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Whether youre 40-plus and feeling burnt out, or 50-plus and

approaching retirement, this is the perfect book for you. Find

out how to live an exciting and comfortable but cheaper life
overseason a long term or trial basis.
Sell Up, Pack Up and Take Of tells you about people who are
living the dream in Asia and Europe, making their dollar go
furtherwith better houses, a better social life, more luxury
and more adventure.
And you can do it too. In this book youll discover the pros
and cons of the great countries you can live in at a quarter of
the cost of Australia; the tricks of buying or renting a house;
how to get a visa; and how to manage your health insurance,
pension, super and tax.
Now that 60 is the new 40, its time to get positive and go
for it. A better life is yours for the taking.
Want to have a more luxurious lifestyle and
better house at a fraction of the cost?
Everything you need to know about
visas buying or renting property living costs
health care tax insurance and the cost of living
for Bali, Thailand, Malaysia, Spain and more
Cover design: Alissa Dinallo
Cover image: Thomas Flgge/Getty Images
Stephen Wyatt and Colleen Ryan are both economists with majors in
accounting. Colleen worked as a tax accountant for an international
accounting rm in her early career and Stephen was a banker with
Merrill Lynch. They have lived overseas several times, most recently
in Shanghai, where they were the joint China correspondents for
the Australian Financial Review from 2004 to 2010.
Every effort has been made to provide accurate and authoritative information in this book.
Neither the publisher nor the author accepts any liability for injury, loss or damage caused
to any person acting as a result of information in this book nor for any errors or omissions.
Readers are advised to obtain advice from a licensed financial planner before acting on the
information contained in this book.
Extracts on pages 112 and 113 from Jon Swains River of Time (1997) are reproduced by
permission of the author.
First published in 2014
Copyright Stephen Wyatt and Colleen Ryan 2014
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in
any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior
permission in writing from the publisher. The Australian Copyright Act 1968
(the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or 10 per cent of this book, whichever
is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational
purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has
given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency (Australia) under the Act.
Allen & Unwin
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Cataloguing-in-Publication details are available
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ISBN 978 1 74331 785 3
Set in 11.75/14.75 pt Minion Pro by Bookhouse, Sydney
Printed and bound in Australia by Griffin Press
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The paper in this book is FSC


promotes environmentally responsible,

socially beneficial and economically viable
management of the worlds forests.
Introduction vii
Chapter 1 Bali 1
Chapter 2 Thailand 20
Chapter 3 Malaysia 50
Chapter 4 Vietnam 76
Chapter 5 Cambodia 106
Chapter 6 Europe 128
Chapter 7 Superannuation 158
Chapter 8 Pensions 167
Chapter 9 Taxation 175
Chapter 10 Health insurance 188
Conclusion Thoughts in the bath 197
Property 207
Visas 213
Acknowledgements 235
About the authors 237
It is a time to be free.
There are not many periods in life when you experience freedom.
Most of us enjoyed freedom in our late teens, twenties and even our
early 30s; pre-marriage and before the kids arrived; before mortgage
and debt and work took on a great seriousness.
But once the kids mature and become self-sufficient, and once
debts are paid and your working life ends, suddenly you enter another
period of immense freedom. It is back to your twenties again.
And you can enjoy it now just as you did when you were young
and free.
All you need to do is be clever and brave enough to change your
lifestyle and leverage the benefits of freedom.
It doesnt matter if you are 40 or 70. If you have reached a turning
point in your life then clean the slate, look at all the options, be brave.
And if you are facing retirement then remember that it is an
opportunity, not a death sentence. It is an extraordinary opportunity
to grasp afresh at life; to live life to the full. After all, at 60 there
really isnt a lot of it left. We need to make the most of it.
This book gives you an alternative. It offers up the chance for
another life. A new life in another country for a year, a few years or
forever and a cheaper life that will make those dollars go a lot further.
viii Sell Up, Pack Up and Take Off
Another time for big decisions
There are a few critical decision-making times in life. One such time
was back in your youth when you were deciding on which career to
follow, who to marry, where to live, whether to have children.
Now is another critical time when you need to make decisions
about how to live a new phase of your life. Do you stay put, and live
as you have lived for the past thirty or so years, or do you sell up,
pack up and take off ?
Whether you are 40 and burnt-out or 60 and facing an entirely
new landscape, decision time can be daunting.
If you are a baby boomer the chances are the kids have grown up.
The dog is dead. The job has ended or its just too intolerable to put
up with any more. The house where you have lived for decades is now
too big. And youve still got maybe twenty good years ahead of you.
