MM2H: Quality retirement in Malaysia

04 August 2015

“Where would my wife be most comfortable?” was the question asked by Rocco Basta, when attempting to decide where to move to after retiring. The Canadian-Italian had many options, having had the opportunity to live in many countries in his almost 40-year career in the automotive industry. Besides living in Canada and Italy, the 64-year-old also headed Fiat offices in Singapore, Sydney, Paris and Kuala Lumpur. After leaving Fiat, he joined Automobili Lamborghini and was responsible for markets like South East Asia, Australia, China, South Africa, the Middle East and India.

Rocco Basta (second from left) and his beautiful wife and children.

Rocco Basta (second from left) and his beautiful wife and children.

 Rocco married Myung Ran Lee from South Korea in 1985, after which they had two beautiful daughters, who now live in Canada and New York. Even though he felt comfortable with the idea of moving back to his homeland Canada, Rocco felt Myung Ran would not be at ease, having never actually lived there.

“Winters in Canada can be atrocious, even though Korean winters can be just as bad. I wasn’t keen on Italy, where we had lived together as a family for seven years, and where I was born, due to potential racism. Even though we had lived in Thailand for almost 10 years, there was never a sense of comfort there and we never picked up the language! Singapore was too expensive and I could not afford it as a pensioner. Therefore my solution was Malaysia: a country which I loved and felt most comfortable, outside of Canada,” explained Rocco.

They applied through an agency to live in Malaysia under the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) scheme and their application was approved without a glitch in October 2010. MM2H, is a program under the Malaysian government, enabling foreigners to obtain residency in the country on a long-stay visa of up to decade. The program primarily targets those who want to live (not work) in Malaysia, for example; retirees or individuals with work in other countries. Candidates are expected to be financially capable of supporting themselves.

Rocco's joyful moments with his beloved wife and daughter.

Rocco's joyful moments with his beloved wife and daughter.

 Rocco and his wife are settling down well in Malaysia. They reckon the geographical location is convenient, as Kuala Lumpur is just two hours by air from Bangkok, a couple hours by car away from Singapore and about three hours away from the attractive beaches of Penang, within Malaysia itself. The self-confessed former workaholic now lives a life of leisure - watching TV, catching up on news from around the globe, listening to classical music and admiring the view of the Petronas Twin Towers and the KL Tower from his apartment's balcony in Kuala Lumpur – a view he says reminds him of Toronto.

28-year-old Ali Abdulla on the other hand, comes to Kuala Lumpur twice a year from the Maldives, for up to three weeks at a time. The Maldivian globetrotter grew up in various countries like the UK, India and Sri Lanka as his dad worked for the United Nations’ South East Asia Regional Office. His parents take longer trips to the busy metropolis that is KL though, seeing the visits as a lively respite from island life.

“My father decided to retire and have a home away from home in Malaysia since 2006. He was looking to have a home base in a more centralised location in South East Asia, with good medical facilities and international community, and an overall easily accessible holiday home within close proximity to Maldives. Also, Malaysia is vast, green and spacious; a big contrast from the Maldives,” explained Ali.

Ali, his two older siblings and parents regularly visit Malaysia, after being accepted under MM2H. They have a family home in Seri Kembangan, about 15 minutes away from central KL.

“We wanted somewhere out of the bustling city, with reasonable access to malls for groceries and shopping. The overall idea was to be at a home away from home. Home life was what was important, and for the location to be a contrast from Maldives.” They have also taken advantage of incentives under MM2H, having bought a tax-free Malaysian car, a Proton.

Although Ali has a hectic resort brand-marketing job in the Maldives, he describes the overall lifestyle there as “chilled out”. When he’s not occupied with work, Ali can be found unwinding on the beach with friends, as well as exploring small and sometimes uninhabited islands. In contrast, when in Kuala Lumpur, Ali’s life is more fast-paced, he focuses on meeting family and friends, as well as shopping and sightseeing during the day, while at night he enjoys trying out different restaurants and exploring the nightlife in Bangsar, around KLCC and Bukit Bintang.

When asked about MM2H, “It makes Malaysia more than just a tourist destination, it provides good homes, schooling and specialist careers and an exposure of one of the densest multicultural environments in Asia.”

Pat Goepfert agrees with this sentiment. The food and the lifestyle are definitely appealing but the French-Taiwanese says what makes her husband and two children feel truly at home in Malaysia is that they are welcomed by the locals. Her family members are residents under MM2H and have been since 2009. When the 46-year-old is in Kuala Lumpur, she is kept busy managing her family’s various properties and searching for new investment opportunities in the property market, while her husband is in the railway business.

“Apart from France as a base in Europe for us, we wanted a home in Asia. While my native Taiwan is fairly expensive, we found Malaysia to be ideal, with modern facilities, a reasonable cost of living and most of all, friendly welcoming people,” said Pat.  She says the pace of her life in Malaysia is pretty relaxed and when she’s not researching lucrative property buys or taking care of her children, she’s either socialising or at the gym.

Upon retirement, Edward Pertinez thought long and hard about where to set up a new home. The Briton had first visited Malaysia as an expatriate in 1975 and knew the country well, having been based in Singapore, and later Brazil and America. Choosing to reside in Malaysia under MM2H could also have to do with the fact that his wife Siti, whom he has been married to since 1980, is from Johor, a state on the southern tip of Malaysia.

“We made a list of things we would need for a comfortable retirement. We took into account; climate, food, cost of living, medical facilities, language barrier and friendly people.” Edward explains that Malaysia simply fit their criteria, with ticks all the way on their checklist. A financial perk the Englishman is delighted with, is that he’s not taxed on money coming in from abroad, meaning there are no deductions on his pension. Not only is the cost of living relatively low, the rate of exchange for the British Pound is very favourable.

After Edward and Siti’s application under MM2H was approved, the couple bought a home in Hartamas, an affluent neighbourhood in Kuala Lumpur. However, Edward was pleased to explain they got a good deal, as prices were low when they acquired the place in 2004. 

“The key to living in KL is easy access to downtown but residing in a quality suburb like Sri Hartamas, with its excellent shops and restaurants, especially at Plaza Damas,” said Edward.

Edward says if they need a few days away from the hustle and bustle of KL, a three and a half hour drive to Kuantan’s beaches usually does the trick. However, the couple is very content with relaxing in their beautiful home in Hartamas and going about their usual activities such as enjoying good food and shopping. Edward says it well: “Malaysia is an undiscovered gem for retirement!”

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