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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

The Best (& Worst) Countries for Your Wallet in 2024

Asia is still home to many of the best destinations in the Personal Finance Index — with one notable exception.

The Top 10


For the Personal Finance Index, expats rated three different factors on a scale of one (very bad) to seven (very good): general cost of living; satisfaction with their financial situation; and whether a respondent’s disposable household income is enough to lead a comfortable life.

To be featured in the ranking, a country must have a minimum of 50 respondents. In 2024, 53 destinations made this threshold.

1st for the Third Time in a Row: Vietnam

Vietnam once again defends its 1st place in the Personal Finance Index in 2024. Not only do well over four in five expats there (86%) rate the cost of living favorably, half (50%) rate it as very good (compared to a global average of 40% and 12%, respectively). In fact, over two-thirds (68%) agree that their disposable household income is more than enough to live a comfortable life (vs. 41% globally).

The people are very friendly, and the cost of living is very low.– US American expat

Interestingly, financial reasons don't stand out as motivating factors for a move to Vietnam: just 3% say as much, compared to 2% of expats worldwide. All in all, 65% are satisfied with their financial situation in the country (vs. 54% globally) — and this isn’t due to low costs only: close to double the global average report a gross yearly income of 150k USD or more (19% vs. 10% globally).

Affordable Adventures in Colombia (2nd)

Colombia improved its already good result of 2023 — 7th out of 53 countries — to rank 2nd in the 2024 Personal Finance Index.

Respondents highlight the low cost of living in Colombia: more than double the global average rate it favorably (85% vs. 40% globally). And when asked about which concerns they had before relocating, only a small share of respondents (2%) named potentially high costs — compared to a quarter of expats worldwide (25%)!

I’m enjoying the relaxed way of life and the affordable cost of living.– Maltese expat

Only about one in ten respondents (11%) are dissatisfied with their financial situation (vs. 26% globally). Meanwhile, 91% agree that disposable household incomes are enough (or more than enough!) to lead a comfortable life (vs. 70% globally).

More for Less in 3rd-Placed Indonesia

With Indonesia (3rd), a second Southeast Asian country joins the top 3 of the Personal Finance Index. The country ranks 2nd regarding expats’ satisfaction with their financial situation and is only beaten by Panama (1st) for this factor. Close to three-quarters of respondents in Indonesia (72%) are happy with their financial situation (vs. 54% globally), with 29% very much so (vs. 20% globally).

What I like about Indonesia? The climate, the safety and peacefulness, the friendliness, the clean air and nature, and the low cost of living! – Canadian expat

As in Colombia, living expenses were not much of a concern for expats prior to their move to Indonesia (3% vs. 25% globally). Indeed, over two-thirds (69%) rate the cost of living favorably (vs. 40% globally). And according to twice the global average (15% vs. 7% globally), incomes are a lot more than enough to live a comfortable life there.

Crazy Expensive Canada (53rd)

While it already ranked in the bottom 10 of the Personal Finances Index in 2023 (48th out of 53 countries), Canada comes in dead last (53rd) in 2024. More than half of respondents there (53%) find that their disposable household income isn't enough to lead a comfortable life (vs. 30% globally).

Inflation rates may have slowed down over the course of 2023, but expats in Canada are still faced with increased prices especially for food, rent, and mortgages.1

The cost of living is crazy expensive. Going out for a meal or drinks feels like a luxury.” – Spanish expat

In fact, close to two in three expats (66%) rate the expenses in Canada negatively (vs. 39% globally) — over a quarter (26%) even say they’re very bad (vs. 9% globally).

Insufficient Incomes in Finland (52nd)

The situation is only marginally better in Finland, which ranks second to last in the index (52nd) and is in fact the biggest loser — in 2023, it still ranked 30th out of 53 countries!

Finland narrowly escaped the bottom 10 for cost of living (42nd), which half of respondents (51%) rate negatively (vs. 39% globally). However, expats there are still the unhappiest worldwide when it comes to their financial situation overall (53rd). Specifically, one in five respondents (20%) isn't satisfied with their finances in Finland at all, which is twice the global average (10%).

This may well be related to the money available to them: close to seven in ten expats in Finland (69%) say their gross yearly income is less than 50k USD. For comparison, only about half of respondents worldwide (52% globally) say the same. It’s hardly surprising that only 22% find that their disposable income is more than enough for life in Finland (vs. 41% globally).

High Costs Not an Unknown in the UK (51st)

Two in five expats now living in the United Kingdom (40%) admit that high costs were among their biggest concerns when planning their move (vs. 25% globally). And it looks like they weren’t wrong to worry: the UK ranks 51st out of 53 countries in the Personal Finance Index. Well over a third (37%) find themselves dissatisfied with their financial situation (vs. 26% globally), and 58% rate the cost of living negatively (vs. 39% globally).

Inflation may have fallen from its record high of over 11% in late 2022, but a weaker pound and poor income growth2 continue to leave an impact on people’s spending power. In fact, over two in five expats (43%) say their disposable household income isn't enough to lead a comfortable life in the UK (vs. 30% globally).

I wish our salaries matched the cost of living. I'm able to get by but ideally, I’d like to be able to live on my own and I’m unable to do so on my current pay.– US American expat

Trends in the Top 10

  1. Vietnam
  2. Colombia
  3. Indonesia
  4. Panama
  5. Philippines
  6. India
  7. Mexico
  8. Thailand
  9. Brazil
  10. China

There has been little change in the top 10 of the Personal Finance Index compared to 2023.

