Published by Ronald Gray on May 8, 2018

Innovation and influence: Three tech giants transforming the world

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The only constant thing in life is change – but these changes will never be possible without agents in the form of people, organizations, and even movements that have the power to transform the world one step at a time. Technology, for instance, gave rise to the different tech companies today. Most of them have served as agents of revolutions and transformations and have continuously changing the world one innovation at a time. Understandably, they are among the world’s most valuable companies and a staple to many investment machines including discretionary portfolios, offshore mutual funds, and UITFs.

Here are the most important tech companies of today and how their influence and innovations have shaped the future:

Microsoft ($89 Billion in revenue, based on 2017 data)

Microsoft has been the world’s top tech company for years and it continues to lead global industries into the future. According to Thomson Reuters’ latest ranking, the tech giant easily bagged the top place as the industry’s overall leader in terms of financial success, investor confidence, innovation and many more.

Amazon ($177 Billion in revenue, based on 2017 data)

American tech company, Amazon, is a global innovator in e-commerce, retail, and AI. For decades, it has shaped the retail industry, online and offline, with the company’s online shopping platform and their latest introduction of the cashier-less convenience stores. Moreover, it is now an emerging contender in artificial intelligence technology through their latest AI software, Alexa.

Google ($109 Billion in revenue, based on 2017 data)

Founded in 1998, Google has grown from an ambitious research project to a dominant technology giant. Aside from being the most popular search engine in the world, Google has introduced other major innovations and business models such as cloud computing, maps and navigation software, and even autonomous driving technology.

Published by Ronald Gray on April 6, 2018

Who has the best advantages when investing in offshore mutual funds?

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There are different types of investment vehicles out there but there’s one practical and smarter option that has caught the attention of both new and seasoned investors today: through offshore mutual funds.

Investing in offshore mutual funds means pooling your money together with like-minded investors and putting it in the trust of a professional wealth manager based in an offshore location. There’s a long list of the top offshore financial companies in the world (such as LOM Financial in Bermuda) now but, the more important question to ask is, who can benefit the most from offshore mutual fund investing?

First of all, investors who want to take part in an extremely larger investment portfolio but with limited financial resources are one of the main benefactors of an offshore mutual fund option. Why? To be a part owner of such massive portfolio, this investment vehicle allows them to diversify their own portfolio while only investing relatively lower capital.

In other words, an offshore mutual fund can be an option for people who want to diversify their portfolio and at the same time, take part in a successfully executed investment scheme made up of several global companies. Additionally, since offshore mutual funds are operated in tax-efficient countries, investors from high-tax nations have the most advantage when opting for this investment option. This is one of the reasons why in the world’s most popular offshore financial centers like in Caribbean region (particularly the Cayman Islands), many individual investors are from developed countries.

Since the operations are done offshore, their home countries’ tax laws are already beyond their jurisdiction. While this can be seen as a major advantage, it’s important to remember that the difference in tax regulations and tailored policies can also expose you to scams and frauds.


Published by Ronald Gray on March 23, 2018

The Cayman Islands: A look into the financial powerhouse’s foreign relations

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The Cayman Island is home to the world’s most trusted offshore financial services industry today, and while it’s usually seen as a three-island nation located in the Western part of the Caribbean, it’s actually one of the many British overseas territories. In other words, the Cayman Islands is not only under British jurisdiction but also under the kingdom’s sovereignty. This factor determines how the nation interacts with other countries and how they build relations with foreign partners globally.

This means that most of the foreign interactions of the Cayman Islands are primarily overseen by the United Kingdom. However, the country does enjoy a level of autonomy and has the freedom to negotiate and form agreements with other foreign governments in terms of issue resolutions or international disputes. Regardless, its status as an overseas territory limits them from participating and assigning delegates to international communities and other organizations such as the United Nations.

However, due to its role as a leading offshore financial center in the world (it is home to international financial institutions such as LOM Financial), the Cayman Islands is one of the key members of the Central Development Bank. Other affiliations include being an associate member of UNESCO and Caricom, a full member of the International Olympic Committee, and also a participation in a sub-bureau of the International Police.

In the past, the islands have been friendly partners to Jamaica and Britain, but recent developments centered on the finance and tourism industry have resulted into forming a major reliance and partnership with two Western powers: the United States and Canada.

Although there are no American diplomatic offices located in the islands, the Cayman is a part of the US embassy-administered consular district in Jamaica. Moreover, consular agencies are present in the nation’s largest island, the Grand Cayman, catering to American citizens.


Published by Ronald Gray on January 5, 2018

Emerging real estate hotspots in the developing world

The real estate market has had its fair share of booms and busts and for many experts, the industry should expect a new list of rising locations that will soon top the charts of the up-and-coming property hot spots outside of the developed world.

