Malaysia leads ASEAN as home for global retirement; Thailand, Philippines & Vietnam trying to catch up


A few years back, around 2010, the International Living (IL) magazine’s ‘Best Place in the World to Retire’ report, ranked Malaysia as the top country in ASEAN, and ranks it 19th globally. Thailand was ranked at 25th spot and is the second best place to retire in the region.

  • Remarkably, at the end of 2011, IL came out with a new ranking, that sees Malaysia moved up to 4th best place globally, and Thailand to the 9th best place globally to retire.

The survey assessed a number of factors to produce the ranking. Real estate, including pricing, value for money and ease of buying for foreigners, made up 15 per cent of the weighting.

  • Malaysia’s Strengths:

According to IL, one of Malaysia’s strengths is that it offers the Malaysia My Second Home retirement program. And, unlike elsewhere in the region, foreigners aren’t solely restricted to buying condos – they can also purchase landed property.”

IL said, “There’s also no need to learn a foreign language. Once part of the British Empire, Malaysia is a multicultrural melting pot of Malays, Chinese and Indians. English serves as a second language.

Unlike some places in Asia, foreigners are genuinely welcomed in Kuala Lumpur. Language isn’t a problem, as almost everyone speaks adequate English. Immigration is easy, and it is possible to stay for an extended period with a simple tourist visa. Although Kuala Lumpur is more expensive than rural Malaysia, it can be marvelously inexpensive by Western standards.

The cost of living, in Malaysia, whilst lower than Europe and the United States, is not as low as other countries in the region, and the fact it’s a majority Muslim country also deters many Western investors, according to IL.

  • Thailand’s Advantage:

Il said, Thailand’s advantages, include a wide choice of locations and a very low day-to-day costs, especially away from tourist beach resorts. Drawbacks in Thailand include the fact that foreign buyers are restricted to condominiums, the political turmoil of recent years, and the country’s reputation in the minds of some potential retirees as a sex tourism destination.

So in sum, Thailand boasts both really cheap and developed and comfortable lifestyle choices. It is also noteworthy as being one of the few countries in this part of the world that offers formal options for long-term and retirement visas. Hua Hin is one of the few classic retirement havens in Southeast Asia, complete with golf courses, factory outlets, and gated communities. Foreigners make up approximately 15 percent of that population, and most of them are retired.

  • Vietnam Emerging:

Vietnam is an emerging choice, which could get a lot more attention in the coming few years. Nha Trang offers an interesting coastal retirement option for adventuresome retirees. Nha Trang’s total population of more than 200,000 includes an expat population of about 1,000 people, meaning foreigners here are still pioneers. You’ll find no organized activities for foreigners, such as expat clubs or softball leagues. The lack of a big foreign population makes it easier to have meaningful interactions with the locals. The major attraction in Nha Trang is its cost of living, which can amount to much less than $1,000 per month for a retired couple. If you’re a budget-minded retiree with an interest in Asia, this town should be on top on your list.

Local Philippines press reports, Philippines is going on a Roadshows and conferences to target China, South Korea and Japan, which are the Philippines’ leading source of foreign retirees.

The Philippines is leveraging developments in age-friendliness, tourism, healthcare and the Department of Tourism’s ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines’ campaign to boost the Philippine position further in the international retirement rankings.

Philippines will soon be launching more product innovations aimed at these retirees. The Philippines hopes to attract one million to 10 million foreign retirees to the country in six years.

The following is from AFP:

Southeast Asia’s long-stay schemes lure foreign retirees



December 23, 2012

Georgetown, Malaysia – Like many Japanese mothers, Ritsuko Kawasaki fretted over the health and safety risks of remaining in Japan after 2011’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters.

So in August she and her two boys moved to the Malaysian island of Penang under a government long-stay program that aims to lure foreigners—and their money—to the country.

“I don’t think I want to return to Japan. Life here in Penang is so comfortable,” said Kawasaki, 43.

With its warm climate, political stability and modern economy, Malaysia has drawn 19,488 foreigners to settle in the country since launching the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program 10 years ago.

MM2H and similar schemes in Thailand and the Philippines have traditionally targeted western retirees in the hope they will settle down and boost the economy.

But program officials say Asians are now the typical applicants, led by post-quake Japanese and increasingly affluent Chinese.

A total of 2,387 MM2H applicants were approved in 2011, and the government is targeting 3,000 for 2012, officials say.

