UAE-based western expats saving less than their Singapore, HK counterparts

29 September 2013

Western expats living in the UAE are saving less than their counterparts in Singapore and Hong Kong according to a latest study carried out by Standard Life. Results from the published report come as more of a surprise since income in UAE is almost tax-free when compared to the other two countries, and considering the fact that many expats take up work in foreign locations mostly for financial benefits.

The report is based on a study covering 400 western expats across UAE, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Chris Divito, chief executive of Standard Life International's Dubai operation, said the study aimed to understand the spending, saving, and investing behavior of western expats in order to offer them the right financial advice and solutions tailored to their region.

According to the report, a high percentage 97% of western expats in UAE said they spend some of their disposable income on living luxuriously. These numbers were far too less in Singapore and Hong Kong with only 51% and 47% of the respondents respectively saying they spend on luxurious items. When it came to financial advice, only 31% western expatriates in UAE sought services of a professional wealth adviser. In comparison, these figures were high at 49% and 53% in Singapore and Hong Kong respectively.

Other findings from the report

  • Equity investments among expats were considerably high in Hong Kong (71%). Only 9% of expat population in UAE, and 43% in Singapore invested in buying equities
  • UAE expats preferred mutual funds, with 70% respondents having invested in mutual fund schemes. In comparison, 67% of expats in Singapore and 56% in Hong Kong favored mutual funds
  • 66% of the surveyed expat population in Singapore, and 56% in Hong Kong had invested in gold. In UAE, this number stood at 15%
  • Some 78% of respondents in Singapore favored property as an investment. The numbers were less in Hong Kong and UAE with 55% and 48% respectively

According to Chris Divito, the survey carried out by Standard Life highlights the importance of seeking right financial advice in foreign work locations in order to draw the most value from one’s foreign posting.

The study

Standard Life’s Western Expat Wealth Study, the first of its kind, was carried out by an independent research firm called Insight Discovery during July and August this year.

Surveyed population

  • 400 expats were surveyed: 70% from UK, the rest from Australia, New Zealand, France, and Ireland
  • All Respondents had monthly disposable income of over $6,500
  • Almost half of the surveyed population (54%) was between 26 and 35 years old. The 36 to 45 year-olds were 34%, and the 45 to 60 year-olds were 12%
  • The male / female breakdown was 43% / 57%
  • Among the surveyed population 55% were married whereas 45% were single

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