It occurs to me that I’ve named this blog retire2asia.com but I haven’t really spent any time at all talking about the actual concept of retiring in Asia. In fact I’ve written pretty much every post so far on how to save money while living in NZ. Which is useful for kiwis wanting to retire just about anywhere, including staying in NZ. And it’s probably useful generally for people anywhere in the world.
So what about the whole Asia thing? Obviously, with my wife being a Filipina, we have a very specific plan to retire in the Philippines. Other than family ties, why would we do this? What it boils down to is that life in any country not considered “developed” or “first world” is going to be cheaper than life in New Zealand and many other Western or developed nations.
So when we say “Asia” really we’re talking about specifically South East Asia. Developed Asian countries like Taiwan, Singapore, Korea and Hong Kong aren’t going to deliver cost of living savings to the same extent. Obviously this premise applies across the world too. Plenty of South American and African countries would have cost of living benefits on par with those to be found in the Philippines.
Groceries, dining out, transportation and other basic living expenses are cheaper in the Philippines. It’s worth noting though, that living in a country is very different to visiting it, and there are costs you simply wouldn’t think about if you were going there for a holiday.
Continuing with the Philippines example, buying clothes isn’t really all that cheap. In NZ we’re used to being able to pop down to the Warehouse or Kmart and get cheap clothes. The Philippines doesn’t really have anything cheaper than what you can already get here. And it may not have your size!
Also, living in a country like the Philippines means thinking about things like health insurance, whereas in NZ we know we’re going to get basic and essential health care for free. Same deal with education. There is free public education, but as the country has designed its public service to be very similar to the US, there are plenty of costly options too.
Transport, while cheaper than in NZ, varies hugely. While it can be fun to ride on cheap jeepneys and tricycles on holiday with no particular deadlines to stick to, when we’re living there we’ll want to actually get to places in a timely manner. But there’s no way you’re gonna catch me attempting to navigate the traffic so we’re gonna have to stick to taxis and uber-esque services to get around, along with the cheaper options when they suit. This is still cheaper than driving in NZ, but not the large saving you’d first think of when you consider getting around in the Philippines.
So yes, retiring to the Philippines will mean we can stop working years, even decades earlier than we’d be able to if we stayed here in NZ. But we do need to make sure we account for the true cost of living there or our money won’t last. I originally thought we’d get by on half our annual expenses in NZ. Realistically it’s probably going to be more like two-thirds. Probably less once the kids fly the coop.
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