I’ve written many times about the importance of internationalizing your assets, your mode of living, and your way of thinking. I suspect most readers have treated those articles as they might a travelogue to some distant and exotic land: interesting fodder for cocktail party chatter, but basically academic and of little immediate personal relevance.
All very well, you may say. But there are practical issues, you also say. A person can’t just pick up and leave and go where he wants and do what he wants…can he? Get real, Casey. There are reasons a person has to stay where he is, aren’t there?
Let’s look at some of those reasons.
“America is the best country in the world. I’d be a fool to leave.” That was absolutely true, not so very long ago. America certainly was the best – and it was unique. But it no longer exists, except as an ideal. The geography it occupied has been co-opted by the United States, which today is just another nation-state. And, most unfortunately, one that’s become especially predatory toward its citizens.
“My parents and grandparents were born here; I have roots in this country.” An understandable emotion; everyone has an atavistic affinity for his place of birth, including your most distant relatives born long, long ago, and far, far away. I suppose if Lucy, apparently the first more-or-less human we know of, had been able to speak, she might have pled roots if you’d asked her to leave her valley in East Africa. If you buy this argument, then it’s clear your forefathers, who came from Europe, Asia, or Africa, were made of sterner stuff than you are.
“I’m not going to be unpatriotic.” Patriotism is one of those things very few even question and even fewer examine closely. I’m a patriot, you’re a nationalist, he’s a jingoist. But let’s put such a tendentious and emotion-laden subject aside. Today a true patriot – an effective patriot – would be accumulating capital elsewhere, to have assets he can repatriate and use for rebuilding when the time is right. And a real patriot understands that America is not a place; it’s an idea. It deserves to be spread.
“I can’t leave my aging mother behind.” Not to sound callous, but your aging parent will soon leave you behind. Why not offer her the chance to come along, though? She might enjoy a good live-in maid in your own house (which I challenge you to get in the US) more than a sterile, dismal and overpriced old people’s home, where she’s likely to wind up.
“I might not be able to earn a living.” Spoken like a person with little imagination and even less self-confidence. And likely little experience or knowledge of economics. Everyone, everywhere, has to produce at least as much as he consumes – that won’t change whether you stay in your living room or go to Timbuktu. In point of fact, though, it tends to be easier to earn big money in a foreign country, because you will have knowledge, experience, skills, and connections the locals don’t.
“I don’t have enough capital to make a move.” Well, that was one thing that kept serfs down on the farm. Capital gives you freedom. On the other hand, a certain amount of poverty can underwrite your freedom, since possessions act as chains for many.
“I’m afraid I won’t fit in.” As I explained a little earlier, the real danger that’s headed your way is not fitting in at home. This objection is often proffered by people who’ve never traveled abroad. Here’s a suggestion. If you don’t have a valid passport, apply for one tomorrow morning. Then, at the next opportunity, book a trip to somewhere that seems interesting. Make an effort to meet people. Find out if you’re really as abject a wallflower as you fear.
“I don’t speak the language.” It’s said that Sir Richard Burton, the 19th-century explorer, spoke 10 languages fluently and 15 more “reasonably well.” I’ve always liked that distinction although, personally, I’m not a good linguist. And it gets harder to learn a language as you get older – although it’s also true that learning a new language actually keeps your brain limber. In point of fact, though, English is the world’s language. Almost anyone who is anyone, and the typical school kid, has some grasp of it.
“I’m too old to make such a big change.” Yes, I guess it makes more sense to just take a seat and await the arrival of the Grim Reaper. Or, perhaps, is your life already so exciting and wonderful that you can’t handle a little change? Better, I think, that you might adopt the attitude of the 85-year-old woman who has just transplanted herself to Argentina from the frozen north. Even after many years of adventure, she simply feels ready for a change and was getting tired of the same old people with the same old stories and habits.
“I’ve got to wait until the kids are out of school. It would disrupt their lives.” This is actually one of the lamest excuses in the book. I’m sympathetic to the view that kids ought to live with wolves for a couple of years to get a proper grounding in life – although I’m not advocating anything that radical. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give your kids: to live in another culture, learn a new language, and associate with a better class of people (as an expat, you’ll almost automatically move to the upper rungs – arguably a big plus). After a little whining, the kids will love it. When they’re grown, if they discover you passed up the opportunity, they won’t forgive you.
