Is it possible to become invisible without breaking the law? (Photo: gravitywave)
LOS ANGELES, MID-JUNE 2008
Sitting on a plush couch in the neon-infused nightclub, I asked again:
“What’s it about?”
Neil Strauss glanced around and looked nervous, which I found strange. After all, we’d known each other for close to two years now. In fact, he was – as New York Times bestselling author of The Game and others – one of the first people to see the proposal for The 4-Hour Workweek and offer me encouragement.
“C’mon, dude, give me a break. Don’t you trust me?”
“Guilt. That’s good. Use guilt,” Neil said. But the Woody Allen approach wasn’t working.
“I can’t let the meme out early” he said, “I trust you—I’m just paranoid,” he offered to no one in particular as he downed another RedBull. So I fired a shot in the dark.
“What, are you writing about the 5 Flags or something?”
Neil’s heart skipped a beat and he stared at me for several long seconds. He was stunned.
“What do you know about the 5 Flags?”
I was in.
The 5 Flags
Neil’s new book, Emergency, teaches you how to become Jason Bourne.
Multiple passports, moving assets, lock-picking, escape and evasion, foraging, even how to cross borders without detection (one preferred location: McAllen, Texas, page 390)–it’s a veritable encyclopedia of for those who want to disappear or become lawsuit-proof global citizens…
I proofread the book months ago, and it’s been torture to keep some of the content from you, as I find the topics endlessly fascinating. For example, let’s take the concept of “geoarbitrage” to it’s natural but extreme extension: The 5 Flags. I was first introduced to the 5 Flags approach by a deca-millionaire in San Francisco, but here is Neil’s explanation:
“The way to break free of nationality, according to Schultz’s pamphlet, was to follow a three-flag system. The three flags consist of having a second passport, a safe location for your assets in another country, and a legal address in a tax haven. To these, Hill added a fourth and fifth flag: an additional country as a business base and a number of what he called ‘playground countries’ in which to spend leisure time.”
I never implemented the 5 Flags, but I fantasized about getting a second passport and the infinite options it could provide. Neil actually went out and did it.
I’ll get stopped at the airport in a lock-down; Neil won’t. If the FDIC collapses and bank withdrawals are blocked (as happened in Argentina in 2002 when the currency collapsed due to hyperinflation), I’m out of business; Neil has assets elsewhere.
Do I think the US banks are all going to collapse? Not at all. Do I think it’s intelligent to have a lot of options? Indeed. Do I think it’s fun to read about what billionaires and money launderers do, even if I don’t imitate them? Most definitely.
I’m very happy to offer you an exclusive first look at Emergency. Get this book. The following excerpts will set your mind spinning. Ellipses indicate skipped passages.
Lesson 22 – The Gone With the Wind Guide to Asset Protection
If you wanted to withdraw your entire life savings and move it to a bank in Switzerland, what would you do?
Now that I’d decided to hide my assets offshore, the information from the Sovereign Society conference about the government tracking withdrawals and transfers of more than $10,000 applied to me. It seemed impossible to get the money from my American bank to the Swiss bank Spencer recommended without ringing alarm bells. Even if I moved it in small increments, there would still be a paper trail detailing exactly how much money I’d transferred.
So I did what any resourceful American would do: I bought a book on money laundering.
After all, it isn’t a crime to move money secretly as long as the income’s been reported to the IRS and any other necessary reporting requirements are met. And my intention wasn’t to hide my earnings from the government, customs, or creditors, but to protect it from bank collapses, inflation, seizure, and lawsuits, which required leaving few traces of where it went.
Securing money overseas is not a new idea. Even in the novel Gone With the Wind, Rhett butler keeps his earnings in offshore banks, enabling him to buy a house for Scarlett o’Hara after the Civil War—in contrast to his Southern colleagues, who lose their fortunes due to blockades, inflation, and financial collapse.
For more practical, non-fictional inspiration, I bought Jeffrey Robinson’s 1996 book The Laundrymen. I’d always wondered how empty video stores renting movies for $3 a day could stay in business, and why I’d see Russian thugs running clearly unprofitable frozen yogurt stands on deserted side streets. According to Robinson, it’s because, in order to make illegal funds appear legitimate, crooks will slowly feed the money into the cash registers of a normal business.
“It’s almost impossible to spot an extra $500 coming in daily through the tills of a storefront stocked with 15,000 videos,” he writes. “Nor would anyone’s suspicions necessarily be raised if that same owner ran a chain of twenty video rental stores and, backed up with the appropriate audits, awarded himself an annual bonus of $3.96 million.”
Buried elsewhere in Robinson’s book was the answer I was looking for. The best legal way to surreptitiously move money, it seems, is to buy something that doesn’t lose its cash value when purchased. For example, there’s a black market for people who transfer money by buying expensive jewelry, art, watches, and collectibles, then selling them in their destination country for a small loss—usually no greater than the percentage banks charge for exchanging currencies.
So once AIG private bank in Switzerland returned my phone call—assuming that, unlike Spencer’s [a billionaire who appears earlier in the book] lawyer, they were actually willing to work with me—I planned to go shopping for rare coins.
But if it was all so legitimate, why did it feel so wrong?
While I waited to hear from the Swiss bank, I drove to Burbank to meet with the asset protection lawyers Spencer had recommended, Tarasov and Associates. The receptionist led me into a room with black-and-silver wallpaper where Alex Tarasov sat at a large mahogany desk with a yellow legal pad in front of him. With this pad, he would rearrange my business life forever.
“You did a very smart thing by coming here,” Tarasov said. Twenty- five years ago, he had probably been a frat boy. Maybe even played varsity football. But a quarter century spent sitting at desks scrutinizing legal papers had removed all evidence of health from his skin and physique. “By taking everything you own out of your name, we can hide it from lawyers trying to do an asset search on you.”
“So if they sue me and win, they won’t be able to get anything?”
“We can make it very difficult for them to find the things you own and get at them. It’s not impossible, but the deeper we bury your assets, the more money it’s going to cost to find out where they are. And if we can make that time and cost greater than the worth of the assets, then you’re in good shape.”
Like Spencer had said, this was just insurance. The cost of setting this up would be like taking out a policy against lawsuits.
“So what do you own?” he asked.
