was in Asia.Then in late 1974, I agreed to move to Beirut, Lebanon, which back then was a plum assignment in the bank. However, the civil war there began before I could pack my bags, and because I had a family, the assignment was cancelled with mutual consent. It was a wake-up call for me. Like the experience related to me by my Chinese friend, it opened my eyes, and I began to really recognize that there are a lot of unsafe places in the world. More to the point, over the years I’ve seen dozens of countries change from good to bad, while some changed from bad to good.Sometimes the change occurs rapidly, as it did in Lebanon. Sometimes the change occurs slowly, which is what happens in most countries. The change can be so slow as to be imperceptible to most people living there, which is one of the reasons I recommend that people live for a time in different countries. It gives you a different perspective.When I look at the States, Thailand and the other countries where I have lived, from outside, I see things that I missed when I lived there. I think this perspective is important to understand that we live in a world that is constantly changing. So regardless of which country you were born, I recommend that everyone travel and live abroad, at least for a time, to gain some useful and unique experiences. When you do, I think you will better understand the reasons for a “last plane account” and appreciate the need to prepare for an uncertain future.IM: Can you tell us what such an account would consist of?JT: Clearly, I would not recommend today what we at Chase were offering back then, namely, bank deposits. These do not make sense in today’s topsy-turvy world.I would put into the account the same thing that you would put in any portfolio. There would be undervalued assets as well as safe assets in a mix that would enable you to sleep well at night knowing you were prepared to live comfortably somewhere in the world if you left your home country.The safe assets would of course be gold and a home for shelter. The undervalued assets would primarily be stocks, particularly a globally diversified portfolio and one that paid reasonable dividends to provide income. I don’t recommend commercial real estate, but other real estate – like an apartment building, farmland or timberland – could also be a safe asset in the right jurisdiction.Remember though, there is a fundamental difference between visible wealth and wealth that cannot easily be seen. Visible wealth is always a potential target for governments around the world looking for assets to tax or even confiscate, and one must factor in that risk. In fact, this risk is one of the reasons for diversifying globally. Diversification always mitigates risk.IM: With all this money printing in the world do you see hyperinflation in the US dollar and hence the world?JT: Sadly, yes, I do expect hyperinflation, and we are getting very close. Hyperinflation manifests itself in two ways, depending on the nature of the currency. In Weimar Germany in the 1920s and Zimbabwe more recently, very few people had bank accounts. Nearly all commerce was conducted with cash-currency. In contrast, in Argentina in 1991 nearly everyone had a bank account, with the result that nearly all commerce was conducted with deposit-currency. In other words, payment for goods and services was conducted through the banking system with checks, wire transfers, plastic cards and the like. All three countries experienced hyperinflation, which always has the same cause, regardless how it manifests itself. It boils down to a simple chain of events.A government spends too much, forcing it to borrow. Because governments have difficulties cutting back on spending when they have unlimited access to their central bank and no external discipline or constraints imposed on politicians’ aspirations to spend, eventually these borrowings become bigger than the market has the capacity or willingness to lend. The central bank then steps in to create the currency the government wants to spend, whether it is running a printing press in Zimbabwe or the computer in Argentina.Both examples are generally referred to as “printing money”, but now it is usually called “quantitative easing”. Maybe governments think that by giving it a name change, the process somehow becomes acceptable. Call it what you will, but it is the same thing and if not stopped, inevitably leads to hyperinflation. Given that the president and Congress don’t seem willing to change direction, and given their plans for more spending and more deficits, the US dollar is clearly on the path toward hyperinflation.IM: If so, what will the end of the US Dollar look like for the man on the street?JT: It will look like the Continental, America’s first currency, or the currencies of dozens of other countries that followed the same path. The dollar will be worth nothing. This outcome is particularly tragic because we failed to learn from the framers of the American Constitution. One of the reasons they aimed to create “a more perfect Union” was because of the economic hardships and dislocations caused by the collapse of the Continental. They purposefully created with the Constitution a common market and common currency. Their