With a growing number of Western economies – both in North America and Europe – in a state of recession or even potential depression, more and more retirement aged individuals are looking at overseas retirement opportunities. These include countries in South America, Eastern and Southern Europe, and most frequently, a number of countries in East and Southeast Asia.
Asia has been a popular retirement destination for several decades, but it’s only in the last ten years that the continent’s popularity has blown into the stratosphere. A growing continent-wide economy and a way of life that, for some, is missing in the Western world make Asia a popular retirement and expatriation destination.
However, many would-be retirees and expatriates have a series of questions on their mind that need to be answered before they can consider moving. From the local customs to the local foods, financial issues to cultural faux pas, there is no shortage of potential fields of inquiry for would-be expatriates and retirees.
Today, we’re going to answer one of the more complicated questions: when is a good time to retire to Asia? This question applies both in the micro and the macro sense – when is it a good time for you to retire, and when is it a good time to move from your own country to Asia to capitalize on economic and cultural factors?
Firstly, there’s no minimum age for retirement. While government pensions and private savings schemes may only pay out for those aged above a certain year, it’s certainly not the case for all forms of retirement investment. For those that have the means to retire early and are interested in moving to Asia, retirement in Asia can be something that happens relatively early in life.
In fact, many retirees in low-cost Asian countries such as Thailand and Vietnam left their own countries in their forties and early fifties in search of a more comfortable life overseas. The concept of a mini-retirement – a short-term relocation overseas – is also drawing many younger ‘retirees’ to Asian countries with an affordable cost of living.
However, in order to qualify for many retirement visa programs in Asia, you will need to be above a certain age. Some countries, such as Thailand, require applicants for retiree visas to be aged above fifty years and have a certain level of income based on their location and intended retirement lifestyle. While the age requirement is not flexible, most of the financial requirements for Asian retirement are relatively low.
Other countries and city-states, such as Singapore and Hong Kong, welcome foreign retirees that are planning on staying there and stimulating the economy, regardless of their age. However, these countries also tend to have more strict regulations for those that plan to retire from abroad, including minimum investments in the local economy or government in order to qualify for a long-term visa or residency.
In short, while there’s no minimum age for retiring to an Asian country, certain visa regulations make retirement easiest for those aged above fifty years. Once you have reached this age, acquiring long-term visas becomes significantly more simple, as does acquiring official documentation for purchasing large assets in the country.
As for the second question, is it a good time to retire to Asia, in a global sense? Given the contracting economies that are now becoming ubiquitous around the West, and the sorry state of many government pension systems, minimizing costs should be a key priority for anyone retiring on a fixed income or government pension. Similarly, ensuring that your pension is secure is also a key priority for comfortable living.
With pensions paying out less and less, jobs paying less and less, and life costing more and more, the choice to retire to an Asian country with a healthy economy and a lower cost of living seems like a simple decision. In simple terms, if your welfare is being threatened by the expensive cost of living in many Western countries, larger cities in particular, then moving to Asia now is a good choice.
Simple alternative to Western banks, many of which are equally secure and safe, are easily available in Asian banking centers such as Hong Kong and Singapore. It’s very easy to transfer your assets into one of these countries, allowing you to capitalize on lower taxes during your later life than you would incur in your home country.
Likewise, purchasing or renting property in many Asian countries is a simple and quick process. Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and many other key Asian cities are all home to large English-speaking communities that can simplify the process of getting ‘up and started’ in your new home, even if you’re unable to prepare in advance by learning the local language.
Finally, short-term visas and tourism visas allow you to easily ‘check out’ a country in the years leading up to your retirement. If you’re ready to retire in the next few years yet unsure of which country is going to be best for your needs, it’s inexpensive and easy to assess several countries in person – often spending several months in each location, or even longer, to assess its viability for long-term retirement.
Given the lower cost of living offered by many Asian countries and the relatively higher quality of life that one can afford, moving to another country for your later years makes a lot of sense, even for those that aren’t approaching the ‘typical retirement age.’ If an affordable lifestyle is a priority, it’s often a much smarter decision than staying in your country of citizenship.
With the economies of many countries in sorry shape and the ‘retirement age’ creeping higher and higher to cover financial holes, retiring early to an Asian country is a sensible and intelligent decision. For hundreds of thousands of smart, informed Western professionals, the question is no longer ‘Why?’ but ‘When?’