Think Different: PT FAQ

"PT" is the enigmatic label applied to those who step "outside" the system. It can mean many things: perpetual traveller; prior taxpayer; permanent tourist; possibility thinker; portable trade; privacy tactician; post tyranny; progressive thought; power trip; private territory; personal triumph; politician terminator - or whatever you can think of!

However the usual definition, as originally put forward by Harry Schultz (the famous investment advisor) and WG Hill (the author of the book "PT"), is "perpetual traveller" - meaning someone who benefits from the treatment most nations afford to travellers (as opposed to their captive citizens!).

These benefits include such things as not having to pay tax in the country where you are a tourist (except for various sales taxes etc.); being treated as a welcome guest; being welcomed as a bringer of foreign funds; being respected as someone who is not bludging off the local social welfare system.

Most countries will allow you to be a tourist for up to 6 months in any one year. If you stay on longer, they are likely to view you as a resident - something which brings a host of extra, unwanted obligations.

As someone who lives this sort of life, I'm often asked various questions - by those who are interested, but who cannot quite see how to make it happen.

You see, for most people, the very idea of "moving" brings on a sense of discomfort. Sure, we all like to be tourists once in a while - but a permanent one? It must all get a bit much - a life of tour buses, constant flying, visa-getting, hotel stays, and pesky foreign languages and customs.

Such is the common perception. But it is a caricature. In fact, if you set yourself up right, you can lead a fairly normal life - if you consider life without accountants, lawyers, filing cabinets and tax returns as "normal"!

So, to answer the most common questions about the PT life - here's a brief FAQ, which covers the most commonly expressed concerns.

Q: Can anyone become a PT?

A: In principle yes. However, most people would never want to, because it requires a substantial commitment to thinking outside the square. Most people value their "home", and their "home country" (sometimes to the point of irrationality), so the idea of moving away from home is usually viewed negatively.

Q: What type of people would find becoming a PT relatively easy?

A: Anyone who has either a private source of income, or who can work or do business internationally. We all know how important money is, and earning it is one of life's primary goals - as a means of living the life we desire. So, being able to earn an income away from "home" is an essential prerequisite. This could be achieved by anyone who is financially independent; a full time investor; someone with portable skills - allowing them to work anywhere; those who earn their income off the internet; and those whose business is already international in scope.

To give you a concrete example, imagine a computer programmer. Such person can literally work anywhere - as his or her tools of trade consist solely of a computer and an internet connection. This is one of the reasons for the growth of the IT industry in India. They are well known as talented hackers, so are able to do work for companies in other countries - remotely. This ability can easily be reversed. Instead of staying home and working for companies in other countries - you could be moving away, and doing work for companies at home!

The internet has opened the door to many more people - as far as a PT life is concerned. If you can do business via digital media - such as music, design, graphics, web building, programming, writing, photography, consulting etc., then you can certainly live and work anywhere, while still doing business with your regular clients.

Q: Would I need a lot of money to become a PT?

A: No. The amount of money is not the main issue. In fact, you could become a PT on a very small income. This is one of the reasons places like Thailand and the Philippines are popular with PTs - because one can live there on the smell of an oily rag if necessary. Of course, money gives you choices - so having more money gives you more options as far as what countries you spend your time in.

Let me give you another concrete example. I've just spent seven weeks in New Zealand. And soon I'll be spending a few months in China. Now, while my income remains virtually the same, my spending power can change quite dramatically. New Zealand is a first world country, with mostly first world prices. So when I was staying there, my income went only so far. However, when I go to China, I will find that same income will go a lot further.

Whereas a pair of shoes in New Zealand may cost me NZ$195 - a similar pair in China will only cost me the equivalent of NZ$40. Same with food costs. A meal out for two, in a place like New Zealand, can easily set you back NZ$60-$70 (excluding drinks), whereas two people can eat out in a nice restaurant in China for around NZ$13-$15.

