How Do You Decide Where to Expatriate?
Where will you be happy? And how can you know before you decide to live there?
I have no idea. But I can show you how to find out.
“Where should I go?” is probably the question I see most often in the Plan B Club chat-room. After all, the Plan B Club is for people who are interested in moving more than their money offshore … they’re actively considering moving their homes and lives there as well.
The world’s a big place. There are 196 countries in it, plus a few dozen dependencies and territories. Within them there are tens of thousands of places with their own unique character.
If you want to find the right one for you, you need a process.
One Person’s Paradise…
Recently BBC Capital ran an article calling Singapore a “utopia” for expatriates. There’s something to that, for sure. After all, out of a population of 5.6 million, 1.32 million are foreigners — almost one in four. About half of those foreigners are wealthy, and chose the island city-state for business or personal reasons. Singapore is definitely popular.
But with whom and why? I re-read the article several times and never got an answer. The author just ploughed through without bothering to specify what sort of person would consider Singapore a “utopia.”
Many people are aware that Singapore is a clean, orderly and highly-developed place, packed with modern conveniences and attractions. It’s also renowned as a bastion of financial freedom, with low taxes, a strong currency and one of the most investor-friendly rulebooks on the planet.
It’s a great place for your money or your gold to reside (with its great private vaults). But what about you?
Consider some of these facts that jumped out at me … thus revealing my own preferences:
- Singapore is the world’s most expensive city. It’s 11% more expensive than New York City for daily essentials like groceries. Clothing is 50% more expensive than in the Big Apple. Schools, medical care and alcohol are all wildly expensive … much more than in European hotspots. Average rent for a two-bedroom apartment near the city center is about $7,500 a month.
- Transport costs in Singapore are almost three times higher than in New York. Vehicle prices are high, as are road taxes, maintenance fees, gasoline and parking charges. A 10-year permit to own a car — called a Certificate of Entitlement — can cost $45,000.
- The average temperature is almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit. There is no real change of seasons, and humidity is a constant 80%. The air conditioner is on 24/7.
- Other than the surrounding tropical seas, there is little in the way of countryside or natural attractions. Singapore is essentially a city of offices, high-rise apartments and shopping malls.
- Singapore is not a democracy. In fact, it’s one of the world’s most intrusive nanny-states. Many people know about the ban on chewing gum and fines (or caning!) for not flushing toilets. But fewer are aware that Singapore routinely scores low on global indices of freedom of speech and of the press.
Reverse-Engineering Your Inner Expatriate
So, based on those considerations, what’s the likely profile of the typical Singapore expatriate, the one who would consider it a “utopia”?
She’s probably in mid-career, in a service industry like finance, IT, telecommunications, shipping, engineering or advertising. She’s either unmarried or childless. She’s too busy to do much besides work, shop, eat and sleep. (The food is reportedly outstanding, by the way.) She’s career-focused, earning a six-figure salary, and expecting to live in Singapore for less than 10 years. She’s either disinterested in personal liberty or willing to put up with lack of it in exchange for a high salary and decent lifestyle.
The BBC Capital article I read is typical of much of the expatriate-oriented media out there. It assumes that the “normal” expatriate is a corporate assignee or at the top-end of the international job market. Ranking systems like the annual HSBC Expat Explorer make the same assumptions.
At the other end of the expatriate-media market are outfits that emphasize shoestring retirement in tropical fantasy worlds. They’re aimed at people looking for a way to do a bit better than a condo in South Florida or Phoenix with their Social Security income.
Who caters to those in between — people looking at retirement or late-career relocation in places that meet their requirements for financial and personal freedom?
I do. And in tomorrow’s article, I’m going to show you exactly how I help those sort of people make the right decisions for themselves.
Offshore and Asset Protection Editor