I laid it all out for him. “I have a house I’m still paying for. I have some stocks and bonds my grandparents gave me when I was a kid. I have a checking and a savings account. And I have the copyrights to my books.” I paused, trying to remember if I owned anything else. I thought there was more. “I guess that’s about it. I have a secondhand Dodge Durango, I guess. And a 1972 corvette that doesn’t work.”
In truth, I didn’t own that much. But ever since my first college job, standing over a greasy grill making omelets and grilled cheese sandwiches, I had started putting money in the bank. Since then, I’d saved enough to live on for a year or two if I ever fell on hard times or just wanted to see the world. I didn’t want to lose the freedom that came from having a financial cushion and not being in debt for anything besides my house.
“Here’s what we can do,” Tarasov said. He then sketched this diagram on his legal pad:
The stick figure was me. as for the boxes, I had no idea what those were. “These are boxes,” Tarasov explained. I was clearly getting the asset-protection-for-dummies lecture. “Each box represents a different LLC”—limited liability company. “If we can wrap everything in an LLC, and then all those LLCs are owned by a holding company, and that holding company is owned by a trust that you don’t even technically own, then you’re safe.”
I liked that last word. But I didn’t understand the rest of it.
“So we’re just basically making everything really complicated?” I asked.
“That’s the idea. We’ll even put your house in a separate LLC, so that if someone trips and falls, they can’t get at anything else you own.”
When Tarasov was through explaining everything, I couldn’t tell whether I was protecting myself from being scammed or actually being scammed myself. But I trusted Spencer, because he seemed too rich, too smart, and too paranoid to get taken in. So I told Tarasov to start wrapping me up in LLCs until my net-worth was whatever spending money I had in my pocket.
“Once we have these entities set up, we can talk about transferring them to offshore corporations,” Tarasov said as I left.
Lesson 54 – Secrets of Escaped Felons
Kelly Alwood didn’t say a word as he handcuffed my hands behind my back, opened the trunk of a rental car, and ordered me to get inside. With his shaven head, which looked like it could break bottles; his glassy green eyes, which revealed no emotion whatsoever; and the .32 caliber pistol hanging from a chain around his neck, he didn’t seem like the kind of person to cross.
As he shut the trunk over my head, the blue sky of Oklahoma City disappeared, replaced by claustrophobic darkness and new-car smell. Instantly, panic set in.
I took a deep breath and tried to remember what I’d learned. I curled my right leg as far up my body as it would go and dipped my cuffed hands down until I could reach my sock. Inside, I’d stashed the straight half of a bobby pin, which I’d modified by making a perpendicular bend a quarter inch from the top. I removed the pin, stuck the bent end into the inner edge of the handcuff keyhole, and twisted the bobby pin down against the lever inside until I felt it give way.
As I twisted my wrist against the metal, I heard a fast series of clicks, the sound of freedom as the two ends of the cuff disengaged. I released my hand, then made a discovery few people who haven’t been stuffed inside a trunk know: most new cars have a release handle on the inside of the boot that, conveniently, glows in the dark. I pulled on the handle and emerged into the light.
“Thirty-nine seconds,” Alwood said as I climbed out of the trunk. “Not bad.”
I couldn’t believe classes like this even existed. In the last forty-eight hours, I’d learned to hotwire a car, pick locks, conceal my identity, and escape from handcuffs, flexi-cuffs, ducttape, rope, and nearly every other type of restraint.
The course was Urban Escape and Evasion, which offered the type of instruction I’d been looking for to balance my wilderness knowledge. The objective of the class was to learn to survive in a city as a fugitive. Most of the students were soldiers and contractors who’d either been in Iraq or were about to go, and wanted to know how to safely get back to the Green Zone if trapped behind enemy lines.
The class was run by a company called onPoint Tactical. Like most survival schools, its roots led straight to Tom Brown. Its founder, Kevin Reeve, had been the director of Tracker School for seven years before setting off on his own to train navy SEALS, Special Forces units, SWAT teams, parajumpers, marines, snipers, and even SERE instructors. As a bounty hunter, his partner, Alwood, had worked with the FBI and Secret Service to help capture criminals on the Most Wanted list.
As the sun set, we drove to an abandoned junkyard, where Reeve let us practice throwing chips of ceramic insulation from spark plugs to shatter car windows, using generic keys known as jigglers to open automobile doors, and starting cars by sticking a screwdriver in the ignition switch and turning it with a wrench.
As I popped open the trunk on a Dodge with my new set of jigglers, I thought, This is the coolest class I’ve ever taken in my life.
Over a barbecue dinner later that night, Reeve asked why I’d signed up for the course. “I think things have changed for my generation,” I told him. “We were born with a silver spoon in our mouths, but now it’s being removed. And most of us never learned how to take care of ourselves. So I’ve spent the last two years trying to get the skills and documents I need to prepare for an uncertain future.”
I’d never actually verbalized it before. I’d just been reacting and scrambling as the pressure ratcheted up around me. Reeve looked at Alwood silently as I spoke. For a moment, I worried that I’d been too candid. Then he smiled broadly. “You’re talking to the right people. That’s what we’ve been thinking. Kelly has caches all over the country—and in Europe.”
Lesson 28 – Calculate the Odds That You’re In Jail Right Now
ST. KITTS, EASTERN CARIBBEAN
In a few days, I’d be committed to an expense of over half a million dollars, which was more money than I had.
And what was it all for? Symbolic paper. A passport, which is just a teeny little booklet that means nothing to the universe. Realistically, the world wasn’t likely to end in my lifetime. And if it did, everyone on St. Kitts would be just as dead as everyone in America.
If there were a smaller-scale world disaster, things would probably be even worse on an island in the Caribbean, where I was more likely to be a victim of food shortages, droughts, hurricanes, blackouts, and tsunamis. There’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide on an island—especially one in the smallest country in the Americas. I’d become so focused on my search for a passport—so consumed with escaping the blowback of American politics—that I’d forgotten the survivalist lessons I’d learned on Y2K and 9/11.
Soon, the whole endeavor began to seem like the biggest travesty ever. If something horrible happened in America, would a St. Kitts passport even get me out during a state of emergency? What if it was confiscated by customs agents? Or what if Victor, Maxwell, and Wendell were in collusion and just ripping me off? I didn’t have anyone to protect me here.
