Posted by: T. Argerous Filosofos | January 18, 2010

How The Events In Haiti Have Helped Me

Its a new year, a new beginning and a new start. It has been awhile since I have been here writing, It has been almost two years since my head has been screwed on straight. The catastrophe in Haiti I think has helped me to begin to see clearly again and to help myself move forward.

The past 18 months have been the worse of my life with out exception, very nasty, lingering divorce, my Father died, daughter was very ill, huge tax burden to the IRS, loss of my assets and dignity as well. I was to say the least, feeling a little depressed. Not seeing any reason to move forward with my life. Stopped doing business, seeing friends, answering the phone. I just stopped everything in my life.

I have for the last few days been watching as things unfold in Haiti. I first thought, like most people ok so there was an earthquake and how does this affect me? As I watched and saw the devastation and listened to what was going on I began to think about how selfish I had been and it stirred up a number of memories.

While I had been wallowing in perhaps my own self pity, focusing on how bad my life had become and waiting for someone to help me, I realized that my problems were nothing compared to those who were struggling to stay alive.

When Hurricane Andrew struck back in 1992 I was one on the first to visit Homestead. I was Operations Manager for the City of North Miami Beach at the time and the day after the storm was asked to take a team and a number of supplies and to go to Homestead to see if we could help. I was told that no one was able to contact anyone in the city or county govt there. Part of my “mission” was to find them, ask them what they needed and report to my City manager. That day we packed the trucks and I got a team together and we decided to leave at midnight. We got into Homestead around 4am. What normally was a 1 hr drive took us 4.  City hall was open, we went in and no one was there.

As the sun came up I was appalled at what I saw, Complete destruction as far as you could see in every direction People coming out and walking the streets still dazed. All of these things were re-triggered in my memory as I watch things unfolding in Haiti. Although I believe Haiti to be much worse than Andrew ever was. We were on site before most anyone else, We called the governor to ask for help. He called the President who finally sent the military in about one to two weeks after the storm.

Comments are being made on the TV about Haiti, the stench and the bodies and the overall horror. I remember the stench, dead bodies, dead animals, rotted food from homes, raw sewage, decay. It was horrible. Something that I think when you experience it -it never leaves you-It never left me. I have a sense of what they are experiencing in Haiti, only I believe it is on a much much larger scale that what I experienced. Doctors are cutting off limbs with rusted saw blades for gods sake.

So what does this have to do with me?

What I saw and experienced in Andrew, and what I see now in Haiti is the will of people to live thru horrendous times, suffering and despair. It is hard to imagine living hour to hour, we believe we are a civilized world until things like this happen and for a period we are with out the things we take for granted every day.

These people have begun to move forward with their lives, they continue to help others. They have absolutely lost everything, think about it, no id, no money, no family in many cases, no friends in some cases, all lost in a single moment. And yet they move forward, they start over, they will rebuild their lives.

And me? What the hell do I have to complain about? Yes I have gone thru some hard time lately, and it seemed like the end of the world for me but you know what, I dont have anything to complain about. I will start over and this is one of the reasons why I am connecting with you all again. I want to thank the Country and People of Haiti, for helping me realize I have absolutely nothing to complain about. I will do whatever I can to help those people in need.

They will climb out of their hole and move forward with their lives, I plan to do the same. and in time I will go to Haiti and help them rebuild. They have helped me and now they need help.

Prey for those in Haiti – do what you can to help. Think about if that happened to you and your loved ones.

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Posted by: T. Argerous Filosofos | September 25, 2009

So Dad/Mom whats there to do In Panama?

You know I have been going to Panama for over 35 years now. I love it there! Here’s a snapshot of Panama’s defining experiences: a modern capital on the canal, near-deserted islands, and trails for spotting wildlife and waterfalls. Get a sense of which ones fit your travel style and your budget.

Follow the path of conquistadors and miners

Panama City is three cities in one: the conquistador-era Old Panama; the colonial quarter of Casco Viejo; and the modern capital, a forest of gleaming skyscrapers that’s easily the most cosmopolitan city in Central America.

