How Much Does It Cost To Retire Overseas?
How much does it cost to retire in Singapore?
In Singstat’s 2016 Household Expenditure Survey, households led by those aged 50 – 59 spent S$4,837 a month. Those aged 60 and over spent S$3,589 a month. If you’re splitting costs with your spouse, that could mean forking out S$2,419 and S$1,795 each every month.
Without a regular source of income or a huge amount of savings, these expenses can mean the difference between retirement bliss or retirement blues. If you find yourself facing the latter, you’ll want to consider an alternative retirement plan.
How much does it cost to retire overseas?
In Singapore, S$50 can get you a meal at a nice restaurant.
In Johor Bahru, S$50 can get you a meal at a nice restaurant. And a bucket of KFC chicken for 5 people. And a coffee. And a beer. And a pack of cigarettes to top it off.
Thanks to the strength of the Singaporean dollar, retiring overseas could stretch your retirement dollars or allow you to afford a standard of living that isn’t possible back home.
Here’s how much it could cost to retire in these cities:
|Monthly living costs|
|Johor Bahru, Malaysia||S$865.31|
|Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam||S$999.16|
|Chiang Mai, Thailand||S$1,013.20|
We used cost-of-living comparison site Numbeo to estimate the monthly living costs for these cities. The monthly estimate assumes the cost that a single person may incur if he/she rents a 1-bedroom apartment outside the city centre, eats out half the time, incurs moderate entertainment costs and mostly uses public transportation to get around.
For example, click here to view a detailed breakdown of how we calculated the monthly costs of living in Johor Bahru.
Here’s what you need to know about retiring in each city:
1. Johor Bahru, Malaysia
What “retire overseas” list would be complete without a mention of our neighbours up north?
If your main concern is stretching your retirement fund, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better location than Malaysia. At a current exchange rate of 3:1, your dollar will go far.
The cultural and geographical proximity to Singapore makes relocating here relatively painless. Retiring in Johor Bahru, in which the proximity shrinks to just a car ride away, means being able to enjoy everything Malaysia has to offer while keeping ties with your life in Singapore.
Estimated cost of living per month: S$865.31
- Rent (1-bedroom apartment outside the city centre): S$268.34
- Basic utilities: S$51.58
- Inexpensive meal: S$3.32
- Meal at a midrange restaurant (2 people): S$16.6
Applicants over 50 must have liquid assets over RM350,000 (S$116,147) and a monthly income (government pensions are included) over RM10,000 (S$3,318).
2. Tbilisi, Georgia
Now, for something less conventional: the country of Georgia is located in a mountainous area that straddles Western Asia and Eastern Europe.
Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, is roughly the size of Singapore but only a fifth as populated. Amidst its modern infrastructure, lively arts scene and trendy cafes, you’ll also find rustic cobblestone streets, historical churches and the remains of an ancient fortress. Little wonder it was crowned the world’s “most exciting city” last year.
The cost of living in Georgia is very affordable for Singaporeans. Rent for a 1-bedroom apartment outside the city centre costs a mere S$250.18. Likewise, buying groceries or eating out in Tbilisi will cost a fraction less than in Singapore.
Estimated cost of living per month: S$929.02
- Rent (1-bedroom apartment outside the city centre): S$250.18
- Basic utilities: S$80.36
- Inexpensive meal: S$7.56
- 3-course meal for 2 people at a midrange restaurant: S$27.72
To qualify for a permanent residence permit, you will need to invest at least 300,000 laris (S$151,015) in Georgia.
Alternatively, you can qualify for a short-term residence permit if you purchase a property worth at least US$35,000 (S$47,394). The short-term residence is valid for a year, after which it is extendable by 5 years and can be converted into a permanent residence permit.
While Georgian and Russian are the traditional languages of the country, English is widely spoken today so there is no major language barrier for Singaporeans looking to retire in Georgia.
3. Arequipa, Peru
South American cities often feature as some of the best places in the world to retire, and not just for Western expats, either. Singaporeans will find the cost of living in South America very affordable, sometimes more so than popular Southeast Asian destinations.
Peru, in particular, has nabbed a spot in the top 10 ranking of the International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index. Culture vultures and outdoor enthusiasts will love the city of Arequipa, Peru. It’s a cultural oasis of parades, art exhibits and live music. Volcanic slopes fringe the city on the east, while beaches and resort towns can be found on the west. And for those whose interests incline towards the gastronomic, Arequipa offers a host of affordable local food and international cuisine.
In order to fully immerse yourself into the local scene, learning Spanish is recommended as English is not widely spoken except in the expat communities.
Rent for a 1-bedroom apartment outside the city centre could cost as little as S$200+, and an inexpensive local meal could cost just around S$3.
Estimated cost of living per month: S$951.17
- Rent (1-bedroom apartment outside the city centre): S$212.53
- Basic utilities: S$40.19
- Inexpensive meal: S$3.47
- 3-course meal for 2 people at a midrange restaurant: S$15.33
4. Bali, Indonesia
Think of Bali, and you may conjure up images of beautiful beaches, emerald green paddy fields and idyllic coastal towns. You wouldn’t be wrong. Despite the high influx of tourists in recent years, Bali’s beauty is not diminished.
