Singapore is expensive. Should we emigrate abroad? - Awakened wage earners: (2023)

Disclaimer: This article was sponsored byAllianz Global Investors.

There's no denying it: In 2023, things are getting more expensive for the average Singaporean.

OK sign?

A cup of coffee was $1.50 pre-COVID. these days? You can pay up to $2.50.

Rental prices can be even more intimidating: A humble three-bedroom apartment that used to cost $1,800 is now $3,000.

Faced with such high prices, there is a small but growing trend of Singaporeans looking to move abroad where the cost of living is more manageable.

this is calledGeo-arbitrage: Moving to a place where the cost of living is lower than your home.

You can think of it as a more drastic version of going to Johor Bahru for gas/groceries.

Common destinations for Singaporeans include Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and even Taiwan.

Sound possible? perhaps. Here's our take on geo arbitrage, the pros and cons, and whether it's a job for you.

How to geo-arbitrage?

Singapore is expensive. Should we emigrate abroad? - Awakened wage earners: (1)

Honestly, the main element of this conversation wasincome.

For geo-arbitrage, you need Singapore-level income while living in a cheaper country.

Those who can take advantage of geo-arbitrage generally fall into three broad categories:

  • remote workers, theymanpower
  • Invested retireescapital and earn dividends/interest/payments
  • a mixture of both

Let's check briefly.

remote worker

Not so long ago, during a pandemic, many of us were true remote workers, but in 2023, things are different.

Power has returned to bosses, workers orderedcome back to the office.

This means that to become a remote worker these days, you typically need one of the following:

  • Highly skilled personnel with bargaining power over employers
  • Entrepreneurs and freelancers who establish their own labor system
  • Employees working remotely as part of a global team before the pandemic
  • Independent workers who can work independently of the main team.

Another thing you have to do is buildbelieveWho you pay with is key because if you work remotely your competition will be global.

crimetrust and relationshipYou're just another random person online; most expensive though.

You can build trust by:

  • Work in a Singapore office and demonstrate that you can work independently with little supervision.
  • Create a tracking log of your remote work (for example, if you're a freelance writer or software engineer)

It must also be noted that some occupations are less likely to be conducted remotely. That is: if you work in the police department

Retirement (over 65 years old)

If you are not going to work, then you should have passive income.

Stories of older Singaporeans retiring abroad are not breaking news. For those who dare to move abroad, life is better in some ways.

Nearly $300,000 in your CPF Retirement Account (RA) can provide you with CPF LIFE payments$1,500-2,000 per month.

This is a lot of money in Singapore, but more than enough for a comfortable life in Johor, Bali, Chiang Mai, etc.

If you are under 65, you will need to rely on other sources of income until CPF LIFE comes into effect. In 2023, returns on fixed income products are typically 3-5%.

To generate $2,000 in living expenses, you'll need $500,000 to $800,000 in investable funds.

Below is a comprehensive table of how you might want to do this.

Fuentereturn the goodsBased on $200,000Is this income reliable?observe
Singapore Savings Bond1-3%$2,000 – $6,000very reliable$200,000 limit
investment grade bonds2.5-5%$5,000 – $8,000reliablecompany may fail
rent fund4-5%$8,000 – $10,000reliablecapital depreciation risk
corporate bonds3-5%$6,000-$10,000reliablecompany may fail
real estate investment trust5-6%$10,000 – $12,000not very reliablecapital depreciation risk
dividend stocks4-6%$8,000-$12,000not very reliablecapital depreciation risk
rent your flat4-10%not applicablenot very reliableNot exactly passive income

Note that these income tools are not all equal in security and reliability.

For example: You can trust government bonds for guaranteed payouts, but not corporate dividends.

If you're someone who relies entirely on investments for their income, you need to take a close look at where your money is being invested. We favor solutions provided by governments or reputable fund managers who we can hold accountable.

(Allianz Global Investors, the organizer of this article, provides a revenue plan, you can refer tohere).


Hybrid arrangements are for people whose skills are not capable of generating high income online or who do not have enough income to rely solely on passive income.

For example:Based on a 4% yield, a $500,000 investment could reliably bring in about $1,666 per month.

They can then supplement this income by working remotely or in person at the new location. this may be avirtual assistant, blogger,even onevideo editing.

They can also negotiate remote work in their current positions, but may have to take a pay cut.

Let's say they earn $750 per month, which is $750 + $1,666.

Top Destinations + Some of Our Picks

Singapore is expensive. Should we emigrate abroad? - Awakened wage earners: (2)

The world's most expensive and cheapest cities are in Asia | The Economist


ThailandIt has long been a favorite destination for geo-arbitrage seekers, especially those from the US and Europe. However, you should probably learn to speak Thai.

Popular cities:Chiang Mai, Phuket, Pattaya, Hua Hin, Koh Samui.

Living expenses for a single person with no income:$748

Related visas:Nonimmigrant-O-A Visa (Long Stay)– Can be extended after 1 year

Visa-free travel:30 days, extendable to 60 days


Despite all the comments we make about each other, Malaysia and Singapore are relatively similar in terms of culture, language and cuisine. Returning to Singapore is also easy.

Popular cities:Johor Bahru, Malacca, Penang, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Ipoh, Petaling Jaya

Living expenses for a single person with no income:$640

Related visas:Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H)

Funding required:

  • Minimum overseas income RM 40k/month (~SGD12,000/month)
  • The minimum monthly fixed deposit is RM1 million (approximately S$302,000). Withdrawal of half the amount is allowed for property purchases, healthcare and children's education.
  • Proof of minimum liquid assets of RM1.5 million (approximately S$450,000)

Visa-free travel:30 diameter


bali islandIt has long been a retirement destination for expats, but it has become a victim of its own success; things can get very expensive. If you're looking in Indonesia and you're on a budget, you might want to look elsewhere.