Among the ruins of Old Panama, razed by the pirate Henry Morgan in 1671, the centerpiece is the cathedral tower. It’s one of Panama’s proudest national monuments, and thanks to a recent restoration, visitors can climb to its top for the first time in 355 years.

The city was rebuilt on a small peninsula five miles west of its original site. Known today as Casco Viejo, the second Panama City is a maze of Spanish- and French-colonial buildings that includes the Museo del Canal Interoceánico de Panamá, which tells the story of French and American efforts to build the Panama Canal.

Restaurant Las Bóvedas is built right into the stone vaults of Casco Viejo’s seawall; below it are dungeons where Spanish conquistadors allegedly drowned their prisoners at high tide. The restaurant’s French-inspired dishes are pricey; the same spooky atmosphere pervades the bar (011-507/228-8058).

Not far from Panama City is a section of the Las Cruces Trail, built around 1530 by the Spanish to transport treasure looted from the Inca Empire across the isthmus. Their two main forts on the Caribbean side, San Lorenzo and Portobelo, endured 200 years of pirate attacks.

An Old San Lorenzo Guard house

An Old San Lorenzo Guard house

The encroaching jungle is attempting to complete what the pirates started, but their partially restored ruins still guard the now-silent coast. Portobelo is easy to get to by public bus, but visitors to the more remote San Lorenzo need to either rent a car or hire a guide with one.  Call us to set up your next trip! Those are my kids checking out the guard house!

The Las Cruces Trail was revived as an important route in the 19th century, when forty-niners used it during the California gold rush. The route proved so popular that entrepreneurs built a railroad across the isthmus to speed up the journey.

Its descendant is the Panama Canal Railway, a comfortable and extraordinarily scenic way to travel from ocean to ocean in about an hour ($22). There is only one passenger train each weekday, leaving Panama at 7:15 a.m. and departing from Colón at 5:15 p.m. The train ride is an event in itself, but once on the Caribbean side, several attractions are a short taxi ride away, including the mile-long Gatun Locks.

For many, a transit of the Panama Canal is the trip of a lifetime, a chance to experience one of the great human achievements of the 20th century and see the progress on its multi-billion-dollar expansion for the 21st. For those already on the ground in Panama, a day trip is easily arranged for a tiny fraction of the cost of a cruise. Panama Marine Adventures and Canal and Bay Tours offer partial canal transits on Saturdays ($115). One Saturday a month they offer full canal transits ($165).

Surf or dive on a deserted beach

Miles of Empty Beachs

Miles of Empty Beachs

Panama has two oceans, 1,500 miles of coastline, and hundreds of islands. In other words, it’s easy to find a deserted beach. Surfers and sunbathers favor the archipelago of Bocas del Toro for its bohemian party scene and wide expanses of white sandy beaches. Accommodations include dorm beds for $10 at the backpacker paradise Mondo Taitu, and quieter private rooms at the spotless Hostel de Hansi for the same price (011-507/757-9085).

The most famous surfing spot is Playa Santa Catalina, which has one of the most consistent breaks in Latin America and wave faces that can reach 20 feet. Its growth as a tourist destination has made Panama’s largest island, the remote Isla Coiba, accessible to budget travelers because it is only about an hour by boat away from Santa Catalina.

The waters off Coiba are spectacular for scuba diving and snorkeling — the second-largest coral reef in the eastern Pacific Ocean attracts 760 species of fish as well as larger sea creatures such as humpback whales, orcas, manta rays, and sea turtles. Coiba Dive Center and Scuba Coiba offer excursions starting at $55 per person for a full-day snorkel trip. Other more informal operators offer boat trips to Coiba.

Kuna Girl

Kuna Girl

Kuna Yala, also known as the San Blas Islands, is a Caribbean archipelago of nearly 400 coral islands and the home of the Kuna, arguably the most intact indigenous society of the Americas. A visit is memorable as much for the chance to meet the Kuna as for the chance to swim in remarkably clear waters and lounge on palm-covered desert islands.

The best of the low-end places is Hotel Kuna Niscua, a tidy, well-cared-for little place on the island of Wichub-Huala. Rates are $50 per person for a room, a daily boat tour, all meals, and transfers to and from the airstrip.

