by Bobby Casey
Many years ago one of my mentors once told me that in order to protect my assets I must first figure out how to make sure they cannot be easily found.
I thought long and hard about that statement trying to understand what he meant. In further discussions he mentioned the famous Rockefeller quote (which happens to be the headline of my website), “Own nothing, control everything”.
At the time that my mentor told me this, I owned an installation company that covered half of the continental US and did 10s of thousands of installations per year. I also owned a restaurant, some commercial real estate and a couple of rental houses.
My mentor had a valid point. I was at a point in my life that I was financially exposed to various vultures and parasites looking to feed off of my productivity and I needed to take asset protection and privacy seriously.
To put it in plain language, I owned a bunch of assets and all of them were in my personal name.
If you don’t understand the implications of this, let me explain with a simple example.
Let’s say you have a Superbowl party at your house and serve your buddies beer and pizza. Your pal Frank imbibes a little too much unbeknownst to you and drives home a bit over the legal limit.
On his drive home, he causes and accident that kills another driver. This driver happened to be the father of a newborn infant and the sole financial provider in his household. Not a pretty picture.
The problem is Frank had minimum insurance coverage on his automobile because he couldn’t afford higher limit insurance on his meager $30,000 salary.
Guess who is on the hook now? You guessed it, you – the party host, aka “Mr. Deep Pockets”.
The injured family’s lawyer will have a heyday with you because you have a successful business, some real estate, and a nice income to go after.
Step one in the lawyer’s arsenal is to do some research on what his perceived payday may be. You are probably asking yourself the questions, “why would this matter?”.
Here’s the deal. Lawyers are blood sucking parasites (even my lawyer friends agree with this). They take cases like this to get 50% or more of the money out of you in a judgment. Sure, the family will get some money from you as well, but lawyers take cases like this on contingency. Usually 50% or more.
And lawyers want to know they will get paid. So what do they do? Research. The research you and your income, net worth, etc.
In today’s highly connected world the lawyer is just a few mouse clicks away from finding your bank accounts, any real estate you own, any businesses you own or manage, any brokerage accounts you own and much, much more.
They can also easily find your home address, your driver license number, your social security number, the address of your beach house, where your brother lives, how many speeding tickets you’ve had, and your ex-wife’s Facebook profile.
Welcome to the world of connectivity.
Back to the conversation with my mentor. He helped me tremendously in creating a veil of privacy around myself and my assets.
This process of creating this veil of privacy for my personal situation was so intriguing, I started to help my entrepreneur and investor buddies develop their own strategies as well. At first it was informal consulting that eventually became something much more than a hobby.
In 2008, I decided to make this my full time career. And since then, I have dived deeply down the rabbit hold and learned a tremendous amount about how to protect one’s wealth and privacy.
In my view, privacy is critically important and a basic human right. In today’s world however, it takes a bit of work to put a plan into place. This does not happen by accident because everything in your life is designed around your personal transparency.
And while it may take a bit of work to create this veil of privacy, it is not that difficult or expensive. In fact, the steps are relatively simple.
Step one is to not disclose your home address to anyone. Anywhere. For any reason, whatsoever.
There are a few simple steps you can take to make this happen. First, get a mail drop address. There are tons of them available (just Google search this term). You can also just get a simple mailbox at the local UPS store.
If you don’t do anything else in this article, do this step today. It is quick, easy and takes very little money or time to implement and the result is that you have taken the first step toward creating your veil of privacy.
With a mail drop address, or a UPS box, you will get a physical street address. This is important. The DMV, banks, and virtually any government agency requires a physical address and will not allow a PO Box for your registered address.
You will get a physical address that appears something like this:
123 Main Street
Anywhere, XX 00000
With a physical address in this format as opposed to a PO Box, you can now update your address with all of your banks, credit card companies, utility providers, phone companies, etc. – anyone who has your address must be updated.
The next step here is to change the address on your driver’s license. This is VERY important. Go to your local DMV and ask to get a new license with your updated address. I cannot stress the significance of this enough – YOU MUST CHANGE YOUR DRIVER LICENSE ADDRESS TO YOUR NEW ADDRESS AT THE UPS STORE (or other mail drop address).
By changing your address in every conceivable location, you are updating easily searchable databases. Every credit reporting agency and every government agency relies on your banks, credit card companies, utility companies and the local DMV for updating your records.
The idea here is to give them the information YOU want them to have. You cannot completely avoid the societal system as it stands, but you can take advantage of various opportunities to protect your privacy without having to live in a cabin in the woods in Idaho with a rainwater catch tank and solar panels on the roof.