Once I’d ridden out that wave of anxiety, a new one formed. I began worrying that I’d blabbed my name and occupation to too many people. If they Googled me and saw the filth I’d written, they might not sell me the apartment or give me a citizenship. And then I’d be stuck in America if anything bad happened.
And so it went, all night, one wave of anxiety after another—half of them spent worrying that I wouldn’t get a passport, the other half spent worrying that I would.
I fell asleep around dawn for a few fitful hours, until I was woken by my cell phone. AIG Private Bank was finally returning my call.
Every day, my small savings were dwindling as the dollar dropped relative not just to the euro, but even to the Caribbean currency here. I never thought I’d see the day when Eastern Europeans came to the United States for the cheap shopping.
“I’d like to inquire about opening a private banking account,” I told the woman.
“Great,” she said, with barely a trace of a Swiss accent. “Let me ask you a few questions.”
“Are you an American citizen?”
“Yes, I am.”
“We don’t deal with American citizens for a few years now.”
“But my friend Spencer Booth is American, and I think he has an account with you.”
“It’s likely an older account. We don’t do business with American citizens anymore. Sorry, good-bye.”
Before I could respond, she had hung up. I felt like an outcast. I couldn’t believe a bank wouldn’t take my money solely because I was American.
I’d noticed that many of the banks I’d researched had special policies for dealing with United States citizens. Even some of the online companies selling vintage travel documents said they no longer shipped to America because U.S. customs agents were opening and confiscating the packages. The government seemed to be sticking its nose everywhere.
In the meantime, I’d discovered a few other interesting facts: according to a report issued by Reporters Without Borders, the United States was ranked as having the fifty-third freest press in the world, tied with Botswana and Croatia. According to the World Health organization, the United States had the fifty-fourth fairest health care system in the world, with lack of medical coverage leading to an estimated 18,000 unnecessary deaths a year. And according to the Justice Department, one in every thirty-two Americans was in jail, on probation, or on parole.
Rather than having actual freedom, it seemed that, like animals in a habitat in the zoo, we had only the illusion of freedom. As long as we didn’t try to leave the cage, we’d never know we weren’t actually free.
That phone call was all it took to let me know I was doing the right thing.
Before going home, I had dinner with Wendell at a restaurant called Fisherman’s Wharf [in St. Kitts, not San Francisco] and thanked him for his help.
After the meal, he patted my shoulder and smiled. “Next time I see you, you’ll be a citizen of St. Kitts and Nevis just like me,” he said. “When you get married, your wife will be a citizen. And when you have kids, so will they.”
He stepped into his SUV, started the engine, then unrolled the window and concluded his thought: “One day,” he said, beaming, “when you come back to America, no one will recognize you. You’ll be a Kittitian.”
At the St. Kitts airport the next morning, I felt like I was returning not to a country but a fortress. “Your country is so tough to get into,” the ticket agent complained as she checked my documents for the flight home. “They make it so hard for us.”
She looked up at me and said it louder, almost with venom, as if it were my fault. “They make it so hard for us.”
She wasn’t alone in her opinion. A survey released the previous month by the Discover America Partnership had found that international travelers considered America the least-friendly country to visit.
“That’s why,” I told her, with the newfound pride that Wendell had instilled in me, “I’m moving here.”
Lesson 59 – Iceland is the New Caribbean
Maybe it was when Bear Stearns became the first brokerage house to be rescued by the government since the Great Depression.
Maybe it was when IndyMac became the fifth American bank to fail in recent months.
Maybe it was when the government gave customs agents authority to confiscate, copy, and analyze any laptop or data storage device brought across the border.
Maybe it was the unshakable sense that the worst was still to come.
But I was no longer alone.
It was a hot summer, and pessimism hung thick in the air. Most people I talked to felt as if they were inching closer to some darkness they couldn’t understand, because they’d never experienced it before and didn’t know what it held.
Even Spencer’s housemate Howard, who had once made fun of us for taking precautionary measures, was now looking into Caribbean islands. As it turned out, he would beat all of us there when his company collapsed and he had to hide from possible indictment.
“I’m so glad we started preparing ahead,” Spencer told me over dinner at the Chateau Marmont, where he was staying in Los Angeles.
Having struck out with the Swiss, I took Spencer’s advice and opened an account with a Canadian bank that had a branch in St. Kitts. Since both Canada and St. Kitts are part of the British Commonwealth, he’d explained, I would have easy access to my money if anything happened in America. Unfortunately, in the process, I discovered that keeping international accounts secret is now illegal: the IRS requires Americans with over $10,000 in foreign accounts to file an annual report disclosing not just the amount of money and the banks it’s kept in, but the account numbers.
Meanwhile, Spencer was moving forward with his ten-year plan. He started an Internet business in Singapore, enabling him to open a private banking account in the country, which he claimed was fast becoming the new Switzerland. Though he hadn’t gotten his St. Kitts passport yet either, Spencer had done more research into buying an island.
“I’m looking at islands in the north, around Iceland, because no one will think of looking for anyone there,” Spencer said, his thick lips spreading into a self-satisfied smile. “If I can get some other B people [billionaires] to go there with me, we can build underground homes and use geothermal energy.”
“What about your submarine?”
“It’s a great way to move between islands undetected, but we’re running out of time. We need to move faster. This is only the beginning.”
“How bad do you think it’s going to get?” Spencer seemed to understand the economy at a higher level than most people did, perhaps because he knew so many of the people who ran it.
“I don’t think the whole country’s going to collapse, but we’re looking at the worst economic disaster in America since the Great Depression. What I’m also concerned about is the increase in violent crime that’s going to accompany this.”
Everywhere I went that summer, the demon of Just in Case seemed to follow me, growling in my ear louder than it ever had, its jaws terrifyingly close to my jugular. I’d learned so much, changed so much, tested myself so much. It now was time to stop preparing, turn around, and face the demon—and my fears—head on.
And a musician would lead me there.
Note from Tim: If you enjoyed this piece, you’ll love my extended interview of author Neil Strauss on The Tim Ferriss Show podcast. Click below to stream or you can find it on iTunes (see #15):
Also — If you’ve ever fantasized about taking time off to globe-trot, I highly recommend Rolf Pott’s Vagabonding. It is one of only two books I took with me when I traveled the world for 18 months. Outside Magazine founding editor Tim Cahill calls Vagabonding “the most sensible book of travel related advice ever written.”
