Photo: Facebook/Jesse Steele
Do yourself and your home nation, wherever that may be, a big favour. Leave! Pack up and head out. Move to another nation. Live and work there for at least a few years, but get a move on!I have written on this topic, emigration, over the years for Barron’s, the Christian Science Monitor, and other publications, been interviewed by CNBC, French public radio, and others. That was fine. I was happy to do it and I did not do it for financial gain. I had and have nothing to sell. Sure, if you want an excellent property in Panama, where I live, with great appreciation potential, I can help, but that is very specific and has nothing to do with the broad topic of emigration and had nothing to do with my publications and interviews over the years.
The future cannot be accurately predicted, although people will insist that they can do it. That’s just human behaviour and there are plenty of people who will charge you $69.95 or $99.95 for newsletters that are basically blah-blah, designed to drive sales of other products and services. They are happy to make predictions and take advantage of the human desire to believe someone “knows” the future. All they know is that you will forget their predictions six months or a year from now and focus on their new predictions. When they get something right or even within shouting distance, don’t worry, they will tell you about it over and over and over. They will neglect to mention when they were wrong. A tired old story, but one that has been repeated endlessly over the decades of my life. If you want specific predictions for the future, you can find them. More power to you, but you will not find them here.
However, I do respect analysis based on evidence, not just armchair speculation. When it comes to US emigration, there was plenty of armchair speculation and commercial opportunism, but there was no serious evidence beyond the anecdotal. That’s why my firm sponsored the first statistically-valid survey implemented by an independent professional survey firm on this topic in 2005. We have done nine surveys through 2011.
We made a point of separating out those who were moving outside the US due to government service or for their corporation or for short periods of less than two years. Including them would have increased the results, but we focused on those doing it voluntarily. We don’t call it emigration because most people in the 21st century are not necessarily committing the rest of their lives to their new home, although many may choose to do so later. Instead, we call it relocation which we feel is more relevant.
What do we know from all these surveys? We know that, regardless of whether times are “good” or “bad” economically, that roughly 17 to 21% of the adult American population is giving some thought to relocation, ranging from “somewhat seriously interested and may” relocate to “very seriously interested and likely” to relocate to those who have made the decision and are in their final planning stages. Of course, the first group is larger than the second and the second is larger than the third as a “winnowing” process is underway based on level of commitment and available resources.
Translated into numbers of households, we know that in 2009 at one of the worse points economically when both the real estate and stock markets were shaken, there was still nearly a million households in the final “planning” stage, the lowest number in any of our surveys by far. We know that in 2011, there was closer to three million such households, the highest level in all our surveys by far.
We know the make-up of those interested or planning to relocate has shifted over the years in varying directions, but discussing those details is not my purpose today. We put them up at AmericaWave.com for anyone interested where you can read them as you like.
In addition, but separately, we have corresponded by email with several thousand Americans who are interested in relocation and sat to speak with hundreds of them face-to-face. Although not a statistically-valid sample, we knew that an opinion survey was not enough. We needed to hear what real people with real hopes and needs had to say, entirely on their own. This has been incredibly valuable in providing a more in-depth view of sentiments than any survey can hope to accomplish.
You will note that are no advertisements or sales of any kind at the America Wave website. Yes, given the dramatic increase in relocation, we had hoped to find a commercial business with which we could partner to bring needed assistance to those relocating. We know how difficult it can be to move a household from Iowa to Thailand or New Jersey to Panama when there is no company or government agency footing the bill and taking care of the grunt work involved. We specifically were looking for a competent partner with the global reach and the professional record to provide high-quality services, not just talk the talk. No luck, so we leave it up as a public service to anyone interested and, since we practice what we preach, we focus on our work in Panama.
We have the same problem attracting a worthy partner as we do attracting the attention of those who write about global trends and future scenarios. You can read dozens of these analyses and commentaries and not read a word about what we are talking about. Yes, migration is mentioned sometimes, but almost always in regards to people immigrating to the US, not emigrating from the US.
Once in a blue moon, someone does raise the topic. Jim Clifton, the Chairman and CEO of the Gallup organisation, stresses this in his book, The Coming Jobs War and George Freidman of Stratfor stresses it in his book, The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century, but these are rare and very far-between.
