Why Singapore Is (Nearly) A Perfect Retirement Choice
“Singapore is the most developed country in Southeast Asia,” writes Asia Correspondent Wendy Justice, “and, in many ways, it is the nicest.
“Singapore is super-modern and squeaky clean, with parks dotting the entire country, amazing shopping, pretty beaches, and enough activities to keep you busy for a lifetime. Health care here is as advanced as you’ll find anywhere in the world and very affordable. The government is stable, and the economy is growing. Crime is practically non-existent.
“Sounds nearly perfect, doesn’t it?
“Located at the southern tip of Southeast Asia, the city-state of Singapore is less than 100 miles north of the Equator. As a result, the weather is consistently warm, humidity is high, and precipitation is frequent throughout the year. Temperatures are in the high 80s to low 90s during the day, cooling down to the low to mid-70s at night. The winter months see a little more rain than the summer, but even this is a relatively minor variation. There are no distinct wet and dry seasons.
“Mandarin and English are both official languages in Singapore, and all school children are expected to become proficient in these two languages in addition to any other language they may speak at home. As a result, practically everybody speaks and understands English. In public, though, you’ll hear a wide assortment of languages spoken, including, most commonly, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, Tamil, and Malay. Because so many foreigners live in Singapore, most employed by multinational corporations, you’ll also hear a range of European and Middle Eastern languages.
“Here’s the downside: Singapore is definitely not a budget destination. With a cost of living slightly higher than that of New York City, Singapore is, unfortunately, not a realistic option for many. If, though, you can meet the income requirements and are prepared to purchase real estate in the country, you’ll qualify for a five-year renewable social visit pass. In other words, full-time residency is an option if you’ve got the means.
“Housing is the single biggest expense here. Most people live in high-rise condominiums. It’s common to rent a room in a condo unit sharing full house privileges with roommates. This is how many people make ends meet in an otherwise very expensive housing market. Condo-sharing rooms rent for around US$500 up to around US$1,000 per month. They are usually furnished, and the rent typically includes air conditioning, Internet, cable TV, utilities, and, sometimes, the use of a washing machine. Most places come with 24-hour security and amenities such as playgrounds, exercise courts, gyms, and swimming pools.
“Private apartments lease for, say, US$1,600 to US$3,000 per month, and private single-family houses rent for about US$8,000 per month. This is one place in Southeast Asia where foreigners can purchase property; however, again, it’s no bargain. Though it’s possible to find condominiums for as little as, say, US$80,000, prices extend quickly into the millions.
“The average couple living in Singapore spends at least US$300 per month on food. You could spend less if you do most of your shopping at the markets, and, of course, you could spend much more. Expect to spend at least US$25 to US$30 for a dinner out for two at a casual restaurant, not including drinks.
“It is, likewise, expensive to own a car here. Duty fees and road-use taxes are extremely high. But you don’t need one. The entire country is covered by an efficient mass transportation network making it possible to travel from one end of Singapore to the other in about an hour. Discounted monthly transit passes are available that work on the buses and the light rail system, so this is an affordable alternative to keeping your own vehicle.
“In many ways and for many reasons, Singapore is as good as it gets in Southeast Asia and, in fact, one of the most comfortable places to live anywhere in the world. The only real downside is the cost of living. Realistically, what budget would you need to afford to live or retire here? I’d say at least US$3,000 per month for a couple if you are ok with the idea of renting a room in a shared condominium. If you’d prefer to live in a private apartment, you’d need an income of least US$4,000 to US$5,000 per month, again, for a couple.
“Here’s the noteworthy twist: There are many opportunities for skilled professionals to work in this country, which is why Singapore is such a sought-after expat destination. If you have a four-year (or higher) college degree, you could be able to find a high-paying job in banking, health care, architecture, engineering, or one of many other fields currently in demand. Salaries here are high. The average person earns more than US$62,000 per year.”