I’m addicted to America.
As I sit in a local Starbucks enjoying a coffee with a triple shot of caffeine, I’m reminded of why I live in this country:
A convenience culture second to none, where (if I’m so inclined), I can drive to Walmart at 2:00 in the morning and buy a quart of Häagen-Dazs ice cream to indulge my sweet tooth.
Superb medical care that’s expensive but available without rationing or delays.
Free, fast, and (somewhat) reliable Wi-Fi almost everywhere.
Very low crime if you live in a nice enough neighborhood.
Heck, there’s even a “Convenience” button on my iPhone. When I press it, all the gas stations, convenience stores, and (very importantly) coffee shops in my immediate vicinity pop up. This is vital if I suddenly decide I need a shot of coffee, or (depending on the time of day), a glass of Malbec at a local watering hole.
Any addiction, of course, is dangerous. And it’s important to take safeguards to prevent possible harm.
For instance, if you’re addicted to heroin, you should never shoot up alone. And the “friends” you’re shooting up with should keep a few syringes of Naloxone (an opioid antidote) handy, in case you take too much.
On the other hand, if you’re addicted to America, you need a Plan B. Because things can turn very ugly very fast. This is what Boston, Massachusetts, looked like a few hours after the bombing at the Boston Marathon in 2013:
Within a matter of hours after the bombing, the entire Boston metropolitan area was locked down by police and the National Guard. Residents were forbidden to leave their homes as police conducted house-to-house searches for the suspected bombers.
Keep in mind, too, that this bombing – awful as it was – killed only three people. How do you think the government would react in a situation where thousands of people were killed? The guys you see walking down the street in this photo with automatic weapons just might be coming to your door.
Everyone’s Plan B is different. For some “preppers,” it means stockpiling food, water, fuel, guns, and ammunition at home. For others, it means a home in a remote location far removed from the general populace.
But if the entire country is locked down, such Plan B’s might mean you’re trapped in your own home for weeks or months at a time. Sure, it’s only prudent to keep some essentials at home for days when the power goes out. But for me, Plan B means having a way of “getting out of Dodge” in the event of chaos.
I happen to live relatively close to the Mexican border. By car, I can be in Mexico in less than three hours. If you live close to an international border, one element of your own Plan B can be keeping the gas tank in your car full so that you can leave at a moment’s notice. And as my old mentor Harry Schultz used to say, “Keep a packed suitcase by your front door.”
But a packed suitcase and a full tank of gas won’t do you much good if you don’t have the right to live anywhere outside the US, and don’t also have financial resources available to you when you leave. That’s a big reason why I have legal residence in the Republic of Panama and maintain the bulk of my personal assets outside the US.
The ultimate “get out of Dodge” document, of course, is a second passport. Yes, it’s true that US citizens are legally required to use a US passport when they enter or leave the US (although there are ways, albeit illegal ones, to avoid this requirement). But once you’re out, a second passport gives you the legal right to reside permanently in another country.
Or even countries in some cases. For instance, a passport from the Commonwealth of Dominica gives you the right to reside not only in Dominica, but also gives you the right to live and work in other members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) — Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent & the Grenadines. And a passport from a country in the European Union gives you the right to reside in any of 28 different countries.
Addictions are never healthy. But if you, like me, are addicted to America’s “convenience culture,” it’s worth considering a cure: a Plan B.
Today wouldn’t be too soon to start preparing it.
In the meantime, I'm advising our clients to deal only with offshore banks and financial advisors that are making a good-faith effort to comply with FATCA. I'll keep you posted of new developments as they occur.