Is the grass always greener?
Written by Paul Dodd on March 18, 2015.
As an expat financial planner living in Asia I work primarily with other expats, many of whom move from one country to another for postings of a few years. This has led me to see the status of expat as a nationality in its own right. Our increasingly globalised economy makes it easier and easier for people to move around the world and has created a whole host of nomads, country hopping from Cambodia to Tanzania, from Laos to Hong Kong, from Singapore to Myanmar.
People tend to move country in search of a better life – for my clients it is usually an opportunity to climb the career ladder, tackle a new challenge and earn more money. They are motivated by the belief that the grass is greener in their proposed country of residence. But is it really?
There are many factors to take into consideration when you are moving country but perhaps the most important one is finance. However wonderful and exciting your new home country may be, if the finances don’t stack up and you are struggling to pay the bills, you will be stressed, worried and miserable. That is why it is crucial for you to get an accurate idea of the cost of living wherever you are going in order to weigh up the pros and cons of the move.
Say, for example, you are offered a hefty pay rise to move from Phnom Penh to Hong Kong. The increased salary sounds fabulous but before you get too excited you need to look at comparative living costs to see if in real terms you will actually be better off. A two bedroom apartment in Phnom Penh might cost you $600 per month but equivalent accommodation will cost five times that in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong you may want to hire a maid, transport costs may be higher and food more costly. Will it be more expensive to get away for weekends or to fly ‘home’ to see friends and family? Only by creating a monthly budget based on your projected income and expenditure and taking into account all your costs including housing, food, education, transport, utilities and insurance can you work out whether you will really be better off in Hong Kong.
There are many online tools, websites and forums to help you get a grip on the cost of living in different countries around the world. You may also want to arrange a recce to check things out for yourself and have an opportunity to pick the brains of other expats already living there.
Change is a healthy part of life to be embraced and relished, however don’t forget - it is during big life changes, such as relocating, that financial planning becomes critical. Your financial planner could be instrumental in helping you make such an important life choice and in ensuring a smooth transition. Discuss your plans with them to determine how much flexibility you have to increase and decrease your savings as necessary, or whether you can access your money quickly if you need to. It is also a good idea to review your life and health insurance policies to ensure that you will have sufficient cover in your new home.
Once you have done your research and you feel that the grass really is greener, then go for it! With Skype and email, cross-country communication has never been easier and enables you to keep in close contact with your financial planner wherever you are. Infinity has offices all over the Asia region and can assist with your financial planning whether or not you decide the grass is greener on the other side!
Moving to Hong Kong check out our free guide
If you are moving to Cambodia then this guide might help you find your feet.