Retire to Paradise

By Stephen Wyatt and Colleen Ryan, 11 September 2014

Glen and Sal's house in Phuket Thailand 

Glen and Sal's house in Phuket Thailand 

Glen and Sal had always wanted to live on a beach and they were getting really sick of cold winters. They were in the grape growing business in central NSW and had been for 30 years.

Their kids had grown up. The dog was dead and they were rattling around in their house. They felt they needed another life. They were 64 but fit and healthy.

So they packed up and moved to Phuket in Thailand. They bought a three bedroom, three bathroom, two lounge room house with a pool, just a stone’s throw from the beach, for little more than $200,000.

They were not short of funds but are still amazed at how cheap life is for them. And it is a luxurious life. ‘You can send out your laundry, have a gardener, have regular massages, have a maid,’ said Sal.

‘We only cook at home about once a month—we invite our friends and family over for roast lamb. Lamb here is plentiful and cheaper than Australia.’

Australia’s baby boomers are on the move. They are ditching the traditional view of retirement and moving to Southeast Asia for a better and a vastly cheaper life.

After all 60 is the new 40. Why not spice things up and take off for a few years or forever? Why not go and live on the beach in Phuket, Thailand or Penang, Malaysia or in the mountains in Ubud, Bali?

Another couple chose Bali. When their working lives came to an end, they realised that they were underfunded for a decent life in expensive Australia. They had never owned property. For them retirement meant a caravan park in Western Victoria or somewhere up the coast in NSW.

Balinese-style house in Ubud in Bali built for $60,000

Balinese-style house in Ubud in Bali built for $60,000

So in 2010 they moved to Ubud in Bali and for $60,000 built a Balinese-style house with in-ground pool and landscaped gardens. They have three staff and live in luxury. 

There are really good reasons for retiring in Southeast Asia, other than, of course, the fact that you could live your dream in paradise

These reasons are partly economic. Southeast Asia is fundamentally cheaper. Rents are up to 80 per cent lower than in Australia. The general cost of living is anywhere between 50 per cent and 80 per cent lower.

Thousands of Australian retirees are already packing up and taking off overseas. Almost 80,000 Australians receive the age pension overseas and the numbers are climbing. They jumped by 30 per cent from 2007 to 2012. More than 40,000 Australians live in Thailand alone, although we cannot determine what percentage of these are retirees.

This is just the beginning of a significant change in the pattern of retirement. The demographic story is compelling.

As the boomers age, the ranks of Australia’s retired will explode. The number of Australians over 65 will almost triple within the next 25 years to 8 million.

Many will be underfunded. Many just want to live life more fully.

At the same time, the Australian Government is less able to fund health care, aged services and pensions.

Of course, a life overseas is not for everyone, but it is a real alternative and important that all retirees understand that it is possible.

The good news for Australian retirees is that government pensions and super pensions are transportable. But there are catches and people need to be aware of all of these.

Any move, whether a 3 month sabbatical, a two year break or a total relocation, requires careful planning, especially pension, super and tax planning. It also requires careful consideration of visa and health issues.

These issues are carefully considered in a new book called Sell Up, Pack Up and Take Off and on the website planet-boomer.com

For example, the Australian Government pension is transportable, but the rub is that you have to be living in Australia to initially be awarded the pension. Once you are receiving the pension you can pack up and take off to another country with that Australian pension.

Another trap is the impact that selling or renting the family home may have on your pension eligibility. Will you fail the asset or income tests?

This is rather complicated and dealt with more fully in both planet-boomer.com and in the book Sell Up, pack Up and Take Off.

Pensions from your superannuation fund are also transportable and they remain tax free. But those with a self managed fund (SMSF) neeed to ensure that the fund is always a compliant fund. This is critical. Get professional advice on this before leaving Australia.

The book Sell Up, Pack Up and Take Off and the website planet-boomer.com were created by Stephen Wyatt and Colleen Ryan as a result of the time they spent in Asia.

They were the China correspondents for the Australian Financial Review between 2004 and 2010 and they travelled widely throughout Asia over that period. What they saw were thousands of Australian retirees moving into Asia for a cheaper and better life. They could see that a major social change was underway – a global diaspora of Aussie boomers – and they also realised nothing had been written about this.

So the book and website looks at the how, why and where of retiring to here, there and everywhere.

Would you consider retiring overseas? 

Sell Up Pack Up and Take Off by Stephen Wyatt and Colleen Ryan, published by Allen and Unwin.

For more information and where to purchase the book go to planet-boomer.com