The Malaysian incentives include a ten-year multi-entry visa, tax exemption for remittances of offshore pension funds, the right to open a business, tax-free purchases of locally made cars, and other enticements.

Applicants, meanwhile, must deposit a certain amount of money in a local bank account— $50,000 for MM2H—in return for a life under the sun.

For Britons Keith and Adrienne Francis, sunshine was the clincher as they mulled whether to settle back in England after Keith’s 2004 retirement from 35 years in the Hong Kong police force.

“Look at the UK, it is dull and cold,” Adrienne said as the couple sipped sweet milk tea in an Indian restaurant in Georgetown, Penang‘s British colonial-era capital.

Their other options had included the Thai resort Phuket.

“I didn’t like Phuket because of the bars,” she said of its bawdy nightlife.

The couple said Muslim-majority Malaysia was attractive due to its high living standards, lack of political upheaval seen often in its neighbours, quality medical care and widely spoken English.

Under MM2H, retirees also can own freehold property and land—although some restrictions apply—a key factor for the Francises, who shuddered at the thought of a costly and cramped retirement nest in Hong Kong.

Home is now a spacious 2,500-square-foot (232-square-metre) seaside Penang condo they bought in 2004 for $182,000.

But increasingly it is Asians, and particularly Chinese and Japanese, driving the so-called “silver” market—business opportunities linked to seniors—says Janice Chia, managing director of Singapore-based consultancy Ageing Asia.

She said by 2050 Asia will account for an estimated 63 percent of the world’s senior citizens, who will become increasingly important to economies, especially as medical advances extend lifespans.

“Traditionally, MM2H has attracted Western retirees, but there will be greater movements of Asian retirees to Southeast Asia,” where they “can stretch their retirement dollar,” Chia said.

Siti Nani Shaarani, director of MM2H, said its applicants are now led by China, Japan, Bangladesh, the United Kingdom and Iran.

The Philippine Retirement Authority cites a similar mix of origins for the nearly 21,000 people now in its retirement incentive program, led by China, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.

England, America and Germany still top Thailand’s long-stay scheme, which approved 35,488 applicants in 2011, according to Thai immigration figures.

Coming to Malaysia was a big leap for Kawasaki, who speaks only Japanese. She likes that her two boys, nine and three years old, are learning English in school.

But Malaysia’s relative safety appealed to her the most. The country is seismically stable and free of the typhoons that annually rake east Asia.

“A month later [after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami], I visited Miyagi prefecture to witness the damage. I was totally shocked by the extent of the destruction,” the former career consultant said.

The tsunami crippled a nuclear power plant, triggering a meltdown that released large amounts of radiation into the environment, shattering Japanese public confidence in nuclear power.

Jessie Ong, director of Overseas Living, a firm that helps MM2H applicants settle in Malaysia, said incoming Japanese typically claim they are “being driven out by last year’s tsunami and nuclear fears.”

Whatever the motivation, Japanese led the pack of new applicants for 2012, with 558 as of August compared to 195 for all of 2010.

Shigeru Tanida, 65, has lived in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur since 2006, drawn by the year-round sunshine and far lower living costs than in Japan.

He considered Spain, Thailand and the Philippines after retiring from Japanese electronics giant Panasonic, before settling on Malaysia.

He now teaches karate, and plays his beloved golf far more cheaply than he could at home.

“Living costs here are a third lower than Japan and the weather is good,” he said.

MM2H participants Bernd Freytag, a German, and his American wife Kimmie gripe about the choking traffic of Malaysian cities like Georgetown and Kuala Lumpur, and the country’s often haphazard development.

But Freytag, 70, gazing out at the blue Andaman Sea from the spacious Penang flat that is now home, says he will never leave.

“I told my kids, when I go away, just throw my ashes in the sea off Penang,” he said. — AFP

Malaysia is the best place in South East Asia to retire, according to an annual survey published this week.



One thought on “Malaysia leads ASEAN as home for global retirement; Thailand, Philippines & Vietnam trying to catch up

  1. Even though I live outside of Malaysia (come back every 2-3 months interval for the past 10 years) comparatively speaking Malaysia is another Heaven. Cheap living cost, diverse and colorful cultures, friendly people, and the most important of all is tourist friendly Immigration and no natural disasters. Cheap beer and everyday is Summer!!!

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