“I don’t want to give up my US citizenship.” There’s no need to. Anyway, if you have a lot of deferred income and untaxed gains, it can be punitive to do so; the US government wants to keep you as a milk cow. But then, you may cotton to the idea of living free of any taxing government, while having the travel documents offered by several. And you may want to save your children from becoming cannon fodder or indentured servants, should the US reinstitute the draft or start a program of “national service” – which is not unlikely.
But these arguments are unimportant. The real problem is one of psychology. In that regard, I like to point to my old friend Paul Terhorst, who 30 years ago was the youngest partner at a national accounting firm. He and his wife, Vicki, decided that “keeping up with the Joneses” for the rest of their lives just wasn’t for them. They sold everything – cars, house, clothes, artwork, the works – and decided to live around the world. Paul then had the time to read books, play chess, and generally enjoy himself. He wrote about it in Cashing In on the American Dream: How to Retire at 35. As a bonus, the advantages of not being a tax resident anywhere and having time to scope out proper investments has put Paul way ahead in the money game. He typically spends about half his year in Argentina; we usually have lunch every week when in residence.
I could go on. But perhaps it’s pointless to offer rational counters to irrational fears and preconceptions. As Gibbon noted with his signature brand of irony, “The power of instruction is seldom of much efficacy, except in those happy dispositions where it is almost superfluous.”
Let me say again, time is getting short. And the reasons for looking abroad are changing.
In the past, the best argument for expatriation was an automatic increase in one’s standard of living. In the ’50s and ’60s, a book called Europe on $5 a Day accurately reflected all-in costs for a tourist. In those days a middle-class American could live like a king in Europe; but those days are long gone. Now it’s the rare American who can afford to visit Europe except on a cheesy package tour. That situation may actually improve soon, if only because the standard of living in Europe is likely to fall even faster than in the US. But the improvement will be temporary. One thing you can plan your life around is that, for the average American, foreign travel is going to become much more expensive in the next few years as the dollar loses value at an accelerating rate.
Affordability is going to be a real problem for Americans, who’ve long been used to being the world’s “rich guys.” But an even bigger problem will be presented by foreign exchange controls of some nature, which the government will impose in its efforts to “do something.” FX controls – perhaps in the form of taxes on money that goes abroad, perhaps restrictions on amounts and reasons, perhaps the requirement of official approval, perhaps all of these things – are a natural progression during the next stage of the crisis. After all, only rich people can afford to send money abroad, and only the unpatriotic would think of doing so.
I would like to reemphasize that it’s pure foolishness to have your loyalties dictated by the lines on a map or the dictates of some ruler. The nation-state itself is on its way out. The world will increasingly be aligned with what we call phyles, groups of people who consider themselves countrymen based on their interests and values, not on which government’s ID they share. I believe the sooner you start thinking that way, the freer, the richer, and the more secure you will become.
The most important first step is to get out of the danger zone. Let’s list the steps, in order of importance.
Where to go? The personal conclusion I came to was Argentina (followed by Uruguay), where I spend a good part of my year, and even more when my house at La Estancia de Cafayate is completed.
In general, I would suggest you look most seriously at countries whose governments aren’t overly cozy with the US and whose people maintain an inbred suspicion of the police, the military, and the fiscal authorities. These criteria tilt the scales against past favorites like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the UK.
And one more piece of sage advice: stop thinking like your neighbors, which is to say stop thinking and acting like a serf. Most people – although they can be perfectly affable and even seem sensible – have the attitudes of medieval peasants that objected to going further than a day’s round-trip from their hut, for fear the stories of dragons that live over the hill might be true. We covered the modern versions of that objection a bit earlier.
I’m not saying that you’ll make your fortune and find happiness by venturing out. But you’ll greatly increase your odds of doing so, greatly increase your security, and, I suspect, have a much more interesting time.
Let me end by reminding you what Rick Blaine, Bogart’s character in Casablanca, had to say in only a slightly different context. Appropriately, Rick was an early but also an archetypical international man. Let’s just imagine he’s talking about what will happen if you don’t effectively internationalize yourself, now. He said: “You may not regret it now, but you’ll regret it soon. And for the rest of your life.”
Doug Caseyfor The Daily Reckoning
Doug Casey of Casey Research is the author of the best sellers Strategic Investing, Crisis Investing, Crisis Investing for the Rest of the 90's, and most recently, Totally Incorrect. He has lived in seven countries and visited over 100 more. He has appeared on scores of major radio and TV shows and remains an active speculator in the stock, bond, commodity, and real estate markets around the world. In his spare time, Doug engages in competitive shooting and plays polo.
