Wisdom of the Masses Q & A

by | Sep 11, 2010 | Archives

To share the inner intelligence that we all have… we have made  Saturday our Wisdom of the Masses Question, Answer and Comment day.

7 questions answered and three comments below:

*  #1: Are there Ecuador bugs & spiders?

* #2: Bank secrecy question.

* #3: How good are are US tax deductions in Ecuador?

* #4: Should one be a US citizenship or not?

* #5: Are Ecuador osteopaths and cancer cures quackery?

* #6: Are there Freemasons in Ecuador?

* #7: Question on driving to Ecuador.

* #1: Comment on driving to Ecuador

* #2: Comment on Ecuador red tape.

* #3: Comment on American liberty.

We can all benefit from the wisdom of the masses.


Almost every day a flock of wild turkey graze through our North Carolina front yard.  That flock displays a lot of wisdom.


For example no matter how much they are eating… one turkey always keeps its head up watching for the masses… a designated driver in the wild!

We try to keep out heads up for you so please send your questions, opinions  or comments.

We love the turkeys along with a host of bats that live in the shutters and the spiders and snakes in North Carolina because they keeps the bugs in check.

This leads us to the first question which is about bugs & spiders in Ecuador. 

Here are questions comments and replies for this week.

Question #1: Hello Gary,  I appreciate your web site very much.  My question is about insects, four legged animals, snakes, etc.  in Ecuador.  What can one expect in an apartment, a walk on the beach, a home near the beach or the Andes?   In Thailand there are spiders (harmless) but huge- five inches or so circumference, that require one to sleep with a net around thier bed.  They can be scooted out of the way with your hand, but nevertheless, for Americans not used to these types this could be unsettling while adjusting to living in Thailand.  So, I’m wondering what to expect if I move to Ecuador.  Thanks for your input.

Reply: Merri and I have always been amazed at the lack of insects… snakes etc.  in the Andes.  There are almost no insects or snakes. The only one that annoys is a small bug that hangs out in long grass… called “moscas”.  They bit like a redbug (jigger) and itch like crazy.  We sleep with our windows open… no screens required and our I do ever recall seeing a snake or spider.  These bugs in the grass aren’t everywhere and can be easily cured and naturally..which we have done around ourselves…but don’t lie down on a grassy area outside a soccer field for instance.

On Ecuador’s mid coast in the winter (the warm season) there a few mosquitoes, but nothing like south Florida, ore the north USA in summer.   They come out at dawn and dusk when the onshore and offshore breeze stop but I find if I wear long pants and shirts at this time… there are few bites.  We use mosquito nets as we like to sleep with our French doors open so we can enjoy the sound of the surf.

I have not spent much time on the southern coasts where there are more mangroves but have been told that the mossies are in greater numbers there.

Also that is where malaria and dengue fever are…however, I don’t think anyone would like to live in those areas…just like few people live in the Everglades in Florida.

If you want bugs,  and spiders and snakes, go to lower altitudes in the Amazon and cloud forests.  There are a lot of them there.

Question #2: You’ve said for years now that there is no more bank secrecy.  Recently I’ve received a request from the bank that took over for Anglo Irish in Austria. They ask me to sign a form “waiving bank secrecy” in accordance with US law and also provide them with a W-9 Form? They say if I do not give it to them, they will “put a documentation block on the account as these documents are necessary to fulfill our legal requirements.”  Instead of Anglo Irish Bank, it’s now called “valartisbank.” Would you please share your thoughts and comments on this?  What are the pros and cons of signing?  I really don’t wish to close my account, unless there’s something I am not thinking of.  I did not like JGAM’s minimums. But like offshore.

Reply: I highly recommend you sign the form. This allows the bank to provide the highest service and avoids the risks of automatic withholding.  You should be filing a Treasury Department form TD F 90-22.1 anyway so you are not giving up any confidentiality.

The benefits of overseas accounts are greater global investing expertise… ease of having multi currency accounts and investments and asset protection.  They are more private than most US accounts… but they are not secret. If a bank offers you a secret account, run as fast as you can.  Such banks are more likely to attract customers doing things illegally and you do not want your name to be near when trouble starts!

