10 August 2016 – 

bali_villaWhat would you say to cutting your cost of living by up to two-thirds, able to afford dining out most nights, where the sun nearly always shines and it’s always warm? I’m sure that sounds pretty appealing to most of us.


So think about this. Let’s say you are planning on retiring early and you have worked out that you need, say $750,000 saved and invested to allow you to live comfortably using the proven 4% safe withdrawal rate.


Now, imagine if you could make some changes in your life that means that you only need $300,000 invested to not only retire but live a pretty comfortable lifestyle as well.


Well Ms MM and I are contemplating what a small but ever increasing number of retirees are doing. Moving overseas to one of the many destinations that offer a great lifestyle for significantly less than at home.

“Instead of living hand to mouth, stretching the age pension to its paltry limits, you get to enjoy a world…

Where $1,200 a month – for a couple – buys you a comfortable home in a beautiful setting, pays for food and utilities, entertainment, even a housekeeper…

Where prices for everyday things are from the 1950s: A taxi ride costs three bucks. Lunch out for $5. A first-run movie is $4. A housekeeper will clean once a week for $15…

Where you don’t have to readjust: English is widely spoken, respect for seniors is ingrained in the culture, and large, thriving Aussie communities already exist…

Where family isn’t a million miles away: Your new time zone is the same as Perth… another spot is only three hours behind Melbourne… In some of these places, your Aussie dollar stretches more than THREE TIMES as far as it does right now.” International Living Australia

I’m sold!!


We are not yet certain where we’ll end up but the plan is to be wherever that place is by 2020. Only 4 or so years away. After much reading and research (and much more to go), the places that are standing out as possibilities are Bali, Malaysia, and Thailand.


Each country has its benefits and also its downsides. Everything from difficult visa requirements, frequent political instability and often changing rules for long term visitors and ex-pats will affect our decision on where we end up.


I have travelled a lot around the South East Asia region both with work and on holiday including China, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, and Bali. It’s a region I know reasonably well and one of my long-term desires has been to go and live in one (or more) of the places I have worked and holidayed. I always returned from a visit with plans to seek work there, sell up and spend some time living the ex-pat life. Unfortunately, once normal everyday life kicked in again, these ideas got pushed further and further back.


sell_up_bookThe catalyst, now, for making a more determined move towards fulfilling this goal was in the discovery of a book, “Sell Up, Pack Up, and Take Off” by Colleen Ryan and Stephen Wyatt. A couple of Aussies who, after travelling through SE Asia many times, decided to take the leap and go live there.


There are plenty of ex-pat forums and websites on making the big move but this book covers a number of countries in Asia as well as France and Spain. These are all popular destinations for ex-pats wanting to escape the cost of living at home and often, the cold dreary winters many want to leave behind. Who can blame them.


Ryan and Wyatt’s book isn’t a complete ‘how to’ for retiring overseas which would not only make it a huge volume but also quickly out of date. Instead it’s an overview of the favourite destinations and suggests what’s possible if you’ve ever considered doing this. It’s a great starting point.


However, this is not a book review, but the start of me documenting a new direction in our lives and we’re going to have a lot of fun researching it along the way.


The plan is to spend the next four years researching and shortlisting our preferred destinations, then travelling to them, spending at least a month in each checking out the local scene with a view to making it our home.


Our first destination is Bali. One of the favourite playgrounds of countless Aussie holidaymakers due to it closeness to Australia and cheap cost of living there. Unfortunately, this is a negative as far as I’m concerned but we plan on staying well away from the ‘Party Central’ precincts such as Kuta Beach which should hopefully give us some relief from the tourists.


So, why would we want to retire in SE Asia?


  1. I guess the first reason, and it’s not the obvious financial reason, is that I’ve always wanted to live in there but, as I described before, everyday life just got in the way. But now I can. I’m retired, can afford it, and want to do it.


I love the food, the easy going way of life, the lack of nanny state rules, the year round warmth, and the opportunity to live a relaxed lifestyle without money pressures, amongst other things.


One of the downsides could include never being able to own property although this is not an issue for us as rents are so cheap and we won’t get stuck with having to sell a property if we decide to move.


The political instability of some counties can affect how welcome ex-pats are treated with changes in immigration policy, although Indonesia has been pretty stable for a while now. But it’s something to be aware of.


  1. Consider that the cost of living in many of these countries is less than half what it costs to live in Australia or New Zealand, even for a non-local. Sure, we’ll always end up paying more than the locals but your retirement funds are going to last twice as long.


Some things are going to cost more such as regular, overseas visa-runs but combine these trips with a few days in Singapore or Thailand or Vietnam and you have yourself a nice little holiday from your errrrr holiday.


