I was born in Malaysia. During school and university, I lived in the UK, which was an incredibly enriching life experience. But the itch to return to my homeland was always there, which is why I flew home to Penang in 1992. Are you considering retiring in Malaysia? Here’s why you should bite the bullet and do it!
Malaysia has always been the traditional home of three races: Malay, Chinese and Indian. Now it’s truly international. The Danes can be found playing Balut in the evenings; there are quiz nights at Healey Mac, the heritage enclave at Chulia Street; and Love Lane comes alive at night, offering a place for locals and travellers to mingle together. As you walk past, there’s live music trickling out of the quaint cafés and a smell of delicious street food that’s out of this world.
As for the landscape, there’s a striking contrast between city and countryside. The hills of Penang are full of hiking trails, and one of my favourites leads to a 100+ year lighthouse built by the British, which is perched over Muka Head. It’s one of the few places on the island where you can look down on the wings of white-bellied sea eagles!
In addition, there’s so much to see and do in the city centre. The Penang Philharmonic Orchestra often perform jazz and classical concerts, and there are no less than five golf courses within an hour’s drive of the city. Penang is just a short flight to the legendary Indo waves. And the mellow surf of Peninsular Malaysia is just down the road, hidden behind the Titiwangsa mountain range. The pace of life grinds to a standstill when I cross that mountain ridge. It’s like I’m in a completely different country.
Sounds great, Sam… but how much does it cost?
One of the best parts about residing in Malaysia is the affordable cost of living. Official figures fluctuate, of course, but a quick search online tells you what you need to know. The cost of living in Penang is currently 62% lower than in Singapore. Renting a 900 sqft apartment in an expensive area, for example, might cost you an average of 2,371 MYR per month (773 SGD). In Singapore, the same might cost you approximately 3,721 SGD per month (11,534.89 MYR). Similar differences lie in the real estate market.
Retiring in Malaysia is such an affordable, appealing option for so many C-suite and senior management executives. Cost of living is so much lower than many of its surrounding Southeast Asian countries, but the quality of living remains high. Many of the clients I speak with are extremely keen to get over here.
Anything else I need to consider?
The only real fly in the ointment is the visa application process. The last thing anyone wants when they’re planning to retire is more work, and the immigration process can sometimes prove complicated. Some of my clients are uncertain of how to navigate the system for the best chance of approval. Others need to launch an appeal against an unforeseen rejection of their visa, which might not always be a clear-cut process.
But in my honest opinion, retiring in Malaysia shouldn’t have to be trial of patience and time. To make your lifestyle decisions easier to execute, you just need access to a large and influential network of the best legal talent. Expedite the entire visa application process with personalised immigration advice and the sound knowledge of a reputable legal advisor. Alternatively, the Malaysia My Second Home programme (MM2H) qualifies you to relax and enjoy residency with a 10-year visa.
Thinking of retiring in Malaysia? I’ll see you on the beach …
Author: Sam Choong
Sam Choong is a lawyer practising in Malaysia. His areas of practice include estate planning, wills and UK inheritance tax for expats residing or seeking to retire in Malaysia.