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Where Do the Wealthiest Expatriates Live?

A small island state in Southeast Asia has come out tops in a listing of countries that boast of the richest expatriates.

Private yachts are berthed outside luxury homes and condominium apartments at Sentosa Cove in Singapore.
Bloomberg| Getty Images|
Private yachts are berthed outside luxury homes and condominium apartments at Sentosa Cove in Singapore.

In an annual survey released by HSBC on Monday — which was conducted across 100 countries and involved more than 5,000 expatriates — Singapore emerged as the most favored expat destination to make money in and accumulate luxuries.

Foreigners, who make up a sizable portion of Singapore’s 5 million-plus population, earn more than those living in any other part of the world. About 54 percent of Singapore-based expats who took part in the poll earn more than $200,000 annually compared to a global average of only 7 percent according to the Expat Explorer 2012 survey.

Singapore, which came in third place last year, moved up two slots to beat Bermuda at No. 2 and Thailand at No. 3. The three other Asian countries that made it to top 10 are Hong Kong, China, and Vietnam.

The survey, in its fifth year, showed 80 percent of the expats who moved to Singapore saw an increase in their disposable income. Around 44 percent reported an increase of 50 percent or more in their disposable income, compared to the global average of just under a fifth.

Given the bleak employment picture in both Europe and the United States, job hunters are increasingly looking eastwards for opportunities, with 70 percent of the expats surveyed citing better career prospects for the move to Singapore.

Better Quality of Life

In terms of quality of life, Singapore also scored high, coming in fourth in the world and second in Asia after Thailand. Better accommodation, less commuting time, and a more active social life were some of the pluses of living in this tropical nation, the survey found.

Singapore is also child-friendly in the eyes of its expats. Ninety-one percent of the respondents said they felt their children were safer here. Costs, however, were a concern with 83 percent saying they are spending more on education for their children.

“Singapore is fast becoming an all-round expat destination for career progression, financial rewards and quality of life,” said Paul Arrowsmith, head of retail banking and wealth management at HSBC Singapore.

Where Are They Investing?

Expats in Singapore do not favor any one asset class and maintain a diversified investment portfolio. Those earning $200,000 to $250,000 a year have moved over time from a higher proportion of cash investments to a relatively even mix of cash, real estate and equities, the survey found.

“Expats have come to realize, given wider economic uncertainties, the advantage of diversification to hedge against volatility,” wrote HSBC in its survey report.

—By CNBC Asia’s Gauri Bhatia

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