With a unique international community, a wide range of useful services, and one of the world’s top banking systems, Singapore is an incredibly popular destination for retirees and expatriates. As with many of the world’s other popular retirement destinations, the popularity is for good reason – not only does Singapore offer financial and social security, it also offers a fantastic quality of life.
Located to the south of Malaysia, Singapore is a small island with a large, vibrant, and very diverse population. Home to both native Singaporeans, Malays, Chinese, Indians, and a variety of Western immigrants, this city-state has an atmosphere that’s rarely replicated and completely unique to itself.
Densely populated and highly developed, Singapore is a first-world city with some of the world’s top banks, companies, and professionals within its borders. A low-tax, high-income country, many of the world’s top professionals choose to move to Singapore, either to enjoy its low taxation and many job opportunities, or simply to protect their savings from the costs of their home countries.
As such, taking care of your financial needs in Singapore is a simple process for retirees and most expatriates. Singapore is an international banking center and many of the world’s top banks can be found within its borders. Expatriate favorites such as HSBC and United Overseas Bank offer a wide range of banking services for retirees from Europe, Australia, and most of North America.
Retirement accounts are easy to set up, and transferring money – and many other assets – from most other countries is a painless, simple process. Thanks to Singapore’s sound reputation amongst other countries, there are very few restrictions on money transfers and other financial transactions. This is particularly useful for those fearful of auditing and ‘raising a red flag’ when transferring money.
It’s worth noting, however, that in recent years, United States citizens have had difficult opening and using bank accounts based in Singapore. While Singapore is typically welcoming to foreign investors, expatriates, and retirees, the extensive documentation required by the United States IRS has resulted in many Singapore banks closing their account services for United States citizens.
This is typically enforced on a case-by-case basis, and the availability of bank accounts and other services can differ from one bank to another, and even from one branch to another. Retirees from the United States are advised to call ahead and investigate the availability of personal accounts with Singapore’s major banks directly, as they will be able to offer more feedback on the situation.
Singapore’s housing market is one of the world’s most expensive, with simple accommodation in the city itself often reaching well into the four-figure monthly level. Simple studio apartments are available in central districts for around $1,000SGD per month, while two-bedroom apartments on one of the many MRT lines can reach above $2,000SGD per month, or occasionally even more.
Despite this, affordable accommodation can be found in many of Singapore’s more suburban areas, particularly those located on the north side of the island. Away from the MRT stations and further into suburbia, costs decrease while the noise and traffic fades away, allowing those seeking a cheap and affordable lifestyle the ability to find it relatively easily in Singapore.
Most of Singapore’s accommodation is apartment-based, with condos and small rental apartments the de-facto living situation for most of the population. Houses are typically more expensive than condos and apartments, largely due to the high cost of land. For this reason, most retirees will want to stay in a high-rise building, where rental rates and property costs are typically much lower.
Medical care is widely available in Singapore and fairly prices, and the island itself is quickly becoming one of the world’s most popular medical tourism destinations. Private insurance can be purchased from a variety of multinational companies and smaller Singapore-based insurers. This type of insurance will typically provide coverage for the cost of care in a private Singapore hospital.
Singapore’s public healthcare system is efficient, affordable, and the envy of many of the world’s other first-world countries. With a complex yet effective system of subsidies and fees for hospital care, Singaporeans can access reasonable medical care for a small fee. Complex care, particularly for those with major ailments, is subsidized by the government to increase its affordability.
Public transport in and around most of Singapore’s major neighborhoods is efficient, inexpensive, and easy to navigate for both locals and expatriates. The city’s MRT system runs along directional lines reaching into the city’s suburbs, to the city’s luxurious airport, and down major shopping areas such as Orchard Road, Bugis, and Chinatown.
This is particularly convenient for those that don’t have a car – a demographic that makes up most of Singapore’s population. Despite the city’s cheap food and public transportation, cars are highly expensive in Singapore. A mid-range imported car will frequently cost three to four times as much as it would in the United States once taxes, import fees, and other local duties are accounted for.
Singapore is a major transport hub in Southeast Asia, and flights to and from the city-state are easy to find and relatively cheap to purchase. Frequent flights depart from Singapore for Malaysia and Thailand, allowing for easy access to the area’s beach resorts and other destinations. Direct flights are also available to North America, Europe, and Oceania from Singapore’s Changi Airport.
Officially a non-religious secular country, Singapore is home to several different religious groups and communities. The Chinese community is largely Buddhist, and several ornate Buddhist temples can be found throughout the city. Muslim communities from Malaysia and the Middle East can be found throughout Singapore, with most based in the unique Kampong Glam area.
Finally, Hindus are widely represented in Singapore, largely through the city-state’s large Indian immigrant community. Due to the country’s relatively relaxed laws on religious expression, all of Singapore’s inhabitants – regardless of their particular religious inclination – are free to practice their religion without issues.
Singapore is home to a vibrant food community that’s turned it into one of the world’s top spots for dining out. From inexpensive and delicious ‘hawker food’ – small plates of local food cooked on the spot and served in small roadside food courts – to high-end international cuisine, all types of food can be found in Singapore, with delicious and healthy food to suit any kind of budget.
With one of the world’s most powerful financial services industries, a favorable global reputation, a wide variety of different cultures, and a central location in Southeast Asia, Singapore is a global top spot for retirement for some very good reasons. Despite the high cost of living, this interesting city-state makes for a comfortable, enjoyable, and very interesting retirement destination.