What the hell are you going to do?
Stay in that family home? Get another dog to make you feel like
you have kids again? Hang about to look after the grandchildren?
Count your pennies and scrimp because those retirement savings
do not go nearly as far as you thought they would? Go to the same
club, pub, restaurant or golf course that you have gone to for the
past ten years? Watch your friends die? Watch a lot more TV?
Do the lawns a little more than you need to and get those edges
really sharp?
Well, you could. But why would you? It sounds pretty mind-
numbingly boring. There is a terrible sameness to it.
Sadly, that is the box that most retirees and indeed most people
decide to confine themselves to. This is the conventional mindset,
but it shouldnt be. There is no need to raise the white flag on life.
These days, the old 60 is the new 40. Get positive. Go for it.
There is a lot more living to do.
This book speaks to those who see retirement not as the sunset
years, but as the dawn to a new and exciting freedom. However, it
also speaks to those, of any age, who want the adventure of living
in another country, even if its only for a few years. It aims to help
people climb out of a dreary box and start living again.
ix Introduction
Once the kids mature and become self-sufficient,
and once debts are paid and your working life ends,
suddenly you enter another period of immense freedom.
It is back to your twenties again.
Life has changedwe live longer, healthier lives
Many Australians found themselves by travelling overseas when
they were young. And they havent stopped.
A very popular travel book, first published in 1975, was South
East Asia on a Shoestring. It was the bible to youth travel in Asia back
then. Today, its more likely to be called something like Retirement
in Asia on a Shoestring.
Since the baby boomer generation came of age, trips with the
kids to Bali and Thailand and Malaysia have been the norm. Many
Australians have worked and found partners overseas. And theyve
embraced medical tourism, whether it is a facelift in Thailand, a new
set of choppers in Bangkok or a full medical service in Singapore.
Life for Australians today is much more global than for previous
generationsand retirement will be too.
It is no longer a radical step to go and live overseas. Look at the
fly-in-fly-out workers in the mines of Western Australia. Many base
themselves in Bali today. It is not a big step to retire there.
And for the first time ever, technology allows us to live interna-
tionally but also stay close to loved ones. Technology has destroyed
the barriers historically confronted by those living in another country.
Jet travel allows you to be home in less than half a day from most
places in Asia. Email, Skype, smart-phones, iPads and computers
allow constant contact from anywhere.
When it comes to keeping in touch, living in Chiang Mai today
is not that different from living in Byron Bay and remaining close
to friends and family in Sydney.
So here is an alternative. Here is a new approach to life.
x Sell Up, Pack Up and Take Off
Sell up, pack up and take off
Sell that suburban house. Tell the kids and grandkids you love em
to death. Tell them that you are about to embark on an adventure,
but so, too, are they.
You want them to share in your new life and this will offer them
excitement and an adventure as well.
Add all or some of the funds from the sale of your house to the
superannuation fund. Call a taxi. Go to the airport. Get on a plane.
Go and live in splendour. Get a house on the beach in Malaysia, Bali,
Thailand, Cambodia or Vietnam.
Get some house help and really enjoy a G&T at sunset. Go for
a swim each morning. Forget watching the nightly TV news. Enjoy
the exotic life. Have the family over to visittheyll love it.
And guess what? It can be done at a fraction of the cost of living
in Australia. Sure, there are a few financial constraints and visa issues,
but these can be easily handledand you can still receive income
from your superannuation or receive your Australian pension.
Radical or sabbatical?
Of course, selling up, packing up and taking off is the radical
approach to change. Any move overseas needs a lot more research,
and this is what this book is about.
Change can be modest or aggressive.
For example, instead of selling up and taking off forever, some
may prefer renting out the family house in Australia rather than
selling it, then renting a home for themselves in Thailand or Bali or
wherever, rather than buying there.
Also, the move may be just for a few yearsa type of sabbatical
or extended holiday from your Australian life.
And you neednt have reached those mature years of life, either.
You may be 40 or 50 and just burnt out and sick of the life youre
leading. You might be feeling like you want to stop the world, get off,
run away from that daily grind and try a different life for a while.
Or you might just want the adventure. Escape is for all.
xi Introduction
The escape spectrum
There is a spectrum of escape: from running away forever, to escaping
for just a few months at a time. To put it simply, your options are:
Sell up, pack up and take off: the plan would be to live somewhere
else, perhaps forever.
Pack up and take off: keep the family home in Australia, rent it
out, then go and live for an extended period in a country you
have always wanted to live in.
