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The 6 Levels of Credibility When You Go Global

This article was published in the Escape Artist Weekly Newsletter on January 03, 2018. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.

Like birthdays, the end of the calendar year serves as a marker in the constant pace of time. It’s a moment to take stock of where we are, where we want to be, and how we might best get there. It’s a time to make plans.

But when our plans go global, the responses from people we know may be less than reassuring. This is why I created the “6 Levels of Credibility Scale” for measuring other people’s opinions about my international interest. You may find it helpful, too, and it’s showcased later in this article.

But quickly now, for some very timely news as of yesterday, Condé Nast ranked 2 of my favorite countries in their top 10 to visit this month. Nicaragua is #1 and Belize is #5.

The 6 Levels of Credibility When You Go Global

The 6 Levels of Credibility When You Go Global


Given the suggestions below, your timing couldn’t be better. Big parts of the mainstream population are waking up to options and opportunities outside the U.S. and Canada. Did you miss Microsoft stock at $13.00 or a condo in Cancun for $99k? If so, now’s a great time to plow ahead, despite what others say – and that’s exactly what this article is about. How do we decide which opinions to weigh heavily? Some good thoughts on that now.

We’ve all heard that it’s important to consider the source, right? Well, when it comes to advice or opinions about the offshore world, sometimes we let those who have little or no experience influence us disproportionately to their circle of experience or knowledge.

The 6 Levels of Credibility When You Go Global

Rachel Jensen and I hear comments from folks looking at property or investing overseas regarding the reaction when they tell folks back home about their intentions. Many times, they get a lot of cold water thrown on their ideas, and it can be disheartening. But the basis of the scale is to measure if that person has traveled overseas, owned property globally, or even has a passport.

In the Middle Ages, it was common for people to grow up in a tiny village and never see the next village just a few miles away…ever. A childhood friend from elementary school asked about my summer vacation in high school. When I told him about my summer in Salzburg, Austria, where my dad was teaching, he said to me that he’d never been out of Pennsylvania. Ohio is a mere 26 miles away. I thought to myself, if I hadn’t been to Ohio at the age of 15, I’d get on my bike and ride there just to know I’d seen it.

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But that’s my nature, not his. You probably know people who haven’t traveled very far from home, and that is great…for them. I applaud their choice to live and stay close to home, their work, friends, church, etc…. It’s their choice and I respect that. However, when they start to opine about the risks and dangers of my choices to live, work, invest, raise a family, retire, vacation, and own property offshore, that’s when I have to question the impact or weight of that opinion.

There are powerful motivators and demotivators in life. The three big negatives are: the legacy of myth, the grip of fear, and a desire to stay in the herd. These factors relate to life in general, for sure, but they also define our parameters for risk, reward, and the return on investment. I’m not suggesting taking excessive risk…actually the opposite, by diversifying assets into global baskets.

Early in Q1 2018, you’ll see an article from me that details the analytics and analysis of international diversification and the measurable risk reduction. Because the impact of psychological factors on investment is perhaps the greatest element at play, empirical measures become important. More on that in a few weeks. But for now, and today’s New Year article, we are going to examine how to break away from the herd…and stay away.

The 6 Levels of Credibility When You Go Global

An old axiom in sales is that we buy emotionally and justify logically. This holds true in our investments, too. For example, you’ve just made a phenomenal investment, or purchased a great property in a country you can’t wait to call home. You’re so excited to get there you can taste it – you’re basically finished with the whole process. While you’ve done the hard bit, there are still a few details to complete when you get home.

And then you start talking to friends and associates about what you just did. If you are lucky, they will be supportive of your adventurous decision. Perhaps they are living vicariously through you. But more often than not, they begin to spray you with the “dangers” of your decision. Unless you are strong, you may doubt that buying a home, investing, or looking at legacy wealth planning overseas is a wise move.

The 6 Levels of Credibility When You Go Global

This brings us to the “6 Point Credibility Scale” and perhaps some better ways to evaluate the fear-laden opinions that are likely to come flying our way when we talk about our international investments and global lifestyle decisions. You want to know how credible the advice you’re receiving is.

When someone you know finds out about your plans, they might say, “So you are moving to (pick the country here)? You’re crazy!” Or they might say, “If you move there, you’re gonna’ get killed.” Before we respond or feel stressed, it’s wise to take a few deep breaths and frame that comment within the credibility scale, in order to gauge the relevance of that comment.

Chances are, you are doing something that most of your friends are not doing, nor are they even considering. Naturally, that invites some skepticism. But a lot of that skepticism is generally unfounded and misinformed. Therefore, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to spend a lot of time thinking critically about the actual point they are making.

The best course of action is to determine just how relevant and informed your friends’ or family’s opinions are before taking them to heart. By eliminating the common misconceptions, you keep from dominating your already complicated thought process and free up more attention for the informed, educated comments that may actually be very good advice. The six-point scale works as follows, based on a simple premise: Pay the least attention to the least experienced, and give the most attention to the most experienced.

From Least Experienced to Most Experienced:

1) The person does not have a passport. This group represents the majority of people in the United States. About 80 percent of Americans do not have a passport. These are people that have never left the United States and cannot legally leave the United States even if they wanted to…but they don’t. This means that person has never even thought seriously about leaving their home country, even for a vacation. How can that person really tell you what life will be like in Belize, Costa Rica, or Argentina? Sure, listen to what they have to say, but put it at level-one in the back of your mind as you weigh the various responses you get to your new agenda of life abroad.

