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Overseas Self-Directed IRA? Don’t Have to Go it Alone

Why do more than 90% of IRA holders solely invest in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and CDs? There are few very sound reasons:

  • Those are the investments sold to them. There are over 300,000 investment advisors in the US who are largely trained to offer only publicly traded investments.
  • The salespeople have an incentive to limit choices to stock market products. Advisors earn fees or commissions from their clients who purchase investments through them.
  • Few IRA holders are educated on private investment choices. Most investors have not been empowered to feel capable of making good long-term investment decisions.
  • Self-directed investments are a brand new experience for most. Saving for retirement typically only occurs as employees save via employer-based plans with limited choices, and rolling that into a self-directed IRA may seem intimidating.

If you are considering moving your IRA offshore, you may already be part of the less than 10% who want a braoder selection of investment options and more control over your retirement plans. However, due to the flexibility of investment structuring within your self-directed IRA, you may not have to go-it-alone after all.


As one of the nation’s leading self-directed IRA administrators, we see hundreds of investors who invest into all types of syndications, not just domestically but internationally as well. Just recently I attended a workshop led by an investment sponsor who was offering an investment to accredited investors into a fractional interest in four units within a major resort in Belize. For as little as $50,000, an individual investor could direct their IRA to purchase a 3% interest in an income-producing property worth $1.6M.  If the investor preferred, they could have purchased an individual unit for $400,000 and contracted a property manager to oversee the investment, but for many investors, that amount may been too much to dedicate to one asset.

Coffee plantations, Panama real estate investments, timberland, coconut trees, papayas, and other agricultural producing land are all possible to be held within a self-directed IRA. Even raw land can be invested into as well as shares of foreign companies.


With syndications, the investor may not know the other investors, but what if you want to create your own partnership with your IRA as one of the investors? Domestically in the US, a tenancy in common titling is often used for real estate purchased with two or more investors. As the investor group grows, an LLC may be the chosen entity, with the IRA owning a certain number of shares or percentage of the LLC.

Overseas, partnering may be best accomplished through establishing a single-member LLC just for your IRA. Normally written by an attorney, these structures may afford the IRA holder access to an IRA-owned checking account, and the funds would be administered by the LLC manager named in the operating agreement. These arrangements, often known as “checkbook-control” IRAs, require a self-directed IRA administrator that can serve as custodian for the LLC ownership documents.

Investment Decisions

Self-directed IRAs are a viable choice for those who wish to invest and potentially live overseas. While your Wall Street-based advisor may not offer you a rental condo in Panama or timberland in Nicaragua, both may be great options within your IRA. Many advisors are likely not aware of the opportunities overseas, so seek the counsel of experienced investors who understand the risks and rewards of your potential purchase.

Once you decide on your investment, find a self-directed IRA administrator and custodian who is experienced in handling overseas transactions. This will avoid the headache of delays and confusion in getting your transaction closed and revenues returning to your IRA.

Article by: Glen Mather, founder and president of NuView IRA

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