What’s the problem? Most people who we talk to find it all interesting, but they really don’t believe it. More than once, I have heard, “If this was true, why haven’t I heard more about it?” There are two reasons:
- American relocation is not controversial. There is no “leader”, no “movement”, no “cause” involved. It is the result of millions of individual households making individual decisions. It is almost entirely legal in nature, so no scandals there. It brings benefits to the recipient countries so those that receive the most relocators are those that recognise this and encourage it, thus no controversy there. But in today’s world, if you don’t scream, you aren’t heard.
- Secondly, many people are still stuck back in the 20th century. They see Americans moving overseas as wealthy people, retirees, or backpackers, with the occasional story about the guy who was a stock broker for 20 years, but is now running some exotic little B&B somewhere. Read articles on American relocators and that is who you about 90% of the time, but as a group, they are only a small portion of the total. The doubters just can’t imagine the middle class relocating outside the US. 20 or 30 years ago, they would have been closer to reality, but that is now history. History alone is not a good foundation for building a life for the future, not these days, not at all. But the past still rules in some folks’ minds.
Enough. There is plenty more. And, yes, I am aware that middle class relocation is far more than an American phenomenon. From Ireland to New Zealand, the middle classes in dozens of nations, and more than just North America and Europe, are on the move at a growing rate. This has all sorts of implications, good and bad depending on your perspective, but it is part of our reality and will affect all the other trends from demographics to the accumulation of wealth. It is not something in the near future. It is now and there is no reason to expect it to reverse course any time soon.
I am not trying to persuade anyone to relocate. That is of no importance to me at all. For those who are not interested or who have rejected it, fine. The only important thing is that you find what is right for you.
I am instead writing to those who fit into those three categories, people who have already begun looking at relocation seriously. My message is simple.
I may not believe in predicting the future, but I am not blind to the current global situation. You are welcome to yours, but in my personal opinion, the US and Europe of the late 20th century are gone and gone for good. I am certainly not “giving up” on either side of the North Atlantic. I never bet against the human race when there are that many good, intelligent people involved, but that will take time, possibly quite a few years and a lot of agony.
Trust me on this, it’s always painful to watch your home nation act like a lost puppy, but it’s much worse when you are living there. From outside, in a society where people look forward to their futures with hope instead of fear, the view is still painful, but you aren’t forced to look at it every day.
So I am finishing this with something intended for those who are thinking about relocation. Get serious! If you can’t do it now, then plan for the future. Many folks spend a year or two or more before they are in a position to make the move. Others can do it in a month. It just depends on your situation. What you do not want to do is sit and stare out the window, immobilized because you hope that somehow the “old” days will return or as a result of fear or depression from current events that keeps holding you back. We may not be “captains of our fate”, but we are not galley slaves, chained to oars, unless we choose to be.
If you’re older and looking for less expensive place to retire, fine. If you’re middle-aged (or any age) and interested in getting a new business started or just restarting your life, fine. If you’re sick and tired of all the screaming and non-stop insults of a currently dysfunctional political system and would like to focus on something better and more positive, fine. If you’re young, for god’s sake, get a move on. Barring a catastrophe that envelops the entire planet, the future is global. The great majority of the best and most interesting jobs of the future will require people with more than just their home nation on a resume.
If you are older, you know from personal experience how much the world has changed in 20 years. The odds are excellent that the next 20 will bring even more and faster change. Don’t bet against the odds, unless your goal is to stay where you are, doing what you’re doing now (or not doing what you want to do), for a long time. Young middle-class adults are all over the world from every nation gaining valuable experience, new languages, a new perspective on other cultures and all the other elements needed to compete for the best global jobs to come. Wait too long and you won’t stand up to the competition.
Again, I don’t care what your reasons are. They are yours and I respect them, regardless of what they may be. But I think we are clearly at a point when we need to get serious with ourselves. It’s crude, but there are always “shit or get off the pot” moments in our lives. If this is one for you, treat it accordingly.
It won’t be a walk in the park. The two key words to success in relocation are flexibility and adaptability. If you’re flexible and adaptable, you have a real shot at success. If you are not, you are not likely to be happy. So ‘”know yourself” is a good point to take into account.
AmericaWave.com has been quiet for the last few months since we put it up, but I’ll be adding more on the subject there in weeks to come. You’re welcome there, if the spirit moves you.
Whatever the case may be, remember that relocating does not mean deserting your home nation. Like me, you can still write, vote, and do whatever you can to help the folks back home. But like so many other people, you are at least thinking about relocation. You can wait as long as you like, but eventually it boils down to one thing, wherever you end up…
…getting a life and enjoying it.
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