2) The person has a passport, but has never used it. Give a little bit more relevance to opinions here. The person could legally leave the country if they wanted to, and they have at least thought about the idea. They have been serious enough about considering travel overseas that they put up the time and money in order to get a passport. They may have done this in order to take a cruise at some point in the future, since cruising internationally now requires a passport. Until 2009, a valid driver’s license was all that was required to re-enter the county from a cruise ship. Yet still, to date, this person has no international experience, so it is really difficult for them to have a clear perspective on what overseas life will be like – but the passport at least indicates a degree of international mindedness that, as we know, is a critical factor in the decision to live or invest globally.

3) The person has a passport and has traveled abroad to some extent. This person has a passport and has embarked on some international travel. Maybe it was a Caribbean cruise, a class trip to Mexico in high school, or maybe a destination wedding in Spain. But they still stepped outside of U.S. borders. Ask them about their experience. Did they like it? Did they wish they could have done more traveling abroad? Did they ever have the opportunity to travel abroad, turned it down, and regretted it later? While not specifically relevant to your new lifestyle, these questions still strike at the core of international adventure and life overseas.

4) This person has traveled internationally to a great extent. This person could be a jet-setting businessman or a travel writer, or someone who constantly saves up for big, month-long excursions. This person has a thirst for travel and has seen many different parts of the globe. This is a relevant point of view to take in. Maybe the traveler could never live in just one spot overseas, because there are too many places they still have to see. Maybe the businessman hates traveling and wishes he had more time at home. Maybe the travel writer has always wanted to live overseas for years.

Take in those perspectives as well. Though they may not match up directly with your plans, you are talking to members of the international community – what do they like and what do they not like about being overseas?

5) This person travels extensively AND has been to your country of choice OR has spent time living overseas. Very relevant. Ask what other people liked about your intended new home. What did they not like? How long did they stay in Belize or Nicaragua or wherever the destination is? Talk to your new friend that has spent years living in a foreign country. How was it? What were the benefits of staying in a country for years, rather than just merely visiting it? These people have been through the experience of wide travel, living abroad, and know what it is like in your new home, or know what it is like to be an expat. These people have the most relevant opinions, save for…

6) The person who has lived overseas in the country of your intended destination. Bullseye relevance. But you might think, “Well, where am I going to find someone else that has lived in Panama?” Those people are easier to find than you think. If you are currently in dialogue with a developer or realtor in Panama, ask them to connect you with other people to whom they have sold homes. The developer will gladly comply. Also, ask, “What about people that moved here and it wasn’t for them?” Who were they? If possible, talk to both sides. Find an online forum and read other people’s opinions. Maybe contact the local Rotary group in Panama and ask to speak to their chairperson about the challenges of living there.

These people are your best resources into what life is like in your intended new home. Finally, after you have had a long conversation about the exciting adventure of life abroad, and the intricacies of living in a foreign country, ask the expat who’s lived there for some time, “If I move there, am I gonna get killed?”

See what they say… if they can stop themselves from laughing long enough to answer.

The bottom line is that when we consider the source analytically, we can apply the appropriate weight to the opinion. Just like we don’t go to a nuclear engineer to help us with a knee replacement…the very well-educated surgeon, who can replace my knee but who’s never been outside the U.S., can’t really offer good advice on this topic.

If we are the kind of people who view the world as a large place full of opportunities to explore, then we must face the fact that we are going to be outside the herd much of the time. If we are investors, this is the opportunity to be “outside the masses.” Most people won’t understand, nor will they care to understand, what we are doing. Relish in this. Know that the rewards of adventure, monetary gain, fulfillment, and life’s excitement rarely go to the meek.

The 6 Levels of Credibility When You Go Global

Make 2018 the year that you decide to get outside the masses and internationalize your life in some way. Visit a possible future vacation or retirement location and check it out. It’s easy. Go online right now, really right now, and buy the plane Consumer Resource Guidetickets. Search around for a good deal and just buy them.

If you bought your tickets, and I hope you did, now you are committed. Just like that. Chances are, you’ll show up to the airport on the day you are scheduled. You’ll have done what you’ve been putting off for a long time.

Or, if global investment diversification is a priority over an international lifestyle, decide that you are going to take a small step in defining your legacy. Do something that your kids, grandkids, and great grandkids will remember you for long after you are gone. Email Rachel and get the paperwork right now.

Owning timber, and teak specifically, is a great way to ensure generational wealth stewardship for centuries. Ownership of these lasting hard assets cost less than a small car. And unlike that car that you’ll trade away in a few years, the timber will live on for generations to provide wealth, funds, and significance long into the future.

The 6 Levels of Credibility When You Go Global

This is the moment to take action and do something. Go online and buy a plane ticket. Email Rachel and see how easy laying down a legacy really is. Do it today. Do it now.

Transform 2018 into a year of significance and importance for you and your family – and perhaps make it a year to be a beacon of leadership for some friends who just need a light out front for them to follow.

Make 2018 a meaningful, significant, profitable, adventurous, and fun year. Take action.

This article was published in the Escape Artist Weekly Newsletter on January 03, 2018. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.

Michael K. Cobb is the CEO and co-founder of ECI Developments which has properties throughout Latin America. He speaks all over the world on international real estate and is a board member of the National Association of Realtors.

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