Take off for the lifestyle change: refresh and recharge. This may
mean living for six months in Australia and six months in another
country, or three months here and nine months elsewhere, or
nine months in Australia and three months overseas, and so on.
The beauty is that no matter who you are, how rich or poor you
are, or how old you are, there is an escape route that will suit you.
Often, the need to escape, or the need to embrace change, is
triggered by external factorslike a financial crisis, an illness or
death in the family, an inheritance or the end of ones working life.
We need to adapt. Many new retirees have dropped a bundle
in the latest global financial crisis when the stock market halved in
2009. And who knows what Australian house prices might do over
the next decade?
If your nest egg has been crushed or if, in fact, you never had
much of a nest egg at all, then life in Australia can become cripplingly
expensive. One solution is to move to a cheaper country and make
that nest egg go a lot further.
Add all or some of the funds from the sale of your
house to the superannuation fund. Call a taxi. Go to
the airport. Get on a plane. Go and live in splendour.
Get a house on the beach in Malaysia, Bali, Thailand,
Cambodia or Vietnam.
And its doable. There are few financial constraints
and visa issues can be easily handled.
xii Sell Up, Pack Up and Take Off
We have escaped several times over our lives. We lived in Papua
New Guinea in the mid-1970s, moved to London for two years, then
returned to Australia for our child-raising years.
We had two gorgeous kids and waited as long as we could before
packing up and taking off again.
Our first move with children was to Washington DC in the
mid-1990s where we worked as journalists. Our son Hamish was
eleven and our daughter Georgia was fifteen. We stayed for two
years. It was politically fascinating but socially stultifying. And
we realised that eleven and fifteen were not the right ages to shift
children about.
So we came back to Australia and stayed for five years as the kids
finished school. But the call to adventure returned and as soon as
Hamish completed year 12 and began university, we were off again:
this time to Shanghai, both working as journalists for an Australian
It was wonderful and enriched our lives and the childrens lives.
Hamish had a year or so off university and wrote for the Shanghai
Daily, the English language newspaper in Shanghai. Georgia also had
a year off from university and travelled widely with her brother, and
with us when we were on assignment to the backwaters of China.
Such trips enabled Georgia to witness terrible poverty and illness
and corruption. It had a profound impact on her and brought to her
a greater understanding of social injustice.
We were in China for six great years through to 2010, when
we returned to Australia. Not only did we witness the economic
renaissance of the most populous nation in the world, but we were
immersed in a new culture, new language, new politics and a total-
itarian system to boot, in a dynamic new city and country.
And it was wonderful for the dynamics of the family. There was
space created between our children and us. This, we believe, explains
a lot about the great relationship we have with our children today.
Eighteen and 21-year-olds are not easy to live with. They want their
independence and parents find this transition very difficult. Parents
want to keep control. Georgia and Hamish are now 28 and 31, well
adjusted, successful and happy.
xiii Introduction
We are telling you this because our experiences overseas enriched
our lives and our childrens lives. And also, because we have done
it, we feel that we have some justification to write about it; to talk
about selling up, packing up and taking off, particularly as it becomes
such a popular idea for so many people.
A new mega trend: life goes international
The trend of moving offshore for a new life is accelerating. You are
not going to be lonely.
Governments in the developed Western world are increasingly
unable to look after their aging populations. At the same time,
investors are targeting the growing global retirement market. It
represents a big new band of consumers.
Today, there are more than 3 million people, or 14 per cent of
Australias total population, over the age of 65.
This will more than double over the next 35 years to hit more
than 8 million people, about 23 per cent of the population, according
to the Australian Governments Intergenerational Report of 2010.
Australia is on the brink of a retirement savings disaster and the
government may not be able to fund the shortfalls. It is the same story
in the US and other developed economies. Over the next 40 years
in the US, the number of people over the age of 60 will more than
double to a staggering 80 million.
The implications are clear. The cost of health care will soar.
Medical services in the West will be stretched to the limit and
certainly become increasingly expensive. Demands on governments
to service an aging population will increase exponentially.
In Australia today about 25 per cent of total government spending
goes to health, age related pensions and aged care. The Australian
Treasury expects this to increase to 50 per cent of total government
spending by 2050.
Governments in the West will struggle to deliver services or
financial assistance. Government budgets are already stretched. Debt
levels in most developed countries are crippling even now.
Governments in the East, however, see this demographic change
as a new trigger of growth and employment creation.
xiv Sell Up, Pack Up and Take Off
There is going to be a new diasporaan international diaspora
of people aged over 50 moving from the developed world to the
cheaper developing world.
