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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Countries That Are Beneficial to the Budget

Taiwan and Ukraine enter straight at the top with their relatively cheap cost of living, and Ecuador maintains its position in the top three.
  • Last year’s winner Ecuador overtaken by Taiwan and Ukraine
  • Nigeria, Brazil, and Luxembourg suffer big drops in satisfaction with personal finances
  • Russia, Malta, and Hungary climb up the ranks
  • Greece and Italy linger at the bottom


This year a total of 67 countries feature in the Personal Finance Index. The minimum sample size per country to be listed in this index is 50 respondents. Over 45 countries had a sample size of more than 100 respondents.

Expats answered two rating questions on a scale of one to seven: first, they rated their level of satisfaction with their personal financial situation; second, they assessed whether their income is sufficient for their daily life. The first question was assigned double the weight of the second one when the average ratings were combined to draw up the index.

Moreover, the same 67 countries also feature in the Cost of Living Index. This index is based solely on the ratings given by respondents to the general cost of living in their respective country of residence, also on a scale of one to seven.

Personal Finance & Cost of Living Indices

Personal Finance & Cost of Living Indices 2016

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Taiwan: Chart-Breaking Newcomer

As a newcomer in 2016, Taiwan jumps straight to the top of the Personal Finance Index, also ranking first among both expat women and men. In Taiwan, only 2% of the respondents are generally dissatisfied with their financial situation abroad, compared to the global average of 17%. Instead, 85% are overall satisfied with this aspect, and 28% even go so far as to say they are completely happy with their financial situation (global average: 64% and 15%, respectively).

When asked whether their disposable household income is sufficient for their daily life, just 4% of expats in Taiwan think that it is not enough to get by. At 23%, the global average is more than five times as high. More than two-thirds of the respondents (69%) say they have more than they need to cover their expenses in Taiwan, as opposed to less than half of the survey participants worldwide (48%). Two in nine respondents (22%) even state that they have a lot more than enough, compared to one in ten globally.

Life in Taiwan seems to be rather inexpensive as well, as it ranks third in the Cost of Living Index. Five in six respondents (83%) are generally satisfied with the cost of living in Taiwan, compared to just under half worldwide (49%). Moreover, 35% of expats in Taiwan even say that the cost of living is very low, more than double the global average of 14%. The cost of living was also regarded as a potential benefit by 67% of expats when they considered their upcoming move to Taiwan (global average: 43%).

Ukraine: Inexpensive Living on a Modest Income

Another new entrant this year makes it to the top three, with Ukraine claiming second place in the Personal Finance Index. Only 13% of expats in Ukraine are unhappy with their financial situation, compared to 17% worldwide. However, 76% are generally satisfied with their finances, with 24% even being completely satisfied with money matters (global average: 64% and 15%, respectively). Almost three-quarters of the respondents (74%) think that their disposable income is more than what they need to make a living in Ukraine, as opposed to 48% worldwide; three in ten even state that their disposable income is rather more than enough — three times the global average of 10%. Also, just 12% think it’s not sufficient, noticeably lower than the 23% of participants worldwide who feel the same.

Ukraine ranks first in the Cost of Living Index, with an impressive 45% of expats saying that the cost of living is extremely affordable, more than three times the worldwide average of 14%, making it the highest percentage for this factor across all countries. Overall, 85% quote general satisfaction with their expenses, while only 6% have something negative to say as compared to 32% globally. Additionally, three-quarters of the respondents considered the cost of living as a potential advantage before moving to Ukraine.

Ecuador: Consistently Satisfactory

After two consecutive years at the top of the Personal Finance Index, Ecuador dropped to third place due to being overtaken by the two newcomers. More than four in five expats (81%) rate their financial situation positively, with 27% saying they are very satisfied, compared to 64% and 15% worldwide, respectively. When asked about their disposable income, 19% of respondents think it is a lot more than enough, nearly double the worldwide average of 10%. Among all survey participants worldwide, 23% feel that it generally isn’t enough, but in Ecuador, just 9% say the same.

Not one respondent in Ecuador thinks that the cost of living is very bad (5% globally), while 42% are entirely satisfied with the local cost of living, as opposed to only 14% worldwide. Furthermore, one in five expats in Ecuador (20%) states financial reasons as their most important motivation for their move abroad (4% worldwide).

Bottom of the List

Lingering at the bottom of the Personal Finance Index is Greece, which came in last in 2015 and 2014. Just one-quarter of the respondents in Greece are overall satisfied with their financial situation, in contrast to 64% worldwide. In addition, more than half of the expats in Greece (53%) say their disposable income is generally not enough to cover their daily expenses, with 22% saying it is not even nearly enough.

Italy takes the second-to-last place, after ranking 61st out of 64 countries in 2015. Over three in ten expats in Italy (32%) are not satisfied with their finances, and around one-third (33%) say their disposable income is just about enough to cover their daily expenses.

Ireland, which was ranked 54th out of 64 countries in 2015, comes in 65th place out of 67 countries in 2016. One in four expats in Ireland says they are not satisfied with their financial situation overall while close to two in five expats (38%) state their household income is not enough to get by (global: 17% and 23%, respectively).

The Biggest Winners and Losers

There are four newcomers in the Personal Finance Index this year, with one country — Myanmar — dropping out. Two of those newcomers, Taiwan and Ukraine, take the top two spots, while Morocco and Egypt enter the rankings in 12th and 40th place, respectively. Ecuador — first in 2015 — is relegated to third place. Luxembourg and Mexico — second and third in 2015 — are now in 22nd and 8th place, respectively.

In terms of the biggest winners in 2016, Russia, Malta, and Hungary are the countries that have climbed the most. Russia rises from 60th to 20th position in 2016: 61% of expats state their satisfaction with their financial situation, compared to 49% in the year before, while the number of expats saying their disposable income is overall not enough to cover their daily needs almost halved from 28% to 13% in 2016. This might be explained by the drop in the ruble and the current financial crisis in Russia: expats earning their salaries in a foreign currency or in rubles but pegged to another currency, for example, may benefit from this development.

Malta also makes a big leap from 42nd to 6th place in 2016, with not one respondent now voicing their complete dissatisfaction with their financial situation. The third-biggest climber is Hungary, which jumps from rank 27 into the top five at 4th place. This is mainly thanks to 30% of expats in Hungary who are completely satisfied with their financial situation — a rise from 19% in 2015.

The countries that have suffered the biggest drops are Nigeria, Brazil, and Luxembourg. Nigeria drops out of the top ten, sitting in 32nd place in 2016. In 2015, seven in ten respondents in Nigeria said they were satisfied with their financial situation, but in 2016, this figure decreases to six in ten. Nigeria also ranks last in the Cost of Living Index. Luxembourg suffers a big slump as well, dropping from 2nd to 22nd place in 2016. The overall satisfaction with the personal finances among expats in Luxembourg shrinks from 83% to 74% in 2016. Brazil loses 11 places, going from 38th to 59th. While in 2015, 21% of respondents in Brazil said that their disposable income was not enough, this figure goes up to 30% in 2016.

Further Reading