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 — its total GDP is roughly $325.8 billion. That’s about 50 times smaller than the United States’ economy. Meanwhile, only 17.2 million people call Chile home… giving it a smaller population than Florida.
Right now, Chile’s economy is growing at a 5.5% annual rate. That growth is accompanied by perhaps the most fiscally conservative government on the planet. National debt in the United States sits at 72.5% of GDP. But Chile’s public debt totals just 12% 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 2012, it ran a surplus of 0.5%. For comparison, the United States ran a deficit of nearly 7% 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 15% today — a dramatic move in a little more than two decades. Meanwhile, unemployment sits at just 6.4% 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, Inc. (NYSEMKT: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 in the double digits — 11.25% to be exact.
But more important than Chile’s prosperity, or the fact that its companies are required to pay dividends, is what Chile represents.