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Newbie early retirees moving to Penang - seeking contacts

Greetings to everyone

My Canadian wife and I are moving to Penang in the spring and wanted to introduce ourselves to the community. We currently live in a suburb of San Francisco, USA. Exactly one year ago I was laid off and we decided to try early retirement in Malaysia. I'm Rob, 49, and my wife is Diane, age 43. We'll be filing for MM2H in April, as soon as I turn 50. The fixed deposit is double the amount for applicants under 50 so it made sense to simply wait it out. Diane is a Registered nurse and will continue working until April. I worked for 30 years in the financial services industry.

We're simultaneously selling our house and almost everything we own when we apply for the visa and plan on leaving as soon as the house closes escrow. Sadly, we met a Malaysian on another forum who works in the USA and owns a condo in the Miami Green Apartment Complex. He was going to rent to us ahead of the move but changed his mind so it appears we will try to rent a short-term unit for a few weeks while we search for housing unless we can find another option via this forum (we would really love this !!). We're interested in Batu Feringghi, Tanjung Bungah or Tanjung Tokong. We've never been to Penang so this is a huge leap of faith.

Although the move is 6 to 8 months away, we're hoping to touch base with some expats or locals ahead of time. We'd prefer to secure a lease from the USA ahead of time but understand it's hard until you're move-in ready.
We're also seeking a new social network; We can hang out with anyone from their 20's to their 60's as long as they're friendly and reliable. We enjoy dining out, walking, hiking, bird watching, music, festivals, discovering cultural attractions, wine tasting, any wildlife volunteer work and yoga. We also LOVE monkeys and orangutans and have  visited Sabah (see the blog for details)

Our blog was just added to the site. I've never blogged before and I'm really trying to increase readership and get a decent following; I write and Diane photographs. More information about us about is there. Please check it out and if you like it, please comment, like, follow or share our stories with others.

If you're interested in friendship, can help us with our housing search or have any suggestions, ideas or comments useful to new expats, please contact us. Thanks so much; we look forward to contacting many of you.

Dear Rob & Diane

Good luck with your endeavors in moving to Penang with your wife. From your post I take it that you don't have children. This is something that could have a major influence on where you ultimately decide to live.

My wife and I have been to Penang on many occasions. We have also traveled frequently to Johore Bharu and Kuala Lumpur. We also visited Kelantan, Kedah, Pahang, Melaka states - I personally also spent time in Sarawak, especially Kuching.

We both think that Penang possesses the best work/life balance opportunities and the most easy-going culture in Malaysia. On the other hand, Malaysia as such is suffering from increased radicalization and I do not know if and how this would affect the quality of life in Penang.

Compared to Indonesia though - We live in Yogyakarta - Malaysia through its MM2H program encourages retirees to live in Malaysia through fiscal and other advantages. A lot of information on this program is on-line or available from various immigration agents.

This sounds like an interesting plan and I admire you for taking the plunge by joining the MM2H programme without having visited Penang and having severed your ties to Canada. I think you will no doubt enjoy the Penang experience, but for how long will depend on a lot of factors. Nevertheless, if I was you, I would do the same (being a bit of an adventurer).

The only thing that springs to mind that you may not have considered is you are not permitted to take up paid employment when you are on the MM2H programme, or to clarify that only 20 hrs per week and with a small range of sectors, mainly education. I hope you have considered you will not be able to derive any income from living in Malaysia by joining the MM2H programme. If you want to subsequently seek full-time employment (as difficult to find as part-time work unless in IT), that would entail you giving up your MM2H status and continuing on an employment pass of some type with your wife on a dependent pass (or vice versa). FYI there are unlikely to be any nursing jobs open to your wife in Penang because of the strict regulations and lack of local language skills (Malay and the various chinese dialects - Hakka and Penang Hokkien are widely spoken in Penang). The Chinese community is also self-supporting and is not open to outsiders.

Property purchase limits for foreigners are an ongoing debate, and although rising steeply everywhere else, so far Penang has escaped the 50% or 100% hikes in the minimum limits. Do keep an eye on this, as it can change radically in the future and really affect your situation.

Dont forget to make a local Will as soon as your settle down in Malaysia as it affects your assets in this country (including bank account balances) and dying intestate and being subjected to the Malaysian Distribution Act is not something you really want to encounter.

indostocks :

We both think that Penang possesses the best work/life balance opportunities and the most easy-going culture in Malaysia. On the other hand, Malaysia as such is suffering from increased radicalization and I do not know if and how this would affect the quality of life in Penang.

Compared to Indonesia though - We live in Yogyakarta - Malaysia through its MM2H program encourages retirees to live in Malaysia through fiscal and other advantages. A lot of information on this program is on-line or available from various immigration agents.

Hi Indostocks
Thanks for the reply. You are correct; we have no children; this would be too much of an impossible plunge for us if we had children although we know may families become expats.

