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Why You Should Diversify Your Life Offshore And How I Started

28 Jun
map with flags planted on different countries

Why You Should Diversify Your Life Offshore And How I Started

What Kathleen And I Are Getting Up To In Paris This Week

“Think back,” my editor wife counseled…

“Why, originally, did you want to go offshore?”

Here in Paris Kathleen and I have more time for reflection.

Separate and distant from the day-by-day responsibilities of the office in Panama, we’re more flexible in every way. Instead of rushing to the office each morning and diving into our laptops for hours of writing, editing, and responding to emails… we make our way across Paris to the apartment in Montmartre where we’re working at our leisure each morning.

We pull open the big windows over the courtyard below to let in the summer sunshine and the sounds of our neighbors going about their day.

Then, as we boot up our laptops, we chat… an indulgence we never have time for in Panama.

The topic on our minds this week?

What are the real benefits, in the context of the concerns and troubles of our age, of diversifying your life beyond the borders of your home country?

We’re engaging in this conversation as we work to finalize the program for my Offshore Wealth Summit taking place in the Dominican Republic next month.

We want to pin down and detail the big-picture benefits of organizing your life this way.

Thus Kathleen’s question this morning.

As I explained to her in reply, in fact, I didn’t want to go offshore. That wasn’t an agenda for me. At least not at first.

I simply had an idea that I wanted more out of life than growing up, going to school, working, and dying in the same place.

I had that idea for the first time more than 35 years ago, when I was in high school. I’d never heard the term “go offshore.”

I could have achieved my objective—of not spending my whole life in one place—by moving to another state. But something in my head told me to go farther. I wanted options… as many as possible. Outside-the-box options…

Beyond-the-border options.

I heard about a school called, at the time, the American Graduate School of International Management. You might know it as Thunderbird. I decided in high school that that’s where I’d go after college. The school has since merged with Arizona State University, but it still offers one of the best international MBA programs in the world.

That was as far as my thinking went at the time.

After graduating college and getting into Thunderbird, my thinking began to expand, but my focus was on job opportunities overseas, not “going offshore.”

Let someone pay me to see the world, I figured… so it was find a job in another country or join the Navy, as my best friend had decided to do. I knew myself well enough to realize that I wouldn’t be much good at following orders.

I finished the program at Thunderbird and got what I thought was an ideal offer of employment from an international oil drilling company. Just as I’d hoped, they wanted to pay me to see the world… at least the world where they operated. The trouble, I found, is that oil seems to be in places where humans probably shouldn’t.

That drilling outfit sent me to work in Chad, the Tengiz fields in Kazakhstan (where it is minus 50 degrees in winter), and northern Argentina in a town so close to Bolivia that that’s where we shopped for most things.

The experience was great. Unfortunately, the company wasn’t. So I quit and returned to the United States.

But that initial international experience was all I needed to confirm that that was the life for me.

Moving Overseas And Going Offshore

I spent the next four years living in Chicago (another place humans probably shouldn’t be in winter… at least not this boy from Arizona), regrouping. Finally, I felt ready to look overseas again.

I signed up for a tour of Ireland. I had an idea for a property development project… and, from my research, Ireland seemed like a good place for it.

That tour was led by Kathleen Peddicord, who, coincidentally, was also considering a move to the Emerald Isle. We met in June, were married in November, and headed to Ireland together two weeks later.

Whereas the jobs with the drilling company had been short-term gigs, that move to Ireland was indefinite. That meant obtaining legal residency, setting up a bank account, buying a car, getting a local driver’s license, and all the other fun things you have to do when you move to another country.

Ireland became my first real experience at internationalizing my life.

In the 20-plus years since, I’ve gone offshore completely and thoroughly. At this point, I’ve done just about everything one could think about doing in another country…

I have obtained residency (in 4 countries), opened bank accounts (more than 25 accounts in 12 countries), launched and operated businesses (in 7 countries), bought real estate (in 24 countries), educated my children (in 3 countries), and obtained a second citizenship (and am working now on a third).

None of it happened overnight, and here’s a secret: Much of it was not according to any plan.

Kathleen and I have built our offshore life organically, step by step. Each step has opened new doors and led to more options… and we’ve sifted and filtered and made choices, one after another, that have gotten us from where we were 20 years ago to where we are today.

The offshore publishing industry refers to it as planting flags. Each time you take an action in another country, you are said to be planting a flag. I’ve come to think of it more cohesively as internationalizing your life.

Simply put, you are diversifying.

In the financial world, diversification is about spreading your risk around. It’s no different for your personal life. You need to spread the risk around.

Lief Simon