Then there’s the cost of medical insurance in case of serious illness up to and including medivac if necessary. This is one of the biggest expenses ex-pats face, especially retirees as premiums will increase exponentially as you get older. It’s something to bear in mind.


  1. Ease of travel to other, nearby destinations in the region. Airfares are very reasonable and everywhere is so close when compared with the relative remoteness of Australia and New Zealand.


The flights are booked for February, the countdown is on, and plenty to do before we leave. Remember, it’s not just a holiday but also researching whether this is a lifestyle Ms MM and I could get used to, and discovering whether Bali becomes the place we want to spend a number of years enjoying our retirement.


It’s a work in progress so I’ll be sure to keep you updated along the way.

20 thoughts on “Cutting our retirement costs by two-thirds without making sacrifices. What the…..?”

  1. Wow, that would be quite the change. Living in a cheaper country would make sense financially, so as long as all the other factors are a draw then go for it!

    I think it’s a good idea to check them out for a month and live like a local, it won’t feel quite like a holiday after 2 or so weeks. If we were ever to make a move like that, I’m sure there’d be lots we’d like, but I think I’d miss a lot of the English/Australian things too.

    Would this be forever, or say a 10-15 year thing?

    Good luck with whatever you choose 🙂


    1. Hi Tristan, our plans, at this stage, are to go with the intention of living in our chosen place long term but with an option to move if we get bored or if the local situation becomes difficult, such as political insecurity. We also plan to travel a lot around the region so if we discovered a place we would rather lice in, then we can plan to move there and do it all again. A bit like being long-term nomads perhaps.

      We certainly don’t plan on living too off the grid. No grass huts but where we can enjoy most of the comforts of western life but not ending up living too much like the ex-pats. A nice balance of local culture with modern conveniences would be great.

  2. Sounds like an awfully nice way to spend retirement if you ask me. I like how you are taking your time, evaluating your options thoroughly, and giving yourselves a chance to “taste test” the location before jumping right in. It must be nice not having anything tying you down in Australia anymore!

    1. Hi GS, yeah, we reckon it’s a pretty sweet way to research retirement options. Far better than traipsing around retirement homes when we get really old eh.

      And you’re right. Not being tied down to any one place anymore is quite liberating. We both have family back here (Ms MM’s in Oz, and mine in NZ) but with such a low cost of living, in SE Asia, this will free up funds to travel elsewhere as well including visiting friends and family back home when we want to.

      The other benefit of living in a tropical paradise is that friends and family will probably want to come and visit us too.

  3. Much of it sounds marvelous and there are a couple of things that would also be on my careful consideration list

    I wouldn’t want to embrace too much of the expat community culture. Might be helpful to make the transition but then reaching out to explore how the locals really live is the true way to experience any culture.

    Also, how would healthcare and dental care be handled? It is such a big thing for those in the US who are considering early retirement. I can imagine there are a number of great institutions in Bali and then also some not so reputable. Would you go with some sort of private coverage or can you get access to other plans for foreign nationals who are permanent residents of Bali?

    Good luck and have fun in researching your choices!!

    1. Hi Mr Pie and thanks for dropping in and commenting.

      I know exactly what you mean about avoiding getting too involved in ex-pat community life. We don’t want to go fully ‘local’ but also don’t want to become regulars at the golf club and the ex-pat annual ball. Somewhere in between would be great. Where we can learn the local culture and get to grips with some language and become comfortable integrating into the local community a bit while still enjoying many of the comforts of western life.

      As for the medical side of things, the places we are looking at have pretty good medical facilities and care if you pay for it. If serious treatment is required, you may need to head to a capital city, Singapore, or back to Oz which is why we should look at emergency medvac options….just in case.

      Then again, I read of plenty of people who are healthy, keep themselves fit and forgo having any medical insurance, mainly due to the cost, and are prepared to take the risk of what life throws at them. We may well fit somewhere in the middle. Again, plenty more research to be done.

  4. I know exactly what you mean. Mr. ETT and I were discussing just last week how every time we visit a particular place, we could move here, we should move here, then exactly – we come back, allow real life to get in the way, and never take any action. We are just looking to move within Australia, so not as major as your decision, but it must feel great to have finally committed.

    1. Hi Mrs ETT. I understand what you mean by wanting to move to nice places you visit but one barrier we will have to break through is that, once we move, we’re not on holiday. We will actually be living there and so some of the day-to-day routines of life will no doubt move there too. The key will be to keep those moments to as few as possible and ensure we do things that interest us that then become to daily routine.

      Whereabouts are you planning to move from/to in Australia? Is that going to be a retirement move or just a change of scenery?