Certainly a well-written article that promotes and encourages expatriation. I would add a note of caution; the current relationship of the U.S. with foreign countries is likely to change in the eventual future. Your wealth may make you very welcome, as any good customer is welcome.
In my travel experience, some of the citizens of other countries do not love the imperialistic, warlike actions of the U.S. government. This resentment can turn openly hostile when the U.S. loses some of the international power. One may be graciously welcomed today only to find a knife in your back tomorrow.
Your Part One paints a very bleak outlook for the U.S. and I’m sorry to say that I agree. Life abroad may be easier than the coming chaos. To me, this is the main reason for staying here—I see this trauma coming. It is going to change our country and I hope to be here when it happens. It’s going to be the greatest show on earth and I want a front row seat.
“If you buy this argument, then it’s clear your forefathers, who came from Europe, Asia, or Africa, were made of sterner stuff than you are.”
our forefathers came to america to build it. but you don’t advocate maintaining it, or even building a new nation – you advocate the more cost-efficient approach, which is finding a nation that someone else has built, something that suits you, and settling in comfortably. and being international you parochially think you’ll retain the rights of a u.s. citizen. but you won’t. when the markets slowly grind down and the world economic situation deteriorates the chimps will hoot and grunt at you, because you will be the refugee with all the bananas.
The best advice I received when I was considering moving abroad back in the mid ’90′s came from a friend, and it was this, “Let your mind go, and your body will follow.”
There are definitely warning signs in the US, but there is also danger of going from the frying pan into the fire. Argentina is known for having difficult episodes that can last decades.
I choose to stay. And fight for freedom. “Fight” may mean to rally against those who choose to attempt to take away our inalienable rights – preferably non-violently, but fully prepared to take it to the streets if need be.
Some may choose to move away from tyranny, though I maintain they are likely to become the focus of different tyranny – and so gain little from the effort.
I say it is far better to stand your ground and put your effort into effecting change where you are or go down fighting.
Life is short, in the long run it doesn’t really matter what you do. So you may as well live strong and proud and brave. If enough of us do that then tyranny will be defeated everywhere. I we all choose to flee, then tyranny will flourish.
Perhaps I would leave. But then I would have to GO somewhere else.
You seem to know something I don’t: Which nation is going to afford me a better life than this one? Which one is going to continue unscathed by a worldwide financial collapse? Which one will escape the burgeoning NWO?
Which one is immune to terrorism or from being drawn into a world war? Which nation will not infringe on my personal liberties?
Drunk & Disorderly wrote,
“This resentment can turn openly hostile when the U.S. loses some of the international power.”
I think the history of the 20th cent. proves that statement wrong.
British people can travel in India with very little hostility shown to them, even though Britain lost its global power a long time ago.
Once an Empire comes to an end, the resentments against that Empire fade with astonishing speed.
If the USA abandons its empire, it might become a weaker power, but people around the world would soon be a lot friendlier to Americans.
Well I can see learning the Tango while hanging out in Argentina and I can agree with the steps you lay out. And I will also agree with Drunk and Disorderly when he said he can see this trauma coming. It is going to change our country and I hope to be here when it happens. It’s going to be the greatest show on earth and I want a front row seat. In my experience with traveling mostly in Latin America very few agree with US policies and yet everyone I meet really like Americans and not our government.
anyone assuming that they have knowledge skills, connections and experience that the locals done in a foreign or emerging country is in for a very abrupt suprise. these countries are full of young, qualified, computer literate and hardworking people who can do your job for a fraction of what you cost, unless you are very, very lucky.
As an expat working in Egypt with a business in Sri Lanka, this comment is based on experience.
@ Charlie Scene: Um…better than the US? Well, I moved to Vietnam.
Cigarettes are $1 a pack and I can smoke them anywhere. A draft beer is a 25 cents a glass. I live in a brand new 5 story 4 bedroom four bath townhouse in the middle of the capital (Hanoi) and my rent is a bit less than $500 per month. I have a maid who is extremely happy that she is paid $2 an hour–much more than her peers.
I am paid “foreigner” money for what I do. I clear a bit over $100K a year–working part time, and basically spend about $15K a year to maintain my lifestyle with the big house and the maid and all.
The rest hangs out in banks, in off shore tax havens working for me.
The government here is pretty much incapable of collecting taxes from anyone. Yes, we don’t have McDonalds here, but we do have KFC. There are nice, modern grocery stores, if you can afford it. I can. Most people here can’t.
