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Old 24-01-2014, 09:19 AM
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People in their 40s are already retiring in other parts of Asia. Open your mind and be happy.

Your HDB flat is a blessing. Your hard work to buy and pay the loan is worth it. Now you can sell at a big profit and retire happily in Malaysia or Thailand. Our HDB flat is our best retirement asset.

Friday, December 6, 2013, 07:09

Asia Weekly: Ease of living entices retirees to Malaysia

By JAIME KOH in Singapore

Widespread english proficiency and excellent healthcare ensure country remains a firm favorite

After a recent trip to Malacca, 42-year-old Singaporean writer Stephanie Ho is seriously considering retiring to the historic Malaysian city.

“I like the history of this place. It’s nice and quiet, yet there is enough crowd (tourists) every now and then, which adds life to the place,” she says. “Furthermore, it’s not so culturally different from Singapore in terms of food, language and history, so the culture shock is not so huge.”

Distance from her home city is an added advantage. “Singapore is only a three-hour drive away, so I can go back whenever I want or need,” she adds.

Ho is not alone.

Formerly from Singapore, artist Titi Kwok Yong Chee has also made Malacca his home. “There is no space in Singapore for artists. Studio and gallery rental are so high, how can artists survive?” he says.

He now runs his gallery from a rented shop house unit in the historic Jonker Walk area. “The lifestyle here is good. It’s more leisurely and it’s freer,” he says, adding that it is a better environment for artists. “It’s not a rat race.”

The Singapore parliament earlier this year passed the Population White Paper in which Singapore’s population is projected to hit 6.9 million in 2030, with migrants making up almost half the population.

The paper drew protests from Singaporeans who argue that the figure is unacceptable, citing the existing strains on housing, social and physical infrastructure as a result of the rising population.

“I do not want to live in a 120-story flat that could cost millions or travel in a triple-decker bus when I’m retired,” said a 30-something Singaporean, referring in jest to the high-rise housing and public transport.

“When I retire, I want to be in a more relaxed frame of mind. I don’t want to have to worry about high expenses, or live with the stress of an ultra-crowded urban lifestyle,” she added. “That’s not retirement, is it?”

Many Singaporeans like Kwok have taken the leap to neighboring Malaysia. But they are not the only ones choosing to retire to Malaysia. North Americans and Japanese are among those who are looking to make Malaysia their retirement homes.

Malaysia ranks third in International Living magazine’s annual global retirement index for 2013, which indicates the preferred destinations of North American retirees.

Jennifer Stevens, executive editor of the magazine, was quoted by Forbes as saying Malaysia is a “place where you can step up in your lifestyle without blowing your budget”.

Stevens cited the example of her contributing editor who lives in a sea view apartment in Penang, equipped with pool and gym, for about $1,000 a month.

“They keep a small sailboat, eat out five nights a week, have a maid that comes once a week — and do it all for $1,700 a month,” she said.

For those who prefer to purchase their properties, they also have a choice to buy freehold, unlike other parts of Asia.

Malaysia is also a popular destination for many Japanese retirees. According to a survey by Japan’s Long Stay Foundation, which tracks the trend for Japanese staying overseas for an extended period of time, Malaysia has topped the list as the most popular destination for long stay for the past six years.

The reason that Malaysia has been a magnet for foreigners is partly thanks to its government initiatives which have actively encouraged people from overseas to settle in the country when they retire.

In the 1990s, there was the Silver Hair Programme which sought to attract those aged 50 and above to retire to the country.

Since 2002, the Malaysian government has extended the scheme to all age groups. The Silver Hair Programme has been replaced by the Malaysia My Second Home program (MM2H).

Under MM2H, eligible foreigners can live in Malaysia under a renewable 10-year multiple-entry visa. There are no restrictions on age, race, religion or gender.

The top spots for foreigners include Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Langkawi, Ipoh, Malacca, Kota Kinabalu and Johor Bahru, says TG Chng, a licensed agent for the MM2H programme.

“Kuala Lumpur attracts the younger set of people. Langkawi (attracts) boaters. Penang attracts those who wants a slower pace of life,” he tells China Daily Asia Weekly.

Malaysia’s multicultural environment is another attraction for both working and retired.

“We are used to foreigners being present here,” says Chng. “We have many large multinationals with many expats working here. It is common to see foreigners doing marketing at the local markets,” he says.

He adds that it is not only elderly retirees who are making Malaysia their second home. He explains that there is a younger generation who have worked here, fell in love with the place and decided to stay on.

John Harvey is a good example of this sort of retiree. He first came to the region from the United Kingdom in 1976 to work in Ernst & Young’s Hong Kong office.

“I was 25 years old and captivated by the vibrancy of Asia,” Harvey says.

For the next 40 years he traveled all over Asia for the global accountancy firm.

A few years ago he retired to a condominium on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

“It was an easy decision to make,” he says from London during a visit to his relatives. The weather during his trip back has served as a reminder of why he made his decision to continue living in Asia.

“It is 5 degrees here and gray … the decision to retire to Malaysia was not too difficult.”

In addition to the better weather, Harvey also enjoys the vibrancy in Asia that he says is hard to find in Europe.

“I think it has a lot to do with the Asian ‘can do’ attitude,” he explains. “I saw it when I first arrived as a young man and still see it today as I move into retirement.”

Harvey says he considered the alternatives but Malaysia was the country that ticked all the boxes.

“I looked at the Philippines but security bothered me. Sri Lanka is lovely but too far away,” he says. “Thailand has the (warm) weather but language is a big problem.”

Harvey looked at Hong Kong and Singapore as possible options. “Both have their attractions but do you want to retire there? They are expensive and they are places you go to work … not retire.

“Malaysia has a reasonable cost of living, nice weather, English is widely spoken and it has first-class medical facilities … it has everything you want really. And the people are simply great.”

In fact, the only disadvantage of his current lifestyle, Harvey adds, is the distance from his family members who are still in the UK.
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