Retirement Around the World – Australia

Published on March 5, 2014

G’day!  Thinking of retiring in Australia? The “land down under” is calling you to discover its many national treasures. Australia is home to pristine beaches, cosmopolitan cities, ancient rainforests and exotic creatures such as the duck-billed platypus, kangaroo, koala, and let’s not forget the wolverine, Hugh Jackman!

 Retirement for Australians

Australia offers an Age Pension designed to provide income support to older Australians who need it, and is paid to those who meet age and residency requirements. The amount one receives is based on income, assets and other criteria. To qualify for the Age Pension you must be an Australian resident (living in Australia on a permanent basis).

Women born before 1949 have already qualified for the Age Pension and those who were born in 1949 and after are now eligible for this pension at age 65, the same as men. The retirement age for men and women born from July 1, 1952 on will gradually increase to 67 over a six-year period beginning in 2017.

Australia has one of the highest life expectancies in the world—a testament to its excellent healthcare system which is a hybrid of public and private service providers. Medicare is Australia’s public health system, giving citizens and permanent residents access to free or low-cost medical, optometric and hospital care regardless of their personal circumstances. Individuals contribute to the public healthcare system through a levy and taxes based on income. Medicare allows people to take private health insurance as a supplement to their public healthcare coverage, which then provides them with greater choice and flexibility.  Approximately half of Australians receive additional coverage through private health insurance, which is subsidized by the government and covers services such as dental care and private hospitals. It’s important to note that there is no universal free healthcare for expats.

Americans in Australia

Australia has become very popular with retirees from abroad. The country offers expats a high quality of life with its relaxed lifestyle, pleasant climate, pollution-free environment, ample natural resources and beautiful landscapes.  One can also enjoy the rich culture, excellent cuisine and vibrant nightlife of Australia’s cities. Other attractions include white beaches, ancient rain forests, rugged mountain terrains and vast national parks.

If you are considering retirement in Australia, you will need to decide where to live. Many retirees tend to move to the capitals of the six states and two mainland territories. Australia is such a vast country that if you are not in or near a large city, you might feel like you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere.

It would be a good idea to travel to different regions of the country to become familiar with the various lifestyles, then take a long-term rental before making a full commitment. Tenancy laws, covered by each state’s Residential Tenancy Act protect both renters and owners.

A typical two-bedroom home ranges from AU$275 (U.S. $284) per week in Adelaide to AU$450 (U.S. $465) per week in Sydney and Canberra (Australia’s capital).  In these same cities three-bedrooms go from AU$320 ($331U.S.) to AU$560 ($579U.S.).

If you decide to buy and are looking for a beach/city lifestyle, Sydney is a good choice. A one-bedroom, one-bath 462-square-foot loft apartment with access to a heated pool, located in one of the city’s most popular areas is priced at AU $199,000 (U.S.$205,666).   A fully-furnished 600-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bath apartment with city views from a large balcony and access to an indoor heated swimming pool and gym goes for AU$299,000 (U.S.$309,165).

Melbourne is also known to be very popular with expat retirees. This vibrant city is very livable with its temperate climate and laid-back atmosphere. A fully furnished, two-bedroom, one-bath apartment in the heart of the city (walking distance to theaters, restaurants, movies and shopping) is priced at AU$200,000 (U.S.$206,700).  Located near the Docklands community in South Melbourne, a cozy studio apartment with a rooftop garden and city views goes for AU$169,950 (U.S.$175,643).

For those who want to retire in Australia, there are two different types of visas to choose from—the Standard  Retirement Visa and the Permanent Australian Retirement Visa:

 The Standard Retirement Visa requires applicants to be over 55, with the exception of their spouses, and they cannot have any dependents. To qualify they must also be able to show that they are in good health and have no previous criminal convictions.  People applying for this visa will first receive a temporary one, valid for four years.  After this period, the visa can be renewed on a two year rolling basis.

The Permanent Australian Visa is for those looking for a longer-term retirement visa, but it has stricter rules and regulations to qualify.  Permanent Australian Visas are considered investment visas and require applicants to demonstrate that they own assets of a pre-determined value, and have owned them for a minimum of two years prior to applying for the visa.   The value varies depending on which area of the country you wish to retire to.

Foreign retirees can enjoy very good quality healthcare in Australia.  However, the government–run Medicare system does not cover foreign retirees on a temporary residence visa, so they will need to purchase their own private health insurance from an Australian company.  Permanent residence retirees within a certain income bracket may qualify for some benefits under the Medicare system. Despite having an excellent public healthcare system, there are long waiting lists for non-emergency procedures so most expats without permanent residency tend to use private doctors and hospitals.

As with other countries, the cost of living varies from city to city; it tends to be on the high side in some of Australia’s most popular cities. However, this also comes with a higher quality of life. The cities which seem to offer value for the money are Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne. Sydney, the bustling capital of New South Wales, is among the cities where rents and purchases tend to be higher. Those wishing to live  further away from a large city or town will find the housing gets less expensive the further away the property is.

The cost for dining out varies depending on where in the country you live. The price for a meal (in U.S. dollars) at an inexpensive restaurant generally averages $19.00, a three-course meal for two in a mid-range restaurant is approximately $95.00,  while a combo meal at a McDonald’s or similar place ranges between $9.50 and $11.50.

 Cities That Attract Expats

Sydney offers retirees a combination of a relaxed outdoor and beach lifestyle with culture, fine food and wine, nature, and cosmopolitan shopping and nightlife. Life here is centered on the harbor where you can take a ferry and enjoy views of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge from the water. You can also learn about Aboriginal culture while touring the city’s beautiful harbor on the Tribal Warrior Cruise.

Melbourne is known for its shopping and multicultural cuisine. Here, hidden behind main streets, you can find boutiques, galleries, and hole-in-the-wall cafés, bars and restaurants.  You can also stroll through the many parks and gardens that surround the city center. Other attractions include bayside beaches that stretch along the arc of Port Phillip Bay. For wine aficionados, less than an hour away there are world-class wineries in the YarraValley and Dandenong Ranges.

Perth is a popular destination for recent expats. Even though it is one of the most isolated metropolitan areas in the world, it is increasingly attracting new residents from abroad, probably because of its comfortable, somewhat Mediterranean climate.

Canberra, Australia’s capital, embodies the essence of the country. This multicultural city has much to offer. You can dine in award-winning restaurants or watch some of the region’s top chefs cook “farm to plate” at the farmer’s market. You can view the country’s largest collection of indigenous art at The National Gallery of Australia, catch a performance at the Canberra Theatre Centre and take in the beautiful bushland views that surround first–class golf courses. Canberra is also the gateway to Australia’s high country and Australian Alps.

With its natural beauty, rich culture and high quality of life, moving to Australia can be an amazing experience for retirees!

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