Go in search of birds and waterfalls

Starting east of Panama City and extending all the way to the Colombian border is the Darién, one of the world’s last great wildernesses. It should top any adventurer’s list. The most pristine spots are accessible only by chartered plane or guided trek, but there are cheaper options.

Our Little Waterfall In Panonome

Our Little Waterfall In Panonome

Burbayar Lodge, for instance, is in the middle of a forest on the western edge of the Darién — and about 50 miles from Panama City. It has some of the best birding in eastern Panama, with more than 300 species identified near the lodge. (Panama has nearly 1,000 species, more than the United States and Canada combined.) Round-trip transfers from Panama City, accommodation, all meals, and a daily guided hike along the continental divide is $190 per person for the first night, $155 for subsequent nights at Burbayar.

The mountains of western Panama offer considerably cheaper but equally pleasant lodging for hikers, wildlife watchers, and waterfall seekers. These include the charming Hostal La Qhia in the little-known mountain town of Santa Fé and the Lost and Found Lodge Eco Resort and Finca la Suiza, both of which are just off the Fortuna Road, a famous bird-watching destination.

Prices top out at $55 for a double room at Finca la Suiza, which has extensive private, well-maintained mountain trails crisscrossed with hidden waterfalls. It can get surprisingly cool up here — 57 degrees Fahrenheit at the highest points along the Fortuna Road — and it’s a delight to step out of protected forest to see panoramic views of the lowlands and ocean. More than 1,000 plant species have been identified in the Fortuna Forest Reserve alone.

All of these spots are near the Continental Divide, which appeals to nature lovers because they have access to both Pacific and Caribbean flora and fauna.

Our Friend Mr Toucan

Our Friend Mr Toucan

Western Panama is the most mountainous part, but it’s not a land of towering peaks — by far the biggest is the 11,400-foot Volcán Barú, a dormant volcano. There are plenty of accessible hiking trails, and non-hikers can have a Blue Lagoon moment just off the Fortuna Road by getting off the bus or parking the car at kilometer marker 67. At the bottom of a short path is El Suspiro, a rarely visited 100-foot-tall waterfall at the end of a narrow box canyon.

In the western highlands, the town of Boquete is known for its mild weather and gourmet coffee. Bird watchers, hikers, and the high-adrenaline set visit to search for the resplendent quetzal bird or climb Volcán Barú, from the top of which it’s possible to see the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea at once.

Other attractions around Boquete include world-class white-water rafting, the longest zip line ride in Panama, and rock climbing on a column-like basalt formation called Los Ladrillos, just outside of town.

When to go

Panama has two general seasons, rainy and dry. The dry season lasts from mid-December to mid-April and is Panama’s summer, when schools are out, prices are higher, and hotels are fuller.

Panama is especially beautiful at the beginning of the dry season; late in the dry season the foliage turns brown.

For most of the rainy season, storms blow through quickly, leaving much of the day and evening clear. Only those planning serious jungle hikes or backcountry drives should be too concerned about the rain.

Rain tends to be heaviest and last the longest toward the end of the rainy season, in November and early December. However, there is some regional variation.

Insider tips

1. Panama uses the U.S. dollar as its paper currency, known locally as either dolares or balboas. Panamanian coins are nearly identical to and are used interchangeably with U.S. ones.

However, some U.S. credit and debit cards have begun charging a foreign transaction fee of 3 percent or more for purchases and ATM withdrawals made in Panama. Check your card’s fine print and apply for a new card without these fees if necessary. Travelers’ checks are not easy to cash in Panama.

2. Panama has lots of microclimates, so peak season may not be the best time to visit your destination. For instance, in Bocas del Toro it’s usually drier in the rainy season month of September than during Panama’s official dry season, but prices are still lower, the islands are less crowded, and there’s a chance of seeing nesting sea turtles.

3. Tourist taxis, identifiable by license plates that begin with SET, lurk outside Panama City’s tourist spots and upscale hotels. They’re more comfortable than regular taxis, but they’re authorized to charge several times the normal fare. For a cheaper ride, walk down the block and hail a street cab, of which there are thousands. Taxi drivers in Panama are generally reliable characters, though many drive like maniacs — the norm for Panama motorists unfortunately.

