The economic drivers for moving abroad are highlighted with expats globally having an average gross personal income of just under US$100,000 and earning on average 25% more than they did at home. Switzerland and the Gulf states consistently top the list for those seeking a greater income.
Globally 52% of expats indicate that they can save more money than they did in their home country and 57% have more disposable income.
They also have a broader outlook on economic issues 31% pointing to global economic and 29% pointing to global political issues as their greatest worry. This is slightly ahead of concerns about the economic (29%) and political (27%) climate in their host country.
The time expats have spent and intend to spend abroad is a strong influence on expat attitudes to money management and the survey concludes:
‘Short-term expats are more likely than others to have most of their wealth in their home country, and serial expats – who are more likely to have wealth that requires management – tend to be invested in both their host and home country. With a more nomadic lifestyle, they have a clear need for a global banking relationship as well as a local one to comprehensively support their more complex wealth management needs.’
Property ownership is high amongst expats with 62% of expats owning a property somewhere in the world and 9% owning property in both their host and home country. 37% of expats own property in the country they live in and 32% own property in their home country.
Property ownership is especially important to British expats. 75% of them own a property (placing them third behind Sri Lankans and Egyptians), which is higher than those remaining in the UK where 64% of the adult population own property in the UK.
It is not just the financial benefits that make the expat life a positive experience with 41% saying that the move has given them a more positive outlook on life in general. 22% of expats moved abroad to improve the earnings and 26% did so to improve their job prospects. However, other factors seem to be more important as 38% moved for a new challenge and 34% to improve their quality of life.
Settling in does not seem to be a major issue with 58% taking less than a year to settle in and 20% feeling at home almost immediately. New Zealand topped the table in terms of their experience in their new country, topping both the table for ease of settling up and how easy it is to integrate with the local people. Spain, second overall in the experience table, topped the rankings for the expat’s lifestyle and quality of life.
Having made the move most are happy to stay with only 15% considering leaving their new country ahead of schedule. 53% of expats consider themselves to have a better work/life balance and 52% feel that they have a better quality of life. Material benefits are a factor as 42% take more holiday than they did at home, 39% live in a better home and 25% drive a better car. 44% say they are more active than they were at home and 39% say that they have experienced an improvement in their physical health.
Those with family are very positive. 56% of those moving with family would not have done anything differently and only 4% say it would have been better to have left them in their home country even though 58% report that the cost of raising a family overseas is higher than in their home country.
The longer children are away from their home country the greater the benefits, backing up research on ‘third culture kids’. 24% of all parents report that that the confidence and self-reliance improved as a result of the move. 61% of expat children who have made serial moves were thought to be more open to new experiences and cultures by their parents, compared with 50% of short tenure first-timers. 54% of expat children who have spent a long period abroad are fluent in more than one language compared with 42% of those abroad for the first time and for a short period.
School choices plays a part in shaping children’s expat experience. 65% of expat parents whose children
attend an international school believe their child is more open to new experiences and cultures as a result of the move abroad compared with 55% of those whose children attend other types of schools there.
The age of children can have a big impact with 41% of expat parents with children aged 11 or older saying they found making new friends difficult, compared with 26% of those with children aged four or under. 24% of those with children aged 11 or over say they would have made the move earlier if they could go back and do things differently.
The survey reports that retired expats in Europe have a very positive experience. 55% feel happier since moving abroad. 42% of expats in Portugal are retired (against 11% globally) and 96% of them rated Portugal as a good or very good place to retire to. They are drawn by the climate (79%), lower cost of living (72%) and the lifestyle (57%).
Those retiring to France emphasise the lifestyle with 71% pointing to this as the motivation to move there. Healthcare standards are another factor with 58% pointing to this as a reason.
There are clear issues when people return home. 81% of expats repatriating experienced at least one issue as a result. 53% missed their life abroad and 47% of female expats and 39% of male expats felt that they no longer ‘fitted in’. Money is rarely the reason for moving home with only 4% pointing to financial reasons as the main reason for their return and 29% of those who did return found the cost of living a challenge. Personal or family reasons are cited more than any other (32%), but 28% point to the end of their secondment and 20% to career progression.