Regarding the events in Malaysia of late, we know there's been an increase but we don't necessarily view this as negative. As Malaysia's economy continues to expand, it's normal for younger generations to want change while the older and more conservative folks want no changes. MY has the longest running government in the entire world right now; an eventual change in power is inevitable. As expats, we intend to steer clear of all things political; we will be visitors. As Americans we are exposed to a hatred and distrust of Muslim culture every day and I'm sick of that. MY still enjoys relative harmony between the Muslim and Christian/Western world with very little anti-American sentiment. If that changes, we'd leave.

Regarding the MM2H, we're already engaged in a contract with the best agent in the country; the process is simply a matter of waiting for the calendar until I turn 50. We'd like to visit Indonesia often; perhaps you can send us some links or keep in touch by pm'ing us your email.
Thanks !!

The only thing that springs to mind that you may not have considered is you are not permitted to take up paid employment when you are on the MM2H programme, or to clarify that only 20 hrs per week and with a small range of sectors, mainly education. I hope you have considered you will not be able to derive any income from living in Malaysia by joining the MM2H programme. If you want to subsequently seek full-time employment

Hi Gravitas:
Maybe we didn't state this. The LAST thing we want to do is work. As my blog points out, I was laid off and Diane hates her job. We've lived prudently, invested diligently and prepaid our mortgage down to almost nothing. The intent was always to retire early and not work but the layoff pushed it up by about five years. We are selling our house. In the SF Bay Area that results in an infusion of cash from 750K to $1 million. Given Malyasia's cost of living relative to California, we should have ample funds for 12 to 15 years until we can begin drawing from our retirement accounts; we also have a small pension that starts in 6 years.

Should something go wrong and Diane needed to work in nursing, we'd go back to her native country (Canada) where I can be covered by social health care automatically as a spouse of a Canadian citizen. Sh'd never work in foreign environments; the culture is way too different. For me, I can always find some peon job in finance if need be. But we don't think about work anymore; the idea is to defy the American concept of work defining your identity, happiness and success. We  want to try to be like today';s internet generation of "professional bloggers" who never want to do actual work yet somehow travel the world with "online income". The difference is we have pensions and investment portfolios and already did our time.

Regarding the Chinese community, since Diane is Chinese we know all about the self-sufficient nature of the community and all we want from them is awesome food !! We tend to get charged less than an expat couple that's two white people because Asians usually can't figure out what Asian nationality Diane is so they give her the benefit of the doubt with the "local price".

We are not buying property ever; Foreign property is too risky for conservative investors like us. If there is ever some crazy event like a coup or devaluation of the currency we can't afford to lose that big a chunk of change and foreigners have very little success recovering money in these cases.

Thanks for all the advice

As for the will, thanks for the advice; very good idea. Do you have any suggestions on how to do this locally?

RockWills is probably the most trustworthy. But seriously you need to check out when you become officially domiciled in Malaysia as that is rather a big deal probate-wise.

The Chinese food in Malaysia is well - not Chinese - as Westerners know it. It is very authentic stuff from China. Unfortunately MSG is added to just about everything. The locals are more interested in offering fake Western food which tastes the same as the Chinese food - nothing like it should. The hygiene angle is also very questionable concerning street food or food courts/centres. There is a lot of hype about food in Malaysia. More and more of it is actually Thai and cooked by non-Malaysians. Good quality food is expensive in Malaysia.

Standard Chartered is a pretty good bank for foreigners to open accounts (apart from the MM2H deposit). There is also HSBC, but not my favourite bank. They-ve just limited the MM2H accounts to about 4 banks in the past few months.

To be honest, Penang is a rather boring place to live compared to KL. There is a microscopic Western community and so not much going on regularly. It has instead become a refuge for people from countries around the world that are experiencing war and political upheaval. If you look at Ex pat Go and Int erna tions org these are two online groups that also have social stuff and meet ups. A lot of Westerners are leaving Malaysia because of changes in the environment. However, Penang is a little immune to that. There are quite a lot of people who opened businesses which have now failed or got entangled with the new levels of paid up capital or must train and handover their concept to Malaysians. Generally speaking because of changes in Thailand and bad news from Malaysia, there are far fewer travellers (Penang speciality destination). Visa runs are just not coming in the same quantity either because of crackdowns on immigration and illegals.

Penang is good for going to Langkawi (slighty better beaches) but there is nothing else very much nearby. Cameron Highlands is an ugly disgrace. The very best thing is the Thai border is about 2.5 hours to the north and access to some real beaches. The ones on Penang are very spoilt, polluted and virtually unusable most of the year either due to jelly fish or debris in the water (which is murky brown). It is not a sophisticated holiday area as it is made out to be, but Batu Ferringhe does have some world class hotels and the usually holiday tat that surrounds that sort of area.