intent was made clear by one of the first acts of the new Congress, The Coinage Act, which George Washington signed into law in 1792. It was the law of the land until being ignored in the 20th century by politicians wanting to expand the scope of the federal government. To achieve that aim, they needed to spend money. But they could not do that with the dollar being tied to gold and silver.Precious metals cannot be created “out of thin air”, so they provide the necessary discipline on government spending. The US, and indeed, the entire world has abandoned that discipline and money is now created capriciously by central bankers.IM: For those who have followed the gold and silver commentaries for the last number of years, they will already know that you are exceptionally bullish on precious metals right now. However, in your mind, could something happen where the trend towards higher prices stalls for a while or potentially even reverses?JT: I assume you are asking about a major price reversal, and not just some temporary setback. In my view, only one thing would cause that. There would have to be a massive reduction in the quantity of dollars, and I don’t see any prospect for that. The Federal Reserve doesn’t seem intent on doing that given it has said it is committed to preventing deflation.Of course, at any moment in time the price of gold or silver can have a setback. That is the nature of bull markets. But don’t let these periodic corrections shake you out of the market. The key to successful investing is to accumulate assets when they are undervalued, and continue to hold them through periodic corrections. Only sell them when they become overvalued. It sounds easy, but can be hard to do in practice because people often get emotionally attached to assets, be it a house, a stock or gold.To eliminate the emotion, I always rely upon objective measures of value. Two that I use most frequently for gold and often write about are my Fear Index and my Gold Money Index. Both of these indicate that gold remains undervalued. But aside from these objective measures, I think there is also a good anecdotal one. I expect all fiat currencies to collapse. Consequently, you will not sell your gold when it becomes overvalued; you will spend it. In other words, gold will once again become currency, which is one of the goals we are working toward at GoldMoney. At that future time when gold becomes overvalued, you will take the gold you are now accumulating and spend it to invest in assets that are undervalued or spend it buying consumer goods. We are still far away from that moment.IM: What are your thoughts on possible confiscation from government or forced buy back of gold from its citizens, and is there some safety by owning precious metals with a service like GoldMoney?JT: The future of course cannot be predicted, but we nevertheless know that respect for private property is declining in many parts of the world. In the 20th century gold was confiscated by Lenin in Russia, Hitler in Germany, Mussolini in Italy and Franklin Roosevelt in the US. So don’t assume that confiscations can’t happen in the 21st century. I always say to prepare for the worst, while hoping for the best. In this way you will still get by, even if by an unfortunate turn of events the worst possible outcome happens.Because the future is unknowable, it is impossible to determine the perfect strategy to take advantage of future events. The best we can do is to protect ourselves from wealth destroying future events, like confiscation. I believe the best way to do that is through diversification. In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket, and GoldMoney can be helpful in diversifying your precious metals.When you buy physical gold and silver – and I only recommend physical metal, not any of the paper products purporting to offer physical metal – there are only two ways to do it. Buy it and store it yourself, or buy it and have someone store it for you, which is what GoldMoney offers.Each alternative has advantages and disadvantages. If you store gold yourself, you have it at hand, but run the risk of theft. Also, if you need to sell, it can be a bother to take your coins or bars to a dealer, who may then require them to be refined, which adds cost.With GoldMoney, you do not have your gold at hand, but it is stored for you in specialized vaults in London, Zurich and/or Hong Kong at your choice and is insured. You also have nearly instant liquidity. You can easily sell your metal back to GoldMoney. The proceeds are immediately wired to your bank account, which, depending on the time zone in which you live, may mean you receive the proceeds the same day. It is also convenient because all transactions are done online 24/7.GoldMoney BasicsInternational Man: You’ve referenced it a few times already, but, for those of our readers not yet familiar with GoldMoney.com, can you give us a really brief overview? James Turk: GoldMoney allows customers in 105 different countries to buy gold, silver, platinum and palladium online, and store these metals at secure vaults in London, Zurich and Hong Kong. Customers can conduct transactions in nine major currencies and also take physical delivery of their