Every few weeks or so, I have a business idea that gets me excited, and I spend some time rolling the idea around in my head. Thanksgiving weekend found me with such an idea. It’s not something that’s entirely in my wheelhouse, so I’m offering it up for free on here in hopes that it’s at least a nice mental exercise if not a viable business.
This decade is beginning to see the convergence of three events that could overlap into an interesting opportunity.
First, the Boomers have all begun to retire, and they represent a massive market in the Western World. They might also represent the last group of Americans who can afford to retire en masse.
Second, economic hardships from credit and currency crises may tempt many of these retirees to look for cheap, sunny retirement spots abroad (Panama, anyone?).
Finally, technology in the last four years or so has given rise to a movement of lifestyle designers, location-independent entrepreneurs and technomads who have first-hand experience in settling into cheap, sunny countries where their money goes farther.
The collective knowledge of these nomads would be valuable to the new or soon-to-be retirees. It might be time to capture that value.
I envisioned a business with a headquarters in the US (or the UK, or France, or Germany, or Canada) whose primary function would be offering retirees help in transitioning to a new cheap and sunny life abroad: Visas, finding an apartment, budgeting, location expertise, etc. The primary offer is to help with the nuts and bolts of resettling.
Here’s the innovation: All of these customers would have long-term needs such as language learning, money management and community development with other expats. These people would in effect represent a tribe for whom an authentic, personal, long-tail marketing strategy would be perfect.
If you want to pack up your stuff and move to Central America, who better to lead you through that process than someone who has done it?
In my research so far, there is no business offering this service with this kind of first-hand expertise. The closest I’ve found is International Living, a business that started out as a magazine for living abroad and has since built a devoted following as a publisher of information with a heavy dose libertarianism. But IL is still primarily a source of information, not a service.
The Business Model
The business would first narrow its expertise on certain destinations — say Costa Rica, Uruguay and Indonesia — and function as a consulting service for retirees who want to find a warm place where their fixed incomes can stretch farther. The menu of consulting services would include visa application help, apartment searching and an introduction to the new country. Obviously, this requires specialists on the ground in the country of origin and at the destination.
Once the client is settled in, he/she/they will have location-based needs, for which the business would develop solutions (language courses, for example). Over time, as more and more people settle in, the value of that destination-country network grows and becomes a long-tail resource to tap for offering new services as they are requested.
The business would scale horizontally as in-house expertise in other target countries is developed. It would bring in Panama and Thailand and Brazil and whatever other countries would make fine retirement destinations.
Perhaps this idea is too blue-ocean for direct competitors to turn up. I’ve found nothing. In fact, I can’t even find a dominant general key word in the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to describe retirement abroad. The most common seemed to be [retire in] + whatever the destination country might be.
There are people on the ground at popular destination countries, but this industry does not seem to be well-developed.
If anyone knows any company offering a service as I’ve described, I’d love to hear about it. And if anyone thinks he or she would be perfect for organizing such a company, do it, then come back and tell me about it.