There’s Money To Be Made in Bad Economic Times

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A few days ago, I met with a brilliant young geneticist who has been able to devise a unique, cost efficient way to test for the presence of particular genes.

He wants to offer a service to test for CCR5-delta 32, a particular mutation of a gene found in Northern Europeans (and those of Northern European descent) that has shown resistance to Smallpox, HIV, and West Nile virus.

Among people in high risk groups for such infections, demand for getting test is strong, and his method has been able to reduce the cost of testing by up to 90% with no increase in error rate.

Rather let the idea fester in academia for the next several years, he’s decided to go into business… and I’m considering making an investment in the venture.

Another entrepreneur I met with has a website that sells electronic cigarettes in the UK. If you haven’t heard of this, it’s a device that looks, feels, and tastes like a cigarette, but produces water vapor instead of smoke.

It also gives the user complete control over the amount of nicotine s/he wants to ingest, making it a great tool for people who want to gradually wean themselves off the chemical.

This particular entrepreneur noted that a large number of Brits who currently smoke are trying to quit. The British economy is weak, and faced with declining income, Brits are cutting spending wherever they can, especially expensive habits like smoking.

Even in this weak economy, he is doing brisk business and sales are growing.

I’m telling you these short stories because I want to address an important point: even in dismal economic conditions, opportunities abound as long as you can still find a way to create value. These are just two examples.

On to this week’s questions. First, KC asks, “Simon, at a recent conference I asked a famous expat personality about buying and storing gold in the southern cone of South America (Chile, Argentina, or Uruguay). He and his associates could not provide specifics and suggested that I ask you. Any thoughts?”

Of the countries you mention, Chile is the best option for buying gold. In downtown Santiago, some of the money exchange houses (casas de cambio) display placards with “moneda de oro” (gold coins). Because they sell informally, they are not required to collect any VAT, and premiums can be as little as 1% over spot price.

There is no set figure, so it’s best to shop around from place to place and negotiate your own deal.

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