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.
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371 Replies to “How to Be Jason Bourne: Multiple Passports, Swiss Banking, and Crossing Borders”
Again and again, Tim is on the top of the wave.
I just finished “the Game” and eagier to read Neil’s coming book, that i saw preview on amazon.
Thank for sharing 🙂
Wow! This sounds like a very interesting book. I’ve always though that it would be cool to have an offshore bank account and extra passports – if only for the conversation starter.
On the Iceland front, I had quite a bit of money stashed away there until their collapse – luckily it was recovered but it took away my liquidity for a while. Shows (as you say) that it’s good to spread it around and keep your options open.
Great post! That book sounds great even for people who just want to day dream about doing most of that stuff.
Wow! Even as a college student, that post is making me think about how I want to start prepping for my future, even beyond the whole “start investing early, because compound interest is your friend!” spiel.
By the way, including those extended excerpts from the book has done more to persuade me to buy it than any other sort of endorsement or advertisement could have. I would love to see similar features like this in the future.
Yeah best post ever Tim, gangbuster! 😀
I wonder, are you aware of your “power” to let people buy books? After reading this post I just have to get that book now, damn you Ferris :p
..and my bookcase is already overflowing with great books. I guess I’ll just have to keep up. ..or try and get ahead.
Perhaps that would be a nice blogtopic, how DO you get ahead of the game and get on the front edge of the train. It seems a bit contradictory to a low-information diet.
I Agree…since going on the low information diet I have never eater so much or felt so full! 🙂
I read about this book on amazon after you mentioned it on twitter…
I read the little about section and thought “This isn’t non-fiction, there must be some mistake” – looks ridiculously compelling to say the least. Looking forward to reading it.
thanx Tim great idea, if I can rid of my family 🙂
just kidding, asked in my bookstore for “The Game”
Thanks for sharing the scoop Tim.
Looks like yet another superb book by Neil.
For those looking for more there is another sample chapter on Amazon.
I’ve been hanging out for this book for a while… cannot wait until it drops!
Preordered. Thanks for the excerpts, Tim!
I work with several white South Africans and another guy from I think Zaire. They all have green cards and are getting close to being able to get citizenship if they want it. At the moment, none of them are taking it. Most of them keep their money in a third country’s bank (not sure where) and are rightfully paranoid that the government here will confiscate their assets, the banks will fail, or that the dollar will just drop like the rand.
Once bitten twice shy I’d suggest. Africans know how volatile and unreliable governments can be. America is not so different, just cloaked in veneer of respectability – but still the underbelly of corrupt and deficit exists – there is a new derivative ‘correction’ around the corner sometime. I travel extensively, and agree with the above comment about the USA being a fortress… I love the time there on the ground, but was always aware of the sensation or feeling bugging me that something isn’t quite right.
Another book to add to my reading list.
Great stuff, Tim. Thanks!
By the way a nice way to transfer money to country A to country B without any trace is to find someone from country B who wants to transfer money to country A.
So that you make a deposit from your account in country A to the account of the other guy in country A, and this guy make a deposit to your account in country B from his account in country B. Thats it.
More practical example : if you are US citizen and hold a swiss bank account. Find a swiss guy who holds an US bank account.
Transfer money from your US account to his US account, and he will do the same between your swiss account and his one.
And how do you make sure the both of you live up to your end of the bargain?
Wow, you’re freakin me out now. Is there anywhere that is safe? If I order off amazon are they going to track me as someone to watch out for?
Life is about doing exciting things- right? This is certainly in that ball park. Traveling around the world for a living I have encountered a few people who fall into the Bourne identity genre and always find them fascinating. Great read.
Very cool stuff. I’m into these things for a while (I’ve got three passports and multiple banking accounts throughout Europe etc.), but you really inspired me to do more. And BTW – you’re making a great job for you friend Neal. I’ll definitely buy his book. Must be fun hanging out with him.. 🙂
Wow, I am continually blown away reading through your posts. I discovered your book a few months ago and wish I had found it much sooner.
I am definitely scooping up this book when it comes out and may even test some of the ideas.
Thanks so much for the insight into Neil’s new work, Tim. Can’t wait to hold the real thing in my hands!
Again, wow. Thanks for posting this… fascinating stuff!
Thanks for the excerpts. Fascinating.
Sad though that so many people are now so mistrustful of the government and the banking system that this kind of stuff is going mainstream.
We seem to be on the cusp of some kind of major change to the whole financial and political system. I really hope it doesn’t all collapse in a heap Weimar Republic style, but I can’t help thinking its probably going to.
It reminds me the very good “How to be invisible”. Not the song, the book from Luna :
These technics are really interesting but the troubles are :
– They involve so much effort that there are few cases where it is worth it.
– Sacrifying your goods is ok, but at the highest level, you loose the people you love too. Ouch.
– When you look at it, there are plenty of stuff you can do being frankly visible.
– Finally, it’s trying to get in control again, not working on dealing with reality : you solve problems, but won’t handle the new ones better.
– Be visible but active and people will loose track of you already. I moved (to live in) from Nice to Madrid to Paris to Nice to Orleans to Toulouse the last monthes. The whole system is already crying, it’s too much for him. Maybe being invisible is overkill.
So unless you protect your life (or you try a fun life experience), this book will stay a nice entertainment. Anyway, since The Game was quite nice to read (at least in VO, the french translation is disappointing), I guess Mr. Style gave us another cool piece of literature to enjoy before going to sleep.
Awesome post Tim! I just finished setting up my company owning a trust owning businesses etc the other day, so confusing!
This looks interesting, going to have to start implementing soon. Even though I live in Australia it seems whatever happens to the US happens to us too 🙁
Sounds awesome! Can’t wait to see what Neil has done this time. He’s an awesome writer!
For entrepreneurs these days, it’s normal to think about incorporating abroad and leaving profits in foreign currencies to protect against a weakening dollar. As far as multiple citizenship, you can get citizenship to Canada by investing a hundred thousand in the country. I’m sure other countries have similar arrangements.
I think this is the post where Tim officially jumps the shark.
