Welcome to Offshore Living Letter, Your #1 Resource for Offshore Diversification

Learning How To Start A Business Overseas

17 Sep
starting a business overseas

Learning How To Start A Business Overseas

More From Orlando—How To Start A Business Overseas

How are you going to be able to afford the retirement you’ve been dreaming about? Maybe you should defer the idea… keep working for five or six or more years longer… until you’ve been able to set a little more aside…

Nah, that’s not the answer.

As I explained to the crowd assembled in Orlando for this week’s Fifth Annual Retire Overseas event, don’t put off your retirement because you’re worried you can’t fund it. Find a way to generate more funds.

Getting a job in another country as a foreign resident is no easy thing. Often, it’s impossible. But, at this point of your life, do you really want to go to work for someone else anyway?

Much better to start your own thing.

Those of us who’ve grown up in the developed world have a serious leg up on the local competition in the developing one. Show up in a place like Belize, Nicaragua, Colombia, Ecuador, or Panama, and you’ll notice all kinds of market gaps. Products and services you’d be willing to bet would be welcome are missing altogether… and others that are available are fulfilled so inefficiently and unreliably as to, again, leave big niches wide open.

Funding Your New Life Overseas

So start a business. A messenger service (as did a friend a decade ago in Bucharest, where he noticed that all the local messenger services were unreliable… his is today the biggest in town)… or a self-storage facility (as did another friend years ago in Nicaragua, again very successfully), for example.

Or maybe put your years of professional experience to good use. You could start an auto-repair service (one of your fellow readers has done this in Coronado, Panama), a pool consulting business (another reader has done this on Roatan, Honduras), or a design consulting firm (helping other expats decorate their new homes).

You could service the local tourist trade with a restaurant, a bar, a bakery, a guesthouse, or a gîte

Setting up an operation in another country takes time and some start-up capital. (On the other hand, starting a local retail business can be a great way to connect with your new community while filling a local market niche.)

If a bricks and mortar operation (and all the hassles that go along with one), doesn’t interest you, go virtual. Teach long distance over the Internet. Consult. Coach. Process forms for a bank or a tax agency long distance. I know people doing every one of these things right now to earn an income in places where they decided they wanted to live but then realized they couldn’t quite afford.

You could also earn your way around the world as a travel writer, a copywriter, a photographer…

Or maybe start a franchise.

When we moved to Panama City, one of Lief’s first thoughts was, “Let’s open a Taco Bell!”

Lief likes Taco Bell. No Panama City when we arrived on the scene, so Lief began looking into franchise opportunities with the king of fast taco food… only to discover that, in fact, the franchise for Panama had been purchased and the first Taco Bell was to open soon.

It did. Today there are at least six across Panama City, all doing well as far as we can tell. Certainly, Lief does his part to keep the taco revenues flowing.

Kathleen Peddicord


“Lief, I read all your e-letters and subscribe to your other letters, including your wife’s.

“The question I have is this: Recently you discussed reporting to the United States about banking offshore. You mentioned financial assets in your email.

“I understand that bank accounts must be reported. However, do you have to report if you own say collectable stamps, rare earth metals, and silver/gold? “Additionally, if you purchase a condo in Panama or Colombia, do you have to report this, as well?

“I will await your reply. Again thanks for all the information you and your wife provide, as it’s valuable to all.”


Yes, you have to report any foreign bank accounts along with all foreign financial assets on Form 8938 if you meet the threshold for reporting. In fact, foreign bank accounts must be reported both on the Form 8938 and the FBAR.

However, no, you are not required to report stamps, metals held personally or on your behalf (as long as they are identifiable as yours), or real estate held in your own name.