Less likely destinations offer best financial boost for expats

by Ray Clancy on December 2, 2015

Vietnam, Qatar, Czech Republic and Mexico are the best destinations in each global region for expats who want to boost their standard of living, according to new research.

The United States, the United Arab Emirates, China and Switzerland also perform strongly for expat personal finances, the latest Expat Explorer survey from HSBC shows.

111815-hanoi-vietnamOverall, expats in the Middle East enjoy the greatest standard of living globally. Some 76% of expats in Qatar saw an increase in their disposable income as a result of moving and 75% were able to save more. Bahrain and the UAE also have high living standards with 68% and 65% respectively of expats having greater disposable income than they did in their home country.

The region is also home to the second biggest group of expats with annual incomes over US$200,000 at 16%, just behind Asia Pacific at 19%. However, this has led to increased financial challenges when living abroad with 46% saying their finances have become more complex as a result of moving, which compares to a global average of 30%.

With a low tax environment, countries in the Middle East offer this group with an unrivalled opportunity to simplify their finances. Only 13% of expats in Oman and 16% in Bahrain have seen their finances becoming harder to manage as a result of moving.

In Asia, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore stand out for offering expats the chance to save more money and enjoy greater disposable income. Vietnam tops the regional league table with 67% of expats in the country seeing an increase in their disposable income and 68% increasing the amount they save, but the region performs strongly across the board.

Meanwhile in China, 68% of expats enjoy more disposable income living in the country and 65% can save more than they did at home. This makes the country one of the top destinations for improving personal finances.

Although 85% of expats living in Hong Kong say they spend more on accommodation than they did in their country of origin, 67% have more disposable income after moving and 61% say their ability to save has increased. In Singapore, 65% of expats report greater levels of disposable income, and 24% of expats living in India say they’ve been able to buy additional property as a result of moving.

Mexico offers the easiest financial route into the Americas. With 63% of expats in the country spending less on day to day bills and 57% enjoying greater disposable income. Some 52% of expats say they are able to save more, 21% can afford more than one property and 36% more expensive holidays. Almost half, 49%, of expats in the USA and Canada report a greater ability to save since moving.

Expat savers in the Czech Republic and Switzerland experience the biggest boost in Europe, with 60% of expats in the countries increasing the amount of money they can put away.

Offering expats with the highest expat salaries globally at US$181,000 per annum compared to a global average of US$104,000, some 65% of expats in Switzerland also enjoy greater disposable income. Sweden and Belgium also have a lot to offer financially as 55% of expats in both countries have more disposable income after moving.

“As an expat, you often need to navigate these financial issues in not one, but two or more countries. That can be difficult but shouldn’t be impossible no matter where your expat journey takes you. Many destinations offer financial rewards too. Earning potential can be higher and living costs lower for instance. That can mean building your savings while still enjoying more of the finer things in life,” said Dean Blackburn, head of HSBC Expat.

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