We all have our own priorities in life. We each make our own subjective assessment of what trade-offs are worth it and which are not. These decisions, whether we explicitly realize it or not, depend on our personal values.
Leaving one’s native country can be a decision fraught with many elements that can force us to put a pretty sharp point on which of our values matter more. A sense of adventure versus fear of the unfamiliar. Devotion to loved ones versus betterment of your own life. Loyalty to aspects of your country versus contempt for aspects of your politicians. The list is long.
I’ll tell you my #1 reason for being an expat (which I have been for more than 30 years.) But first I have to disclose one of the greatest values I hold. I’m basically preoccupied (some might say obsessed) with the issue of human freedom.
I think if 7-billion humans lived in true freedom (complete control of their lives and property), the world would be immeasurably better. No wars, less crime, more creativity, more productivity, more happiness.
Nobody can wave a wand and make that happen overnight; but as individuals, I think we can each move toward the condition of having more personal freedom.
Being an expat greatly increases my personal freedom. That’s my #1 reason for being one. Here’s why.
Freedom of Movement
I never liked having one passport. So now I have two, have already qualified for a third, and will soon be on the path to a fourth.
If you read the fine print in your passport you’ll see that you don’t own it. It’s the property of the government that owns you. Yes, I use the term ‘own.’ No matter where you are a citizen, the government represents you with a number (Social Security Number, Social Insurance Number, National Insurance Number, etc.).
That makes you and your lifetime earning power a well-defined financial asset to your government. They own that asset and its future value. Your government can, among many other things, borrow money based on the fact it can confiscate a substantial portion of your production for as long as you live as a way to pay back the loan. The US can borrow $20-trillion and say “Send Joe and his kids the bill, they’ll pay it off eventually.”
Other countries must borrow less only because they don’t have as many workers making the same money. Most countries seem to borrow up to the limits of their ability.
Because that’s such a sweet deal for a government, they always retain the right to cancel your passport immediately and make you stay where you are. Why let milk cows off the dairy farm?
Any person holding only one passport is at a disadvantage in terms of his personal freedom. He or she can be made a captive of their own country overnight when any ‘emergency’ is declared, including manufactured emergencies that ensure capital and milk cows will not leave the country.
Control of My Property
When I lived inside one country and had only one citizenship I had all my eggs in one basket. Everything I owned, my house, cars, vacant land, bank accounts, company incorporations, investment accounts, and personal belongings were, for legal purposes, in one place.
I once had the State of Idaho allege that I owed $1,500. The first I heard about it was a letter informing me they had removed that amount from my bank account. How nice for them. And how easy. Two years later they decided the amount I owed was $30,000. I had to hire a lawyer and accountant, at my expense, obviously, to prove the amount I owed was actually $0. After that, I not only left the state, I left the country. (I was not a citizen anyway.)
When you begin to live in other countries, even as a visitor with no local legal status, you realize how easy it is to buy assets, open bank accounts, and find new ways to hold assets outside your native country. Options abound.
Since I’ve made all of my income online for more than fifteen years, there are fantastic options available to me. I can have a website owned by a company in a particular country, have the business pay me based on a management agreement with another company in another country, bank in yet another country, and spend my time living in other places altogether.
Would you sooner pay higher taxes or lower taxes? Up to you. In the world of asset confiscation, that is not the low hanging fruit. Ask a guy in Idaho. (This arrangement is often called ‘flag theory.’) I call it common sense prudence in an increasingly crazy financial world.
Control of my own property is a cornerstone of freedom, as I define it. Being an expat gives me more control of my property. Easy choice.
Control of My Life
Using more than one passport, I can travel more freely and stay in many places longer than even the best top-tier passports would allow.
I can easily use medical care all over the world. I can buy brand name medications in two minutes at drugstores without paying $150 and a half-day appointment hassle to get a prescription first. I can get a CAT scan this afternoon if I want to pay for one.
I can meet interesting people from completely different backgrounds, cultures, and viewpoints than what I used to see in my native country.
I can eat wonderful food that costs half of what the tasteless factory food costs.
In general, being a visitor/tourist/non-citizen in any country means all the life-sucking, paperwork compliance rules don’t even apply to you. And since most countries are still smart enough to know they want more paying visitors rather than fewer, you get treated more like a welcome guest and less like an abused milk cow.
Control of my own life is a cornerstone of freedom, as I define it. Being an expat gives me more control of my life. Another easy choice.
If personal freedom is a condition that is deeply important and satisfying to you, take a serious look at living as an expat. It might end up being your #1 reason too.