Determining your preferred expat lifestyle before emigrating

Published:  25 Jun at 6 PM
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For those looking to become expats, one of the first and most important issues is the cost of living in the chosen country.

Nowadays, social media and the internet in general is crammed with articles aimed at would-be expatriates, with most if not all extolling the virtues of this, that or another country based on its cost of living. Few mention the fact that costs of living depend on just one thing – the desired lifestyle of those emigrating. The decision on how to live, not on how much will be needed to live like you’ve just won the lottery, may be out of step in today’s mendacious world, but it’s crucial to a successful emigration.

It has to be said that a good proportion of those wishing to leave their countries of birth once retirement kicks in are motivated by the wish to pay far less for similar services, amenities and necessities than they do at home. In the West, most state pensions aren’t generous, and many find it almost impossible to make ends meet, especially in regions where winters are long and cold and fuel is expensive. When working out a retirement budget, there’s no fixed best way as requirements differ along with the people who need them.

Online comparison surveys can help, but tend to focus on living a similar life overseas as regards food choices, accommodation and entertainment. For example, several Southeast Asian countries have high import duties on Western foodstuffs, and retailers price up their items due to an erroneous belief that all foreigners are rich. In such countries, living as do the local people and buying fresh ingredients in local markets cuts food bills by a huge amount without compromising on nutrition. Buying a home rather than renting also limits outgoings, leaving more of the monthly income for treats and travel.

One constant problem is healthcare cover, as many favourite retiree destinations are now waking up to the fact that private hospitals are a great money-spinner for investors but a poor deal for the sick. The vast majority of expat destinations have public hospitals, but expatriates are at best discouraged and at worst forbidden to make use of them, even although the same specialists work in both private and public facilities. Although private insurance can be had, it’s generally both restrictive and expensive and, along with the facilities themselves, often open to accusations of expat price gouging and poor service, leaving many expat retirees preferring to pay out of their capital should the need arise.
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