Popular cities:bali,buttambién Bandung, Yogyakarta, Tanjung Pinang (Batam), Medan, Padang.

Cost of living for single people with no income:$603.60

Related visas:Second return visa

Funding required:

  • Proof of savings: at least US$1,500/month (approximately S$2,000/month) for daily expenses
  • Proof of property value for purchases of at least US$35,000 (~S$46,000) or at least US$500 (~US$662) in popular areas such as Bali

Visa-free travel:30 diameter


Over the past decade, Vietnam has rapidly become a retirement destination. Many find the people friendly, the prices are good and the weather is pleasant.

Popular cities:Hanoi, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Da Nang.

Cost of living for single people with no income:$640.90

Related visas:There are no retirement visas available. Alternatives areInvestor visa (DT visa, 1 year) or tourist visa

Funding required:

  • If you contribute up to VND 3 billion (approximately S$169,000) to the Vietnamese economy, you can get a DT4 visa for 1 year stay. You need to be the owner, contributing shareholder or representative of the company that wants to expand into Vietnam.

Visa-free travel:30 diameter


If you can avoid major economic centers like Taipei and Hsinchu, prices in Taiwan can be surprisingly affordable. Food, nature and climate are big draws for many Singaporeans.

Recommended destination:Taichung, Yilan, Chiayi, Kaohsiung, Taitung

Cost of living for single people with no income:$1015.70

Related visas:no retirement visa

Visa-free travel:30 diameter

Japan, Australia, New Zealand

These aren't your typical geo-arbitrage countries, but for those on a higher budget, they can be affordable if you avoid the big cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Tokyo, Osaka, Auckland, etc.

They also have a long-term stipend for visa-free travel; you can fly every three months or so.

nationliving cost

(single person, no income)

related visavisa-free travel
Japan$1229.60Japan work retirement visa90 diameter
Australia$1,402.10Investor Visa and Retirement Visa, but currently unavailableVisa required, 90 days per trip
new Zealand$1,314.50Temporary Retirement Visitor Visa,NZ$750,000 to invest in New Zealand90 diameter

What other factors should I consider?

Singapore is expensive. Should we emigrate abroad? - Awakened wage earners: (3)
As a personal finance page, our first consideration is naturallycost.

Generally speaking, the more economic opportunities a city has, the more expensive it is.

Therefore, Chiang Mai will be cheaper than Bangkok; same Taiping VS Kuala Lumpur, Hualien VS Taipei.

Of course, cost has to be just one of many considerations. We will consider some:

Time required to travel to Singapore:Plans can change and there's no better place than home.The closer to Singapore the better. The good news is that Changi Airport has direct flights to many cities in Southeast Asia.

Safety:Few cities are as safe as Singapore, but it would be foolish to expect Singapore-level safety if you move outside of Singapore. We avoid big cities with a lot of crime.

Language and Culture:Humans are social animals, so you have to make friends to fit into society. It's hard if you don't speak the language or don't fit into the culture.

Conveniences: Not everywhere is as convenient as Singapore, but most major cities in Southeast Asia are convenient enough, especially if you have the spending power. Rural towns may be different.

visa requirements: Unless you plan to do Visa Runs every 30 days, you will have to see if you qualify for a long-stay visa. This is different for each country.

property:Renting a place is usually a smarter idea if you'll be out of the country for an extended period of time. However, if you are planning to buy a place, remember that many countries in Southeast Asia have rRestrictions on Foreign Ownership.

A final note on geo-arbitrage

Is Singapore getting more expensive? Absolutely.

Are the only places getting more expensive? Absolutely not.

In this case, I think it's important to realize two things:

A big part of the reason we can take advantage of geo-arbitrage is because we are from Singapore.

Many foreigners move to Singapore to earn higher salaries and improve their career prospects. The same things that make Singapore a great place to live and work also make it expensive.

Others elsewhere are also struggling.

The whole world is facing a cost of living crisis; locals in geo-arbitrage countries are also likely to find things more expensive. With this in mind, be sensitive and respectful when traveling abroad. You are a "rich foreigner" there.

our opinion? Singapore is one of the most connected cities in the world. We have one of the most powerful passports in the world. One of the countries with the highest purchasing power.

To be constrained by the idea of ​​working, living and retiring only in Singapore is to limit yourself and the life you can live.

As the saying goes: A frog at the bottom of a well does not know the sea.

stay awake, office worker

Message from Sponsor,Allianz Global Investors

Singapore is expensive. Should we emigrate abroad? - Awakened wage earners: (4)

In an increasingly globalized world, we have more choices when it comes to where and when we want to live and retire.

Whether you choose to plant your flag in Singapore or a neighboring country, it is important to ensure that your finances are growing steadily against the inflationary pressures and rising cost pressures being felt globally.

If you're in the market for this, considerAllianz Global Investors Income Fund.They focus on investments in the U.S. market, aiming to grow capital steadily while earning income through dividends.

  • Allianz revenue and growthIncludes investments in US/Canada corporate equity and debt securities
  • Allianz Select revenue and growthIncludes investments in US/Canada investment grade corporate debt securities and equities
  • Allianz US revenueIncludes investments in U.S. debt securities in the U.S. bond market.
  • Allianz US Short Term High Yield BondIncludes investments in short-dated, high-quality non-investment grade U.S. credit bonds

For more information on how to invest with Allianz Global Investors, clickhere.

Disclaimer: This article is not published by Allianz Global Investors Singapore Limited.

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