Neither is its affordability – retiring in Bali could mean retiring on a tropical paradise for a fraction of your regular lifestyle in Singapore would cost.
Plus, it’s only a little under 3 hours away. A round trip from Bali could cost as little as S$140, so you can always zip back to Singapore if you’re feeling homesick.
Bali’s world-famous tourism industry ensures that most Singaporeans can get by using English even though the Balinese language and ‘Bahasa Indonesia’ are the traditional languages of the land.
Estimated cost of living per month: S$968.44
- Rent (1-bedroom apartment outside the city centre): S$277.63
- Basic utilities: S$78.34
- Inexpensive meal: S$2.86
- 3-course meal for 2 people at a midrange restaurant: S$22.11
- Have a minimum retirement income of US$1,500 (S$2,031) a month
- Have proof of accommodation costing a minimum of US$35,000 (S$47,394), or a minimum rental cost of US$500 (S$677) in Bali (will differ in other cities)
5. Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
French-colonial architecture stand beside the occasional skyscraper in Ho Chi Minh. If you’re fond of culture, there are plenty of museums, temples, historical sites and even small galleries tucked in the city. Foodies will enjoy the abundance of cheap, exceedingly fresh local food in the city.
Food and other basic costs of living is very affordable. Eating out can often be even cheaper than cooking at home. Your largest category of spending will probably be your rent, which can be around S$387 for a 1-bedroom apartment outside the city centre.
Learning the basics of the Vietnamese language is a necessity as only the Vietnamese residents in the main tourist areas speak some English. Outside of the city centre, the locals can only understand Vietnamese, while the older generation more likely to understand French instead of English.
Estimated cost of living per month: S$999.16
- Rent (1-bedroom apartment outside the city centre): S$387.12
- Basic utilities: S$73.57
- Inexpensive meal: S$2.92
- 3-course meal for 2 people at a midrange restaurant: S$23.39
6. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Thailand has a spot on International Living’s list of best places to retire, and it’s not hard to see why. The city has all the trappings of a modern city – luxury shopping malls, designer boutiques, upscale restaurants – but at modest prices. Beyond the city, mountain ranges and national parks are just a car ride away.
Being a tourism hub means many Thais in Chiang Mai understand some English to communicate basic information but learning the Thai language will help you immerse fully into the rich local culture.
Rent for a 1-bedroom apartment outside the city centre could cost around S$340. If you can spend a bit more, you could find Airbnb apartments or serviced hotels from S$500 a month.
Estimated cost of living per month: S$1,013.20
- Rent (1-bedroom apartment outside the city centre): S$342.22
- Basic utilities: S$80.51
- Inexpensive meal: S$2.13
- 3-course meal for 2 people at a midrange restaurant: S$21.31
- A Thai bank account with at least THB 800,000 (S$34,106)
- A monthly income of at least THB 65,000 (S$2,771)
- A combination of bank account balance and annual income that meets THB 800,000 (S$34,106)
7. Makati, Philippines
Makati is Philippines’ financial hub that is home to skyscrapers, shopping malls, banks and businesses. Big city enthusiasts will enjoy Makati, but some may be put off by the traffic and pollution. The city isn’t all urban splendor, however – you’ll also find ancient churches and historical landmarks to explore.
English is widely used in most major cities in the Philippines, including in Makati. Most printed material available in the Philippines is published in English or the official language, Tagalog, so Singaporeans will not face any language problems when settling down here.
At about S$560 for a 1-bedroom apartment outside the city centre, rent is a bit pricier than other cities on this list. However, food and other basic necessities are affordable, making it possible to live in the city comfortably for under S$1,200 a month.
Estimated cost of living per month: S$1,141.61
- Rent (1-bedroom apartment outside the city centre): S$559.87
- Basic utilities: S$82.94
- Inexpensive meal: S$3.89
- 3-course meal for 2 people at a midrange restaurant: S$16.85
- Must be 50 years old and above, and make a fixed deposit of US$10,000 (S$13,543). Pension must be at least US$800 (S$1,083) for single applicants and US$1,000 (S$1,354) for couples.
- 35 to 49 years old: Make a fixed deposit of at least US$50,000 (S$67,714)
- 50 years and above: Make a fixed deposit of at least US$20,000 (S$27,085)
8. Braga, Portugal
Braga is a city that combines old-world charm and modern comforts. You’ll find cathedrals, monuments and rolling hills amidst high street stores and upscale cafes.
The cost of living in Braga isn’t as cheap as closer destinations, but it’s still affordable for Singaporeans. While rent for a 1-bedroom apartment outside the city centre is around S$471 according to Numbeo, property search platform Idealista suggests that you may need to spend more – about S$600 and upwards.
Due to the influx of English-speaking tourists over the years, finding locals who can understand conversational English in the urban areas is not difficult. However, mastering basic Portuguese is necessary to fully immerse yourself into the local community.
Estimated cost of living per month: S$1,534.81
- Rent (1-bedroom apartment outside the city centre): S$471.66
- Basic utilities: S$158.30
- Inexpensive meal: S$9.12
- 3-course meal for 2 people at a midrange restaurant: S$37.98
Retirement might seem a long way off, but whether you are planning to retire abroad or staying put in Singapore, it’s never too early to start thinking about how to afford retirement without having to constantly worry about your finances. For more tips on planning for retirement, read this.