US legislation has created so many compliance issues for overseas banks that they now all have to do one of three things.

#1: Nickel and dime the account. I stopped using Anglo Irish long ago. They were a really great bank. I loved the people and had used them for decades, but their fees were very high for everything.

#2: Have higher minimums. This is the approach that Jyske has taken. $100,000 minimum for managed accounts and $1 million for advisory accounts.  This is just about the lowest anywhere anymore. We should not blame the banks. They have to make a profit.  We have to accept the blame as voters for allowing our Congress to pass laws that require banks to police their clients and fill in so many forms.

#3: Have a minimum fee. I use a great London stock broker that will open accounts for any amount but has a minimum annual fee of 1,000 pounds  (appx. $1,500 dollars) so you do not want a $20,000 account there!

Question #3: Hi Gary,  My dad & I are going to do the Ecuador Real Estate tours in October. He has been doing a lot of reading and is getting excited. He asked me a very reasonable question. Right now he gets a big tax deduction for interest paid on mortgage interest. His income is from an annuity, interest/dividends and Social Security. If we buy property in Ecuador, will he get the same thing? I thought we’d have to pay cash for property there, but I don’t know what the tax consequence is for him. Somehow it seems that he would be better off cash flow wise, but I don’t know how to explain it.

Reply: In Ecuador there is no tax on offshore income.  If your father becomes resident in Ecuador he receives a $92,000+ tax deduction each year. This is probably more than his current mortgage deductions.  He should consult with a tax preparer who has experience with US and Ecuador tax…. such as David Ingram (see next reply). 

Question #4: My husband and I are Cdn citizens but have held a green card for more then 8 years.  We have 3 children, 2 are dual and one is Cdn with a green card also.  We have made the decision to return to our hometown after several years.  The reason we are moving is for family.  We originally thought we would get our US citizenship before we depart so that our youngest would also be dual and keep our options open for the future.  We have received advice from several different source, both American and Canadian advisers.  At this point we are more confused then anything.  We are concerned with getting the citizenship because of our covered ex pat status and also concerns from my parents regarding inheritance and joint real estate we own.  Do you have any advice?  When is it possible to discuss this matter.  We are pushing back our citizenship interview which was originally scheduled for September 13th, 2010. Thank you

Reply: David Ingram replies:

If you give up your green cards and fifteen years later, your two US citizen children are living in Texas, you will not be able to just move south to be with them (for family as you describe returning to Canada).

If you leave one child without US citizenship, I can almost guarantee that “that” child will be the one that wants to move to the US in the future.

In general, my advice would be to take out your US citizenship and hold your options open.

However, if you do, you will have to file US returns for as long as you live, will be subject to US estate tax, etc.  I do not have enough information to deal with that.  You can, of course, file form I-131 before you leave the US and keep your Green cards alive for a long time without taking out citizenship at this time. The longest I know of is 8 years.

David Ingram is a CPA in Canada who can prepare tax returns for Americans and Canadians living in Canada. His email address is taxman@centa.com

Ecuador Living subscribers can get many additional tax and legal contacts at the password protected page “Ecuador Legal Contacts

Learn how to get an Ecuador Living password here.

Question #5: Regarding your article Way Beyond Not Ill that mentioned Dr. Robert Wickman in Quito how did you miss the report about him at quackwatch?

Reply:  I did not miss it.  We first learned of Dr Wickman from several clients who were cured of cancer and told us of Wickman. We researched, interviewed and totally disagree with quackwatch.  We did provide a link to Dr Wickman’s site where he openly mentions his arrest decades ago in the USA and in my opinion very honestly describes his treatments and a persons choices.

“Wickman states in his biography at that site: “In 1984 I was taken to court by the state of Arizona via the medical profession for fraudulent schemes and because I knew a health store owner and spoke with him on occasion, this made both of us co-conspirators and we went to jail for conspiring to commit fraudulent schemes. Can you believe that? I had to go to jail and lose my license to practice medicine because people got well and refused to die on schedule. In 1995, another judge that was not part of the original case to nail me, overturned this conviction, but could not give me back those lost years and the lost lives of many the patients who died because I was unavailable. Many were on the road to recovery, but had to settle for death as a result of my conviction. Many families were torn apart because an important part of the family had died. Is that fair?