So, if you're looking to be a PT on the "cheap", then you would want to spend most of your time in the more economical countries. On the other hand, if money is not really an object, then the whole world is your oyster.

Q: I'm really keen on becoming a PT, but what about my wife or partner?

A: This can be a tricky one. In fact I've talked to people who would love to make the change, but who find the attitude or commitments of their spouse/partner makes this virtually impossible. Certainly, if more than one person is involved in any major life decision, then such an issue is much harder to resolve - and may not be resolvable at all.

My advice would be to clearly enunciate all the benefits of the PT lifestyle to your partner, and try to get him or her excited by the possibilities. However, if they are totally against the idea, then there is nothing really you can do - unless you were to leave them. And that may be too drastic an option!

Q: My partner and I have talked about this and love the idea, but we have children. How would we educate our children if we were to lead this type of lifestyle?

A: A good question - and one I've asked myself many times. You see, I had the benefit of having older, independent children when I made my move (in 2000). I was also single. However, I have often asked myself what I would do if I had my time over, and had wanted to do this when I was much younger - and still with a young family.

And I know my answer. I've given this a lot of thought, and I've decided that a state education is nothing to write home about. Even more, I've decided that a state education is actually harmful! And when I talk of "state" education, I mean "private" education also. The fact is ALL education is STATE education, because the state controls the curricula and the standards.

I would bite the bullet and educate my children myself. I believe that travelling to different countries, exploring different cultures and experiencing a life of variety and stimulation is exactly what children need!

Most schooling is wasted time anyway. My own dad left school (in Scotland) when he was 14 - and I can tell you, he was a lot more literate than most 18 or 19 year olds today!

Here's my condensed theory of education - one which is ideal for the aspiring PT family. First, all children need to know the basics - reading, writing and maths. That's the foundational stuff - which is needed to do anything further. And this can easily be taught by parents. I know this, because I taught my own daughter basic reading (using phonics) before she even went to school.

Once the basics are out of the way - then comes exploration of things like the sciences, the arts, geography and history - all of which can be easily taught by reference to real life, and with the help of interesting books, DVDs and even the internet.

But the most important educational philosophy is this: let your child follow his or her own passion! That's the key. I know this because as an "A" stream student academically, I was literally forced to do advanced maths, physics, chemistry and Latin - when all I really wanted to do was art and music. My passions were squashed by the state education system - and I had to follow them in spite of my schooling.

As adults we know that the key to successful learning is to have a real motivation to absorb the information. Once you have a passion for something - then learning is a pleasure, not a chore!

And that's the key. Allow your child to follow his or her passion and encourage exploration as a means of finding such a passion. Your task, as a parent, is to guide your child to make this discovery - then simply encourage and facilitate from then on.

With this type of educational philosophy, you could easily be a PT, travel the world, AND educate your children in a way like no other. And if I had my time over, that's what I'd do!

Q: As someone who is determined to lead a freer life, what is the main advantage of becoming a PT?

A: Simplicity. Unlike convoluted schemes to avoid tax by setting up various shelters, trusts and companies - which only makes lawyers and accountants richer - you can simply wave it all goodbye.

The sleep at night factor. If you're going to travel the freedom road, then you don't want to forever be looking over your shoulder.

If you engage in creative tax-planning strategies, then you are always having to keep one step ahead of your national tax authorities - as they are constantly trying to stay one step ahead of you!

If you believe you can avoid tax by declaring yourself a "non- taxpayer", or thinking the law or constitution is on your side - then I've got some bad news for you. When push comes to shove, your government will ignore all laws and constitutions - if they need YOUR money, and you are refusing to give it to them.

Remember, they have the guns - and if necessary, they will use them.

Q: What is the biggest barrier to embarking on the PT life?

A: Your mind. The way you think. Your attitude.

In fact, my personal signature tag says it all:

"Man is free at the moment he wishes to be." - Voltaire

Need I say more?

Yours in freedom

David MacGregor