The case for internationalization can pretty much be summed up in one word: options.
What kind of options, you ask?
Really, anything that increases your liberty as a result of being in a different jurisdiction could be considered a component of internationalization, but in particular, internationalization focuses on options related to your financial and political opportunities.
You’re welcome to read this guide in it’s entirety, or use these convenient links to refer to a specific topic.
What is Internationalization?
(If you have been with me since the VERY beginning you may remember the posts I wrote on the 5 Flag Theory, along with a couple of the way folks are putting it into practice.)
Internationalization is about systematically evaluating the major components of your life, exploring the options for them within other countries, and where better alternatives exist, taking advantage of them.
This could mean moving your business “headquarters” to Puerto Rico to avail yourself of favorable tax regulations, or establishing citizenship in Panama for additional banking and travel options, or keeping a portion of your retirement assets in a different country so that you can diversify the currency you are holding.
How to Internationalize
Let’s look at some of the most common components that people internationalize–what they do and why.
Personal Savings Accounts
Remember when your savings account actually EARNED you money? If you’re old enough to be reading this guide, you likely do. But in many places (particularly in the western world), this is a thing of the past, relegated to the history books.
In many places these days, savings accounts are at best, a break-even proposition. And in a handful of locations, savings accounts are actually earning NEGATIVE interest!!! What?!!!
Yep. Gospel truth.
What that means is that you will withdraw LESS money than you deposit. And in addition to these full0fledged negative interest rates, there are scores of jurisdictions whose “inflation-adjusted” rate is negative (i.e. inflation is 3% and interest is only 2.5%).
As if all of this weren’t bad enough, banks these days make it extremely difficult to make withdrawals larger than a nominal amount. There are typically waiting periods, and in the United States, trying to withdraw “too much” of your own money could get you flagged on the spot as a suspicious person, with an immediate cal from the bank to the authorities.
What if I told you that there were banks that still offered positive interest rates? That weren’t criminalizing you for trying to make a withdrawal? That didn’t make you wait 5-7 business days, so they could go round up your funds from whatever poker table they last left it at? That hadn’t been bailed out by bankrupt governments and overburdened taxpayers multiple times in recent history? That were backing up your money with more than a plastic smile and a shiny website?
Would it really matter if that bank were in Australia? Or Hong Kong? Or the Cook Islands, or Singapore, or Andorra?
Would you be such a tin foil hat weirdo for electing to earn 3% on your savings instead of -0.38? Or would that just be good sense?
Well, these banks DO exist, but they’re probably not in your home country. Which is why internationalization makes awesome sense for your savings account.
With just a little comparing, you can find a handful of banks in different jurisdictions that offer you tremendous upside as a place to keep your hard-earned savings.
Instead of keeping your money in a banking system that yields negative interest, imposes restrictions on withdrawals, and gambles your money at poker tables around the world, open a savings account with a bank that actually respects your business. An account that actually EARNS you money. An account that doesn’t make you wait 5-7 business days, or label you as a “suspicious person” if you want to withdraw your money. There are many banks that do EXACTLY this, but there’s a good chance you’ll have to look outside your own country
As a basic unit of exchange, the currencies we use affect us in many ways. For as long as we hold any currency, we are continuously susceptible to either upside or downside. Billions of external factors create never-ending fluctuations in the valuation of a currency, and as long as we hold onto it, we are along for the ride–be it good, bad, or otherwise.
Most people don’t consciously think about this every time they take out some cash to make a purchase, but it’s not too hard to understand.
Rather than hold a currency that’s stands to lose tremendous value (think U.S. Dollars and Euros), keep your savings and assets in a currency that actually has some upside.
For the majority of us, our retirement accounts represent a significant portion of our overall wealth. And just like our financial exposure in savings accounts and currency, having your entire retirement plan in 1 jurisdiction, is a risky proposition–ESPECIALLY if that jurisdiction is clearly headed down the toilet.
One dark and clandestine risk that comes with large financial institutions in bankrupt nations is the control that governments hold over them.
As has happened in the past in various jurisdictions, there’s nothing to stop a greedy government from forcing the financial mega-institutions of the country (think Goldman Sachs, Chase, Citi, Schwab, etc) to hold government bonds. Essentially, forcing account holders to take on the government debt. To invest in one of the worst investments in history.
Boom. Just like that, your precious retirement savings have been forcibly corralled into the devaluing slaughterhouse.
Instead of throwing up your cash like a hail Mary pass into an account in a bankrupt jurisdiction, hold your retirement assets in stronger markets. Structure your retirement account to hold assets of all kinds (including real assets like land and physical metal) in jurisdictions outside of your bankrupt country.
If you operate a business, structure your headquarters (and therefore taxable earnings) in a place with favorable business tax laws.
Productive businesses are frequently the target of bankrupt money-grubbing governments, so if you operate your business in a bankrupt nation, you can expect to be shaken down with as many taxes and fees as they can think up.
If that’s the case, there are many places in the world that offer favorable business conditions. Figure out which one makes the most sense for you, and then do what you need to do to incorporate your business there.
No sense in throwing away more money than you have to right?
Residencies, Citizenships, and Passports
What about your actual citizenship? This is an interesting one that has a tendency to make some people shiver. But it shouldn’t.
Like other components of internationalization, the residency, citizenship, and passport that you hold are both an asset and a liability. And it’s important to remember that you don’t set the terms. So the terms can change, have conditions added, or be revoked.
The bottom line is this–No matter who you are, having more than one citizenship extends additional opportunities, and helps to minimize your risk.
Familiarize yourself with the requirements for, and obtain an additional residency, citizenship, and passport. In most cases, residency and citizenship can be obtained through either naturalization, or economic investment. Figure out which countries make the most sense for your situation, and get the ball rolling.
At this point in time, it’s not really a secret that privacy is dead. Power hungry governments are doing everything they can to snoop into your emails, texts, phone calls, bank accounts, health information, and more.
Give yourself an added layer of protection against this snooping by headquartering your digital life in a jurisdictions that still favor privacy.
Set up your web hosting, email servers, and more within this jurisdiction. Wherever possible, take steps to secure your phone and other transmissions with encryption.
For some of you, this may be your very first brush with the idea of “internationalization.” It may seem cold and unfeeling, scary, and complicated. Take a deep breath.
You don’t have to do it all at once.
What you need to do right now, is realize that internationalization REALLY, TRULY, is your friend.
Even if your friends don’t understand it or think so. Even if it’s hard to describe to “respectable company” at a cocktail party.
And you need to start thinking and brainstorming about your situation. What is the first step towards an internationalized life from where you currently are?
This website is all about helping you to escape from modern American life, and internationalization is a huge tool in helping you to do it.
We are actively working through the steps of internationalization just like you are. One of the best resources for internationalization today that we found, is a guide called Going Global in 2015.
Going Global does a really thorough job of walking you step by step through the entire process. It’s what helped us get going.
What’s so great about it? The most helpful part of the guide, is that there are up to date lists of the countries that make the most sense for each part of an internationalized life (i.e. the best countries for headquartering your business, the best countries/banks for your savings accounts, which countries are good options for 2nd citizenships, etc).
This really helps to get the process going.
It has in-depth chapters on all the components of internationalization that we listed here, plus several others others (life insurance, real estate investing, how and why to set up international trusts, secure gold and precious metals storage around the globe, and more).
It also does a good job of outlining all the accounting and reporting requirements for somebody with international interests. When you’re ready to take your first step towards internationalization, start with that guide (if you’re not quite ready to pick up the guide, they have some other pretty cool ideas and resources on their main site, International Man).
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