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The Greek crisis slipped the minds of European public opinion a while ago (at least for those who have no family or residence there). However, now could be a good time to reflect on certain lessons we can take from what happened, and more specifically, how we can protect our savings.

For a long time, the question was whether or not Greece should leave the European Union. In reality, the question should have been this:

Have you taken care of your savings yet?

If we try to withdraw money from an ATM and receive a message saying “No available funds” or “This ATM is out of order”, this should only be down to a technical problem, or maybe because the ATM really is abandoned.

Unfortunately, this may not always be the case. After the introduction of limits or bans on cash circulation, the bank really may not have the necessary funds at its disposal.

For example, in Greece, capital controls didn’t allow withdrawals of more than €60 a day, which led many Greeks to turn to Bitcoin to guard their savings.

Of course, only the lucky were able to withdraw any money, since over two thirds of ATMs in Greece had no available funds. Endless queues formed in front of bank branches, with customers waiting for over three hours to withdraw their money.

How long will it take for our politicians and leaders to gain the necessary responsibility and ability to tackle the economic realities of our country, in order to prevent us from ever having to experience this situation?

Our economic stability is in the hands of short-sighted bankers and politicians who are incapable of looking beyond their next pay check, the length of their tenure, or the next elections.

Our politicians, of course, don’t seem willing to learn from what happened in Greece. The only thing they can think of is to smile for the cameras and claim such a crisis could never happen at home.

They make promises and comments on how well things are going now. They forget, of course, how close we came to seeing the same situation in Spain, Italy, and Portugal, and that with unstoppable debt and sanctions around the corner, things aren’t looking good.

Who else remembers the Greek government promising to pay their debts? Of course, they did so without enforcing cuts or budget changes, keeping their loss-making spending policy and trusting that things would go to plan simply because they always had done.

Just as with the worldwide financial crisis in 2008 and the Spanish crisis from 2008 to 2014 (and there are official sources who say it isn’t over yet; only history can judge whether this is the case), we now have no trouble understanding how the Greek crisis happened, but still fail to understand why no one saw it coming.

This whole affair can teach as an essential lesson: even if something worked in the past, that doesn’t mean it will do so in the future, and protecting your savings by internationalising your assets is vital.

Imagine what it was like to experience the Greek crisis. You live in a European country with a long tradition and history, a country where the economy has long been described as poor, but where nothing is being done to change this.

And one day, you wake up to find that the banking system has lost $700 million overnight. The banks, of course, have lost the money deposited by their clients, and any savings kept there have been reduced to a figure in the owner’s bank book (or on the bank’s website).

The situation starts appearing in the news, so people get anxious and head to the ATMs, which are already out of money. This, of course, only makes the anxiety grow. Long queues start forming outside the banks, with clients shouting at the employees: “I want my money!”

Suddenly, the country you live in has stopped being a “first-world” country as far as finances are considered, and has been launched into a crisis that no one thought was possible.

And to continue with the game, let’s imagine that you and your family’s wellbeing depends on the politicians and the bankers…

Well, you don’t even need to imagine – that’s the reality!    

Another neighbouring example is that of Cyprus. There, the 2012 financial crisis led the Cypriot government to confiscate its citizens’ savings, obviously without asking first. Everyone with a bank account containing over €100,000 had to contribute 9.9% to the empty coffers of the State, and those with less paid 6.75%.

The 4 lessons of the Greek crisis that can help you protect your savings

So what lessons can we take from the Greek crisis?

Lesson one: Bank deposits are not safe.

Of course, this is the case across Europe, however much they try to convince us with their Deposit Guarantee Fund. Ultimately, these funds are controlled by the Central Bank, an entity that is gradually stripping our money of its value. The wisest option is not to trust them at all.

Lesson two: Don’t be influenced by what they tell you, and don’t listen to political propaganda.

Politicians and bankers try to persuade us that everything is OK. In fact, if you pay attention, you’ll see that this is a constant in every country. For the politicians, everything is fine, and this is even the case once the crisis has erupted.

It’s true that bigger EU States like Germany, France, Italy, and Spain are able to bear great volumes of debt on their shoulders, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t on the brink of bankruptcy, or that the law of gravity won’t affect them when the time comes.

Lesson three: It could happen to you too!

As a group, we tend to think that some things could never happen to us, simply because we’ve never seen a similar situation, which for us would be impossible. Of course, this is hardly a rational way of thinking.

We’re rarely able to recognise the warning signs. We believe that a State, a fictitious being, will protect us, while we blindly follow the rules imposed on us by the social contract, without realising that this is a contract we never signed, and that we’ve never had any real influence over.

We think that, since we’ve always lived in this state of being, it’s the only one possible, and that because the system has worked up to this point, it will carry on indefinitely.

Lesson four: The politicians aren’t going to save us from catastrophe.

There are two reasons why politicians are a bad option to rely on in times of crisis: they aren’t specialists and rarely know what they’re talking about; and most of them have made holding on to power (for themselves and their party) their ultimate goal.

The truth is that, however much our politicians promise us a dignified job, house, education, and security, they don’t have the power to fulfil their promises: they can’t change reality or modify the laws that govern our economy.

“Politicians are experts in illusions; changing reality has never been their strength.”

Firstly, they’re too busy with current affairs to think about (or prepare for) tomorrow. Secondly, when the sticks are down, not a single politician will be able to do anything to avoid catastrophe.

So how can we protect our savings?

Of course, as we always say, you have to start taking the reins of your life back.

Recently, we wrote about trusts and asset protection, which is certainly a very good option. However, you shouldn’t stop there: if you want to protect yourself economically, you need to internationalise and diversify your assets.

The greatest mistake you can make is to put all your eggs in one basket, even if this basket is supposedly the safest of all.

Therefore, if you want a share of your assets to be stored as money, keep it in different currencies and leave it in banks headquartered in different jurisdictions, so that if any State has economic problems, you won’t lose everything.

As always, go where they treat you best, and don’t be distracted by nationalism or patriotism.

Of course, no countries are looking to go bankrupt, but intentions are one thing, and the willingness to prevent catastrophe is another.

Depositing or leaving money in a Greek bank during a time of crisis simply because you’re Greek, for example, isn’t patriotism or solidarity, it’s sheer stupidity and the best way to lose your savings. Make sure you don’t ever make the same mistake…

On the Tax Free Today blog, we keep you up to date on how you can protect your savings and assets. You can sign up here if you haven’t done so already.

Of course, if you have any questions on the best way to protect your assets, you can also book an individual consultation with us.