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Expat wealth travels east

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Posted: 2 pm ET

Wealth is moving east -- specifically to Singapore, Russia and the Middle East -- according to the third Expat Explorer report published by HSBC Bank International, which surveys 4,127 expats in more than 100 countries.

For the second year in a row, Russia remains the wealth hotspot leader, with 36 percent of expats earning more than $250,000, followed by Singapore with 32 percent and Bermuda at 27 percent. By way of comparison, the world average of those earning more than $250,000 is 13 percent, according to the report.

Expat wealth abroad

"Against the backdrop of the global economic recovery, we are still finding a large proportion of expats who are indicating that the economic situation of their adopted country has deteriorated," according to Lisa Wood, head of customer propositions at HSBC. "Despite this, most aren't considering a move home and better still, the majority of expats surveyed have higher levels of disposable income, are saving more and accumulating less debt."

Asia and the Middle East attract expats seeking financial gain and career opportunities, since it has weathered the global financial chaos particularly well, according to the report. In the survey, 85 percent of expats say they chose Saudi Arabia for career and financial prospects, while 83 percent chose Qatar, 76 percent chose Russia, 74 percent chose the Philippines, and 73 percent chose United Arab Emirates. Only 18 percent chose Spain for the same reason, and 26 percent chose France. In fact, the report indicates that most of the expats moving to mainland Europe are retirees.

On the flip side, the report also assesses expats' opinions about quality of life, and some of those countries that scored the highest for financial opportunities -- specifically Russia, Saudi Arabia and Qatar -- performed poorly on quality of life rankings. Thailand took the top position for lifestyle, with Canada falling to second place from last year.

Since lifestyle and financial opportunities are among the most important reasons expats move abroad, they'll have to make a decision on priorities, says Wood. "We've found that countries rarely provide the best of both worlds in terms of financial prospects and lifestyle improvements, and so it is important for expats to assess what they are hoping to achieve from their move before relocating." Sounds like sound advice.

Readers: Would you consider retiring as an expat, or moving abroad for a career opportunity?

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