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We recently received a great question from a reader, Chuck, who asked, Simon, Im going to HK in 10 days to open a bank account, and I know there are options to do this in several foreign currencies. What foreign currency would you recommend to hold over the longer term?
I could never make a personal recommendation as Im not a financial advisor, nor do I know the details of your situation. But lets review the options.
First off, Hong Kong is an excellent place to bank. One of the best in the world, in my opinion and I say that as someone who keeps a lot of money in Hong Kong. Why? Because the banks are strong, stable, innovative, and well-capitalized.
I have far fewer concerns about a bank going under in Hong Kong than I do in the US or Europe. And in Hong Kong, with just a few clicks, I can move money into gold or any number of currencies.
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Its quite easy to open an account in US dollars (USD) in Hong Kong. Now, the downsides of holding USD are clear continued expansion of the Federal Reserves balance sheet coupled with excessive spending habits of the US government make it an increasingly worthless piece of paper in the long run.
There is a flip side to this view, though, as we have discussed before. Historically, the USD has been viewed as a safe haven currency. When things get bumpy in financial markets, financial institutions and foreigners tend to hold dollars.
Its bizarre to view the biggest debtor in the history of the world as safe, yet this is due to a few factors the dollars free-floating convertibility; the ridiculous size of the US dollar (and bond market) which makes for easy liquidity; and the US governments guarantee to never default (by simply printing more).
Hong Kong banks also offer a plethora of other currency options like the Singapore dollar, Australian dollar, Korean won, Canadian dollar, and in some cases the Norwegian krone.