Of course no one testified against me for saving their life, but the damage was done by “experts” that weren’t familiar with my techniques or treatments. In fact, in 1986, when all my options were closed to practice medicine anymore, I became a fugitive and left my country to set up life in another country, another continent, yes in South America to be exact. I was able to get established as a licensed health care provider, in fact the only Osteopathic Physician in Ecuador.

“I just could not bear to see years of suffering take place in my patients when a cure was certain for them. Many did suffer for years before they found me and had their suffering end in optimal health. I believe we were put on this earth to live and not exist with disease. Again, getting rid of symptoms just doesn’t cure the disease!”

My opinion is that quackwatch is at times a bit quacky themselves in condemning anything they do not understand or is different from the norm.

Dr. Wickman is highly respected in Ecuador by the medical community and as mentioned a number of our readers feel he saved their lives.  This is also one thing Merri and I really love about Ecuador is it let professionals practice with more liberty and let patients choose the type of care (from shamans to surgery) they desire.

Question #6: Are there any Freemasons in Ecuador (Quito).

Reply: The Grant Orient of Peru started Freemasonry in Ecuador in 1857 with lodges in Quito and Guayaquil.

When the lodges refused membership to the dictator in power at that time he slowed the growth and it was not until the early 1900s that the Grand Lodge of Ecuador was formed and exists to this day.

Let me add a comment about the free masons. I am of Scottish grandfolks and my dad’s dad was a Mason.  My father-in-law was a Mason. My mother- in-law and first wife were heavily involved in  Eastern Star.  The order of the Eastern Star is a society designed for the wives, daughters, and female relatives of men affiliated with Masonry.  They claim no association with Masonry but the causes and doctrines are extremely similar such as the belief of  faith in God and character building to obtain salvation by doing good works.

They were also involved in Freemason youth organizations, Order of DeMolay, Job’s Daughters and the Rainbow Girls.

They basically taught seven Cardinal Virtues:

•    Filial love (love between a parent and child)
•    Reverence for sacred things
•    Courtesy
•    Comradeship
•    Fidelity
•    Cleanliness
•    Patriotism

I am not nor never was directly involved in any of these organizations but my observations from being surrounded by them is that they were great charitable organizations but they certainly did not possess any of the mystic or conspiratorial qualities we read about these days.

I am a member of both Knights Hospitaler and Knights Templar and though we do some charitable work… ditto re mysticism or conspiracy. See more at www.Templarcode.com

Question #7: Without even seeing Ecuador, I plan to move there, yet, that time is 1 1/2 years away.  My son who is 51 and myself (69) already have our tickets for May 20 – June 3, 2011.  My son has an MCI 40′ bus, we are bringing down (we are checking on shipping now).  We had planned on driving, but recently learned about the Darien Gap. Between us, we have 2 dogs and one cat.  Can you direct us to any websites or info that could help with either of those?  Thank you for whatever information you have for us.

Reply:  Please…. please…. please do not plan on moving to Ecuador without visiting and staying a while. Our advice is visit first.  Cover some territory.  If you like what you see… come and stay as a renter. Learn the ropes. Look for bargains.  Then if happy…. buy.

I would not try to drive the Pan Am highway from the US to Ecuador. This is only for the most rugged and experienced.   Reader Mike Van Pelt and his wife Rene drove all over Latin America in this special vehicle built on a German Unimog.

Ecuador Real Estate Benefits Photo # 2

Even they did not take on the Pan Am Highway.  But the big thing is Ecuador will not allow used vehicles to enter the country!  They are strict on these issues and even if you made it through the now roughness of Mexico and then though Colombia, you would be turned down at the entry into Ecuador.

Ecuador Real Estate Benefits Photo # 3

The comment from another reader explains the cost of getting through the Darien Gap.