He’s only jumping the shark now? I thought he did it ages ago!
oh wait didn’t realize the content was from Style, props
It’s difficult to do business for Americans because you essentially end up needing an in-house team of specialists who only handle US tax. Most private banks don’t have the volume or desire to maintain that kind of staff when they can service dozens of other nationalities with one private banker and regular consultations with outside specialist counsel familiar with the client’s domicile.
Also, because of the US disclosure requirements there are far fewer advantages for Americans to be offshore than for many other nationalities… other than satisfying paranoia, of course.
exactly the resource i’ve been looking for. nice post.
Tim it seems that you are my long lost brother. I decided years ago that I wanted to become a bad ass while watching the first Borne movies; learn lock picking, shooting, be able to swim for miles, etc. I think there’s an entire nation of guys out there who don’t want white picket fences and cubes.
Now that the cats out of the bag, I hope we get a whole series of posts on becoming Jason Borne.
Great post and thank you for the insightful preview, Tim. I’m sure he mentions it in the book, but it so rarely gets coverage here in the US – The US is the largest tax haven in the world… Just as long as you’re not American. One reason why foreign nationals are happy to hang onto their Green Cards is because of their tax-free investment options in the US. Congress won’t tell you that though, will they? I’ve linked to a broader description in my sig., entitled, “The American Dream: One of tax havens, terrorism and other double standards” (Sorry for the plug, Tim – But this is important stuff!).
Spreading your assets around is not only smart, but necessary and having a second passport is one of the easiest things you can do to ensure your financial future. Nevis and St. Kitts is actually one of the harder countries to double up with, because of their high investment requirement… keep looking and you’ll find the better, cheaper options. One thing to consider, obviously, is who has extradition agreements and formal government liaisons with the US.
This is all great stuff, but I think the 5 flags theory was written up in great detail about 10 years ago by Bill Hill, whom I think got a lot of his ideas from Harry Schultz.
Bill Hill’s books included the whole “Perpetual Traveller” concept of earning money in one flag, keeping it in another, holding the passport from a third, playing in a fourth etc. The books I remember reading were PT1, PT2, The Passport Report etc.
That was very interesting !!!! Now I HAVE TO buy to book. Off to amazon now…
This sounds like an amazing book. I am not even in the US, but it sounds interesting. the excerpts do make me feel sorry for all of the people stuck in USA
Tim, we met in London at your book launch. I was the Aussie guy with the seminar company who offered you a bunch of cash to do some big events. You said you were “too busy having fun.”
That comment was a critical moment for me, so thank you. I realised I had stopped having fun, and your words compelled me to act.
Since, I have sold my company that I built for 7 years to my partners (remote working was not an option), and I am now full time on creating a muse as I travel the world having a ball. I intend to do whatever it takes to permanently join the ranks of the New Rich. Not far now. Thank you for hookups to Neil’s new book. I am mid application in Singapore. It’s solid.
Can you give me an insight as to who you consider to be the current top 5 lifestyle designers that have got there by following similar methods to those in the 4HWW? I have a voracious appetite.
Nice post, Tim. And thanks for the Woody Allen “neg” ‘;)
Interesting tip, Coachdom. I’ll have to think about that one more.
Mike, you definitely sound like you’re PT, which you should look into more if you haven’t yet.
And Chris, the money-minded guys in the book are all about “wealth preservation” through “diversification” of holdings now. Sounds like that may be your strategy now. I can go into more detail if you’d like.
Otherwise, great comments. Will check back in later today. And have a great trip to Vietnam, Tim.
Tim, great post. I pre-order the book based on this post. I have been thinking about this for some time and your post is very appropriate. Ruger is the best performing stock in the market. That tells you that people are scared and that they are running to the gun stores so they can protect their assets. The book offers those with higher level thinking skills some additional options. Thanks for the knowledge…
Is it not going to be available on Kindle? Boo!
If you’re a US citizen, approach this with extreme caution. You should research the following subjects as a warning of the way things are headed:
STOP TAX HAVEN ABUSE ACT – bill supported by Obama to target tax havens
Mastercard debit cards and the IRS. In 2002, the IRS got access to Mastercards records of debit cards issued by banks and a lot of people got caught.
United Swiss Bank – A Swiss bank that the IRS is trying to force to divulge secret accounts based on the bank’s purchase of a US Bank.
European tax authorities are also very interested in offshore accounts for tax reasons.
Oops in my last comment “debit cards issued by banks” should read “debit cards issued by offshore banks “
Awesome book. I can’t wait to read it. Living a life like Jason Bourne would be cool 😉
Clever idea for riding the crysis wave, but I couldn’t yet decide wether it’s rather dangerous or genial. Smart for sure…
My only complaint with this is that the book isn’t out for a week, so I have to wait. Damn you Ferriss, I’m a child of 70’s Sesame Street and 80’s MTV, I have no capacity for waiting.
I’m going to buy this and the two Game books the day this one’s released
Great post! I’m getting the book.
Absolutely one of your best posts my friend! I’ve been buzzing about this with my mastermind group all morning via Twitter and calls. This book strikes a chord. Thanks for sharing this!
Thanks for the tip, pre-ordered the book. Looks like the Perpetual Traveler & Five Flags concept is about to go mainstream. I’m not sure whether existing PTs should consider this a blessing or a kiss of death 😉
The excerpts mention in passing Harry Schultz and Bill Hill (“Perpetual Traveler” by W.G. Hill, aka The Red Book), but two more essentials on the subject are Harry Browne’s classic “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World” and the recent (post-9/11) “Bye Bye Big Brother” by Grandpa et al (aka The Black Book).
Wow, this is fantastic! Thanks for posting, Tim, your stuff is always fascinating. Off to order the book.
Re: transferring money from country A to country B
Isn’t this what the poor distressed e-mailer from Nigeria is trying to do? What you’re saying sounds like a set up for a rip-off.
I don’t know that another country’s banking system is any more safe than the US. Seems as though the whole world is standing in line for a bailout. As for security and privacy for your deposits, hasn’t the government already been leaning on the Swiss banks to give up names of US account holders who may be shielding money from the IRS?
