It’s all too easy to be overwhelmed when you land an expat job, together with an impressive salary to boot. What could possibly be better?
Of course, the experienced expat knows that it’s not just how you earn that counts; it’s also how much life in your adopted country costs. To put it another way, it’s not how much money you earn, it’s how much you manage to hold on to that counts.
So while top earning countries like Singapore, Denmark and Qatar may well pay larger salaries than many other expat destinations, the high costs of living can quickly eat up this extra income. The end result is that despite the higher salary, it is possible to find yourself no better off than you would have been back home.
Scandinavia is a perfect example of this, combining high wages with high levels of taxation. This means that while it is impossible to be poor in Denmark or Norway, it’s also very difficult to become wealthy there.
The trick, is looking at not just the salary on offer, but also the cost of living in your adopted country. The larger the margin between these two factors, the more disposable income you should find yourself with at the end of the month. In many cases, countries with lower overall salaries – but also lower costs of living – can actually lead to more disposable income.
HSBC’s recently published Expat Explorer survey over almost 10,000 existing expats from every corner of the globe shows that expats living and working in Asia are actually winning on the disposable income front.
The winner, at the time of writing, is China. Even better, as well as ranking top of the charts for disposable income, China also ranks third in the overall rankings. As a result it seems that the strong economy is enabling them to draw in overseas talent, and reward them admirably for their effort.
In second place, Vietnam presents a surprise result, benefiting as it does from such a low cost of living. Indeed, Vietnam’s score for the disposable income experienced by expats living there was the highest score achieved by Vietnam in any category of the survey.
Finally, in third place Thailand sneaks in, just behind Vietnam. This should come as no surprise to travellers who continue to flock there each year, enjoying a relatively high quality of living on minimal wages.
Very bottom of the chart is poor old New Zealand. It seems that in New Zealand, expats at least, have less cash to burn than in any of the other 34 countries covered by the report. This in stark contrast to the child raising tables where New Zealand came first. The news is clear; if you’re not worried about getting rich but want to raise children, head to New Zealand.
If cash in your pocket is more important than rearing children right now, look to South East Asia for the best possible opportunities to increase your income and grow your net worth.