gold in the form of 100 gram and 1kg gold bars. Our governance procedures and regular audits provide assurances of integrity to our customers that their precious metals are being stored safely with us. IM: What prompted you to start GoldMoney in the first place? JT: The idea for GoldMoney came to me in 1979. I had been reading extensively, including many great works like Howard Buffett’s brilliant 1948 speech and dozens of books on money, particularly those of Ludwig von Mises and the Austrian school of economics. I re-read Atlas Shrugged and some of Ayn Rand’s other works. Another influential book from back then that comes to mind is The Market for Liberty. From these and other works I began to understand the importance of re-establishing gold’s role as currency. It was clear to me that human liberty and gold were inextricably interlinked because gold money controls government spending. When this spending has limits, so do government depredations. I wanted to live in a world where property rights were respected and the rule of law was followed, and naturally assumed other people shared that same aim, which meant that my idea for creating a technologically advanced gold money offered a profit opportunity. Of course the technology to make my vision possible was not available back then, nor did I think the technology would become available in my lifetime. Fortunately, the rapid advances in communications and computers over the next twenty years eventually made GoldMoney possible. My son and I formed GoldMoney in the late 1990s, which we launched in early 2001. I have not lost sight of my original vision and the important outcome that can be achieved by enabling gold to circulate once again as currency. IM: What makes GoldMoney different from some of the other options out there? JT: Buying allocated physical bullion, as facilitated by GoldMoney, guarantees you hold and own the metal in your name. Our stringent governance procedures and regular audits provide our customers with assurances that their metals are safe and that they are the undisputed owners. The freedom and ease of accessing the global precious metals markets online, 24 hours a day, and the variety of metals, storage facilities and accepted currencies offer a high level of comfort and diversification. This makes GoldMoney a uniquely secure and convenient precious metals provider. IM: Can you briefly take us through the process of signing up for an account? JT: People with residency in the US, Canada and 42 other countries are eligible for fast tracking – meaning they can sign up for what we call a Basic Holding quickly and easily online by clicking on the “Free Sign Up” button on our website GoldMoney.com. The entire process takes only a few minutes and customers can start funding their Holding in order to purchase metals immediately. Customers can upgrade to a Full Holding free of charge at any time. IM: In your mind, what is the single greatest reason someone signs up for a GoldMoney account – for speculating on the price of the metal, for savings, as a way to internationalize, something else? JT: People may of course have different reasons for opening a Holding. But I always say that precious metals should be thought of as your savings rather than as something that you “invest” in or speculate on. After all, an ounce of gold today is exactly the same as an ounce of gold 50 years ago. Like a quart, ton or meter, it is a consistent measuring stick. What changes is the value of currency in relation to that ounce of gold. Over time, the purchasing power of gold is preserved – in contrast to fiat currencies, where your purchasing power declines. More and more people are realizing this, and come to the conclusion that it makes sense to hold gold and other precious metals rather than national currencies, particularly now because one hardly earns any interest income with today’s artificially low interest rates. As precious metals regain mass acceptance as a medium of exchange and store of value, those who have been steadily accumulating them will recognise the benefits.Gold Money ChallengesIM: What are the challenges with running a company like GoldMoney? JT: There are of course many, just like there are in any company. But as we face and overcome these challenges, we always have one objective in mind, which is to serve our customers’ best interests. One of the many things I learned from Von Mises is that the “Customer is King”, which is a guiding principle always foremost in our minds and actions. In short, companies are built by serving their customers’ best interests efficiently and continuously. IM: Over the past year, I’ve heard some of the announcements that GoldMoney has had to suspend or even shut down operations in various jurisdictions such as the Netherlands. Is this something you feel can be rectified so that you can enter such markets again? If so, how? JT: This is unique to the Netherlands, owing to the unusual burdens placed on us by the Dutch regulators, the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM). The AFM has the view that precious metals are included within the concept of “investment objects” which are to be regulated by the AFM. We are of the opinion that Netherlands’ regulation is not applicable to GoldMoney because we operate in Jersey, British Channel Islands, rather than within the Netherlands – but we have been unsuccessful in changing the AFM’s view. As we do not want to subject ourselves, and by extension our customers, to unnecessary and unpredictable regulatory requirements, we reached the difficult conclusion that the only way to resolve this situation was to cease all business with individuals resident in the Netherlands. We do have every intention of accepting business from Dutch residents again in the future should the regulatory environment there change. IM: I have an associate who has a GoldMoney account and his wife has another. For a while, he would regularly transfer goldgrams to her without issue. As of the beginning of the year, that particular function has been suspended. Can you tell us why that happened and whether that particular benefit of your service will be implemented again? JT: Our decision to turn off the facility to transfer metals between GoldMoney customers in all countries except Jersey is based on lack of customer demand and increasing regulatory burdens. It is our intention to offer this service again in the future, which will depend on customer feedback and regulatory changes. IM: If a company like GoldMoney can’t use gold as money because of legislative and regulatory burdens, what does this say about any other competing currency? JT: Governments today seem to think that they should enjoy monopoly control of money and currency, even though both are products of the market just like any other good or service. Consequently, all free-market currencies will have a difficult time in gaining a foothold against national currencies. But because national currencies are losing purchasing power rapidly, it is inevitable that gold will once again return to its traditional and rightful role at the center of global commerce. After all, gold has been money for 5000 years, and it still preserves purchasing power better than any national currency, which for 40 years now have been backed by nothing. But the growing financial and monetary problems today make clear that this 40-year experiment with fiat currency is going badly. This result is inevitable, as proven by the dozens of other attempts throughout history to make fiat currency work through central planning and control. Eventually gold returns to center stage as the dominant money and currency in global commerce, and I suspect that this time will be no different given that the future of fiat currency is looking increasingly doubtful.Protecting GoldMoney ClientsIM: What safeguards has GoldMoney established to ensure that the person who buys physical metal is protected if the business happens to fail? Would they lose their assets? JT: Although this is an extreme unlikely scenario, customers will receive their physical metal in any of the gold, silver, platinum and palladium bars we offer, provided they have a balance greater than one bar. This includes the London Good Delivery Bars, as well as the 100 gram and 1 kilogram gold bars. Alternatively, customers can receive the equivalent value of their metals in one of the 9 national currencies we offer. A court appointed liquidator would complete this winding-up process. IM: How does GoldMoney ensure that the goldgram amount is actually in the client’s account? Couldn’t it all be just a game of numbers? JT: The quantity of metals allocated to customers’ Holdings that is recorded in GoldMoney’s database is equal to the amount of metal that is being stored in the vaults at all times. This one-to-one ratio is always maintained and forms a key part of our governance model. 100% customer ownership is assured by top-quality independent third-party reports and audits from the vault operators, Inspectorate – a commodity testing and inspection firm – and by regular audits by a big-4 accounting firm. GoldMoney is simply a guardian of its customers’ assets. IM: When someone buys metal from GoldMoney, are they officially an owner of their holdings or simply another creditor to the company itself? JT: Customers who own precious metals with GoldMoney own it in the form of allocated physical metal. This means that they are direct owners of their metals, and that GoldMoney does not have any claim on its customers’ assets. Customers’ metals do not appear on GoldMoney’s balance sheet, meaning that our customers do not have any counterparty risk.Common QuestionsInternational Man: What are some of the more common reasons people say they don’t want to use GoldMoney? James Turk: Some people prefer to have their gold and silver in their hands. They want to be able to touch and feel it. Given all that’s gone in the financial world over the last few years, and with the MF Global debacle still fresh in people’s minds, this is understandable. But there are real risks to storing large quantities of metal at home. It is therefore natural that people would look to store their metal in other ways and other countries, and this is where GoldMoney can help. GoldMoney’s governance and audit procedures are rigorous and stringent and the Certificates & Reports are available for review on our website. With regards to storing metals at home or