Retire in Bali-Part Two-Practicalities

On Bali, retires are able to live on approximately one-third of what they would need to live at a lower standard of living back in their home countries. With pension plans diminishing in real purchasing value and life expectations lengthening, boomers are doing the numbers and arriving at the conclusion that moving abroad is wiser than aging in place. Because of the country’s mammoth trade deficit, the steadily depreciating Indonesian currency – the rupiah – makes Bali an even safer bet.

If you rent out your property in the West, the rental income will assuredly far exceed your rent in Bali. The difference can be used to supplement your princely monthly pension. There will even be enough left over for luxury dining once in a while, a vibrant cultural performance or an around the island driving tour. If you’re still consumed by wanderlust, there are literally thousands of islands to explore. Using Bali as a base, you can embark on a weeks-long trip into the far southeastern islands or to the wilds of Torajaland in southcentral Sulawesi.

To ease settlement into your new home, the Indonesian government offers a generous ITAS Retirement Visa for Westerners aged 55 and older who have proof of health and life insurance and proof of pension—a minimum of roughly $1,520 per month fixed income, or at least a lump sum of $18,270 to provide living expenses while in Bali; proof of a rental agreement with the cost set at over $380 a month; a letter stating you agree to employ one Indonesian while you live here—an assistant, a household worker, etc.; a C.V; and a statement agreeing that you won’t work while in Bali. The one year retirement visa costs $740/year if you do it by yourself with a sponsor. You must employ Indonesian household staff and you’re not allowed to earn money, own or run a business. These rules and regulations can change so be sure to check for updates and additions.

Condos in southern Bali within sight of the sea cost $600-$800/month. If paid by the year, expect $6000-$12,000, depending on location. Recently, changes to the laws have opened up more lenient means by which foreigners may finance or lease property, but this is an area where you must tread extremely cautiously. No matter whether you live in the city or the country, you’ll be expected to make a contribution of $10-$15/month to your local banjar (village council).

Satellite services that offer the whole nine yards – BBC, CNN, Fox, HBO, TLC, Cinemax, National Geographic, unlimited music, international radio stations, etc. costs around $50/month. Deep in the countryside, use a radio antenna that’s beamed line-of-sight on a lowland reception tower. Though at times a bit choppy, you’ll still be able to Skype your family back home. If you have a telephone landline, you’ll be able to subscribe to a broadband internet service called Speedy provided by Telkom, the national telecommunications company, very good value with faster baud speeds than the Wi-Fi service available only in rural areas.

Your monthly costs for eating in or out should not exceed $400-$500/month. Pensioners from overseas who would be hard-pressed to pay their weekly grocery bill can afford to eat out frequently in Bali either in smart restaurants where a huge steak or plate of jumbo shrimp with a glass of wine will set them back $20 or in simple, incredulously cheap local food stalls (warung) where full meals cost as little as US$3. Because of the quality and authenticity of the food served, it’s not that uncommon to see a US$75,000 BMWs or Mercedes parked in front of these simple bamboo tin-roofed eateries. If you’re doing your own cooking at home, your housekeeper gets up at 6 am every day to shop for fresh produce and ingredients at the local market. She will also help you cut up ingredients, prepare Indonesian-style meals herself from scratch, serve drinks to guests and helps clean up after lunch or dinner.

Although all the most expensive and esoteric cheeses and condiments are available for purchase, you can reduce food costs by half if you buy only local and not imported products. Staples like chicken US$2-2.50/kg, rice US70 cents to $140/kg (depending on grade), excellent Robusta coffee US$4.50/kg. Two kilos of exotic fruit will cost you the same as one kilo of the same fruit back home. Big bottles of Indonesia-made Bintang and Anker beer cost $3, though top Australian wine labels can be expensive at $20-$30/liter. If you fall off the wagon, at least one AA meeting takes place every day of the week somewhere on the island.

Home help who clean, cook, wash, iron, do massages and even pay your bills are readily available for US$200-250/month (Gaji UMR) in tourist areas and US$170-$200/month in rural areas. If you can afford it, hire two servants – one Balinese and one Javanese. Because they belong to different religions, they follow different customs and holidays. When your Balinese housemaid has to take off work to attend family ceremonies or fulfill incessant religious obligations, your Javanese housemaid can cover for her – and vice versa.

Allow $150-$200/monthly for utilities. You’ll get no more heating bills, but air conditioning could run your power usage up. If you live at higher altitudes, you won’t need air-conditioning. In Bali’s equatorial climate, it’s never cold enough to wear anything more than a short or long-sleeved t-shirt, light yoga pants and socks in the evenings. Power outages, occurring 2-3 times a month for varying lengths of time from 30 seconds to three hours, are unannounced and may happen at any time during the day (though seldom at night).

Tailors in all the towns and tourist centers are adept at skillfully recreating an already well-fitting garment in a different color or fashion. Laundry services which home deliver freshly laundered, ironed and folded clothes are just around the corner or down the street. Or a friendly nearby Balinese family may charge you only 15-20 US cents per piece. With prices like this, it’s easy to understand why Bali’s low cost of living has proven to be an irresistible magnet for retirees.


By Pak Bill

The Boomer Corner is a column dedicated to people over 60 living in Bali. Its mandate is to cover topics, practicalities, activities, issues, concerns and events related to senior life in Bali. We welcome suggestions from readers.

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