4. Panama is a rather formal country, so reserve the shorts and flip-flops for the beach. Some establishments will turn you away, and others will assume you’re a disrespectful, clueless foreigner and treat you accordingly.

5. So-called Panama hats are actually from Ecuador. You can find them in Panama, but they’re not genuine souvenirs.

6. It’s a big hassle to drive a rental car in Panama City, and not necessary. Taxis and buses are cheap, plentiful, and safe.

7. If you want to cover a lot of ground, avoid visiting Panama during national holidays, particularly around Christmas, New Year’s, Carnaval (the four days before Ash Wednesday), and Semana Santa (the week leading up to Easter). These are festive times, which means everything shuts down

Price index

• Bottle of Cerveza Panama, a locally brewed beer: 75 cents-$1.50

Your Chair is Waiting!

Your Chair is Waiting!

• Meal-of-the-day at a comida corriente (fast-food) diner, including meat, rice, beans, and salad: $2.50-$3

• Mola (hand-stitched artwork made by Kuna women from layered, brightly colored cloth): $15-$35

• Average taxi ride within Panama City: $2-$3

• Average rate for a two-star hotel in Panama City: $45 (one or two guests)

For more information of if you would like to plan a trip to Panama please email me at info@tafgroupllc.com. We look forward to hearing from you!

Posted by: T. Argerous Filosofos | September 4, 2009

Income Property — Is it Time to Buy?

This whole economy thing has got me ( along with 5 billion others) confused. Too many questions that just don’t make sense. Are we in a recession or a depression ( my vote – Depression). Market on the uptick? Why are there more unemployed? Stimulus working – Why more loosing jobs? Why more business failing? I just dont get it. And I dont think our Govt gets it either. What I do know, is that now is a good time to be investing in Income Producing Property. Many are taking advantage of the markets conditions right now and are buying. I believe there is one thing that most everyone agrees with. The market is close to, if not at the bottom right now.

I tend to tell others to think of the RE market as you do the stock market with Cities as different stocks. They all go up and down at different rates. We all want to buy low and sell high. We should have sold our portfolios back in 2006. Now I think, we should be buying . I dont believe we will see any great appreciation in any markets for a long while and maybe never get back to the rates we saw in 2003-2006. But values will begin to rise soon but at a much slower pace. You still need to be cautious and make sure your deals are sound. If you get in now and look for the long haul you will be making some money. Dont buy for appreciation, buy for the long term. (5 yrs +) Now-  Which market should I invest in and then what type of properties within those markets?

As I said there seem to be signs that the real estate housing market is beginning to recover, although it is still very confusing, leading some to think that income property investment is still profitable. In the southern part of the United States, a 7.1% increase in home purchases occurred during the month of June.  Several of the federal government’s 12 regions, including New York and San Francisco, have been showing signs of returning stability and even California and Florida, the States most devastated by the mortgage crisis, are starting to bottom out. (Is this because of the $8000 Govt incentive?)However, not every region is experiencing the same growth. (Different stocks go up and down at different rates)

In general, the western half of the United States has not seen the same recovery rate as the rest of the country, and in places like Minneapolis, the situation might actually be getting worse. Nevertheless, the rising rate of unemployment may be preventing many Americans from feeling the recovery.  Overall, the economy grew towards the end of 2008. That gave many people hope for the future. However, unemployment has been growing even faster and may reach 11.2% by February of 2010. (Florida’s rate I think is about 11 % or more, among Construction workers about 53%) With numbers like that, many investors are beginning to wonder if an income property investment would be an acceptable way to augment their finances given the fact that income properties are becoming a catch 22 situation. Many investors don’t have enough money to buy investment property, and if they did, they probably wouldn’t need to buy them in the first place.

A catch 22 is a very grim assessment, but one that needs to be factored into any discussion about the income property investment or the market’s. The sad part about all of this is that no one seems willing to broach the topic of bailouts for the individual. In fact, Congress is steadily trying to cut down the length of time that people can file for unemployment benefits. It would be much more reasonable to work on cutting down the unemployment rate. If that was reduced, then it’s reasonable to believe that people wouldn’t need to file for unemployment at all.