The Darién Gap is a large swath of undeveloped swampland and forest separating Panama’s Darién Province in Central America from Colombia in South America. It measures just over 160 km (99 mi) long and about 50 km (31 mi) wide. Roadbuilding through this area is expensive, and the environmental toll is steep. Political consensus in favor of road construction has not emerged, and consequently there is no road connection through the Darién Gap connecting North/Central America with South America. It is therefore the missing link of the Pan-American Highway.

Come down, look around and see how you like the Andes AND the indigenous people…not everyone does!

Reader Comment #1: The Ecuadorian embassies in the US are a joke.  Called about 15 of them to ask one question, at least 12 had phones discontinued or no answer during work hours.  One girl was on vacation for 15 days and no forward.  All have an english option and then speak Spanish. The website says you can mail in visa application for 48 hour service.  The only person I was able to talk with said “no mail -you have to present documents in person.”  Their office is 10 hours drive from me.   Is this a primitive society?

Wanted to drive Pan AM highway to Ecuador, the 54 mile gap in road  would cost us over $4000 in vehicle shipping and air fares two-way.  USA put man on moon 50 years ago and Panama can’t build 54 miles of road.

My Comment #2: I am guessing that this reader has not tried to deal with any US agencies recently. Even the IRS when it gives advice adds a disclaimer…. that their advice cannot be taken as accurate!  I stood in line for four hours at the Miami passport office to get a passport renewed for our daughter (who was at school in England only to be told we could not get it renewed while she was out of the country.  The English consul of course did not want to renew it because we were not there.

I have also driven well over ten hours (Naples to Gainseville) just to get a Department of Agriculture stamp so our dog could travel to Ecuador because the Miami Dept. of Ag people were on Christmas holidays.

I have had even US customs at Houston Airport lose my passport as I was traveling!  They would not help in any way and stranded me for four days. What a mess that was.

The point?  Taxpayers dollars seem to work equally well everywhere. Red tape and bureaucratic bungling are not inclusive to third world countries.  Ecuador in many ways is less primitive to my way of thinking than many western nations.

Merri often deals with these consulates and she finds them very helpful in person (but hard to deal with on the phone).  However, for us we are 7 or 8 or sometimes ten hours away from a consul.  They are overworked there and under-staffed however, she reports than when she walks in the door, and there are never ay seats everyone rushes over to help her and let her go first in line…there again bureacracy is hard but the people are good.  We try to find our answer from Ecuadorean attorneys, other people who have tried to do the same that we are trying to do and the Ecuadorian Business Consuls…always helpful to us.  When I asked Merri to comment…she said “Be prepared for everything before you walk in the door.  If they tell you, Credit Cards only, then take cash (more than you will need AND a check AND credit cards…if they tell you cash only, then take all of the above! Be prepared for anything.”

Reader Comment #3: Thank you for your time,  I am a fellow Oregonian,  who stumbled onto your site accidentally while researching.  Having said that, I thank you for your work, and am now your newest student.

With respect to the questions for next week.  I wish to respond to the post from the gentleman requesting an answer to his query  “will america’s form of government survive in future given current lack of consistent information that reaches the concerned and the influence of the larger corporate businesses and unions as un-reported by today’s media?’

This is the very thread present in today’s media that led my research to your site.  I have come to believe that when we Americans discuss the intent and presence of democracy we fail to hold of greater importance that we are a ‘Limited Democracy’.   We forget that the core of our greatness is that individual rights come from a higher source and no form of government may supercede that.

The survivability of our system is sound, provided we do not cave to more government run social programs that replace a tradition of unprovoked private and individual contributions of generosity and charity.  Religion is a core value in this matter as it has always served as the catalyst of this behavior.  The more we neglect or shelve the idea of personal spirituality and the more we rely on legislative programs as substitutes for the caring of those among us who need, the more we will face an irreversible loss of the foundation that preserves our heritage.

Today, more than ever, demographics control and manipulate the media,  our lost ‘watch dog’ of the government’s actions.

Prior to writing this, I read your story on PIEC business and investing. Very astute advice for our country’s dilemma.  America needs to invest in it’s self.  Thank you again for your inspiration.

That’s it for this Saturday folks! Please send your questions and comments.