Cost of Living - International Cities

Makati, Philippines One of the first questions a potential expat will ask concerns cost of living. While cost of living is important, the livability of city and country makes a difference as well.

This list of cities ranges from most expensive to cheapest. Tokyo is the most expensive city in the index, while Buenos Aires is ranked near the cheapest.

Source: Mercer Human Resource Consulting, 2004 Cost-of-Living Survey 2004

Rank by City

1 Tokyo, Japan
2 London, UK
3 Moscow, Russia
4 Osaka, Japan
5 Hong Kong
6 Geneva, Switzerland
7 Seoul, South Korea
8 Copenhagen, Denmark
9 Z�rich, Switzerland
10 St. Petersburg, Russia
11 Beijing, China
12 New York City, USA
13 Milan, Italy
14 Dublin, Ireland
15 Oslo, Norway
16 Shanghai, China
17 Paris, France
18 Istanbul, Turkey
19 Vienna, Austria
20 Sydney, Australia
21 Rome, Italy
22 Stockholm, Sweden
23 Helsinki, Finland
24 Abidjan, Ivory Coast
25 Douala, Cameroon
26 Amsterdam, Netherlands
27 Los Angeles, USA
28 Berlin, Germany
29 Hanoi, Vietnam
30 Shenzhen, China
31 Taipei, Taiwan
32 Guangzhou, China
33 Tel Aviv, Israel
34 Budapest, Hungary
35 Chicago, USA
36 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
37 Beirut, Lebanon
38 San Francisco, USA
39 Luxembourg
40 D�sseldorf, Germany
41 Glasgow, UK
42 Frankfurt, Germany
43 Munich, Germany
44 Bratislava, Slovak Republic
45 Jakarta, Indonesia
46 Singapore
47 Dakar, Senegal
48 Riga, Latvia
49 Prague, Czech Republic
50 Athens, Greece
51 Birmingham, UK
52 White Plains, USA
53 Brussels, Belgium
54 Kiev, Ukraine
55 Miami, USA
56 Barcelona, Spain
57 Honolulu, USA
58 Hamburg, Germany
59 Zagreb, Croatia
60 Algiers, Algeria
61 Madrid, Spain
62 Abu Dhabi, UAE
63 Amman, Jordan
64 Kuwait City, Kuwait
65 San Juan, Puerto Rico
66 Casablanca, Morocco
67 Melbourne, Australia
68 Washington, USA
69 Lyon, France
70 Boston, USA
71 Lisbon, Portugal
72 Morristown, USA
73 Houston, USA
74 Almaty, Kazakhstan
75 Tallinn, Estonia
76 Warsaw, Poland
77 Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
78 Manama, Bahrain
79 Sofia, Bulgaria
80 Auckland, New Zealand
81 Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
82 Ljubljana, Slovenia
83 Dubai, United Arab Emirates
84 Mexico City, Mexico
85 Atlanta, USA
86 Wellington, New Zealand
87 Brisbane, Australia
88 Adelaide, Australia
89 Toronto, Canada
90 Seattle, USA
91 Vilnius, Lithuania
92 St. Louis, USA
93 Leipzig, Germany
94 Perth, Australia
95 Limassol, Cyprus
96 Vancouver, Canada
97 Accra, Ghana
98 Cleveland, USA
99 Cairo, Egypt
100 Denver, USA
101 Detroit, USA
102 Monterrey, Mexico
103 Kingston, Jamaica
104 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
105 Portland, USA
106 Panama City
107 Winston Salem, USA
108 Guatemala City, Guatemala
109 Mumbai, India
110 Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
111 Lagos, Nigeria
112 Pittsburgh, USA
113 Montreal, Canada
114 Calgary, Canada
115 Tianjin, China
116 New Delhi, India
117 Dacca (Dhaka), Bangladesh
118 Lima, Peru
119 Bangkok, Thailand
120 Tunis, Tunisia
121 Nairobi, Kenya
122 Tehran, Iran
123 Santiago, Chile
124 Ottawa, Canada
125 Lusaka, Zambia
126 Johannesburg, South Africa
127 Colombo, Sri Lanka
128 Sao Paulo, Brazil
129 Bucharest, Romania
130 San Jose, Costa Rica
131 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
132 Karachi, Pakistan
133 Chennai (Madras), India
134 Caracas, Venezuela
135 Blantyre, Malawi
136 Quito, Ecuador
137 Bangalore, India
138 Manila, Philippines
139 Bogota, Colombia
140 Harare, Zimbabwe
141 Buenos Aires, Argentina
142 Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
143 Montevideo, Uruguay
144 Asuncion, Paraguay

After all, even if you receive favorable income tax treatment, the cost of gasoline, bread, housing, energy and medical care is still going to be the same for you as it is for anyone else.

Regardless of where you live on the planet, food, housing, energy and health care costs continue to account for as much as 89% of annual spending according to a survey by the World Bank. This is why it is extremely important that you investigate each of these line items on a country-by-country basis as part of your retirement due diligence.

You can get a general picture of the cost of living as a percentage of your retirement income by using an International Salary Calculator. They are all over the Internet. Just Google the term "International Salary Calculator" and take your pick.

According to one calculator, a person earning 100,000 GBP, and living in London, would need the equivalent of 70,000 GBP to live in Bangkok, Thailand. The numbers that they provide are just estimates and should not be used for making a final decision.

Never make the mistake of assuming that costs will be more or less level across a region simply because the countries are geographically close to each other. Often times there are significant costs differences in certain market sectors due to government policies.

Singapore, for example, does not provide any fuel subsidies to it's residential or commercial customers. Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand do. As a result, Singapore has the highest fuel costs in the region even though it is a major oil trading hub in Southeast Asia.

With a liter of milk running near U.S. $2.72, 10 eggs for $1.80 and a loaf of bread at $2.00 Singapore, actually mirrors many U.S. cities when it comes to everyday living expenses.

Over in Thailand, that same liter of milk runs about U.S. $.77, while the eggs will only set you back $.64, and a loaf of bread costs just $.38.

Today's cost of living is only a point on the retirement planning graph. In order to insure long-term survivability you need to account for inflation and unexpected surges in costs due to global or regional events. The recent dramatic increases in oil costs due to the war in the Middle East is a good example.

Your complete financial retirement income picture cannot be seen until you have estimated current and future cost of living trends as well as your current and projected retirement income.

When calculating your future income, be sure to take inflation, interest rates and stock market performance into consideration. While there is no foolproof way of predicting these individual variables, you should play some "what if" scenarios out in your spreadsheet to take a look at the best and worst case results.

So much depends upon your ability to support your retirement lifestyle. Make sure that you give the cost of living investigation the attention and level of detail that it warrants.