Came across this article in the net, thought I share it in sg forums.
RETIRING ABROAD: ONE EX-SINGAPOREAN EXPERIENCE
I HAVE read many negative comments on the plight of Singaporeans retiring abroad and I would like to share my personal experience.
I have been retired for more than 10 years and have and spend my time between Guangzhou in China and Vancouver in Canada. Both these cities are inviting, fun and less expensive than Singapore.
In Guangzhou, I live in a penthouse apartment I bought for $150,000 five years ago. It is situated in Tian He district (similar to District 10 in Singapore) and next to the beautiful 400ha botanic garden condo residents can access for free through a side gate. It is a gated community with a clubhouse and first-class facilities, an Olympic-size swimming pool and modern security services. A similar apartment in Singapore would have cost at least $900,000 or more. For about 5,000 yuan or about S$1,000 a month, I live extremely well. A similar lifestyle in Singapore would cost me at least $5,000 a month. One can easily survive in Guangzhou on 2,000 yuan. It is cheaper if one decides to live in smaller cities like Fushan or Chungshan. A Singaporean who speaks proficient English can easily get a part-time job teaching English and earn 3,000 to 5,000 yuan a month.
A retired professor from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore lives in the same estate as me in Guangzhou for the past few years. He teaches science at a local university and earns about 10,000 yuan a month. He too can testify to the cost of living in Guangzhou. He is unlikely to return to Singapore as he has liquidated all his assets there.
In Vancouver, I live in a 5,000 sq ft waterfront property that costs me less than $1 million. A similar piece of waterfront property in Singapore would cost $3 million or perhaps more. I drive a Honda Civic Hybrid I bought brand new five years ago for $25,000. A similar new Honda Hybrid in Singapore would have cost close to $100,000 if you include COE. If one prefers a more prestigious cars like a new Mercedes 250 or a BMW 325, these cars cost less than C$50,000 (S$67,000). The cost of living for my wife and me, not including housing as it is relative, is less than $2,000 a month. The cost of living for me in Vancouver will drop significantly when I reach the age of 65 when I am entitled to old-age pension from the Canadian government. My wife and I will then receive more than $2,000 a month from the government. This pension is given whether one is rich or poor.
If you factor in savings in the cost of buying a house and a car in Vancouver and in Singapore, the difference is more than enough to pay for a happy and comfortable retirement for the rest of oneâ€™s life.
If one is more adventurous and hands-on, the cost of living in Vancouver can be only a few hundred dollars a month. This can be achieved when you fish, catch crabs and prawns, grow your own vegetables, hunt and so on. There are lots of places to fish and hunt. All you need then is to buy rice, sauces, spices and pay for essentials like gas and electricity at home, telephone bills and transport. These items amount to no more than $500 a month. I have tried it and it is fun.
It is impossible to find similar possibilities in Singapore where one can survive solely on Mother Nature.
Some readers have complained with depressing tales about lack of friends for retired Singaporeans living overseas. To these people, I suggest we shed our introvert and â€˜kiasuâ€™ mentality. If one is an extrovert and willing to engage in and be proactive, one will have lots of friends. I have lots of friends of all races in both Guangzhou and Vancouver. I participate in dragon-boat races in Vancouver, San Francisco, Guangzhou and Hawaii. I am the only Singaporean with the rowing team and the oldest. The rest of the team are from Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Thailand and some European countries. I play golf with friends of all races. I give free English lessons to Guangzhou university students, as well as local businessmen. I am a member of both the Guangzhou and Vancouver Toastmasters clubs, Guangzhou Canadian Friendship club and Friends of Taiwan club. I am always welcome by friends in Guangzhou and Vancouver. We have activities all year round, such as snow hiking and skiing in winter, fishing, gardening, cruises to Alaska, and barbecues during summer, pot-luck, mahjong and hunting the rest of the year. There is hardly a dull moment.
My wife, who is a retired teacher from Singapore, gives free English lessons to doctors and nurses at Chungshan Hospital in Guangzhou. She does volunteer work in Vancouver. Life is so rewarding and there is no time to be depressed.
There have been a number of comments that we are treated as second-class citizens in our adopted countries. It is inevitable there will be a small minority of people who are racists and bigots. These people even hate their own kind. It is not the norm and it happens in any country, including Singapore.
I have kidney failure and it costs the Canadian government $8,000 a month to treat me at no cost to me. There are nine friends willing to donate a kidney to me. They include a Caucasian, a Taiwanese, a Malaysian, a Korean, a mainland Chinese (a doctor herself) and four members of my family. It not true to say we are second-class citizens when people like Dr Ron Werb, head of department at St Paulâ€™s Hospital, accompanies us in dragon-boat rowing practices twice a week, together with other doctors. As immigrants, we have the same opportunities and rights as other citizens, regardless of race.
I remember when I first emigrated to Canada more than 20 years ago, my three children were given C$250 each as â€˜milk moneyâ€™ until they reached high school. This policy is still on going. There are a lot of support and help organisations for new immigrants of different cultures and race to help them assimilate into Canadian society.
I was born without a father, expelled from Outram Secondary School in Secondary 2 and worked for less than $100 a month at the age of 15 years in Keppel Shipyard as an apprentice. With that kind of credentials, I doubt I could achieve much in Singapore. But in Canada, we have a level playing field where we are rewarded by what we can do and not strictly by academic qualifications. Please donâ€™t tell me we are treated as second class citizens.
The Canadian government pays for my medical treatment when I travel overseas. Health care is very costly and an important factor for retirees. To have access to good free medical treatment during retirement is like striking a million-dollar lottery .
The benefits of free health care offered in Canada make Singaporeâ€™s claim of a lower cost of living meaningless.
I welcome any member of the press to visit Guangzhou or Vancouver and stay with me for a month and experience the truth. However, there is one condition. Donâ€™t send an introvert or eternal pessimist who engages in self-pity and complains.
Retiring overseas is not a bed of roses, but only if one is not prepared to make the necessary adjustments and sacrifices to suit the environment. If one is prepared to work hard, stay positive and stop complaining, it is hard to fail. For me and many others, we are happy immigrants. Life could not be better. There is no shame and we certainly have a clear conscience when immigrating from Singapore.
Cheong Wing Lee