Gino – on the contrary, the ‘distressed e-mailer from Nigeria’ is asking you to move money into his account – transferring your money from one legitimate bank to another legitimate bank account in your name or bank account in a company name that you own, is a totally different scenario. And with regards to the US banking system and being safe….. no, unfortunately US banking is shonky. On a rating of safety, US Banks for quite short; in fact, most European Bank can’t trade with US banks without a ream of paperwork as the European Regulators find the US Banking procedures to be way short of their own checks and balances. As for the Swiss Banks… yes the main ‘high street’ banks will give over information – under duress i.e. court pressure… but many of the Swiss Banks shifted to becoming family owned, which means under Swiss Law handing over any information is punishable by law and the penalties are harsh – life in prison… so essentially Swiss Law won’t let the US IRS bully the family owned companies. Of course the Private Swiss Banks have the their own method of regulation, which I suspect keeps them just colouring inside the lines with regards to International Banking Procedures checks and balances. I would not choose to keep any assets or long term investments in a US Bank.
This book looks awesome!
Having total freedom and mobility is very attractive to me.
I recently discovered that the business tax rate in Hong Kong is 16% whereas in the U.S. it is about 45%, so I plan on visiting there at some point in the future to inquire about incorporating. Heard great things about Singapore as well.
Also, Tim not sure if you have seen some of the indexes of economic freedom created by organizations like the WSJ and Cato institute:
The U.S. is rightly losing it’s reputation as the freest country in the world lately, and may no longer be the best spot for business and personal freedoms.
I had to laugh at the author’s mid-nite call from AIG. I had a similar experience with another large Swiss bank: being waken from a sound sleep just to brushed off. I still have chip on my shoulder when I hear that they are having fiscal difficulty ;->
Here are some things I am reading: “Confessions of a Hurricane Katrina Survivor”: http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/Archives2007/Confessions.html
Here is a long article by a Rusian who went through through the Soviet collapse “Post-Soviet Lessons for a Post-American Century”: http://lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/Archives2008/OrlovLessonsPartOne.html
I had seen Strauss’s new book featured for pre-order on Amazon and now that I’ve gotten a look at excerpts it’s definitely on the must read list.
Hey, it’s Perpetual Traveller’s and JJ Luna all over again! I thought the sources for that ran dry (and emergency sounds like a bit of rehash of it). And ever since 9/11 it’s even become more of a pain in the ass. It’s not worth to start doing this if your a poor student type I think. But one way you could start is to go get a student visa and study somewhere else in the world. By the time your done your degree, you probably have enough years for permanent residency and get a citizenship pretty quick. It’s even streamlined if you done something like that. For example, in many European countries (like Germany), university is free or dirt cheap (500 euros a semester), even for international students.
Great post — not that I’d ever do any of that stuff, but it sure is interesting to read about. Though, I’m not sure that “Iceland is the New Caribbean” would still really hold now in the current economic climate.
Recent PT best practice (as outlined in the BBBB book) departs from Schultz’s and Hill’s classic formula by adding a sixth flag, cyberspace. In short, there exist ways of transferring value that are wholly outside the legacy banking system; it’s called the emerging free digital economy, and you can read about it e.g. in DGC Magazine:
The conundrum that the emergence of digital currencies pose to governments’ abilities to levy taxes and seize assets is outlined very well in the underground novel “A Lodging of Wayfaring Men” (you can find it via Google).
Great comments and suggestions! Listening to RJD2 and loving the discussion…
Can’t wait to read the book. Looks great….respect!
Sounds like an interesting read. Two passports are fairly easy to acquire as many countries allow dual citizenship. It’s especially useful if you have roots from a European Union country as the second passport grants you living and working right in all the EU states. It’s like having citizenship in 28 countries.
Aside from the entertainment value, most of the thinking in these chapters is beyond ridiculous. A small but vibrant cottage industry seems to have formed to fuel the paranoid and megalomanical fantasies of prosperous Americans who think either the world will come crashing down around them, or some judicial/IRS/black-helicoptered boogie man will come take all their cool toys. Fact is that good business practices and good insurance gets 99% of the people more than 99% of where they want to be. What happened to your 80/20 rule here, Tim????
Thanks for injecting a bit of sanity, Paul. Several items described seriously here set off my BS detector. I mean, who CAN’T escape from handcuffs, when you happen to have a bobby pin in your sock? Yes, 9/11 made us all a little paranoid, and the descent into financial chaos seems even more tangible than when this was originally written. But amongst the obvious sensible advice is some over-the-top, impractical, Hollywood-inspired silliness.
It is like Chinese Water Torture waiting for Emergency to come out! I’ve had it pre-ordered for awhile now, and with about a week to go I’m getting these teasing “drips” of it. Arrgh!
Not too surprised you and Neil are friends, Tim. I was lucky enough to meet him a few years back and he has a very 4HWW style about him (no pun intended). Hope this book is everything you and he promise… plus more! : )
Pre-ordered – sounds like a great book, and update on the old Harry Schultz, W.G. Hill and Bye Bye Big Brother themes. One little thing though, I thought these days there were six flags not five… the sixth being cyberspace, that brings all the other five together… anyway can’t wait to read this book
Ok, how cool is this article? Well done Tim.
I just ordered the book (smacking lips).
“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
This sounds like something from 007 with a twist. A shout out to Neil, i loved the stuff in THE GAME. What a collaboration of thoughts on this blog.
Small PS. to my earlier comment, since I noticed Neil is actually reading these:
How do you feel about how things have played out from starting this book to a week before its release date? Spencer commented on the economic crisis seemingly long before it began showing signs, so is it vindicating to know you were one step ahead? Depressing that things played out as they did? None of the above?
“…and wanted to know how to safely get back to the Green Zone if trapped behind enemy lines.”
I don’t think he understands what the green zone in Afghanistan is. The green zone often IS behind enemy lines, not a safe zone as he seems to presume.
It’s the greener areas near the rivers where foliage is thicker and is incredibly dangerous because you can’t see as far, and the ditches can have IEDs and mines so when you dive in for cover…
He’s a great writer so I’ll check the book out. Seems born out of, or intends to take advantage of, an american paranoia. I think that will annoy me if I buy the book.
Thank you for the excerpts from this book. Like many of the other commenters, I’ve now got it on pre-order. I’m also actively looking into some of the information discussed in the book and your post.
@CSThomas “If I order off amazon are they going to track me as someone to watch out for?” I’ve been arguing the merits of multiple passports all day with family, and they voiced similar concerns. I think that this is lent a lot of weight if you feel compelled to ask that. If you don’t trust your government, you need an exit strategy.
