“I thought of myself as a global citizen.”
That was what Eduardo Saverin said last week in trying to defend his renunciation of U.S. citizenship before his wealth was set to skyrocket with the IPO of Facebook, which he co-founded with Mark Zuckerberg. Born in Brazil, Saverin immigrated to the United States when he was 10. Now 30, he lives in Singapore.
Saverin’s move upset many Americans, mainly because they believe Saverin was simply trying to avoid hefty U.S. taxes. It is yet another example of the wealthy elite trying any which way they can to avoid paying their fair share, according to a piece by Dan Gilmore in The Guardian.
That may be true. But it’s not just the wealthy who are trying to protect their money by moving around in our increasingly flat world. As Baby Boomers have watched their nest eggs shrink and the U.S. deficit soar over the last few years, they’ve realized that their cost of living and their taxes are likely to go up while the amount they can expect from Social Security goes down. Many of them are thinking about moving to another part of the world, a place where the cost of living is lower and yet the quality of life is good. I hear more and more folks talking about moving to where their limited retirement funds will support them. Technology is making this increasingly feasible.
A relative of mine in retirement-planning mode is considering moving to Costa Rica. The weather is great, the country is beautiful, costs are relatively low and the healthcare system is good and inexpensive. With phone and Internet she could still keep in touch. And it’s not so far away that she couldn’t come back to visit sometime. (You can bet I’d also be visiting her frequently.)
Tech analyst Rob Enderle and his wife are building a house in Belize. (His latest post about it is here.) In addition to making his money go further, Enderle is planning the move because he is concerned about the amount of debt that the U.S. government is incurring and the failure of politicians to stem the tide. “We operate on a deficit that makes Greece seem frugal,” he says. He even fears that the dollar standard might be dropped eventually.
I’ve heard others say they are fed up with the stalemate in U.S. politics (either the conservative right or the liberal left is ruining the country, depending on your political persuasion) and just want out. They don’t think our country is working very well anymore. And they don’t have much hope that things will get better.
It certainly makes economic sense for me. As a freelance writer, all I need to make a living is reliable phone, Internet and wireless connections. If I can make the same amount of money while operating from North Dakota, Panama or Singapore, why shouldn’t I move where I can live more cheaply? While the technology still isn’t up to our standards in certain areas (Enderle notes that Belize Internet connections are still somewhat unreliable and slow), that will no doubt improve over the next few years.
As more of the developed countries struggle with debt, high costs and even political upheaval, and technology continues to shrink the world and break down artificial boundaries, more people will be forced to balance national allegiance against economic prosperity. Even if they remain citizens of the United States, more Americans may start living as citizens of the world.