Retiring to Australia

by Jose Marc Castro on August 6, 2009

australiaflagIMAGE200Australia is a stunningly beautiful continent with unique animal and plant life. So unique that scientists could not initially believe that they really existed.  European settlers first landed in the 18th century, and most were British convicts. By the 19th century the discovery of gold had accelerated the arrival of new, free settlers. Although the first settlers claimed that the continent was uninhabited, hundreds of thousands of indigenous people were already present when the settlers arrived. They were the First People of Australia.

From this past, Australia has developed into a developed country with world class standards on health care, life expectancy, quality of life, human development, public education, economic freedom and protection of civil liberties and political rights. It is also one of the foremost countries in the United Nations, the G-20, the Commonwealth of Nations, the ANZUS, the OECD and the WTO.

Climate in AustraliaGovernment in AustraliaTax System in AustraliaMedical Care in AustraliaReal Estate in AustraliaShopping in AustraliaCost of Living in Australia

A New Life in Australia

In 1993-94, 240 people were granted self-supporting retirement visas by the Australian government. By 2000-01, this has increased almost ten times to 2,061 people. Unfortunately it is hard to get this visa.  You have to be 55 years old+ and must bring to Australia the amount of $Aus360, 000 or what will amount to Aus$25,000 in income per year.  You also have to acquire a good medical insurance policy with an Australian company plus fulfill health and character requirements. In addition the retirement visa only lasts for four years although there are steps being taken to change this.

Visa requirements are stipulated, with immigrant visas granted to those that meet points standards set by law. Residency and retirement are also regulated, with specifics drawn up for compliance by prospective applicants.

Climate in Australia

Australia has four seasons: summer from December to February, autumn from March to May,  winter from June to August and spring from September to November. Though evenings are generally cooler, summer is exceedingly hot, with temperatures reaching 40 degrees C. This is why skin cancers are so prevalent among Australians who tend to ‘bake’ in the sun to get that attractive tan. If you want to settle in Australia, you will have to observe certain precautions such as the regular use of sunscreens; time out from the sun during the hottest times of the day; drinking lots of water; wearing protective clothing; and the like. In contrast, the problem in winter is to stay warm and properly protected.

Another growing concern in Australia is the effect of climate change. The Australian government in recent years have initiated and adhered to many of the global programs to reduce the greenhouse gases and other environmental policies that aim to protect the environment.

Government in Australia

The current government is led by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who has made the environment the centerpiece of the administration. True to form, one of the very first acts of governance by Rudd was the signing of the Kyoto Protocol which is aimed to lower carbon dioxide emissions in the next few years. Although the country has portrayed itself as part of the Asia-Pacific region it is still tied to the British Commonwealth.

Australia is a federal democracy composed of six states and two territories. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a Governor-General. Australia’s national Parliament is composed of the House of Representatives and the Senate. States and territories have their own legislatures.

Tax System in Australia

People thinking of retiring in Australia should have a long look at its tax system, which has been called as “incredibly high.”  People who work in Australia are assigned a unique TFN or number, which is used to help determine how much tax will be withheld from their earnings. Taxes are withheld based on your tax bracket.  Individual taxpayers pay taxes on their salaries and wages, business income, and capital gains. There was even a comment made at the Australia Expat Forum last June 20, 2009:

Australia basically charges you tax on the tax that you pay. Let’s not mention LCT for cars. .which adds 33%…ridiculous in my eyes.

One of the biggest taxes imposed on the individual is the sales tax known as the Goods and Services Tax. This tax is imposed on all goods and services with some exemptions such as unprocessed food, education and medical services. The tax is set at one eleventh of the total value of the items bought.

There is a system of sales tax refunding in the law. If the purchase made totals above AUD300, the purchaser can refund the GST if the items bought are taken out of Australia within thirty days of purchase. This can be refunded at the immigration counter right before leaving the country.