Tanjung Bungah/Tokong are probably better options and they are nearer to facilities and there are more international residents (read Singaporeans) rather than holidaymakers. It is possibe to drive round the island in about 2.5 hours, so that should put the size into perspective. There are promises of lots of developments with new islands being constructed off Gurney Drive and a tunnel to northern Butterworth. But considering the second bridge is almost unused, it is questionable if some of the large scale projects will ever happen. Penang has a grandiose complex and this is noticeable with the amount of property that is being constructed, with no hope of any buyers or tenants.

Malaysia is loosing its way generally at the moment and as the papers say, the Government is concentrating on all the wrong things such as race segregation and favouring the Malays. There will probably a change of Government in a couple of years which could result in a lot of problems and upheaval. I dont know if you read the local press, but at the moment lots of people are being arrested under the Sedition Act and even people are fleeing to Sweden to escape oppression. So worrying times for civil liberties. There is no freedom of speech (or written word) in Malaysia.

https://malaysia.yahoo.com/?p=us

This foodie blog may interest and guide you to some food experiences:

http://www.what2seeonline.com/2014/10/d … wn-penang/

CK Lam also has this blog about Penang which describes the island quite well:

http://www.penang365.com/

Hi I am a Malaysian Chinese from Penang. From what I read from this forum about Malaysia political climate. I do not agree totally with what was written above about Malaysia. I have been travelled around the world still I find Malaysia is one of the best country to live and retire. Most of the times what was reported was propaganda.

Hi
Thanks for the message. We don't agree with most of the stuff the written in the above post either. The poster is very cynical and has no business staying in a place he thinks is no good. The world is a big place and if you don't like somewhere, criticize it and then leave.

We understand some of the issues going on right now ; The government is trying to rid the country of illegal immigrants and sadly is making a bunch of stricter rules for potential retirees that make it more difficult to enter. But we are not Malaysian and every nation has a right to restrict entry into the country if they choose,so if we find they don't want us in for whatever reason, it will be their loss; we will take our money and go to Thailand.

We hope to get an approval on our visa paperwork by next summer !!

Hi Rob,

I believe our Malaysia Government is more than happy to welcome you and Diana and grant you an approval for MM2H program. Regarding the new ruling on proof of the applicant income from their home country bank wef 1/11/2014(will verify this fact with another MM2H consultant on how extensive/intensive the verification of income is).

But again it depends on how good your MM2H consultant can convince the officer in-charged that even without the constant fixed income for the past 3 months but if you can substantiate  your saving and the saving is sufficient enough for both of you live comfortably in Malaysia I don't see any reason why you can't get your MM2H approved.


I believe if our Government stricken the control on the income proof is basically due to the abuse by some foreigners who used MM2H program to purchase more than 1 second home (many foreign real-estate investors used MM2H to get financing from banks in the past 3 years & speculated the properties price ) and some even faked the income statement (to get 80% bank financing) and flee the country once they default the payment. Heard from banker's friend, many middle easterners, Koreans have default payment and flee the country.

For the genuine foreign retiree, I believe if you can substantiate that you have enough saving to let you live in Malaysia without an employment  income then getting a MM2H visa  shouldn't be an issue just a matter of presentation to the authorities concerned by your MM2H consultant.

Cheer

thank you. We are getting excited.

Welcome to Penang, Malaysia.

Thanks, although we are not in Malaysia and will not be arriving until summer. We need to sell our house then apply for MM2H and I am waiting for my 50th birthday to do that in April.

So it is now May, wondered if you have made a decision on your life plan?
Malaysia, Thailand or Canada?

Hi there,
My name is Patrick and I have been living in Penang fro the past 20 years. I am not a native of Penang but from another state in Malaysia. Penang has grown from the 1990 till now.
Political stability is very stable in the state of Penang.
I would encourage you to stay in Penang as i have seen a lot of expat that is staying here and they are happy about it.
Just keep in touch when you are here in Penang.
Regards Patrick

Hi there
From what I read of your posts you have lots of experience of the country ( I imagine 9 years will do that!)
I see you mentioned having a local will. My husband and I ( currently waiting for MM2H approval) have had recent wills drawn up in Sydney. Are they valid in Malaysia or do we need new ones made in Malaysia?
Many thanks in advance.
Shellbell

Shellcass - if you have assets in Malaysia such as a bank account, car, property - you would need to have a Malaysian Will to cover their distribution. It is just a simpler method and will not slow down any eventual estate settlement.

Excellent. We have a friend of a friend who is a lawyer in Penang. We will get onto it as soon as our visa comes through. Cheers

The rationale is the Malaysian legal system requires assets to be itemized i.e. the numbers and type of bank account, the make and registration of the vehicle, etc. It's just how the system has developed here. Naturally, without such details it's much more complex to sort out the estate.

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