Step two is to make sure any titled or registered asset you own is not held in your own name. This is important because, again, searchable databases use vehicle and property records to determine ownership, assets owned, and your home address.
This goes back to the Rockefeller quote, “Own nothing, control everything.”
This is much simpler than you think. The solution is to use one or more LLC’s and/or land trusts to shield your personal ownership of assets.
If you own a home in your own name, it is easily researched to determine what you own, where you live, and you can also extrapolate your equity and even a rough estimate of your personal net worth from this data.
In the example above, the plaintiff’s attorney can do a simple records search to see that you own the house at 123 Main Street, the tax value is $500,000, you have a $250,000 mortgage, and can even approximate your net worth and income using common formulas for affordability of mortgages.
If however, you own your home in a properly structured LLC or land trust, there would be no way to determine who is the beneficial owner of the property – thus masking your true ownership, equity, net worth and income.
If you took my advice in step one as well and changed your address to the local UPS store, no one can even determine your true home address either, further increasing your level of privacy.
The same can be said for your car as well. You can easily sign the title over to your LLC removing you from the title and using your UPS store address as the physical address. You would need to have commercial auto insurance for the vehicle if you take this step, but that is not a significant hindrance as every major insurance company can insure your car with the same limits under a commercial policy.
Step three is to protect your privacy online. This is much simpler than you probably imagined. I would recommend using a privacy VPN like CyberGhost. I have personally used several of them in the past and have found this one to be the best of the lot.
What CyberGhost does is it allows you to mask your IP address. Your IP address is what determines your physical location, based on your emails and your web searches. For someone tech savvy enough, it is not that difficult to find your IP address, and thus your physical location (or close approximation) just from looking at the message data in an email you send.
CyberGhost (and other privacy VPN’s) have many other benefits as well. For example, they do an excellent job of blocking any viruses and malware attempting to attack your computer. When surfing the web, it keeps your web searches anonymous allowing you additional privacy while online.
With CyberGhost you can also chose the location of your VPN. As a frequent traveler, I have found this to be hugely beneficial. It allows me to access geographically restricted websites like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video while traveling to countries where they are not allowed.
It also allows me to book my travel arrangements from poorer countries. You may be shocked to learn that if you buy a plane ticket while “IN” Romania, the ticket is typically cheaper than if you are actually “IN” New York. The travel websites track your IP address and base their pricing on geography.
Some financial institutions will only allow you to access their online banking or trading platforms if you are in the same country as the financial institution. This problem is easily solved with CyberGhost by choosing your IP address.
Ultimately I see using a privacy VPN as cheap insurance to ensure my privacy in my web searches and email communications.
Step four is to remove yourself from the US banking system. Of course I recognize this is not 100% possible in today’s world. We need a bank account and a debit or credit card in order to simplify many aspects of our lives. I am not suggesting that you live in an agricultural commune trading your corn for your neighbors tomatoes.
I am suggesting that you minimize your reliance on the banking system. This means use cash when possible. If you have excess cash beyond your daily needs in your bank account, withdrawal the cash and put it in a safe in your house.
If you have a big problem with too much cash (not a horrible problem to find a solution for…) buy assets like gold bullion, silver bullion, cashflow real estate, or make hard money loans.
The idea here is to effectively opt out of the banking system as best as you can. If done correctly, physical cash and other hard assets are virtually impossible to track – thus giving you more privacy and freedom with your wealth and your life.
And lastly, step five. I highly encourage every single person reading this article to consider starting your own business in some way or another.
This is not a pro-entrepreneurship article (although I am definitely pro-entrepreneurship). This is more about you taking control over your life and your privacy.
If you are a W-2 employee, you are living within the realm of societal expectations. You have been programmed to get a good education and get a good job and pay your fair share in taxes.
You are also forgoing a lot of personal freedoms by living this life as well. The moment you fill out and sign that W-4 form for your employer (don’t forget to update your address with your employer as well if you have a job), you are “on the grid” so to speak.
By working for yourself, you take back a bit of that control. You have more control over your income, your stability, and even the taxes you pay. It should be no secret that entrepreneurs and self-employed people get significant tax advantages and pay a significantly lower percentage of their income in taxes than a typical W-2 employee.
Even if you are working a traditional job, I would encourage you to start some sideline gig to get your feet wet. See where it takes you.
If you are interested to learn more about this topic, I wrote a step-by-step guide on how to implement these steps for going off the grid without leaving your couch.
In this free guide, I have given exactly the step-by-step process along with my recommendation on service providers, how to properly structure your LLC’s or land trusts without jeopardizing your privacy, additional steps you can take to get out of the banking system, and even a few secrets to take it to the next level.
If you would like to receive the free report, click the link here.
Until next time, live well.