Holiday Home Times

Your Escape Plan. Leaving the US to live Overseas.

I am an American living on the other side of the planet from the United States and am very happy living here.  It’s not perfect, but authorities pretty much leave me alone and I live well stress free.  As long as I keep current with some fairly easy rules from the Thai government, and comply with the long reach of the IRS, the US State Department and a few other US agencies, I am not bothered very much by any authorities.

I escaped. And I have no intention of returning.

Moving DayWe all know how much America has changed. Any aware American citizen now realizes that the life of an obedient, securely employed (the very lucky ones), tax paying citizen in the US is no longer as wonderful as it used to be.  Dreams of a secure future, a nice home that grows in value, a nice car in which you could afford to travel around the countryside, a secure retirement fund and healthy living has been shattered over the last couple of decades.  Many are thinking about an escape, and it is something I recommend. If you have decided that you would like to spend your life outside of the US, your first step is to work out an escape plan.

Is Moving Out Of The United States A Way To Escape The Coming Economic Collapse and other Calamities headed towards America?

If there are massive problems in the US, the whole world will be affected, but some countries will be able to weather the storm better than others.  Most Western European countries are probably going to have similar problems as in the US (with many having much more difficult situations). If you are on some remote island nation in the South Pacific not connected to the US government, or living in most of Latin America, or in some smaller Asian country, an American expat can probably do OK despite the problems in their homeland. In Chiang Mai, for instance, it is likely that we are always going to have plenty of food to eat (everything grows well here) and cheap housing.

It is always easier to escape to another country if you already have money and don’t need to work, but if the coming problems are going to include massive bank failures (with confiscations) or high inflation that lowers the value of American currency (both of which are real possibilities). It is important to look at the characteristics of the place you are going to relocate because you may not be able to depend on what you earned in the US.

Some places overseas offer opportunities for people that are willing to do certain kinds of work. In Chiang Mai, there are plenty of decent jobs for good English language teachers and for those that can work independently on line in their home. Other regions have other opportunities, and some have great opportunities for those that want to further their education.

There is still an IRS, and we as Americans are still obligated in our relationship with those that control us back home. All Americans must still file for federal income taxes no matter where they live in the world (the only large country that does that) and report to our US federal government any financial assets (like a bank account) that we open in our new homeland.  While we are still American citizens, there will continue to be some control they can have over us even if we have left that country.

Is it too late to leave? It is if you already have lost your job and lost your savings. Maybe you owned a nice house that kept going up in value, but that has disappeared. All this happened to me as well, but I relocated much of my assets to another country early on and am able to provide well for myself now. When I did this quite a few years ago, many of my American acquaintances gave me a bit of hell for it because I was abandoning the “greatest country on Earth, with the most freedom, the best healthcare and best life on the planet”. I have since learned that there are other places in this world that can actually give me a better life.

Today I own a comfortable house with no loan, no property taxes, have a new car with no loan and have no bills. I have a little money in the bank and a small retirement income that can easily support me here, and my new home town has abundant food and low cost of living and this to me is a tropical paradise.

Get a Passport:

It amazes me that around two-thirds of Americans do not have a passport.  Still, more Americans have passports today than ever before (see Forbes “Record Number of Americans Now Hold Passports”).

It used to be cheap and easy to get one, but the US government is making it harder every day. It used to be around $35 for a passport that you got through almost any US post office. Now it is $135 and $110 if you want to renew one. And you cannot go to any ‘ole post office — these is usually a few places in any given area where you can submit your application.  It is likely not to get any easier or cheaper, though, so it is my suggestion that if you don’t have one, get one now.

You must complete a State Department form (a DS-11) with supporting documents (like a birth certificate — and it has to be more authentic than the one submitted by your president — and photo ID) plus some color passport pictures. Here is the link to get the straight scoop and a printable copy of the DS-11State Department website.

