Retirement at 50? Maybe in Taiwan

So I know the question of retirement in Taiwan has been bandied around a few times but mostly by people who haven’t actually lived in Taiwan or sometimes have even confused Taiwan with Thailand. My wife and I lived in Taiwan (Taipei city and county) for 8 years on and off from 1998-2010. Initially it was for Chinese study, but after we both taught English (yes, Engrish teachers, I know), until we moved back to Winnipeg, MB, Canada in 2010. I think we have a very good idea of what living in Taiwan entails, but we haven’t lived there in 8 years now, so maybe things have changed …

In 6 years ( when I am 50.5 years old), I can retire with a $30000 CAN (defined benefits) pension per year ( currently around 23300 US/680000NT ). This ends up being around 2500 CAN a month, which is around 60K NT a month ( a little less right now).

This is a guaranteed, government pension, but it reduces by about $8K at 65 . However, we should have around $300K Canadian or so saved in a tax free account (TFSA) at 50. We don’t want to touch that though, so it can sit and compound for 15 years, when my government pension gets reduced. We will also have about $50K CAN saved for my son’s schooling, be it international School and or University. We will also have some money from selling our house, but how much is questionable - could be anywhere from $50-100K CAN, which could be put towards University as well.

So, this is what my wife and I are considering - 3 locations for retirement at 50: Taiwan, Malaysia ( focusing on Penang), and Mexico ( probably Puerto Vallarta). All of that places we have been to, with the exception of Penang. We have been to Malaysia several times though, and we loved it.

Malaysia and Mexico both have good retirement visa options, but you can only work in Mexico ( working is not allowed on the Malaysia visa). I likely wouldn’t need to work however, but I might want to, even if it is just to pay for a trip of some sort … In Taiwan the plan would be to have a work visa where I would work whatever the minimum is for a visa, do that for 5 years, and then get the APRC. Taiwan has it’s fair share of issues, the biggest of which is school for our son, who would be 11 years old when we are thinking of the move.

Anyways, enough of my thinking out loud … I do have another option, which is working another 5 years, and getting a $40K CAN pension … But that would require another five years of working often 12hr+ days, 5-6 days per week, in an incredibly high stress environment … If I can find a spot in my company that pays the same but is a regular day job, then maybe.


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I don’t have skin in this game, but this would be the deal breaker for me.

On the plus side, Taiwan and Canada now have a tax agreement (FINALLY!) that’s been in effect since January 2017. So if you were to relocate to Taiwan and earn some income here, at least you wouldn’t be subject to double taxation or Canada Revenue Agency going after you!

I hope other forumosans weigh in. And do keep us posted on your deliberations.


I am new to Taiwan so I can’t say too much about Taiwan. My initial feeling is that Taiwan is a great place. Good people. My kids will be attending local schools in Taiwan (but they were in a Chinese school in the US so the transition is easy).

But I am an expert in Malaysia and Thailand.

Fantastic place to retire. You CAN work with the MM2H visa (if over 50). It is somewhat limited and takes time to get approval but I know people who do work. Many teach - more as a hobby than for the income.

You CAN own a business under MM2H. There is a gray area where you are the owner and you are / are not working in the business. I know some who own restaurants (never open one!). A lot of people I know have some online business they supplement their income with (no approval needed).

Malaysia is a multicultural place. You don’t understand the value if this until you have lived in a mono culture. Thailand is very mono. Taiwan is mono but moving toward multi.

I am sure once you spend a month or two in Penang you will realize you cannot match the lifestyle anywhere else in Asia for any price. Nice condos with great facilities. People speak English. Laws are in English. Good food. Prices are stupidly low. Education options wide and some are not too expensive. People are very laid back and easy going.

When I was leaving my career this place was an option. I love Thailand. The Thais really know how to have fun. But I quickly realized it is too wild and my marriage would not last if I lived in Thailand. Also, too many drugs. Meth is sold like candy. And Thailand has attracted so many global criminal elements. Great place to visit but not to live. Flights from Penang to Thailand are around $25. I can go anytime.

The other great thing about Malaysia are the flights. The cost of regional flight are insanely low. I paid $15 to Singapore and $75 to Taiwan and $30 to SGN.


The school issue is a big one. There is absolutely no way we could afford the American school , etc. - it would annihilate our savings for the 5 years of schooling he would need before University. The only other options would be me working full time at one of the second tier international schools so he could get free tuition, or homeschooling - which we are exploring as an option, but would really prefer not to ( though we are not totally closed to the idea).

Malaysia, and especially Penang, definitely sound like a good option ( we can’t wait to visit next year!!). It also doesn’t hurt that Malaysia has decently priced international schools, especially compared to Taiwan.

