When my grandfather was still alive, he spent his 40+ years of retirement (he died in his 90’s) rotating between two homes. In the summer months, he lived in Anchorage, Alaska, where it’s absolutely beautiful and mild during the summer. I visited his place up there a few times and it was amazing every time I went.
The problem is, in the winter, Alaska, even southern Alaska, turns into a fucking ice age. So in the winter, he would fly down to his second home in Scottsdale, Arizona, where the summers are scorching hot (100+ degrees is normal) but the winters are mild and nice.
This way, year-round, he had perfect, sunny-but-mild weather. He had to maintain two homes, which was costly (though he could have rented them out using a service like AirBnB if he wanted), but he was very happy with this arrangement. He always had amazing weather, took advantage of various favorable tax laws, and even had two girlfriends, one in each location.
In the US, these people are called “snowbirds.” I remember envying my grandpa, even when I was a kid, when I saw him live this way. It seemed like a very high-happiness way to live.
I remembered this when I first started planning my exit from the Collapsing USA in earnest several years ago. In accordance with my Five Flags plan, I have to arrange my expat lifestyle so as to pay the minimum amount of taxes allowed by law. My goal is to get my total tax liability to 4% or less. (0% would be ideal, and is doable, but I may not be able to get it that low based on my lifestyle standards. If I get it to 4% or less, I’ll be happy.)
The problem is that if I choose my Country A (the country I will live in, but not be a legal citizen in) and live there 12 months out of the year or close to it, I may incur a residency tax even though I’m not a citizen there. For example, New Zealand is on my short list for possible Country A’s. If I live there more than six months a year, NZ’s socialist government wants to slap a tax on me. Can’t have that! Instead, I could live in NZ for 5.5 months out of the year and spend the other six months somewhere else, returning to NZ as my “home base.”
My current plan, that is only a rough draft at this point and is certainly subject to change, is to do a Five Flags, international version of what my grandpa used to do domestically. That is:
1. In October, just as it starts to get cold and rainy in the USA (particularly in the Pacific Northwest region where I live now), head to my real home base in New Zealand, and stay there until the end of February. This is just under six months before the taxes kick in. Since New Zealand is south of the equator, its summers are the inverse to us in the US, so Oct-Feb will actually be their summer. I’ll catch all the great weather, and leave just as it starts to get cold.
2. At the end of February, head over to my favorite city in the entire world, Hong Kong. Visiting HK in February is a nightmare because of the Chinese New Year, but at the end of February, that insanity is all over with. I would stay in HK during March, April, and May. These are the best months of the year to stay in HK. By June, HK is so hot and disgusting that even people who live there and love it complain about it. Moreover, HK is a lot to take in, and three months there is more than enough, so I’ll be out of there before the extreme city life gets on my (or Pink Firefly’s) nerves. And best of all, no taxes!
3. At the end of May, I will head back to the USA, Pacific Northwest, to spend the beautiful summers there and to catch up with my family. At that point (post 2025), it’s very possible I may have grandchildren so I’ll certainly want to spend some time with them, as well as my kids. Also, the Pacific Northwest is rainy and depressing for most of the year, but during the summer it’s incredible here. I’d spend June, July, August, and a little September there to enjoy it all before heading back to my home base in New Zealand in late September or early October, then start the process all over again. Once I renounce my US citizenship, I may only be able to stay 90 days in the US on my visitor’s visa, so I may have to modify this plan a little at that time, but 90 days is fine with me. Over time, I will be likely visiting the US less and less as it slowly descends into depression and chaos, particularly if my two children decide to both move out of the country themselves (they have both expressed a strong desire to do so).
This seems to me like a very enjoyable way to live, while still getting all the benefits of Five Flags. There are a few hiccups and downsides to this plan, and it’s not perfect. As one example, while I’m still a US citizen, being in the USA for more than 35 days in a year means I’ll wipe out my FEIE tax exemption for my first $100,000 in income, so I’ll have to offset that exemption somewhere else. Regardless, for the moment it looks like a template that I’d enjoy.
It could also be the type of thing that sounds good on paper but a hassle once I actually do it. But hey, the only way to know is to try it. My current plan (again, subject to change) is for me and Pink Firefly to give it a shot and stick with it for two full years, then re-evaluate the system at that point and tweak / modify if necessary.
As always, I’m updating my plan as I uncover new information. (Argentina sill looks like a great Country A for a non-citizen like myself.)