It's a country that rarely gets any mention by the mainstream investing press.
Sure, you hear about India, China, Russia, and Brazil. And for good reason -- those countries are growing at incredible rates, which has made many investors rich already... and will make even more people wealthy in the years ahead.
But for my money, I don't know if there is a better place to invest than Chile.
It's small -- total GDP
is roughly $215 billion. That's about 70 times smaller than the United States' economy
. Meanwhile, only 17 million people call Chile home... giving it a smaller population than Florida.
Right now, Chile's economy is growing at a 5% annual rate. That growth is accompanied by perhaps the most fiscally conservative government on the planet. National debt in the United States sits at 100% of GDP. But Chile's public debt totals just 9% of GDP, according the CIA World Factbook.
In fact, it is required by law to run a budget surplus unless there are extreme circumstances. In 2011, it ran a surplus of 0.6%. For comparison, the United States ran a deficit
of nearly 9% -- or $1.3 trillion -- last year. And we haven't seen a budget surplus since 2000.
This good governance has allowed the country to flourish. Poverty has fallen from 45% in the '80s to 27% today -- still high, but a dramatic move in a little more than two decades. Meanwhile, unemployment sits at just 6.6% today.
One more thing... Chilean companies are required by law to pay dividends.
That sounds almost too good to be true for U.S. investors. It's one thing that income investors have always had to remember -- dividends are optional.
Dividends can be cut at any time, for any reason. While bonds
are required to pay interest, there is usually nothing requiring a company to pay a dividend
to its investors.
But in Chile, public companies are required to pay at least 30% of their net income
out to shareholders. In that regard, the mandate is basically a tax... but instead of the government grabbing their share, it goes to investors.
There's more good news. You don't need a specialized brokerage account to own Chilean stocks, and you don't have to buy the stocks directly from the Santiago Stock Exchange.
For example, the Aberdeen Chile Fund (AMEX: CH)
holds a stake in about 20 Chilean companies. By simply buying shares
of the fund here in the U.S., you're buying a stake in these companies. Right now the fund is yielding well into the double-digits.
But more important than Chile's prosperity, or the fact that its companies are required to pay dividends, is what Chile represents.
The country is a perfect example of the opportunities for income coming from foreign markets. As I've told you before
, the vast majority of the world's highest yields aren't being paid out by U.S. companies.
When I ran the numbers a few weeks ago, just 17 profitable U.S. companies had stocks with yields of 12% or more... compared to 210 abroad.
I want to make something clear -- I don't think you should drop everything and put every dollar you have into international high yielders. Truth is, the size and scope of the U.S. market makes it a great place to search for income investments.
But limiting yourself to only the U.S. is like going to a restaurant and limiting your options to just one side of the menu. Sure you can find something you like... but wouldn't you rather see all the options?
Paul Tracy does not personally hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article.
StreetAuthority LLC does not hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article.