Thanks for chiming in about Thailand, we had Koh Samui on the list at one point, but we’re kind of on the fence about it - we want to be in a place that has access to all that modern metropolitan cities have to offer, while still being in Asia and preferably somewhat close to the beach (I know Taipei doesn’t qualify based on those requirements … But it’s easy and we lived there before). I knew there were drugs in Thailand but I thought it was mostly weed, which I’m not crazy about but whatever … However meth is a different story altogether, and I see how much it can completely destroy people’s lives in a very short period of time through my work. So the less meth there is the better. Thanks for the heads up.

Congrats on starting the planning right now. With a proper goal in the future, it gets interesting to see all the things you can consider to do once you are ready to make the leap.

Okay, presuming you find a way to reside in Taiwan (first 5 years of work visa, then APRC):
I would extremely recommend that you do Not live in Taipei (you may already know this having lived here). Your expenses (food, rent, apt to buy) are the highest on the island. Yes, it’s got a great MRT and close to the mountains and beaches (45mins to north coast for surfing, or 45mins to I-lan for surfing), but since you’re here to retire, you want your money to go a long way. I’ll give an example. Currently, a typical lunchbox (bian-dang) in Taipei could be anywhere from N$90-150. In southern cities, it’s about 40% cheaper. Fruit is cheaper elsewhere, etc. Rent can be double in Taipei for a small, small place versus very large places in the other big cities. If you’re looking to buy an apt (maybe sell place in Canada and plunk down money into Taiwan pad), then Taipei City and New Taipei City real estate is anywhere from 2x to 5x more expansive per Ping versus other big cities.
Education for child: You have 5 years to prepare. Get your son into some immersion school in Canada, or weekend Mandarin lessons. Do all kinds of things to get him ready if you come over. Obviously, putting him into public school is recommended (my view; speaking/reading Chinese will broaden his career chances immensely when he grows up), but you can search the forums here for all kinds of talk about putting kids into local schools, so I won’t repeat that.

Which cities ex-Taipei:
Taichung, Tainan, Kaoshiung, Hualien, Taitung. Forget Taichung in my view. Currently zero MRT and likely no plans for one for a while. Tainan: culture city AND it’s building an MRT. Starting construction in a year. Kaohsiung: Has an MRT and it’s line will be extended over the next few years. Has int’l airport to nearly all big cities in Asia. 90mins by car to Kenting (beach). Next two cities if you just want clean air and outdoors all the time. Need either a scooter or bicycle to get around. Hualien: beautiful, small city. Near Taroko Gorge, Rift Valley. Outdoor playground. Taitung: Truly roughing it. Maybe first consider one of the first 3 cities before thinking of moving directly to Taitung. If beaches are your #1 priority and nothing else, then okay.

Okay, now for Penang:
Surprised no one has stated it yet, or perhaps it’s well-known with OP, that Penang has rich Chinese history. You can see from wiki that Chinese make up about 40% of the city. Although it does go on to say it has a pretty high population density. I had a local Taiwanese friend who worked/lived in Penang for many years. Loved it. My wife and I traveled there on a Taiwanese tour package and loved it. Reading Immersion’s comments, looks like cheap flights in/out of Penang are a huge bonus.

For Mexico: I don’t know… It would just seem like any foreign family just ups its risk profile a bit by moving there. Gangs, kidnappings, etc. are widely known. Sure, a family can move to a safe area, but still can’t travel around the country or roam the countryside like you could do in any country, big or small, in Asia. Sorry, if I’m a bit down on Mexico as a living place. If you want the Spanish immersion, why not go Costa Rico or other Central American country. Lots of N. Americans retired in Costa Rico.

You can PM me for more questions about Taiwan as I’ve been here about 20+ years, and am about that same age for retiring, children, etc.

Good luck. Lots of planning, but doing it so far ahead in advance means you’ll be well-prepared.

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Yes. Who really wants to retire at 50? I’d be bored out of my mind. There’s only so much traveling you can do, before you’re just at home every day watching bad daytime TV. There’s a reason people who work longer live longer.

True enough. For me it is not really retirement, just getting a pension and quitting my job in Winnipeg, which requires stupid long hours and is very high stress (though is sometimes enjoyable, I don’t hate it or anything, and it pays very well), and figuring out a way to live in places that my wife and I are interested in (not Winnipeg !!! - the violent crime capital of Canada with nasty weather), and where my son could do well overall, and be more exposed to an international mindset.

What I would really like to do for work is figure out a way to do what has previously been a part-time job for me - playing and teaching music. The issue for all of the places that I’m interested in is largely one of a Visa, and one that can be solved by teaching English ( not my favorite thing, but it can be tolerable). I could try and do something related to what I am doing now, but that would take some major creativity and I would really like to just work part time if possible - my guitar practicing alone used to be 3 hours everyday. We will see how it pans out as time goes on.