For many countries (including Thailand) a valid passport is all you need to enter another country and stay for a limited time (you get 30 days in Thailand with just a passport). Make sure your passport will not expire in 6 months, as many countries require it to be valid for longer that that even if you coming in for a two week vacation.

Remember, you don’t own your own passport, your government owns it and they can take it back for any reason. A passport is kind of like ownership papers; you are the property of the US federal government and are still required to meet particular obligations. Understand that the Internal Revenue Service thinks assumes all expats are money-laundering tax dodgers until proven innocent.

Determine where you want to escape to:

Thailand is certainly not for everyone. The world is a very big place and there is a good place to live (probably many good places) all over the globe for almost everyone. Fortunately, we live in an era where it is so easy to get information about anything, and you can research on where you might spend a big part of your life before going there. You can never do too much research.

Are you moving to retire, to find a job, to support a family or to study in a university. Every person will have their own individual goals which are the most important determinations of where to live.

For instance, in my new home country of Thailand, it is a great place to retire, but not so great if you have a family with kids (a good Western level education can be very expensive). It is also not a very good place to find a job unless it is to be an English language teacher or working independently online. Thailand is an exotic country that many appreciate, but others are more comfortable in a place more familiar to them. The cost of living in Thailand is very low if you can adapt to Thai ways (food and housing), but can be very expensive if you try to maintain a Western lifestyle. Learning the Thai language is quite difficult compared to any European language. If you travel back to the US often, air tickets to Thailand can be expensive.  With every location there are Pros and Cons, and you have to give your own weight to every factor.

Also to considered is how difficult it is to get residency in the country you have decided to live in. Thailand probably fits about in the middle of the difficulty scale. On a retirement visa, you need to have some money in the bank or a satisfactory income (or a combo of both). Some countries require a lot of money and others require very little, and some are not very welcoming at all to American expats.

Many areas will have expat forums or websites (like this one) where you can ask specific questions about living in the country.

Take a Fact Finding Trip to the Place you think you want to move to:

Before making the full commitment, it is always better to visit the country you are strongly considering moving to in order to learn first-hand about living and working there. It is good to meet up with some expats, visit the shopping areas, the hospitals, look at homes to rent (or buy) and make sure you can be comfortable in that place on a long term basis. Do a lot of exploring and learning. Get all of your questions answered. This is the time to cement your decision or decide to look at another place.

Try the language out to see if you can learn it because if you are going to make another country your permanent home, you should really integrate into the place and learn to communicate with the locals.

Determine if the place you are considering is going to be boring or full of excitement. Here in Northern Thailand, there are lots of outdoor activities for expats, but a lousy nightclub scene. If nightclubs and nightlife are important for you, there are other towns south of here that have much more of that.

If you are going to need to find work in your new home town, this trip is the time to check this out. In Chiang Mai, there are only certain jobs that are available for expats. It can be quite limiting, and this is the time to find that out.

Plan your Assets:

Cypress was a beta test. Already the US government has been talking confiscating retirement funds in banks, increasing taxes, while cities and states and counties and school districts (especially in my home state of California) are going bankrupt. Listen to the economic advisers you trust (not ones working for the Federal Reserve, other banks or the Federal Government). It is so easy with the internet to get excellent advise.

Men like Peter Schiff, Marc Faber, Jim Rogers, David Stockman, Ron Paul and others have accurately predicted what happened in past US economic crises and have told us what we can do to prepare ourselves for the future.  We all need to listen to them.  Lately most of them have told us to get our money out of the banks in the US and in Western Europe, and it sure looks like they are right again.

I am not going to give any specific recommendations in this area because I don’t have the answers, but I know where I can get them — it is the same place that is available to you — all over the internet. Read it, study it and find the ones your can trust. Follow their advice.

Do it:

After you have made all the plans, the last step is the hardest: actually doing it. Not everyone can, and that’s OK. I will always appreciate those that stay behind and try to make the best of things, try to make the necessary changes that bring America back. But for those that are ready to make the move, do it.