When it comes to achieving “financial freedom” – the ability to maintain a desirable lifestyle without having to work – only London is more expensive than Hong Kong, according to data compiled by online property portal Juwai IQI.
Based on Juwai’s estimates, the threshold for achieving this enviable level of wealth in Hong Kong would be US$4 million (S$5 million). The city, famed for its sky-high property prices, finds itself wedged between the UK capital on US$4.57 million and Shanghai on US$3.5 million.
New York is a whisker behind, with a price of US$3.44 million for financial independence, just ahead of Tokyo on US$3.36 million.
Singapore, regarded as Hong Kong’s biggest regional rival as a finance hub, is seventh on the list with a requirement of US$3.23 million.
Financial freedom in this context means having enough savings and financial investments to retire and still afford a desirable family lifestyle without being driven by the need to earn a set salary each year.
Specifically Juwai’s data is based on what would be needed to attain a home measuring some 120 square metres in a decent urban area, two good cars, plus roughly US$1.2 million in financial investments and US$90,000 in household income after tax.
“London is the only major world city [outside China] where it is more expensive to obtain financial freedom than it is in Shanghai or other Chinese tier 1 cities,” said Juwai IQI’s co-founder and group executive chairman Georg Chmiel.
A recent survey by Hurun found that “entry-level” financial independence in mainland China’s tier 1 cities like Beijing and Shanghai requires 19 million yuan (S$4 million), based on the same criteria as Juwai’s study.
“The key is the price of property,” said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of Hurun Report in an emailed reply to the Post. “I would expect the likes of London, New York, Tokyo, Sydney to be no more expensive than Shanghai, Shenzhen and Beijing.”
To put the amount into perspective, in Shanghai, 10 million yuan can buy a two-bedroom flat measuring 118 square metres in the Hancheng International residential precinct near Shanghai city centre, according to Anjuke, an online property agency.
One million yuan is sufficient to have two Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicles (SUVs) parked on the driveway – the GLC 300 4Matic is available for as little as 458,800 yuan in Shanghai, according to online portal Autohome.
The most affordable city on Juwai’s list of international gateway cities is Kuala Lumpur, where a financially carefree existence would cost about US$1.83 million.
Trading Shanghai for Kuala Lumpur would free up about US$1.67 million that could be diverted into lifestyle upgrades, investments, starting a business or other expenses.
“Toronto, Sydney and Seattle are all also relatively affordable places to achieve financial freedom. The most expensive places overseas [outside China] to obtain financial freedom are London, New York and Tokyo,” said Chmiel.
Chmiel said some Chinese people were selling their tier 1 city flats after huge price rises and using the money to fund a much less expensive home overseas where they can have a better lifestyle. Many have used the savings to send their children to higher quality, less expensive English-language international schools
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.