Consider the example of Geoffrey and Michael, who we met and
interviewed in Ubud, Bali. They moved there mainly for financial
reasons. They built and live in a Balinese-style home that flows out
onto tropical gardens. Heliconias with their striking orange claw-like
flowers, gingers with leaves the size of elephant ears and lush green
cordylines surround us as we chat on the verandah that overlooks
a pool.
When Geoffrey and Michael retired they realised that they
faced a life of poverty in expensive Australia. Now they live a life
of plenty in Ubud with staff to cater for their every need. And they
have money to spare.
The really great news is that they can do this on an Australian
Geoffrey and Michael are at the forefront of a new wave of emig-
ration. Migration will begin to reverse. Rather than from developing
economies to the developed, the trend will be an increasing drift
from the developed to the developing.
Life goes international
Once, the end of a working life meant greater freedom to travel
around Australia. This gave rise to the grey nomads roaming
Australia in campervans.
Or it meant a sea-change or a tree-change from the city to the
coast or the country.
Thats what Stephens parents did. They sold their city home and
business and bought a little farm near Orange, New South Wales.
They found a new life and celebrated the learning that goes with a
whole new experience. Their years from 55 to 80 were wonderful.
But the domestic sea- or tree-change does not give you any
great cultural diversity. Nor does it allow you to spin those limited
funds out for many more years, nor live in a much grander style in
a different environment.
xv Introduction
Staying within Australia was understandable 30 years ago. That
was really the only choice. Moving to another country was extreme
and dramatic. You virtually said goodbye to family and friends.
That was before the computer, before email and Skype, and before
cheap air travel.
These days, those looking for a change of environment are
moving from Sydney to Bali, or Melbourne to Bangkok, or Adelaide
to Phnom Penh; not from Sydney to Orange.
And the financial motivation is going to be prime.
There is going to be a new diasporaan international
diaspora of people aged over 50 moving from the
developed world to the cheaper developing world.
The domestically roaming grey nomads will soon be moving
internationally, too. They will become international grey nomads.
And itll be cheaper than roaming expensive Australia.
Governments in Southeast Asia know that a whole new industry is
about to expand. They have seen the surge in medical tourism. Now
it is going to be the international sea-changeretirement tourism.
This book takes a look at what sort of life you can have in an Asian
country, how much it costs to live there, and how you can fund it. It
addresses the financial, medical and visa issues of getting a new life.
And it looks at the different places where you can livethe variety
of cheap and safe but exotic countriesand the tricks you need to
know when it comes to buying or renting a house. It also addresses
the problems posed by illness and the financial aspects of managing
your superannuation and tax.
We spoke to many Australians who have packed up and taken
off, and they share their stories and experiencesthe good, the bad,
the ugly and the brilliant. They tell us what its like to actually live
the overseas dream.
This book, we hope, will offer up the possibility of a whole new
existence for those who are ready for the adventure.
xvi Sell Up, Pack Up and Take Off
Ti ps and traps
Once you have made the decision to sell up, pack up and take
off, just remember that the secret to every good trip is in the
We include plenty of details throughout the book to help
you plan your overseas adventure, but just to get you started
heres a quick checklist of questions you need to address before
you leave Australia:
Visas: How do I get a long-stay visa in my chosen country?
Taxation: Am I better off being a resident or non-resident
of Australia for tax purposes (even though I might be living
in another country)?
Superannuation: Can I keep Australias generous tax conces-
sions for my superannuation?
My house: Will my family home in Australia still be capital
gains tax-free if I rent it out when I leave these shores?
Pension: Can I still get the age pension when I am living
Health insurance: Do I need private health insurance in
Australia, can I get Medicare benefits when I return to
Australia on visits, and do I need health insurance overseas?
About the authors
After more than 20 years in financial journalism, Stephen Wyatt and
Colleen Ryan now live near Byron Bay, where they have planted a
rainforest, surf, write and run
Married with two adult kids, they have packed up and taken
off overseas to live several timesin Papua New Guinea, London,
Washington DC and, most recently, in Shanghai, where they were
the joint China correspondents for the Australian Financial Review
from 2004 to 2010.
Both are economists with majors in accounting: Colleen worked
as a tax accountant for an international accounting firm in her
early career and was later editor of the Australian Financial Review;
Stephen was a banker with Merrill Lynch for 15 years, before turning
to journalism.
Stephen and Colleen believe their experiences living abroad have
enriched both their own lives and those of their children. They are
passionate about the benefits of selling up, packing up and taking
off at various stages of life, especially retirement.