Medical Care in Australia

Medicare was introduced in the 1970s by the Labor government. Its principal functions were to meet the cost of medical treatment, medicine and services provided by public hospitals. Australians can be treated either as public patients in public hospitals, private patients in public hospitals or private patients in private hospitals. The federal government supplies the bulk of public health expenditure (two-thirds) while about one third comes from state, territory and local levels. Half the Australian population has private health insurance.  The Australian government wants to encourage the growth of private health insurance used in tandem with Medicare to cover the entire population.

A study discovered that the quality of health care in Australia and New Zealand was the best compared to the UK and US. Australian also ranked fifth among 30 top destinations for retirees. One advantage is the fact that people speak English. Another is Australia’s weak currency, which favors someone with US dollars.

For foreign retirees in the country through a temporary residence visa, the option to get is private health insurance. Medicare does not cover foreign retirees. Those on permanent residence retirees that fall within a particular income bracket may enjoy some health benefits under the Medicare system. Retirees need to apply for a Commonwealth Senior’s Health Card to be able to avail of the menu of goods and services offered under the system.

Real Estate in Australia

If you intend to stay more than three years or longer in Australia, it is better if you buy, not rent, since this would be more profitable from a strategic point of view. About 70 percent of the local real estate market consists of purchases and prices of houses have gone up since last year in most areas (about 8%) except for a slight dip in Sydney (0.1%). The increase in property values has bucked the worldwide financial crisis as the values increased by almost 6% in the first seven months of 2009.

Sydney is a target area for many expatriates who want to move to and retire in Australia. There are signs that the real estate market might improve this year for those who are thinking of investing in properties. A two bedroom apartment in Airlie Beach with a balcony, near the Barrier Reef and tropical islands, for Aus$37,000 is quite an attractive buy.

Shopping in Australia

Australians patronize Target, Big W and K-mart as they offer the best value, that is, good quality for low prices. This covers both ordinary items for the home and the family. Also in this category are leading supermarkets Coles and Woolworths.

More high-end are the Bayswiss stores, which feature attractive furniture and accessories still at affordable prices, as well as David Jones and Myer department stores. You can get fresh produce in great variety from the former. In most of the places in Australia, there is a “farmer’s market” held each week during the weekend. These small market places sell fresh fruits and other vegetables. Meat though is forbidden to be sold in these weekend bazaars.

For those who want to economize even further, you can resort to buying previously used goods through garage sales, ads in the Internet and newspapers, and The Trading Post, a national paper that advertises used and new items.

Cost of Living in Australia

The cost of living in Australia seems to be similar to the cost of living in the UK or even higher than that. Even ordinary items such as bread, potatoes and tomatoes seem to be more expensive in Australia. Food prices are quite high because many food products are imported from Europe or other countries. It seems better to buy at small local stores since the food is more varied, of better quality, and often cheaper than in the big supermarkets. Books are expensive but electricity is not.

The costs of living in Australia have been reflected in a post at the Australia Expat Forum last January 24,2009:

I thought I’d provide some costings based on my own expenses, I certainly don’t live an extravagant lifestyle but it’ll give you an idea. For what it’s worth, I reside in Brisbane, Queensland.

General Expenses:
- Electricity (Origin) - $270/quarter (2 people – 4br home, 3 air conditioners, TV & computer on all the time. Also use electric hot water system)
- Telephone (Fixed Line) - $25/month Includes a silent telephone number
- Telephone (Mobile) - $49/month Includes $300 worth of calls and SMS
- Insurance – Building ($264k replacement value) - $20/month
- Insurance – Medical - $150/month (Intermediate coverage for young couple, no kids)
- Insurance – Home & Contents ($80k of goods) - $30/month
- Cable Television - $80/month
- ADSL Internet (8mb DSL w/ 25gb) - $80/month
- Rent – 8km from CBD with good public transportation links, close to shopping centre – four bedroom home, 2 bath and double lock up - $2000/month
- Unleaded Fuel @ $1.05/litre (roughly)
- Gym membership = $100/month
- Council property rates = $500/quarter

Bank Expenses:
- Mortgage - 5.99% - Standard variable rate with major bank
- Credit Card - 19% - Gold card with frequent flyer rewards
- Standard Transaction Account with Visa Debit Card - $12/month - Unlimited non bank atm’s, can use any atm in the world without penalty and no foreign exchange charges. Also comes with complimentary extended warranties and travel insurance on purchases.