some other private location, GoldMoney can help customers by supplying physical metal, as we deliver 100-gram and 1-kilo gold bars produced by Baird & Co. of London to our customers’ home address. The main risk of storing metals at home is burglary, and liquidity and geographical diversification are limited. IM: What would you say to someone who would be a bit nervous buying “paper” / “promise to pay” gold through GoldMoney? JT: GoldMoney does not sell any “paper gold“. It only sells physical metal, which is always what I recommend owning. “Paper gold” offers exposure to the gold price, but that is all. The buyer does not own gold, but rather a claim to gold. Futures, options, ETFs and gold certificates are examples of paper-gold products, and they all have counterparty risk. None of these items give you the guaranteed 100% ownership of allocated gold that you have when transacting with GoldMoney. Because all customers’ metals within GoldMoney are stored in vaults, and because we deal exclusively in the physical bullion markets with a variety of dealers, there will always be bidders for customers who wish to sell, and sellers for those customers eager to buy. Bringing supply and demand into equilibrium is what the price discovery process is all about. Therefore, GoldMoney will always be able to honor your sell or buy order in a prompt manner.Logistical QuestionsIM: What are the options available to customers for taking delivery of their gold? JT: Customers can take physical delivery of their gold at any time in the form of 100 gram and 1 kilogram bars. These bars, which have a purity of 99.99%, are refined by Baird & Co. Ltd. in London and shipped to our customers’ home address by insured mail. The customer places the delivery order online through their Holding, and we will automatically process it. We can also arrange the delivery of 400oz Good Delivery Bars. If you wish to diversify your metals and move your metal balance in your Holding partly or entirely for storage in a different country, you also have the option to do that when logged into your Holding. IM: Where are the holdings stored? JT: Customers can store their gold and silver at VIA MAT vaults in London, Zurich and Hong Kong. You can also store gold and silver at a G4S vault in Hong Kong. Platinum is stored by VIA MAT in Zurich and Hong Kong, and the same company also stores palladium in Hong Kong. IM: Which are the most popular of these companies to store holdings? JT: The largest holdings are at VIA MATs gold and silver vaults in London and Zurich.MiscellaneousIM: Do you have any merchants that currently allow you to purchase items with GoldMoney? JT: Currently there are no merchants that accept GoldMoney because we have turned-off the payment capability to customers in all countries except Jersey, where we are based. IM: What is currently the breakdown among your client base in terms of allocations between gold, silver, platinum and palladium? What metal the most popular? JT: With the launch of GoldMoney in 2001 we offered gold only and introduced silver in 2006. Platinum followed in 2009 and Palladium in January 2011. Given gold’s long established bona fides as money, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that most of our customers’ metals in terms of US dollars are held in gold. However, silver is a close second to gold in terms of total USD value. Platinum and palladium holdings with us are smaller, though the popularity of these metals is likely to grow. The amount of metals and currencies held on behalf of our customers are disclosed in the monthly report on our website. IM: What is the average size of account in GoldMoney? JT: It has been growing since inception, and is presently $103,000. However, the median account size is only about $10,000. There is no minimum or maximum amount you can purchase and hold, so we have a wide range of customers from small to large. IM: For those who want to find out more, what’s the best way? JT: Our website www.goldmoney.com offers detailed information about our services and governance procedures. We also have a Research section that provides background information on the precious metal markets. The Frequently Asked Questions section offers guidance for new and prospective customers and our customer support team is always happy to answer any questions – by phone, email or through our secure internal message system. IM: Sir, it was a pleasure. Thank you.JT: Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you as well.[To interact with other international men and women all around the world, consider joining the International Man Network. It’s completely free to join, plus you’ll have access to a private forum of thousands of like-minded individuals who are sharing their “boots on the ground” tactics and experience on how to internationalize one’s life and wealth. Sign up here.]About the Author: Inspired by the work of best-selling author and renowned speculator Doug Casey, International Man is a global network of freedom-seekers, investors, adventurers, speculators and expatriates looking to live an international lifestyle – be it asset, income, personal diversification or any combination of the three. Learn more at www.internationalman.com.