At this time, the real estate market is deceptive. Mortgage rates are very low, and it’s clearly a buyer’s market. However, buyers are losing jobs at an astounding rate, and that usually makes it difficult to own a home. The bright side to all of this is that, for the people who already own an income property investment, it is also a landlord’s market. Investors may be faring better than almost everyone else in the country right now.

Even though i have gone thru an icreadble bad part of my life (Divorce, family health issues, deaths, loosing most of what I have) I am the eternal optimist. Things will get better. Now is the time time to invest. The market is at its lowests or colse to it and while no one can time the market with any certainty if you ar an investor you have one guiding principle – Buy Low, Sell High.

I am buying again, Starting to work the markets. Things will get better – dont know when exactly but they will get better and I will be among those who bought low.

If you are interested in where I am buying and would like us to find some properties for you in good undervalued, emerging and income producing markets contact me at info@tafgroupllc.com.

Posted by: T. Argerous Filosofos | August 31, 2009

Arizona economy third weakest in US

This Depression that we are in has caused many of the states that were leading the economy in the past to become some of the weakest states in the nation currently. You may be surprised which states are now leading and where the powerhouses of yesteryear are today.

Phoenix Business Journal – by G. Scott Thomas

The recession has turned America’s economy on its head.

High-profile states that led the charge to prosperity earlier in the decade now are among the biggest drags on economic progress. Arizona, Nevada, Florida and California rank among the weakest states today, according to a new bizjournals analysis.

Less populated states, on the other hand, are faring remarkably well in these tough times. North Dakota, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Alaska and West Virginia are among the strongest states economically.

Bizjournals analyzed the recent economic records of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Each state’s results were compared with corresponding national averages in six categories. Above-average performances received positive scores, while below-average numbers drew negative scores.

The study focused on six indicators, using raw data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and Federal Housing Finance Agency: unemployment rate, nonfarm employment growth, personal income growth, wage growth, home value growth and construction employment growth.

The results indicate bad news for Nevada, Michigan and Arizona, which ranked as the three weakest states in the nation economically. Arizona ranked next to last in job and wage growth, and 48th in home value and income growth.

With a score of minus 9.489, Nevada’s unemployment rate has soared to 12 percent, its job base has shrunk by 6.2 percent and its home values have plummeted 31.1 percent since mid-2008.

Michigan ranks next to last in economic strength, followed by Arizona, Florida and California. These four states lost more than 5 percent of their jobs during the past year. Their wage levels and home values also dropped substantially.

North Dakota, with a score of 7.463, surprisingly emerged as America’s economic powerhouse, ranking first in bizjournals’ overall standings. It’s the only state with an unemployment rate below 5 percent, and the only one with positive growth rates in all five of the other categories during the past 12 months.

Rounding out the top five are Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and the District of Columbia. All of these runners-up suffered job losses during the past year, but their income levels are rising (except South Dakota’s) and their home values are holding steady (except D.C.’s).

The population gap between America’s strongest and weakest states is striking. Four of the 10 strongholds have fewer than 1 million residents, but each of the 10 weaklings has more than 2.7 million people.

The following is a rundown of the economic climate in the nation’s four major regions:

West: Alaska (sixth) didn’t add or lose any jobs during the past year. That somewhat upbeat news is offset by the collapses in Nevada (51st), Arizona (49th), California (47th) and Oregon (44th). However, all four have lost more than 5 percent of their jobs since mid-2008.

East: Only two Eastern entries are in the top 10: the District of Columbia (fifth) and West Virginia (seventh). The latter is a surprise, as West Virginia usually can be found at the tail end of economic standings. Connecticut (42nd) is the weakest in the East.

South: Southern states became accustomed to prosperity during the past quarter-century. A few — not the usual suspects — still are doing reasonably well: Louisiana (second), Oklahoma (third) and Arkansas (eighth). At the bottom of the regional list is Florida (48th), which is saddled with double-digit unemployment.

Midwest: The western tier of Midwestern states is the strongest: North Dakota (first), South Dakota (fourth), Nebraska (ninth) and Kansas (21st). The economy gets weaker as you move eastward through the region, culminating with Ohio (46th) and Michigan (50th). The latter has an unemployment rate of 15.2 percent, the worst in any state since 1984.