  5. My brother in law lives in Thailand right now (has been there 2 years and is staying another 2). He is saving so much money living there! He is working as an English teacher and getting paid a modest salary by American standards but can live on 1/10th his income in Thailand.

    Keep us posted as you do research – if you like the culture, weather, food and can find people you can relate to it sounds like a great plan

    1. I’m jealous that your bro in law is there already, AE. If Ms MM was retiring sooner than 2020, we’d be there sooner. I’ll keep working on that though ;-). He must be really living like a local to be earning local wages and still saving money. I have heard that ex-pat English teachers can get paid pretty well compared to local wages especially if they have a teaching degree. But it’s still low if directly compared with western standards.

      Now that I’ve put it out there, I’m committed to following through and will definitely keep you updated. Thanks for the comments.

  6. I think it’s a great idea to find a retirement location where your money goes that much further.

    For us, I think it would be a challenge to move too far away. I have a feeling that we’ll be caring for parents and I want to be relatively close to the kids as they grow up.

    It’s not on the same magnitude, but there are similar choices you can make in the US – i.e., living in south Texas vs living in south Florida will save significantly especially on housing costs.

    Can’t wait to hear more about the decision-making process. Would love to learn more about these locations.

    1. Hi FS, you’re right. Moving away from friends and especially family would be very hard for some people to do. Ms MM is very close to her family and sees them most weekends but she’s still up for the adventure of living in a completely foreign environment and the experiences that will bring. I applaud her for that.

      We do see ourselves coming ‘home’ once a year and there will always be a welcome mat out for anyone that wants to come and visit us. In fact, I’m sure that the allure of a tropical vacation with free accommodation may see us getting plenty of visitors. Hmmm, maybe we’ll add Airbnb as a side hustle.

      I’ll be sure to keep you all updated about our plans and discovery trips. It’s going to be a lot of fun I think.

  7. Your plan is so exciting! Thailand is hot, hot, hot right now! We’ve seen a bunch of podcasts and we heard a really good tip for renting long term. When you relocated It might be best to head over with only a 1 or 2 week reservation. Then set out and take your time over those few weeks to find a place you love. If the owner tells you the rent is 10,000 baht, you smile and ask “Would you take 7,000?” (or 6,000 or whatever). From what we’ve seen they’re very amenable to negotiation.

    1. Hi Mrs Groovy, yes, Thailand is a bit too hot at the moment. I read about a bomb attack in Hua Hin yesterday. This is one of the places we want to check out when we get over there so it brings it home that there is still potential danger wherever you go. From what I read, it’s not terrorist related but appears to be a protest against the military government. Anyway, the reasons don’t really count for much if you’re in range of its destruction.

      Our accommodation plans for Bali are very much what you suggest. Get a hotel for the first few nights while we look for longer term accommodation at a negotiated price. This is what the ex-pat forums recommend rather than booking somewhere online beforehand. They’re far more negotiable in person.

      Thank for your comments and I hope that you’ll follow our adventure.

  8. Nice article – and good luck with the rest of your journey!

    One added side benefit to living outside your native country: Extra creativity. It’s been empirically shown that ex-pats exhibit more creativity during and after having lived abroad. So the benefit sticks with you forever, even if you move back.

    Rich, happy and creative. Win-win-win.

    Good luck and cheers!

    1. Thanks for dropping by and commenting Financial Libre. I hadn’t considered becoming extra creative as a side benefit but I’ll take it if it’s there. I have been thinking about developing some sort of online business as a side hustle that I can manage from anywhere in the world. It’s still gestating in my mind at the moment but hopefully I’ll get a flash of inspiration soon and start building it. Rich, happy and creative. I like it.

    1. Hi Julie, and thanks for your comment. Yeah, it’s not for everyone but it’s an adventure for us rather than an escape or anything like that. Once we’re set up in our new slice of heaven, we may find that everyone, including family, want to come and stay with us. And the cost of communicating is so low now, or free, such as Skype, that staying in touch won’t really be an issue.

  9. Wow, exciting times!
    I would love to live in SE Asia for a while, or at least for an extended holiday sometime 🙂 (Or S.America)
    Probably a fair few years away to be anywhere near realistic but it remains a small idea in the back of my mind at all times.
    Be interesting to see how it all pans out for you, good luck!

    1. Hi FIREstarter, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do and now I’m close to having the opportunity. I just have to nudge my other half into early retirement as well and away we go. Actually, by taking our time and exploring a few places first will give us the opportunity to get it right first time, hopefully, and once you are in the region, travel to other SE Asian countries is relatively cheap.

      So if it’s something you want to do, put it on the list. I guess the main thing holding you back from extended holidays is work but once you retire, it’s out there for you.

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