First time poster of a gringo living in Panama.
I have been waiting for a post like this for a while from you…if this doesn’t fit into the “do anything from anywhere” mantra…I don’t know what does.
You asked about topics for your new book in a post a while ago, add this to your list.
As someone who sites Escape Artist in your book – started by Roger Gallo, Escape from America fame for you old schoolers…and who frequently border hops – and recommends that fast blue pass (or something of the like for airports) – this has T Ferriss written all over it.
The old mantra of – live in one country – be a citizen of another – have your business in a third – hold banks accounts in 4 and 5, and beyond.
For all of those rolling your eyes…lets not forget its all LEGAL.
Being a dual citizen, offshore bank accounts, multiple passports, cash in multiple currencies – tax avoidance or reduction NOT tax evasion.
Hey, you even stayed outside the U.S. for 15 months, if not mistaken…to take advantage of the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.
A few more books for readers to check out, if interested:
And plenty more…
Hey Tim – whats up with the Tico, Pura Vida?
Head back to the neighbor next door, Panama.
Thanks for the comment!
I agree on all points, and — just for the record — I’ve spent much more time in Panama than Costa Rica. I just don’t like saying “Pretty, pretty, fren!” 🙂
All the best from a fellow experimenter,
Sounds like Spencer’s getting pretty close imagining Rapture.
“Welcome to Rapture”
“I’m looking at islands in the north, around Iceland, because no one will think of looking for anyone there,” Spencer said, his thick lips spreading into a self-satisfied smile. “If I can get some other B people [billionaires] to go there with me, we can build underground homes and use geothermal energy.”
“What about your submarine?”
“It’s a great way to move between islands undetected, but we’re running out of time. We need to move faster. This is only the beginning.”
“I don’t know that another country’s banking system is any more safe than the US.”
Canadian banks were ranked the soundest in the world by the Economic Forum. No bankruptcies and no bailouts.
Don’t forget physical gold and silver. They are great against inflation, and it’s good to have it, seeing as the US dollar might go into some big inflation this year. Thanks Obama!
Anyway, great post.
So many of your comments are right on. A few quick responses:
Arto, I actually mention both of those books elsewhere in the book. And had a long email back-and-forth interview with the elusive Grandpa about PT. So you’re right on.
Tom, I suppose there are multiple definitions of the green zone. In this case, most of the students in the class were going to Iraq, thus the Green Zone is:
And CSThomas, hilarious. That’s kind of what I thought all the way through. I kept worrying that I’d get on some list. My solution, in the spirit of Tim’s networking, was: befriend the people who have access to those “lists.”
Why do all the links in http://tarasovandassociates.com/ forward to Neil Strauss’ website? Is this for real or a joke? P.S. I ordered the book anyway.
“Why do all the links in http://tarasovandassociates.com/ forward to Neil Strauss’ website? Is this for real or a joke? P.S. I ordered the book anyway.”
Good catch. I will suggest that Neil either take that site down or make it clear that he is actually behind it. I think the name of the firm might have been changed, but he should make it clear on the homepage that it’s not a real firm or people will assume he fabricated the story and is using the name to just drive traffic, which I know he isn’t.
I’m also a first time poster and gringo living (just north of Mr. Crown) in Costa Rica (pura vida!).
Quick question, once obtained, do you have to report your new citizenship? I’ve read that it is illegal for a US citizen to be in the US on another passport but haven’t seen much clarity on if it is necessary to declare dual citizenship..
Thanks for the post, great read, looking forward to Neil’s book!
Also, next time you’re in the Guanacaste area of CR, I owe you a drink, after all your book helped me get down here.
I’m really happy that you continue to put real value into your blog even though 4HWW has a life of its own now. You’re creating a real brand and you should see this reflected with anything you endorse or sell in the future.
I was very surprised to see that you were friends with my other favorite author, and even more surprised to see what the book is about. It’s so over-the-top… absolutely a must-read. I definitely expected a book with this topic to be written by you before Style.
Even though I’m happy to see awesome blog updates, I’m rather disappointed that you’re not living the mobile 4HWW lifestyle anymore. Have you been on any mini-retirements since the book was published? Of course, normally it wouldnt matter but now you’re a role model and inspiration to so many. I wonder is being popular and building your personal brand a more attractive lifestyle than 4HWW? Have you “outgrown” it? What’s the story?
@Edward and All,
Thanks so much for the comment and kind words. Funny you should ask what you did, as I’m off to SFO in a few hours to fly to Vietnam for two weeks!
The mini-retirements are alive and well, and I’m still following the advice I give in the book 🙂
All the best — next post will be from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh,
I have to echo the recommendations of J.J. Luna’s book “How to be Invisible”
Check out his website:
Check the right hand column of tarasovandassociates.com. I think that pretty much explains it all.
It’s what we in the business call an “easter egg.” Nice.
Funny this should come up at a time when 1) I’m in the process of getting my Hungarian citizenship 2) Planning moving to Holland 3) Thinking about how I could get a Swiss bank account once I move to Holland (though I didn’t know that Singapore was fast becoming an Asian Switzerland, might be something to consider as they also have an F-1 race now) and 4) How I could keep my apartment in the U.S. while buying property in Hungary at the same time.
I ordered the book and can’t wait to read it. Thanks Tim!
One thing not mentioned was how helpful a passport from a different country can be when traveling international since our reputation has been tarnished pretty badly so far this century. Using another passport can help you avoid harassment, seizure and other such inconveniences in foreign countries not to mention the fact you can visit countries otherwise banned by the U.S.
Read “The Game” and loved it. Eagerly awaiting for Style’s new book. 🙂
I don’t know if you a deal with the author of Emergency or what but you’ve got me sold. I loved Four-Hour Workweek and the world’s gloomy economic prospects have rattled me. Consider the book bought.
All the best in Viet Nam TIm. Contact me if you need anything. I live in Ho Chi Minh CIty.
The book has gone from #34 to #28 and climbing. Tim Ferriss sure (still) knows how to create buzz 🙂
I’ve read almost all of Neil’s books – The Game, The Dirt, The Marilyn Manson book, Jenna Jameson, Rules of the Game. All fantastic reads. He knows how to craft a story that you can’t put down. Can’t wait for this one. Thanks for sharing Tim! – Richard Brian Penn
FYI: J.J. Luna has a book ” How to Be Invisible” which has a lot of useful information ( http://www.howToBeInvesible.com). He also has a book called “Invisible Money”…
I have seen an evolution in your posts and yes, you were right about this post, it was the bomb.