Public Transport
- Integrated “GO Card” – Allows usage of bus, train & ferry - $120/month. This is for a zone three transit which is approx 8km from Brisbane CBD. Further you live out, the greater the zone thus more expensive.
- Taxi Fare – One way from CBD to Home – approx 12km / 15 minutes = $25
- Casual car parking in designated car park - $40/day
- Casual car parking – Offstreet with parking meter = $1.5/hour

Entertainment Expenses
- Carton (24 bottles x 330ml) of imported beer (Peroni, Stella, Heineken etc) - $45/carton
- Local carton (24 bottles x 375ml) (VB/Hahn/XXXX/Carlton etc) - $40/carton
- Bottle of spirits – 700ml of Smirnoff/Bacardi/Bundy Rum/Johnny Walker/Jack Daniels etc = $40/bottle
- Buying a drink at a pub/club – Beers = $7-8/each and premixed spirits = $9-11 and postmix spirits = $9
- Restaurant meals - $20 avg for entree, $35-45 for main & $15 for dessert
- Fast food – McDonalds BigMac Meal = $6.50 or KFC Fillet Burger Meal = $7.25
- Local fish’n'chip shop – Cod & Serving of chips = $7

Grocery / Shopping Expenses
- 6 pack of soap - $4
- Tissues - $2.5
- 2 litres of milk - $4
- Loaf of bread (800gm) - $3
- Tub of margarine (500gm) - $2
- Tub of cream (500gm) - $2.5
- Toilet paper (8 rolls) - $6.5
- Packet of potato chips – 200gm = $3.50
- Tub of vanilla ice cream – 1 litre = $6
- Hot cooked chicken - $11
- Shampoo = $5
- Kilo of sausages = $6
- Kilo of eye fillet steak = $32
- Kilo of barramundi fish = $30

Household / White goods
- 50″ HD Plasma = $2000
- XBox 360 = $300 + $100/game
- Dishwasher = $1000
- Microwave = $250
- Toaster = $40
- Queen Sized Bed – Mattress & Base = $2000
- Decent 3 seater lounge = $1000

Clothes
- Mens business suit - $600
- Mens business shirt - $80
- Mens business shoes - $120
- Surfy brand TShirt = $50
- Surfy brand boardshorts = $90
- Pair of “surfy thongs” (flip/flops) = $20
- Pair of “Bonds” underwear = $14
- Pair of running/gym shoes – Asics/****/Reebok etc = $100-300

Australians about to retire seem to have realized that the cost of living as a retiree is on the increase because of the higher cost of health care and the longer life spans of Australians.  As a result they are pushing for later retirement, postponing it for five years or so.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Lynn January 8, 2011 at 2:00 pm

thank you, very informnative and useful info.

Reply

Martin January 21, 2011 at 3:23 am

Thank you. Are these Aussie or US $$?

Reply

Thomas February 17, 2011 at 5:02 am

So with all the down sides to Australia (taxes and cost of living), what are the up sides of retiring there?

Reply

tonyB November 29, 2011 at 5:58 pm

thomas asks the Q I was going to ask. I have a cousin that's been living in austrailia for 30+yrs. Can she help me retire to austrailia? Recently, i've been looking at the Philipines as a retirement possibility. Both places speak english and have decent health care.

Reply

Ann Maree April 13, 2012 at 1:21 pm

I am an Australian living in the US, my husband is an American, we hope to retire in Australia this year. How long do I have to live there to get on the Medical program?

Reply

Jeff McNaughton December 21, 2013 at 2:05 pm

My wife and I will be retiring to Australia in about 5-6 years to be near our now Australian daughter and her family via parent migration. I would like to know what problems might occur with receiving our US social security and pensions. Can anybody enlighten me. Also what about taxes on this and our retirement savings.

Reply

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