Thoughts on Singapore
by Marwood Dent (a pseudonym)
I have been
living in Singapore for three years and have not regretted my decision
for a second. Partly, this is because Singapore is my fourth country
of residence and I have no attachment to any group, apart from those
with whom I feel psychological affinity.
Moving to a different country might not be for everyone, but it
can help you maximize your living conditions and feel freer by escaping
increasingly controlling and restrictive governments.
If you live in the Western world, consider the demographics. When
you couple the increasing sense of entitlements and Social Security
payments with decreasing tax revenues and decreasing growth-rates...
it makes it extremely important to secure your hard-earned wealth
from being taxed away by your government.
It is conceivable they might even at some point make it impossible
for you to leave, thus making you a complete tax slave.
DESIGNING YOUR LIFE
By keeping a couple of passports and living in a third country (and
using cash wherever possible), one can design a life of anonymity
and freedom all legally.
If you want to make your life and, at least in some sense, your
money, your own... you have no choice but to be "paranoid". Interestingly,
by being paranoid and then acting to internationalize yourself,
you can eliminate your paranoia. Then you need not fear becoming
a tax slave. Instead, wherever you go, you will be welcomed as a
tourist and seen as a contributor to the local economy.
As I write this, most of my wealth is located in countries with
which I have had no tax or residential connection for the last five
years. And the best part is... they don't care. These countries
are all grateful for my investments and know full well that, having
no jurisdiction over me, if they create problems for me my capital
would leave in seconds.
I live in Singapore
but keep minimal wealth here. Singapore does not tax your wealth
and hence does not care where you keep your capital.
But why give them a chance to trouble you? The next generation of
Singaporeans might be entitlement-oriented (and they are), and therefore
I want to be in a position to leave again when the time comes.
If I am fortunate, that time may never come, as its tax regime is
its core competency and main attraction.
I am often asked, "Why would someone as fanatically libertarian
as you go to a country where there is no democracy, where you get
capital punishment for owning guns and drugs?"
It's a good question. Why would I choose to live in a country
that is constantly ridiculed for the use of caning as a punishment,
and that lacks freedom of speech?
Singapore's reputation makes people question if they must sacrifice
their freedom in order to save taxes.
Allow me to address each of these issues.
First, it is a myth that democracies (read: dictatorship of
the masses) by definition offer more benevolent living conditions.
In my experience, democracies have seeds of self-destruction. Singapore,
on the other hand, is more like a family-run corporation
a political system I prefer over democracy.
Here I don't see any busybodies around. Bureaucratic interferences
in your life are minimal. They focus on governance and they do it
relatively well. They are nowhere close to an ideal government,
but compared to what you get elsewhere, Singapore is a treat.
Second, while it is true that they do have tough drug and gun laws,
they are effective. Singapore is one of the safest cities on the
planet and a young girl here can feel comfortable walking by herself
just about anywhere, even late at night. Since I have no reason
to own a gun nor do I consume drugs, Singapore fits in my life design
plan just fine.
Third, while this may sound quite shocking, to me, caning as a mode
of punishment looks quite appropriate in many situations.
For example, I recently saw a video of three teenagers beating an
old man for fun in the U.S. The teenagers likely went unpunished.
I would prefer that they had to slog for several years to make monetary
retribution to the old man. But lacking that, I certainly think
caning is a better form of punishment than letting the culprits
Lastly, freedom of speech is limited only in the arena of politics.
Quite honestly, if more freedom of speech were allowed in Singapore,
it would likely also degenerate into a "dictatorship of the mobs",
in which Peter lobbies or protests to steal what is Paul's. Personally,
my only reason for participating in mass protests is war. But since
Singapore does not participate in attacking other countries, there
is no need for antiwar protests anyway. So again this is acceptable
to me in my life design plan.
In Singapore, only your income is taxed, and at a maximum marginal
rate of 20%. There is no capital gains tax. The benefit here being
that, not only do you not have to pay tax on capital gains, more
importantly, there is no way for the government to know
what you actually own. (This removes the possibility of your capital
being taken away from you on some pretext, as you can expect to
happen someday very soon in the U.S.)
Similarly, because you don't declare tax on interest earned from
bank deposits, the government has no way of finding out how much
you have and in which bank.
I like my privacy. Indeed, here you don't have to worry about keeping
detailed bank records and having to calculate gains on owning different
currencies, a virtually impossible job. The last time I did my taxes
here it took me just three minutes.
Singapore also has double taxation avoidance agreements with many
countries. If your country is one of them, you might be able to
stay up to one day less than six months in your home country and
still become a Singaporean tax-resident. These treaties perhaps
give Singapore the edge over Hong Kong in terms of where to live.
(I still go to Hong Kong, though, to do my shopping since there
is no sales tax there.)
Contrary to the rationalizations of procrastinators, it is much
easier to move to a new country when you
are still young, have no family and do not have much wealth.
Once you are settled in a job in your home country, your unrealized
capital gains keep accumulating. After a certain threshold, this
might make your exit tax requirement so prohibitive that... ironically...
for tax reasons, you do not go even if you have every intention
and reason to leave your country.
The life of an international man requires him to stop seeing the
world in black and white.
He must not pigeonhole countries, but design his life in order to
secure his wealth and freedom as much as he can. That can often
mean giving up residence in what is generally perceived as a relatively
You have to design your own freedom.
Shop where goods are cheap and there is no sales tax... Be a tax
resident where you have minimal tax requirements... Spend time in
places where the cost of living is low and the quality of life is
high... Seek a jurisdiction where real freedom and anonymity exist...
Keep most of your money in countries different from where you live...
Own passports for countries where you don't live.
And best of all, with a bit of effort, this can all be done perfectly
legally and will let you stay one step ahead of your government.
with other international men and women all around the world, consider
joining the International
Man Network. It's completely free to join, plus you'll have
access to a private forum of thousands of like-minded individuals
who are sharing their "boots on the ground" tactics and experience
on how to internationalize one's life and wealth. Sign
Man with permission.
© 2012 International