Your posts are getting even better and I appreciate that there may be longer breaks between some posts, because I am a writer and sometimes there needs to be a break so that the articles aren’t forced and thus not genuine or just not as good as they could be.
I also noticed your sentiment of recent events has changed slightly.
Keep up the good work.
Great work. My only question is what if we don’t have 2 years worth of funds to be able to do all of the things you mentioned? (I’m sure Tim would say to use the tricks from his book) But those take time to generate an income and it seems like you have a sense of urgency about the current situation as we all should. I’m sure there is more about this in the book and I plan on reading it but thats not for another 10 days…..should we all just bail out to Ecuador? It seems like now would be the best time to do this because of the current rise in the value of the dollar.
I thought digital currencies were also pretty much shut down (like eGold and such) due to post-9/11 legislation.
Also potential US expats, realize that you have to file a tax return to the IRS even if your not a resident in the US and do not make your income in the USA. The IRS has successfully extradited people for forgetting to do this. And the IRS has foreign agents to try to find people like this. You might even be double taxed if your not in a country w/ a tax treaty w/ the USA. The USA is very unique in this.
Tim just sent me an email asking me to respond to JB.
As Tim theorized, I had to change the name of the firm at the behest of Harper’s lawyer. But I knew readers would go looking for the company, so I used my admittedly amateurish Dreamweaver skills (along with a picture of one of the book’s fact-checkers) to put something up explaining why they weren’t finding the company online. I don’t like leaving loose ends. The explanation is in the right column on the page. A link to a video of a kangaroo knocking out a children’s TV host is at the bottom.
And TPapp, I like how you’re thinking. And, yes, you might want to think twice about getting that Swiss account, especially if you’ve been following what’s been going on with UBS Bank.
And great comments here overall…
@Neil, looking forward to the book, then 🙂 …do you by any chance talk about why you went for the St. Kitts passport instead of, say, Dominica which requires a somewhat more affordable “donation”?
@Thomas, no, that was merely those exposed to US jurisdiction in some form. Digital currencies based in more favorable climates such as Panama and Costa Rica are trucking on and indeed growing exponentially. You’ll find their adverts in DGC Magazine. Think of it analogously to the proliferation of P2P file sharing technology – there’s hardly any way to put the genie back into the bottle without shutting down the Internet. “A Lodging of Wayfaring Men” deals with all these questions.
For some reason I never thought I would see this kind of post from you, yet I am not surprised.
I am in the process of getting second citizenship, asset protection, etc…
Keep it coming!!!!
Seems finally the undercurrent of the 4HWW is beginning to surface… I praise Tim for introducing many aspects of the PT lifestyle to a broader audience through the back door.
This (knowledge) will rise faster and ever stronger, and indeed is reaching a tipping point — most don’t call it this, but the anticivilization’s days are numbered and the reigining parasitical elite class know it.
I suggest: Collect your intangibles. Trust, Reputation, Emotional Intelligence. Identify and mobilize around these, and others, with a LOCAL community of likeminded, savvy sovereign individuals.
Breakpoint to the Procivilization is upon us. Check the “Zeitgeist”.
Great post – I just pre-ordered on Amazon!
can’t put it down even before I have it! And I just LMAO going to the tarasovandassociates website. Read the whole thing, the guy is genius. No wonder he and the Tim hang well together.
This entire concept of this book is one I’ve been thinking about since I moved back to this country from Japan. Ticked me off when I lived there that the US wanted to keep track of my earnings there and double tax me….at any rate, fantastic resource, thanks so much!!!
Tim! Having just set up my Personal Training business (thanks for the 4hour week inspiration) to allow me one of your early retirements with my girls… wife and baby daughter 😉 I was fascinated by this post… DO US CUSTOMS/CONTROL REALLY LOOK IN MY LAPTOP??? That means they are reading this post and half my tip is gonna go up in smoke…
Tim, Liechtenstein. Look it up.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the world. You’ve just been provided with a glimpse into future of freedom.
PT or “perpetual tourist” runs on the assumption, that if you don’t stay put in one spot you’re really not subject to the laws of any particular state.
Everyone tolerates if not enjoys tourists. They don’t stay long, they don’t compete for local resources and in fact bring money in SUPPORTING the local economy.
Having a residency in a tax haven gets you protection from onerous tax imposition. Having a residence (or multiple residences) in countries known for privacy for your assets. And the third residence is where you’re at physically which shifts like the sands from country to country. Panama as a tourist one month, Australia another, Buenos Aires another etc. Point being, your a hard mo fo to keep up with, monitor and especially CONTROL.
The internet makes this very practical, with email addresses, possible online businesses etc.
The window on this lifestyle is closing however. There are new currency controls in the works. The ever expanding patriot act and deteriorating economic conditions will make living free very difficult in the not to distant future.
In the future, with tools like the internet, the INDIVIDUAL will dictate the control over his/her destiny. Governments will be forced to accomodate their populace or lose it. No more stupid wars, laws, restrictions on activities that ONLY affect the individual willfully involved.
In short it will be a Libertarian future made possible by freedom of location selection. And peace, prosperity, diversity will dominate the next leg up of human developement.
I would be very careful about offshore trusts, and trustees. There are numerous cases of trust companies in The Isle of Jersey and Guernsey (Channel Islands, UK), charging exorbitant “fees” without the approval of the beneficiaries and without your knowledge.
They can totally loot your trust and there is little you can do about it. Sure, you can sue them in Jersey, but good lick. The Jersey courts are hardly unbiased.. they protect their own.
Go to http://www.suejerseytrusts.com and http://www.sueinvestec.com or join our Facebook Group: Sue Jerseytrusts at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/home.php?ref=home
Tim AND Neil,
Neil’s book looks interesting, and thank you for sharing.
I have to say that Neil bathes in shame for the way he depicts Tyler Durden. I believe Tyler has gone through a great transformation since “The Game,” he has learned his lessons and has become a truly mature guy.
HEADS UP: Tyler’s forthcoming Blueprint book will be extraordinary; you should get in contact with this genius. (If not, you are only the poorer for it)