The nice thing about Taiwan is with the APRC you can do whatever you want once you get it. It looks like in Malaysia you need some sort of performers visa to be able to play music anywhere - it is hard to tell if performers are just paid under the table or how enforced this is overall, especially when you aren’t in the country.

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Well i have been living in taiwan, and my wife is taiwanese. Even am in my 20s idea of half retirement in taiwan poppin up in my mind.

It def a plus your wife is taiwanese, and you get more secure legal status there. Plus health care is excellent, you will need it down the road.

Now is obv depends on what you want. Is just for 5 years, 10 years or to forever?

You as well lived in taiwan, so know the deal about cutlure, family. How you get along with her family, how your wife acts around own people. Is plus or a minus?

Elementary school in taiwan will give your son really good fundamental experience (of mandarin, culture) to live/survive comfortable in an asian\chinese world. There are some alternatives for high schools to avoid this test competition madness. And for UNI, he can jump anywhere in world.

When it comes to taiwan, i see advantage in teaching English. Many schools are flexible, and it seems to me for native speakers is no big deal getting 800 twd/h. Can do like 10 hours per week, and still left with many hours for your hobbies.

Not sure how you personally want, but def your son will be culturally more taiwanese in taiwan naturally. With bad and good. He will have a lot of respect for you as parents, obey you guys, and considering real estate prices in taiwan, never leave home. Make sense for you to buy a house in taiwan, use you savings as down payment and maybe take long term house loan. For 40 years, and later on when your boy starts to work, get married at 30, he takes over debt. I know idea of debt for 40 years is crazy. But this is taiwan…otherwise he will hardly marry and create a family in taiwan. Reality there can be harsh for young people. Either you guys will have a house, and girl will marry into your family or you will re move again.

now, or still soon?, as an artist, you can get a work permit and Arc by yourself. To teach English, you need a separate work permit, though.

To get APRC, you need a proof of income more than a curtain amount for the previous year of your application.

On another thread, somebody usefully divided foreign grade schools into three tiers:

Tier 1: TAS, TES, whatever the Japanese school is called. (Tuition for one child at TAS would cost your entire pension.)

Tier 2: Places like Morrison. (Legitimate but with some rough edges, and run by fundamentalists.)

Tier 3: Multiple “international” private schools which are run more or less like buxibans. I know people who teach at these and have heard bad, bad things.

As I recall, home schooling is not allowed. The other option is normal public school, if your kid can handle the Chinese immersion and, once in high school, the focus on test-taking. There may also be “alternative” schools out there (not sure if public or private) which would be worth looking into. I’m not a fan of Waldorf or Montessori, but for some kids they may be the best option.

Home schooling is indeed allowed. Know a couple that does it. You just have to register with the school (or city education department) and your child will attend physical education classes at that local public school. You can google it and see some information on it.

“Planning of the Taichung MRT started in 1990 with a study conducted by the Taiwanese Bureau of Housing and Urban Development.”

Had to look it up because I was pretty sure I heard they were building one.

OP can confirm, but per his original post, his wife is not Taiwanese. That’s why he needs to figure out the visa situation. He can’t just get a JFRV.

I would second this. Small city of about 100,000 so there are teaching opportunities. And for your son, the teachers there are more understanding of having academics as a second priority. There are many in Hualien that do sports, for example, and school is secondary for them. Good music opportunities, too, for a high schooler. The music program at one of the public schools there is hard to get into- testing and all that. I believe they all have to be able to play some piano and then an orchestral instrument. Again with respect to your son, if you’re going to come to Taiwan, I recommend deciding soon and getting him going with some Mandarin learning.

Good luck and we all envy you for having the freedom to retire at 50!

Edit: Maybe you could teach music at that school? PM me if interested and I’ll ask which high school that is.

Good catch, YGZ, on Taichung’s Green Line.
Found a map of it. Short, but from Taichung HSR, with one stop away near the Taiwan Beer brewery at 烏日 and passing city hall.
Any Taichungers know how close it gets to main train station?

Is it this school with a music course?



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Yes, I just asked my wife. That’s it! A piano teacher in Hualien we know (who also owns that awesome Old Germany restaurant) told us about the school. Her son who is half German is great at tennis and other sports.

Immersion - What is the average annual costs of International school in Malaysia? Do you know? Malaysia is nice, but we always doubt the public school system or the costs of international education. Hoping to get more info. Any forum like this?

The schools I have looked at range between 10-12k US per year, so less than half what the American School in Taipei costs. Most of them post tuition on their websites.

An artist ARC in Taiwan? Very interesting … I am not sure how easy it would be to qualify for the APRC in relation to required income levels though. Anyone have links for this type of visa?