Nine out of the ten countries were already at the top of the index last year. Malaysia, which ranked 5th in 2023, was edged out of the top 10 to 11th place in 2024. Brazil has taken its place, ascending from 17th place in 2023 to secure a top 10 rank (9th).

Six countries in the top 10 can be found in Asia: Vietnam (1st), Indonesia (3rd), the Philippines (5th), India (6th), Thailand (8th), and China (10th). They all perform very well across the three factors of the index.

The remaining four are in Latin America: Colombia (2nd) is joined by Panama (4th), Mexico (7th), and Brazil (9th). Expats in these countries are very satisfied with regards to the different factors of the index — Brazil’s 18th place for cost of living represents the “worst” result.

Interestingly, financial reasons as motivating factors to relocate only stand out for expats in Panama (15% vs. 2% globally), the Philippines (5%), and Thailand (4%).

Trends in the Bottom 10

  1. Kuwait
  2. Türkiye
  3. Bahrain
  4. New Zealand
  5. Singapore
  6. Norway
  7. Ireland
  8. United Kingdom
  9. Finland
  10. Canada

At the other end of the scale, Singapore (ranking 48th out of 53 countries) proves that finances are not an easy topic across Asia. This city-state regularly ranks among the most expensive cities worldwide,3 and results in the Expat Insider survey are no different: three-quarters of expats (75%) rate the cost of living negatively (vs. 39% globally). And over a quarter (27%) give this factor the worst possible rating (vs. 9% globally).

In Europe, Ireland (50th) and Norway (49th) join Finland (52nd) and the UK (51st) in the bottom 10. High costs are an issue across all four countries. However, comparatively higher incomes in Norway — just 33% earn less than 50k USD a year (vs. 52% globally) — mean that disposable household incomes are somewhat sufficient to lead a comfortable life there (32nd).

New among the bottom 10 in 2024 are three Middle Eastern countries: Bahrain (46th), Türkiye (45th), and Kuwait (44th). In 2023, they could be found middling, from Bahrain’s 27th place to Kuwait’s 38th out of 53 countries. High costs are not the biggest issue there — Bahrain even ranks 24th for this factor — instead, expats are dissatisfied with their financial situation and how far their disposable household income can get them. More than two in five (43%) say it’s not enough to lead a comfortable life in Kuwait, for instance (vs. 30% globally).

Geographically, Canada (53rd) and New Zealand (47th) are the odd ones out in the bottom 10 of the index. New Zealand’s result may have improved marginally — the country ranked last for Personal Finance in 2023 — but high costs (52nd) continue to be a problem for expats and locals alike.4

The Biggest Winners in 2024

With an improvement of 22 places in the ranking, South Korea (15th) shows an impressive jump compared to its 37th place in the 2023 Personal Finance Index. Expats report increased satisfaction across all areas of the index, and seven in ten respondents (70%) find they’re happy with their finances (vs. 54% globally). In 2023, only 57% said the same (vs. 58% globally). The country has seen slowing inflation and increased exports in 2024.5

Found among the bottom 10 in 2023, Denmark has since recovered from its 47th place to rank 32nd in 2024. Expats are still dissatisfied with the general cost of living (63% rate it negatively vs. 39% globally and 56% in 2023); however, their overall satisfaction with their financial situation has increased. In 2023, only about half (53%) regarded this factor favorably (vs. 58% globally). In 2024, an increased share of 59% says the same, while the global average fell further (54%).

Hong Kong paints a similar picture. The administrative region has risen 15 places to rank 28th in 2024 (following 43rd place in 2023), despite continued frustration with the high cost of living — Hong Kong is still in the bottom 10 for this factor (48th in 2024). However, 84% of expats find that their disposable household is enough or even more than enough to lead a comfortable life (vs. 71% in 2023). In part, this could be because they simply have more to spend. Worldwide, 20% of expats report a gross yearly income of 100k USD or more. In Hong Kong, that’s the case for more than twice as many respondents (42%).

The Biggest Losers in 2024

Finland fell a devastating 22 places in the Personal Finance Index to rank second to last in 2024.

Bahrain also couldn’t escape the bottom 10 in 2024, ranking 46th out of 53 countries. This follows a 27th place in 2023, when more than half of respondents (52% vs. 58% globally) were satisfied with their financial situation. One year later, their level of satisfaction has dropped by 12 percentage points (40% vs. 54% globally). Even the comparatively good cost of living (45% positive ratings vs. 40% globally) cannot shake the continuously negative view on how much expats can afford a comfortable life on their disposable household incomes (51st in 2023; 52nd in 2024).

Full Ranking

Further Reading

External References

  1. Statistics Canada: Consumer Price Index: Annual review, 2023
  2. CNN: What happened to the UK economy? 5 charts break down the key election issues (6 Jun 2024)
  3. EIU: Worldwide Cost of Living: Singapore and Zurich top the ranking as the world’s most expensive cities (30 Nov 2023)
  4. NZ Herald: Insurance: Car owners cancelling car insurance policies as cost of living bites (27 May 2024)
  5. The Star: Inflation cools further as policy pivot hopes rise (5 Jun 2024)