After the price stagnations experienced by some of the top real estate hubs in the West, many investors are seeking refuge in the promising markets of the developing countries, taking on additional risks while confidently hoping for long-term price appreciation.

Here are some of the cities with the most attractive property markets today:


  1. Jakarta, Indonesia
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Indonesia may be a relatively small country but its 260-M population is driving an unprecedented growth in foreign investment, specifically in the real estate market.

The center of the expected boom in property investment is in Jakarta, the country’s rising superstar that is currently experiencing a surge in development. Furthermore, it’s an ideal feeder market to major economic hubs like Malaysia and Singapore.


  1. Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam
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Vietnam is considered as one of the fastest growing nations in the Southeast Asian region, with an expected GDP growth of approximately 6.5% in 2020. Most experts agree that the country’s economic growth can be credited to its growing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

Even if Vietnam only recently opened up the country’s property market to foreign investors, the move has delivered impressive results and further encouraged fast economic growth, thanks to the government’s effort s to promote low entry costs and favorable policies to investors.


  1. Mexico City, Mexico
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The Mexican city has been an important economic gateway to Latin America and its emerging economy has caught the attention of many big investors in and outside the country.

Thanks to Mexico City government’s efforts for redevelopment and the support of its middle class, the city is being transformed one neighborhood at a time.  Furthermore, experts are looking at the city’s full range of property prices that are especially attractive to both small and big investors.

Published by Ronald Gray on December 20, 2017

How economically and environmentally beneficial are smart cities?

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While most modern cities have gracefully responded to the challenges created by the growing global population, some are still left behind to depend on their old and aging metropolises – and their limited resources coupled with shrinking government budgets are not really helping.

The truth is, the answers to the modern challenges that every country faces today need an equally modern solution. However, the world doesn’t need improved cities – it needs smarter urban spaces; it needs smart cities.

In definition, a smart city is where investments in modern and technology-driven infrastructure are prioritized to enable a more sustainable economic growth. In addition, smart cities offer a higher quality of life, better management of natural resources and strong reliance in its human and social capital.

At present, many smart cities have proven their economic and environmental advantages and the world is slowly envisioning a future inspired by the definition of this digital urban jungle.

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Growing smart cities offer a healthier and more open economy for everyone, thanks to a more accessible digital infrastructure, removing barriers for many companies and private individuals to innovate, invest and create more jobs and opportunities.

Efficiency is one of the the key features that smart cities offer, thanks to well-designed digital tools that not only created to improve services but also find ways that offer low-cost yet high-quality services for its residents.

A smart city’s measure of success is based on how it can effectively save limited resources like water and energy without compromising the residents’ quality of life. In fact, this ability to be “smarter” about how they utilize their resources make them the answer to the uncertainties of the future.

Published by Ronald Gray on November 17, 2017

Three underrated retirement destinations that deserve your attention

Preparing for retirement involves a lot of careful planning and wise decision making. Aside from securing a sturdy financial safety net during your golden years, there’s one important aspect that everyone seems to ignore: finding the best place to retire.

If you want to find the perfect destination to spend the rest of your golden years, what are the things that you should keep in mind? To answer this question, let us take a look at some of the best cities in the world to retire.


  1. George Town (Malaysia)
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George Town is the capital city of Penang and has a lot to offer especially for Western expats and retirees who love food and culture. Unlike Kuala Lumpur, this Malaysian gem is one of the most underrated retirement destinations in Asia.

The city boasts an attractive medical care to its residents and the cost of living is quiet reasonable for a smaller Malaysian locale. Plus, the region offers excellent culinary experience at affordable prices. Most importantly, English is widely spoken and it considered a second language for a higher percentage of its population.


  1. Mazatlán (Mexico)
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This retirement haven in Mexico is known as the most popular North American expat community for a reason. It’s a paradise set on a Pacific coast with a long list of historical attractions. Its food are one of the best in the region and it also has its own international airport. The best perk in living in Mazatlán especially for retirees is their warm and tropical climate.


  1. Valletta (Malta)
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This small Mediterranean city is ranked second in the Live and Invest Overseas in 2016. It is located north of the Northern African coast and south of Sicily. It’s also easy to qualify for residency in Valletta and one way is to rent a property (apartment or any residential) as long as it meets a certain threshold.

Published by Ronald Gray on October 27, 2017

REPOST: 5 Cities That Let You Buy Real Estate with Bitcoin

Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, have been receiving widespread attention in recent years, achieving growth rates that are among the highest in history. The use of such virtual monetary system has become so common that some developers are beginning to accept it as payment for real estate. Read more from The Cointelegraph:


Bitcoin is a next-gen, all-digital currency that’s already a global phenomenon.

