People often express to me their concerns about moving to another country. After all, I’m an experienced expatriate, and it’s my job to help people think through their own “Plan B.”
I recently visited Uruguay for our Offshore Investment Summit, where I met plenty of prospective emigrants. I’ve also enjoyed a series of recent interviews with new members of our Freedom Alliance.
Both experiences have given me reason to think about the personal “offshoring” process. They also gave me a chance to refine the core elements of my message … a message that, I’m happy to report, appears to be getting through quite nicely.
Which Kind Are You?
Most prospective emigrants from the U.S. fall into one of two categories.
There are those looking for a change in their overall lifestyle, including their relationship to the United States. People in this category are aware of the “push” factors — such as the dysfunctional U.S. government and the threat of arbitrary wealth confiscation — but they’re also mindful of the fact that their lives will go on in a new country, so it makes a sense to take time to look for a place that “pulls” them. Such people generally accept a measure of trade-off in their ultimate choice of destination.
Then there are those who want to get the heck out of Dodge. They’re convinced that collapse is right around the corner, and they want out, NOW. They’re typically focused on protecting their financial assets above all. The choice of destination is less important than the ability to liquidate their U.S. holdings quickly — often converting them to gold or other precious metals — and to relocate them to their new home, no matter what the cost.
There’s something to be said for fear of imminent collapse. And it’s true that economic collapse — of the currency, of stock markets, of living standards — can, and may, come quickly. But paranoia is a poor framework within which to make decisions about something as fundamental as where on this earth you are going to live your life.
Your Guide to the Slide
In a recent conversation with colleagues, I made the point that in the most relevant historical cases — i.e. those with the greatest similarity to, and therefore most valuable lessons for, the U.S. — the process of “collapse” took time. It’s usually more like a “slide” than a sudden breakdown. I suggested that the best way to approach our work, therefore, was as a guide to that process in the U.S. … a Guide to the Slide.
That’s important, because we’re used to thinking of past cases of socio-economic collapse as being sudden and therefore terrifying. But when you look at them closely, the events we associate with “collapse” were really the culmination of much longer processes.
For example, many people see January to February 1933 as the moment when the German Weimar Republic “collapsed.” Indeed, the Weimar political system did disintegrate then, as Hitler first forced himself into power and then shut down the Reichstag in quick succession. But when you read the history of the preceding years, it becomes apparent that many Germans had long anticipated something like this, and had planned accordingly. What appears as a sudden collapse actually took almost 15 years.
The same is even truer of my favorite examples of historical collapse — of the Roman Republic and the Western Roman Empire. Both of these processes took over a hundred years, and the endpoints — the accession of Augustus Caesar in 27 B.C. and the occupation of Rome by Odoacer in 476 A.D. — weren’t considered of great significance at the time.
Keep Calm and Carry On
People make poor decisions when they’re terrified. Being terrified of imminent collapse and abandoning the U.S. in a hurry is a sure way to make plenty of them — selling assets prematurely, ignoring tax consequences, neglecting to do solid research, and so on. That’s why I’ve boiled down the fundamentals of my “Plan B” approach to three basic principles:
1. Your life and happiness is based on four cornerstones: your wealth, lifestyle, relationships and home. They are interdependent. Devote equal attention to planning for each of them.
2. You can’t buy happiness and you can’t eat money. If you’d really be happy sitting alone on a pile of gold bars on a desert island, by all means do it. But the most successful emigrants make sensible compromises between wealth and the rest of human existence.
3. The unit of decision-making is the family. When assessing values and potential trade-offs, include those that apply to your intra-household relationships too. Few people remain happy when surrounded by an unhappy family.
So by all means, get ready to go. But if a well-informed advisor tells you to wait a bit and think before making a big decision, follow their advice. You’ll be glad you did.
Offshore and Asset Protection Editor