If you’re interested in retiring abroad, New Zealand could be a great option for you. Geographically, the country offers a wide selection of landscapes. Whether you’re into swimming, hiking or exploring, chances are you’ll never run out of leisure activities. And if your native language is English, you won’t have to learn another language to retire there. But while the country offers some notable perks, it has a higher cost of living than the U.S. and limited visa options for retirees. Here’s what you need to know about retiring in New Zealand. And remember, a financial advisor can help you create a plan for retirement that meets your needs.
How Much Does It Cost to Retire in New Zealand?
The cost of living in New Zealand is nearly 9% higher than the U.S., according to Numbeo, a site that collects and analyzes global cost of living data. But Numbeo also shows that the cost of rent, however, roughly 15.64% lower than that in the U.S. Nonetheless, you may need more than the average Social Security benefit (roughly $1,540) to live comfortably in New Zealand. And non-residents may also have to pay income tax on pensions.
Though rent is comparably lower, both the visa requirements and living expenses alone may cost you a considerable amount of money. The application fee may range up to NZ $3,310 (about US $2,316), depending on the type of visa you use. Below, we delve deeper into your visa options for retirement.
New Zealand offers two visa options for those interested in retiring in the country. Both options let you include your partner in the application. These are the Temporary Retirement Visitor and Parent Resident Retirement visas. For the former, you’ll need to be at least 66 years old and maintain a minimum investment of NZ $750,000 (about U.S. $524,835) in New Zealand for two years. You’ll also have to prove an annual income of at least NZ $60,000 (about U.S. $41,987), and you’ll need another NZ $500,000 (about U.S. $349,890) to live on. The visa lasts for two years, but you’ll be able to renew it. It also restricts you from working, but allows you to travel in and out of New Zealand during the two-year period.
The Parent Resident Retirement visa, on the other hand, presents some notable differences. For one, you’ll have to prove you’ve got an adult child who’s a New Zealand citizen or resident. But the financial requirements for this plan are considerably higher. For this option you’ll need a minimum annual income of NZ $60,000, and you’ll have to invest NZ $1 million (about U.S. $699,780) over a period of four years. The visa also requires proof of NZ $500,000 for living expenses. Following the four-year period, you’ll be eligible to apply for permanent residence in New Zealand. But this plan also differs in that it allows you to work and study without restriction. For travel, however, you’ll only be able to do so for the first two years of the investment period. You’ll be able to apply for travel during the last two, so long as you’re meeting the visa’s conditions.
Housing and Food
You won’t pay as much for housing in New Zealand as you would in the U.S. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that rent in New Zealand is cheap either. The average rent for a one-bedroom in the city center may cost you around NZ $1,619 (about US $1,132), while a three-bedroom in the same area may cost NZ $2,609 (about U.S. $1,825). For a one- or three-bedroom outside of the city center, you could spend between NZ $1,267 (about U.S. $886) and NZ $2,132 (about U.S. $1491).
You’ll generally spend more on food and groceries than you would in the U.S. For instance, a three-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant would cost about NZ $100 (about U.S. $70), according to Numbeo. The same meal in the U.S., however, would cost around U.S. $60. But as with most countries, you’ll typically pay more or less depending on your city. These are just a few of the factors that will affect your budget.
New Zealand offers a range of health care options for its residents. These include public and private health care. Because taxes pay for public health care, residents receive subsidized or free care. Individuals with a residence class visa also qualify for free, subsidized health care in New Zealand. But once you’ve got residency status, you’ll also need to register with a general practitioner (GP) before you can access public health care. You’ll then have access to a range of free and subsidized medical services, but you still may have to pay for non-subsidized items.
Private healthcare may cost you more. And since you’ll also likely need residency status for this option, you’re probably better off using international health coverage if you don’t have an adult child in New Zealand. You may also want to research local health insurance providers.
However, it’s worth noting that New Zealand has been among the most effective countries in the world at combatting COVID-19. By closing its borders and instituting stringent lockdowns, the nation of five million residents recorded fewer than 3,000 total cases and 26 deaths as of August 2021, according to a New York Times database.
Should You Retire in New Zealand?
If you’re looking for an abroad retirement destination where you’ll be able to live comfortably off less than $1,540 a month, New Zealand may not be your best option. Though the country offers scenic landscapes and ideal weather conditions, it’s cost of living exceeds that of the U.S. For it’s Temporary Retirement Visitor visa, you’ll need roughly NZ $750,000 (about US $524,835) to invest, plus an additional NZ $500,000 (U.S. $349,890) for living expenses. This visa also requires proof of an annual income of at least NZ $60,000 (about U.S. $41,987).
Your Social Security benefit alone may not be enough to cover your retirement in New Zealand. And if you don’t have an adult child who’s currently a resident in New Zealand, you’ll need the temporary visa application. In addition, through the temporary visa, you won’t be able to work in the country. You can only work through the Parent Resident Retirement visa. So before you consider retirement in New Zealand, you should determine whether its cost of living, visa requirements and healthcare aligns with your financial goals.
Tips for Saving for Retirement
- If you’re looking for an affordable retirement, but don’t want to leave the country, it’s important to pay attention to each city’s cost of living. Consider using our cost of living comparison tool to help you determine which city best complements your financial goals.
- An expert’s advice can always help when it comes to planning for retirement. Whether through investment strategies, portfolio diversification or personal finance tips, a financial advisor can help you meet your retirement savings goals. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool pairs you with up to three local advisors suitable to your financial needs.
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