Retiring in Malaysia: a complete guide

1 min readLast updated May 31, 2024by Unbiased team

Find out what you need to retire in Malaysia and what makes it one of the most prominent expatriate retirement destinations in Southeast Asia.

Summary 

  • Malaysia has one of the best expat communities in Southeast Asia and an affordable yet comprehensive healthcare system. 

  • The cost of living in Malaysia is 51.56% lower than it is in the US, making it a very affordable option.  

  • You will not get taxed for foreign retirement income in Malaysia.  

  • Find a financial advisor who can help you to plan for your retirement abroad.  

What are the pros and cons of retiring in Malaysia? 

Like all countries, there are pros and cons to retiring in Malaysia. It is affordable, has a thriving expat community, has low tax rates, and offers a simple emigration program. Still, it can also have unpredictable weather and require a long flight time.  

Discover more pros and cons below: 

Pros 

  • Thriving expat community: Many people retire in Malaysia for its rich cultural diversity and laid-back lifestyle. You won’t struggle to find other English-speaking expats.  

  • Inexpensive but good healthcare: Malaysia has universal healthcare for residents and citizens, which includes registered retiree expats. Healthcare is accessible and affordable wherever you go.  

  • Low cost of living: Aside from certain imported goods, the cost of rent and everyday groceries is much lower in Malaysia than it is in the US, so that expats can enjoy a high quality of life.   

Cons 

  • Costly emigration program: Due to a push for economic growth, Malaysia’s MM2H emigration program is an expensive process, making it hard for lower-income seniors to retire in Malaysia.  

  • Geographic isolation: Malaysia is very far away from the US and Europe, making family visits and vacations expensive and exhausting.  

  • Culture shock: Life in Southeast Asia is very different from life in the US. If you emigrate to Malaysia, you will have to get used to many religious and cultural differences. 

What are the best places to retire in Malaysia? 

This tropical region offers many beautiful and unique locations to settle down in your golden years. Some of the best places to retire in Malaysia include:  

  • Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia’s metropolis offers incredible architecture, cuisine, and close proximity to hospitals. It also has a very high volume of English-speaking expats.  

  • Penang: If you like golf, Penang is a great place to retire. With 175 excellent golf courses and various stunning beaches, this part of Malaysia offers plenty of activities and adventures to explore in retirement.  

  • Ipoh: Ipoh is right next to various airport strips. It is a vibrant city area with great infrastructure and world-class Malaysian cuisine.  

At what age can you retire in Malaysia? 

You have to be 60 years of age to retire in Malaysia.  

Expats who are approved residents or citizens can qualify for government pensions in Malaysia but will not receive any annual upliftment benefits. 

What is the average cost of retirement in Malaysia? 

The average cost of retirement in Malaysia for a couple is $2,500, while for single individuals, it is $1,500.  

This is roughly the same as it is in the States, but due to the cost of living being 51.56% lower in Malaysia, retirees can save more of their income for the future.  

Do you pay taxes after retirement in Malaysia? 

Malaysia only taxes income earned within the country. You will not be taxed if your retirement income comes from US Social Security benefits or some other kind of international pension fund. Income earned within Malaysia gets taxed at a rate of 30%.  

What programs are there for emigrating to Malaysia? 

The best program for emigrating to Malaysia as a retiree is the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program.  

This program allows foreign seniors to emigrate to Malaysia with a long-term visa to live as residents of the country.  

To qualify for the MM2H program, you need to meet various financial and medical criteria.  

What visas do I need to retire in Malaysia? 

As a foreign senior, you would need an MM2H visa to retire in Malaysia. However, this can be an expensive and tedious program to apply for. Some of the criteria you will need to meet include: 

  • Be over 50 years old 

  • Proof of minimum liquid assets of RM1,500,000 ($334,600) 

  • Proof of minimum offshore monthly income of RM40,000 ($8,922) 

  • Evidence of a deposit account with a Malaysian bank which contains a minimum of RM1,000,000 ($223,065) 

If you are already retired, you will need to show proof of receiving a government pension of RM10,000 ($2,230.65) per month. Social Security benefits also qualify.  

What are my healthcare options in Malaysia? 

Malaysia offers universal healthcare. There is a vast network of private hospitals available, and most of them are fluently English-speaking.  

As an expat, you are not required to have private healthcare insurance to retire in Malaysia, but the specialization and extra care it provides can be beneficial in certain circumstances.  

Is Malaysia a good place to retire? 

There are many good reasons to retire in Malaysia. The incredible Southeast Asian food, balmy beaches, and vibrant, lit-up cities make it an exciting place to spend your golden years.  

However, culture shock can be difficult to process if you are emigrating to Malaysia from the West, and the MM2H program is not financially accessible for all types of US retirees.  

Get expert retirement advice 

If you have the funds and are up for an adventure, retiring in Malaysia can be a great experience. The lower cost of living and comprehensive healthcare make this country an attractive option for those looking for cheaper retirement options that still offer a good quality of life.  

To learn more about planning for retirement abroad, managing your money, or preparing for your future, let Unbiased match you with a financial advisor who can offer expert advice.  

Writers

Unbiased team

Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing and retirement, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.