News10 Top Tips for Retiring Overseas
10 Top Tips for Retiring Overseas

10 Top Tips for Retiring Overseas

resized_9781743317853_224_297_FitSquare By Stephen Wyatt and Colleen Ryan*

The kids have grown up. The dog is dead. The job has ended or it’s just too intolerable to put up with any more. The family home is way too big. And you are still only a pup at 60.

What the hell are you going to do?

Well, many Australians are moving to Penang, to Ubud, to Chiang Mai or other parts of Southeast Asia for a vastly cheaper but better quality of life. A new book called Sell Up, Pack Up and Take Off and an associated web site looks at retiring on a shoestring in Southeast Asia.

The cost of living in Southeast Asia is anywhere from 50-80 per cent lower. Better still, you can take your Australian pension or continue to receive superannuation when living overseas.

But before simply packing up and taking off, you need to do your homework and cover some basic issues. Here they are -


1)    Choosing your new country.

You may have an idea of paradise firmly fixed in your mind and it may be somewhere that you have visited often in the past. Or you may have no idea – just a firm belief that you need to retire somewhere cheaper if you are to maintain a good and enjoyable lifestyle. Either way – it is worth setting out your criteria and carefully checking which country best suits your needs. Bob set up a spreadsheet with considerations like crime, taxes, cost of living, visas and ease of communications. His spreadsheet spat out Penang, an island off the coast of Malaysia. Read Bob and Marion’s story here:


2)    Superannuation.

Get your finances in order before you leave. Make sure that your superannuation pension stays tax-free while you are overseas. If you have a self-managed super find, it will need to be restructured to ensure it remains a complying fund for Australian tax. If your super is with an industry fund or a big retail fund, the pensions you pay from it will be free from Australian tax.


3)    Age Pensions.

 You can receive the age pension in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam or Bali just as you can in Australia. Some 80,000 Australians are already receiving their age pensions overseas. But there are some tricks to be aware of. For example, you need to be eligible for, and already receiving, the age pension before you relocate. Read about it here.

A useful government website is:


4)    Visas.

Organise your long-stay visas from Australia before you relocate. There are retirement visas available in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. But you will need long stay visas for Europe unless you have an EU passport. Malaysia has the most attractive visa for Australian retirees. Malaysia My Second Home provides a 10-year visa for successful applicants and guarantees that all income earned outside Malaysia is free of Malaysian tax. See details here


5)    Health Insurance.

Take out an international health insurance policy. It is worth the expense. International health insurance can be expensive, but there are a number of different levels of cover from catastrophe insurance to the gold standard policy and prices vary widely

There is a very competitive global market for health insurance products. Use sites like or to compare products.

Tell the truth to your insurer about any pre-existing illnesses. Failure to do this can lead to a denial of claims. Check if your proposed insurance company is recognised by major health care providers in your new country of residence.


6) Medicare

Medicare is principally a health system for Australians who live in Australia. Non-residents are theoretically not entitled to Medicare on visits home to Australia but there is some flexibility for temporary absences, usually of up to two years. Once you have lived outside Australia for more than five years there is no flexibility – you are not entitled to Medicare on visits home.


7) Rent or Buy?

Rent before you buy in your new country. It may be best not to buy at all – property rules for foreigners can be complex and, in Southeast Asia at least, rents are cheap. See for a discussion of the property purchase rules for major Southeast Asian countries. But take Thailand as an example. Foreigners can legally, and easily, purchase an apartment anywhere in Thailand, but they cannot own land and houses.

However, foreigners manage this restriction in many ways, including:

Buying the land in the name of a Thai person, usually a friend or someone they think they can trust, then leasing it back for 30 years with an option to extend. Some developers already offer house sales using their own 30-year lease option.

Or, starting a Thai company in which the foreigner can own up to 49 per cent of the shares and then buy and own land through the company.


8) The Family Home.

Many people choose to rent out their home in Australia and rent property in their new country. This way they have the option of returning and they still have their foot in the Australian property market. But how does that affect the tax free capital gains that you have built up in your principal place of residence? The good news is that you can rent out your principal place of residence for up to six years without affecting the tax free capital gains when you eventually sell it. See more at


9) Tax Status – Resident or Non Resident

Get your tax planning in order before you leave the country. A key factor to consider is whether you are to become a resident or non-resident for Australian tax purposes.

Residents for Australian tax purposes are taxed on their world-wide income but they are more likely to qualify for Medicare on visits home and they benefit from most superannuation concessions as well as the tax-free threshold of over $18,000 a year

Non-residents for tax purposes only pay tax on their Australian income and have valuable tax advantages on their share investments and funds on deposit in Australia. But they lose the tax-free threshold, and will not qualify for Medicare benefits.

Make sure all your documentation is in order to prove your status as either a resident or non-resident. This is a useful link


10) Technology

Get on top of technology. Get set on Skype, Viber and Facebook to stay in touch with friends and family.


* Stephen Wyatt and Colleen Ryan are the authors of ‘Sell Up Pack Up and Take Off’ published by Allen and Unwin, September 2014. They are also co-founders of

Originally posted on .

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Dick from QLD commented:

Australia is the best country in the world and Wyatt & Ryan are advocating to leave? For what! economic reasons! Just one major point, over 50's usually places people's "health" situation at some risk. Lack of good infrastructure and good medicine in seeking treatments for any complaint will be burden if not dangerous. Apart from leaving family and friends one would be entering into a whole new world of culture and problems some of which are surfacing today. Good for long holiday's - great! but to "leave" is turning your back on a country/lifestyle you helped create. Everything looks glossy in print, I suggest anyone contemplating such a move should seek out someone that actually lives in the countries recommended and get information first hand. The grass is not always greener! 

Terry from WA commented:

We have tried retiring in Bali, having purchased a villa and lived there for three years, it was very good but the downside for us was the medical cover, my wife was taken ill on several occasions, the medical staff fat the international hospital did there best, but we had to return to Oz to get the correct treatment. As you get older heat list the biggest problem when living overseas 

Roelf from VIC commented:

Spending time overseas cannot be evaluated by financial reward alone. There are many other worthwhile considerations such as learning about different cultures, new languages, discovering different cuisines etc. Find yourself spiritually perhaps or be charitable and help out the locals. 

Gertraud from ACT commented:

Retire in Asia? No way! If anything, I would consider spending part of my time in Austria and the rest of the time here in Australia, where my children are. 

Michael from QLD commented:

the main reason is similar to 50 up, lack of advocacy, services and increasing cost of living for elderly in Aust, the current political ambition is creating fear and a guilt based submissive reaction of the vulnerable in hope of passive acceptance of further cuts to pensions and services In ageing we KNOW if change is needed to secure our well being we must do it whilst we can, Best option GOOD advocacy, press local Pollies etc Yay!, go 50 up 

steve from QLD commented:

Yes thanks, I have been thinking about this for some time but did not know where to start. I can now look seriously at the options that suit me. 

alba from NSW commented:

i will never leave Australia for those countries , thanks but no thanks 

Allan from QLD commented:

Thanks very much for your valuable contribution .You have explained quite a lot of questions in very easily understood speak . I have been thinking along similar lines recently re ( relocating) but like most questions, ask six people and get twelve conflicting answers. Thanks very much the web addresses will be very useful. Cheers Allan. 

Melani from NSW commented:

Wonderful , This is something that has been in the back of my mind for a long time. 

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