Developed with high levels of security and anonymity in mind, it’s touted as a potential replacement for paper- and coin-based money in the near future.

Some industries, including real estate, are capitalizing on this emerging trend by letting clients buy property via Bitcoin. It’s a significant departure from tradition, but it’s one that is quickly gaining momentum.

1. Miami, Florida
A Miami man recently made news by selling his home in Coral Gables for over $6 mln — or approximately 1,600 BTC.

The steep selling price is enough to rattle the headlines, but Bitcoin has been a part of the Miami real estate market for several years. Although it was only launched in 2009, tech-savvy real estate agents, investors and buyers quickly embraced the new cryptocurrency.

Realtors in the area are confident that South Florida — particularly Miami — is an ideal market for Bitcoin. They cite the worldwide reach of Bitcoin as a primary factor in driving increased interest and attention to the region. Using an alternate form of currency opens up properties to buyers and investors from all over the world, including Asia, Canada, South America and more.

2. Dubai, UAE
The United States isn’t the only country to capitalize on the growing Bitcoin trend. A developer located on the Isle of Man recently announced plans for a joint residential-commercial development valued at $325 mln. Prospective residents will be able to use Bitcoin to purchase their property, with studio apartments starting at 33 BTC and one-bedroom apartments from 54 BTC — or approximately $250,000.

Some of the development’s units have already been sold for modern currency, but the remaining residential properties are reserved for Bitcoin purchases. Commercial units are not currently available for purchase via the popular cryptocurrency.

3. New York, New York
Investors and real estate agents in The Big Apple also believe Bitcoin is the way of the future. The team with Magnum Real Estate is assuming a huge risk by accepting Bitcoin for deposits and purchases for recently converted apartments in Manhattan’s East Village. Known as Liberty Toye, the property represents a huge shift in the way we conduct business this century.

Real estate investment trusts have been looking to diversify their portfolios this year, and New York City provides the ideal launching ground. Known as an entrepreneurial-minded city that isn’t afraid to take risks, we already see homes and apartments available for Bitcoin. It’s only a matter of time until commercial buildings follow suit.

4. Lake Tahoe, California
The popular vacation destination of Lake Tahoe accepts Bitcoin, too. An unnamed buyer recently purchased a 1.4-acre property with Bitcoin on a 42-site resort. The undeveloped property sold for $1.6 mln, or 2,739 BTC, making it the largest Bitcoin-driven real estate transaction at the time it happened in 2013.

According to reports, the Bitcoin purchase was originally the buyer’s idea. While we haven’t seen any further developments involving Bitcoin in the Lake Tahoe real estate market, the sale shows off the potential of digital currency in the industry and opens the way for future deals in both the residential and commercial sectors.

5. Bali, Indonesia
The island of Indonesia isn’t the first place you’d expect to see a Bitcoin-backed real estate transaction, but it was actually among the first locations to support the cryptocurrency.

An unnamed buyer spent more than 800 Bitcoins, totaling approximately $500,000 at the time, for a villa in Bali.

Although residential real estate agents and buyers are comfortable with using Bitcoin to purchase real estate in Bali, we have yet to see any listings in the commercial or industrial markets.

Bitcoin and the future of real estate
Despite the uncertainty of the Bitcoin market, tech-savvy investors and agents are — at least for the time being — willing to take a risk on the cryptocurrency.

There are many advantages in doing so, but the risks are too steep for some to take the plunge.

Published by Ronald Gray on October 16, 2017

Urban renewal: The importance of revitalizing decaying cities

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Big cities are like living and functioning organisms that follow a life cycle solely dependent on its environment and the resources available around it: people, jobs, facilities, and reliable services, to name a few. While some cities in the world manage to continue a healthy and undisrupted life cycle, many are unlucky enough to undergo major decays that have led to bigger and more serious issues that have not only affected its population but have hindered their chances for growth.

As a response to this growing problem, many urban renewal projects have focused on revitalizing and reviving decaying neighborhoods through sustainable and green initiatives. However, according to a report from the World Cities Summit in Singapore last year, successful regeneration projects are only possible if both the government and public work together to achieve a common goal.

For instance, Santiago, a city in Chile, lost almost half of its population and a third of its housing stock during the 1950s to the 1990s. However, through government funds and local support, the city was able to turn this around. They started to repopulate its neighborhoods through a national housing subsidy. In addition, a private investment was able to come up with $3 billion that helped them fund the entire life project.

Another example of a successful urban renewal project is in Ahmedabad, India. Along the riverfront of Sabarmati once stand productive mills where many workers rely on their day to day earnings. However, the closure of these mills led to unemployment and eventually created informal settlers – eventually resulting to unsafe and unclean living areas. However, thanks to an initiative of a development project, the city was able to reclaim over 200 hectares of the riverfront land, transforming 15 percent of the land into public parks and through a national program, proper housing projects.