G. Scott Thomas is projects editor at Buffalo Business First, a sister publication.
Posted by: T. Argerous Filosofos | August 26, 2009

Panama’s economy rises in June, govt eyes recovery

Well it looks like the Government of Panama is paying close attention to the business climate in the country. The new President who has, so far it seems, done everything he can to stimulate and add new Business to the economy and to help stimulate the existing business that are currently employing its citizens. I guess that is what happens when you put a true Business man and not a politician in office. I believe you will see a huge difference in the way Panama conducts business in the future. A “change” for the better. It is still a great place to invest with huge opportunities still available.  We are here to answer any questions you may have and help move your business forward into this expanding new frontier.

Tuesday, August 25 2009 @ 01:15 PM EDT
Contributed by: Don Winner


PANAMA CITY, Aug 25 (Reuters)Panama’s economic activity rose 0.31 percent in June from the same month a year ago, lifting hopes the Central American nation may return to a growth trend, the government said on Tuesday. The latest batch of monthly data broke two consecutive months of declines. In the first half of 2009, Panama’s economic activity decreased 0.05 percent, compared with an 8.44 percent growth in the same period in 2008, according to government figures. “A process of deceleration of the negative trend has begun,” said Panamanian comptroller Carlos Vallarino in a press conference. Despite previous slumps, Panama, home to one of the busiest trade canals in the world, is still expected to grow by 3 percent this year. Panama’s dollarized, service-based economy grew at an average of more than 8 percent the last five years, making it one of Latin America’s strongest performers

Posted by: T. Argerous Filosofos | August 25, 2009

Business bankruptcies up 64%

I am having a hard time figuring it out. Is the economy getting better or worse? Stock market seems flat. Housing seems to be moving, but is it? What do you think?

Getting Better?       Worse?       About the same?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009, 1:53pm EDT  |  Modified: Tuesday, August 25, 2009, 3:59pm

More than 30,000 businesses filed for bankruptcy protection in the first half of 2009, a 64 percent increase from the same period a year earlier.

The number of Chapter 11 business reorganizations increased by 113 percent, to 7,396, and Chapter 7 business liquidations jumped by 57 percent, to 20,375, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute.

It is unclear how many business owners were among the 681,217 Americans who filed personal bankruptcies in the first six months of 2009.

“The increase in filings through the first half of this year is a product of continued financial stresses weighing on both consumers and businesses,” said ABI Executive Director Samuel Gerdano. “In this challenging economic environment, we expect bankruptcies to surge past 1.4 million by year end.”

A total of 381,073 bankruptcy cases were filed in the quarter ended June 30 — the highest quarterly number since 2005, when filings surged in the weeks before tougher bankruptcy laws went into effect.

For more: http://www.abiworld.org.

Posted by: T. Argerous Filosofos | August 18, 2009

Florida’s population drops

The talk around the investors water cooler lately, has been that people are moving out of Florida and have been for the last two years or so.

A few short years ago the talk was that about 1000 people a day were moving into the state and buying all those houses. Now it seems the shoe is on the other foot. Where are they moving too? Again, the word on the street is, they have become halfbacks. Many people left NY , And the NE to move to Florida, now they are leaving and only going half way back to the Carolina’s, Tenn or Virginia.

What about your area, Are they moving in? Out? or are they Stuck?

We invest in emerging and undervalued markets. Are we investing in your market yet? Should we be?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009, 2:32pm EDT

Orlando Business Journal

The recession and housing market bust are likely causes for the first decline in Florida’s population since 1946, University of Florida researchers said.

The university’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research estimated the state’s population slipped by 58,294 people, to 18,748,925 on April 1 from 18,807,219 in April 2008.

“You can look at the one-year change if you want, but given the housing boom and bust, it’s possible that our bigger estimate included some speculative housing numbers,” said Scott Cody, a research demographer at the bureau. “You also may have had a lot of temporary residents still in 2008 – construction workers who were here and renting – and they were able to move.”The last official, final census count – in 2000 – was 15,982,824.

Cody said Florida’s natural attraction to retirees and as a vacation destination will probably continue to fuel growth after the economy improves.

Detailed numbers for each county and city are expected to be released Tuesday.

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