Perpetual Freelancer: Six Flag Theory and you

This post have been making circles around my head for a while now (I mean a long while), mostly because I am lazy, and also because I am not really a fan of "I feel so important, when I state the obvious" posture, which is often seen in professional blogs. In fact Rants never have never become an active blog for these very reasons. Anyway... Even if stuff below seems obvious, the bigger part of freelance crowd never gave it much thought, but they really should.

I am talking about certain international lifestyle (keywords: Perpetual Traveller or Tourist (PT), Sovereign Individual, Six Flag Theory), which implies distributing your life interests across a number of countries (flags), and treating those countries as mere service providers without any patriotic sentiments. Consider your home country as you would consider a phone company, a mobile carrier or an ISP. Does it have all the features you need? Is it expensive? Is it a good bang for the buck? Is it any better than competing providers? How about fine print? Disclaimers, and limitations of service? You can also use one provider for broadband and another one for television, cut TV cable and go on with online services like Netflix, cut your landline wires in favor of SIP, etc. And most importantly, if quality of service goes down, or price goes up, or if there is something else you don't like, you just change your provider. This is a smart way to work with your service providers, and pretty much everyone applies this approach already. Six flag theory/PT is about the equivalent "smart" approach to the selection of countries for various aspects of your life.

As PT you spend the most of your time in a country that is good for living (your idea of good... from small, but dignified gingerbread town in the mountains to untamed seaside resort with blooming nightlife), legally reside (pay taxes) in a low or no-tax country, use a current account in the easiest banking jurisdiction, and keep your savings in safest one. You also carry your business in a top business haven, and acquire citizenship that gives you the widest travelling opportunities. And it's easier than it sounds, believe me.

PT lifestyle is generally applied by the lucky few, who can afford to move freely around the world — rich layabouts, international/online business owners and some C-level executives, but it is also available for your average middle-class fella (or gal), given that he (or she) is a freelancer. We are mobile, we can take our laptops, and go any place with a broadband, and stay there as much as we want, then go somewhere else. This kind of mobility is a basis of PT. Obviously a spouse can make things harder, and kids will make them discouragingly difficult. But nothing is impossible.

So... Which of the following applies to you:

  • You live in a country with very high cost of living, and find yourself with only 30 or 40% of your wage after all the bills are paid.
  • You live in an oppressive police state. They have come for your neighbor yesterday,and tomorrow they might come for you. Torchlight procession is just outside your window.
  • Taxes are unfairly high, and you don't know what are you paying for, because the place is a total mess.
  • Your country is just too dull, and far from everything you like, and you feel that boredom is killing you slowly.
  • Your government is very snoopy, and gets snoopier every day. Have they banned Tor? VPN? Are they planning to ban encryption altogether? What can they ban next? Window curtains?
  • Your government is very greedy, and gets greedier every day. Simply no comments, getting greedier is what governments do.
  • Your political views/religious beliefs (or the lack of thereof)/sexual orientation/idea of fun are prosecuted, or discontented in your country.
  • Your home country is dangerous/undeveloped/futureless for you and your kids.
  • You just feel like getting out for no specific reason.
  • You just feel insecure for no specific reason.

A lot of matches, huh? Despite the fact that you live in well-fed Western/Central Europe? If you are from a corrupt post-communist oligarchy like myself, the list probably got you slightly depressed. Relax, muslim countries are even worse, and USA is the worst of them all. Anyway the above bullets represent the reasons why people choose to become PT.

Before talking about what you can do, let's discuss some theory. First of all PT is a philosophy, and state of mind, not a cookbook or a checklist. For me it's about personal sovereignity, and freedom as libertarians view it, as well as invisibility, security, and privacy that come from being everywhere, and nowhere at the same time. Some people talk about world citizenship and cosmopolitism, others praise the untamed, unregulated capital, etc. There is something for almost everyone. If you care for some advanced reading to form your own view on the subject, start with H. G. Hills's PT, and The Sovereign Individual by James Dale Davidson. Bye-bye Big Brother (BBBB) by Grandpa is another title worth checking out.

So... without further ado six flags are:

  1. Citizenship/passport of a country that doesn't tax your worldwide income, and has a good visa-free list. If your current citizenship fulfills the requirements, then you are lucky. Otherwise you might want to get another.
  2. Legal or tax residence. It should be low-tax or no tax jurisdiction. Countries that tax only local income are also good.
  3. Business haven. For a freelancer (self-employed, private entrepreneur, etc.) it merges with p. 2, because you probably work under your name, pay (or don't pay) taxes as a private person. If you have a full-blown business with suppliers, sexy female secretary and other goodies, make sure it operates in a friendly low-tax jurisdiction. So called "classic offshores" look like an easy, and obvious solution, but there are implications.
  4. Banking haven. This is easy — place to keep your money, away from Europe, I would say. Obviously away from US.
  5. Playground, one or more. Places where you hang out. You probably already know what your playgrounds are (the place on your desktop wallpaper), but I'll give you some options to play with. What do you think about Amsterdam, Paris, Rio, Pattaya, Hong Kong? London perhaps? Montevideo? In case if you are wondering, my preference is South-East Asia.
  6. The Cyberspace to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. All things online: Your communications, web presence, collaboration, cloud, etc. You might want to keep those out of NSA's (or anyone else's) reach. Can also be the place of your primary and/or secondary online business.

Before you decide that this move would be too drastic, note (again) that PT is not a checklist. You can employ any number of elements, start small and move forward at your own pace... or start small, and stay small. No need to take any irreversible steps, such as selling your apartment or denouncing your current citizenship. In fact you can even physically stay in your home country, if you are fine with it, which might not be such a bad idea after you secure your business and assets offshore. Nothing is fixed, and specifics depend on your own situation — citizenship, goals, tolerance to risk, etc., however there some common common principles. If this post generates any interest, I will describe my own experience and findings on the subject in the series of posts, one for each flag. Please subscribe, use Share block on the right, or add a comment. This way I can assess the level of public interest to the subject. Bottom line or what was it all about:

  • Living in paradise (your idea of it)
  • Ditching taxes legally (four-zero amount directly to your pocket y/y)
  • Getting off the your oppressive, snoopy and greedy government's hook
  • Decreasing your cost of living radically (if I told you, what are the monthly food-and-lodging costs in Chiang Mai, you would call me a liar)
  • Stashing your hard-earned cash in a really safe place, away from the imminent storm, as well as sticky-fingered bureaucrats (for example Russians were robbed to the cleaners twice by their banks and government within last 25 years)
  • Reaching that elusive thing they call freedom... or something very similar
  • Personal feats — higher self-esteem, broader outlook, dense and diverse experience and impressions... all these will make you wiser, and more relaxed, driving away whatever brain bugs you might have
  • Did I mention women? I do now J