Published by Ronald Gray on September 4, 2017

Understanding the ‘housing bubble’ and why it’s bad news for home buyers

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When house prices grow higher than its average value, the real estate market experiences a temporary yet critical period known as a “housing bubble.” Usually, compared with other asset markets, this particular sector shouldn’t be subject to pricing bubbles because of two fixed factors: the huge carrying cost of owning and maintaining a home, and the large transaction cost of purchasing a property.

While some aren’t really convinced that this market phenomenon exists, many experts agree that most periods of housing price bubbles are driven by an increase in demand. However, the most important question here is, what are actually the specific causes of such increase in demand?

The combination of a number of variables can easily cause a housing market bubble. Under the right circumstances and timely specific buyer behaviors, the resulting effects can create the perfect formula, encouraging risky decisions and speculative behaviors by several participants: investors, builders, buyers, lenders, and borrowers.

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Observe when the economy is at its best and people can usually turn to more disposable income to invest on an asset, particularly housing. A healthy economy means an optimistic credit growth, encouraging buyers to carelessly take on debt. Taking advantage of the currently positive market and economic standing, consumers can usually enjoy low interest rates and loose borrowing standards. These factors can overall promote offhand speculations and risky behaviors.

The increase in investors, that are most of the time, “unfit” homeowners is the byproduct of all these factors working together to produce one final result that could suddenly disrupt the market: a dramatic rise in home prices, effectively paralyzing homebuyers to afford what they previously could.

Published by Ronald Gray on August 15, 2017

REPOST: US tax change proposals anger builders, real estate agents, charities

Rewriting the tax code involves some serious research and hard work, and as for the recent proposed changes, many are not happy about it. Those in the real estate business, for example, argue that the proposed tax reform will hurt home sales and cut charitable contributions. The full story on CNBC:

With U.S. Congress members focused during their August recess on finding ways to lower the corporate tax rate, industry groups and other sectors of society are gearing up to fight proposed changes to the personal income tax.

While tax cuts for business have garnered the most headlines, lobbyists and lawmakers have conceded that rewriting the corporate tax code will be a long slog.

Tackling personal tax rates will be easier, many argue. Looking for an easier legislative win ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, most lawmakers in the Republican majority want to cut individual incomes taxes. President Donald Trump has been pushing hard for tax changes this year.

Still, proposed changes to the personal tax code have already stirred opposition from real estate agents, home builders, mortgage lenders and charities. These groups say proposed changes will hurt home sales and cut charitable contributions.

The National Association of Realtors issued an “August Recess Talking Points” circular imploring members to remind lawmakers that “Homeowners must be treated fairly in tax reform” to avoid “another housing crash.”

The group cited a report it commissioned from PwC that estimated home values could quickly dive more than 10 percent if the tax plan becomes law.

To simplify the tax code, Republicans have proposed eliminating nearly all tax write-offs including those for state and local taxes, then doubling the standard deduction. This would eliminate the incentive to itemize and should drastically reduce the number of taxpayers who do so.

Currently, many taxpayers use itemized deductions, claiming write-offs for things like charitable contributions, interest paid on a mortgage and state and local taxes. If the standard deduction becomes larger, fewer taxpayers will need to itemize, reducing the incentive to hold a mortgage or contribute to charity.

Currently, about 30 million taxpayers claim the mortgage interest deduction, with about $70 billion in total claims, according to Robert Dietz, an economist with the National Association of Homebuilders.

Estimates suggest more than half of taxpayers would stop itemizing under the proposed plan, Dietz said, warning that this would create a large ripple effect through the economy. He said people in early years of a mortgage would suffer most, along with prospective home buyers.

Home builders are also fighting the proposed tax code changes.

“I don’t think I would call that a cakewalk,” said Jerry Howard, the head of the National Home Builders Association, saying the proposal will face fierce resistance from his group, which represents 130,000 builders. He noted that members operate in every congressional district and employ more than 7 million people.

Charitable organizations are not arguing against increasing the standard deduction. But they are asking members of Congress to consider creating a “universal deduction,” so taxpayers taking the standard deduction can get additional credit for donations without itemizing.

Taxpayers claim an estimated $13 billion each year in charitable deductions. Charities fear giving would plummet if the standard deduction were doubled without creating a universal deduction.

Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross, said reducing charitable deductions would be “devastating.”

If lobbyists defeat the reform effort, Congress could try to cut rates without structural tax code changes, said Charles Boustany, a former Republican member of the tax-code writing House Ways and Means Committee who left Congress in January.

“The path of least resistance becomes an old-fashioned tax cut on the individual side,” said Boustany. “The pressure is just going to be relentless as we get later in the fall.”

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