Expat stores handle all of our grocery needs with imported beef, lamb and chicken from Australia and NZ–so we eat well and are getting fat.
What is your definition of “freedom” that you are defending?
Economic collapse? It’s here already. With a white face, and working around the globe on the internet, it doesn’t touch smart people like us.
NWO? This is already a communist dictatorship–with benefits for the economically advantaged…what else could happen?
I had to come to a communist country to find the freedom to smoke a cigarette in a bar.
Enjoy the nanny state you are defending. This is the 5th country I’ve lived in (US, Germany, France, Australia, and now here) and I’ve never been freer because I’ve never been richer–in relation to the people around me.
The author is 1000% correct.
Go ahead, stay in Amerika. Bahhhh! Good sheep!
FireSteel, you said it best. There is no utopia. Those who think that they have found freedom by escaping Amerika may someday be victimized by another successful thug who gains power in the Promised Land of their choice.
The US has a tradition of freedom that seems long forgotten these days. But people like FireSteel have not forgotten. There are others too. I would think that it would be easier to reintroduce freedom to those who have forgotten than to try to introduce freedom to a land where it has had no heritage.
The US is the largest customer in the world and everyone in the world is making their product to market to gullible Americans. I wonder what will happen to the rest of the world once the US collapses?
And to the expats out there…if we ever have a revolution in this country and my side wins, I’ll make it an issue not to allow immigration to the US and not to admit expats back. Afterall, we are not Afghanistan, Iraq or Iran where the idiots allowed expats to return and run their lives after all the idiots fought and died.
I think there will come a time when you will not be permitted to leave.
I’ve been buying into Colombia for close to a decade now and am looking to jump ship asap. Land is reasonable, Bogota is extremely affordable, cosmopolitan, exchange rate has dropped to roughly 1.75MM on a daily basis, govt is fairly neutral, heavy in mining, oil and farmland. Ridiculous amount of beautiful women. Concerns: Narco problems, security still an issue in outlying areas, graft, typical Latin American problems.
Are they on the upswing for real this time? I think with our collapse, China and South America come out winners for the next decade or so. Anyways I’m all in. Cmon 7!
Anyone who does not take Casey’s advice is a fool. The US is finished – get out while you still can.
What about the horrible tax consequences via the HEARTS Act? Congress threatened to stick it to the Sheeple for years and came through I think in 09′. They don’t want to let go of those who were PRODUCTIVE. Unless that law is ditched like the 1099 form nonsense from ObamaCare, it’s safe to say for many that the horses have been let out of the barn.
Firesteel.com: my sentiments exactly. I’d honestly rather die here trying to save America. We are still the free-est nation on earth. Like the man said, this is the last bastion of freedom, if it dies here there is no where to else to go. I know it’s a long way from where it should be, but I believe we can take it back. The situation today is no where near the starvation that brought my grandparents here. Even the great depression was no where near as bad here as the rest of the world.
Hey Kellyn; when you say America is still the free-est nation on earth, are you speaking from personal experience,or just being a little chauvinistic? How many countries have you lived in, not counting package tours?
My travel overseas is limited. However, I would have to disagree that America is still the “free-est” nation on earth. You live here, right?
I agree with the basic just of the article and have been pursuing avenues to depart since 2007. I gave serious thought to Ireland first, having made a “recon” trip back in the early part of ’09. Sadly, EU employment regulations killed my aspirations, however it may have been a blessing in disguise with the collapse of the “Celtic Tiger” that ensued.
I have sense focused on the land of the Kiwis. But have lost momentum because of the anticipated expenses. I am very discouraged because I find myself sadly in the “serf” category because of inadequate finances. Because of the sad state of the public school system, my wife and I elected to homeschool our children. This led us to be a one-income family, which is proving to be financial suicide given the times and the fact that we have 6 children and I make less than 70K/year.
I know in my heart that for us to have any hope (not the kind Barry Soetoro and his kind offers) we have to do like our forefathers and seek out a new land. Unfortunately I do not see how we can make it happen. Our debts mount and all we can see on the horizon is more quicksand.
If you are in any position to do so, yes get out while you can. Don’t make the mistake of getting trapped when the new reich tightens its talons.
You are only limiting yourself. Who said the only countries in this world are in the EU & NZ? The West as the preeminent economic region is finished. Asia is coming up and so is South America. And living costs there are much cheaper than the places you’ve been looking. Look further afield and you will find your salvation.
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In places like Mongolia or Myanmar, for example, you find today’s Dakota Territory.