A new report from the editors at International Living Australia examines the countries that score the highest in the Opportunity category of the2019 Annual Global Retirement Rankings.

Source: InternationalLiving.com/au

For a long time, International Living Australia readers have been telling the editors that they have big plans for their retirement and it’s not all about winding down. Retirement doesn’t need to be a grinding halt.

In fact, many soon-to-be-retirees are absolutely bubbling with ideas they’re eager to pursue when they give up the daily grind and start concentrating on their own projects—from freelance writing, photography, hotel owners and property managers.

This section of the Rankings looks at how easy it is to work remotely, start a business and the economy in each country.

#3 Vietnam, Italy and Cambodia

Vietnam, Italy and Cambodia are joint for third place in this category on 87 points. All three are opportune places for digital nomads, expats with creative business ideas or simply those in search of a high-quality working lifestyle but with a lower price tag than home.

Wendy Justice, IL Vietnam Correspondent says, “Vietnam’s economy is booming and one of the strongest in Southeast Asia—powering ahead at more than 7% annually. Many foreigners own restaurants, bakeries, specialty retail shops, dive shops and so on but the business must first be approved so it does not compete with the local market.”

The country’s neighbour Cambodia also has lots to offer expats—especially it’s vibrant capital, Phnom Penh. Here Sydney native, Daniel Stewart, 57,found a fulfilling new life.

“I finally found a true sense of purpose in my role as a lecturer,” he says. “In Sydney I would wake up dreading the day ahead at my depressing office job. Now for the first time I go to work with a grin and a positive attitude.

“Cambodia has changed the way I look at the world. I’m a cynic no longer, living the local life means adding fun to everything I do and I’m all the better for it.”

Similarly, on the other side of the world, Italians know how to enjoy life with a strong work-life balance. The gorgeous scenery, the stellar food, the fabulous people and the fascinating history sum up the joys of Italian life— La dolce vita. It’s a dream spot for writers and digital nomads to get the creative juices flowing.

With good internet you can work from anywhere,” says Valerie Schneider who has been writing for many years as IL’s Italy Correspondent. “Even small towns have high speed internet available and WiFi is ever more available in public places, cafes and restaurants.”

#2 Portugal

Portugal has become a diversified and increasingly service-based economy since joining the European Community—the EU’s predecessor—in 1986. This Western European gem is in second place with 89 points.

“We live and work in the best kept secret in Europe,” says expat Maya Attinello, co-owner and founder with her husband, Miguel, of Kali Jade Photography. The couple are based in Cascais, Portugal, some 30 kilometeres west of Lisbon on the Tejo River estuary.

Maya considers Portugal a great place to start any business. “In a country where there are multiple cafés, beauty salons, pharmacies and veterinary practices in every town, there are many opportunities for creative entrepreneurs to carve out their niche,” she says. “If you have an idea—whether it’s marketing a skill like photography or making handicrafts, or forming a wellness group and sponsoring seminars—you can enjoy your work, help others and pay the bills…all in a marvellous location.”

Maya and Miguel found success in Cascais by filling a gap. “In 2009, my husband decided to go head first into photography,” Maya says. “We specialise in family photography. At the time in Portugal, it wasn’t very popular. Also, most people thought—and some still do—that this type of photography is only done in studios. Taking photos outdoors wasn’t yet fashionable.”

Maya says that finding clients wasn’t hard, it was just about connecting with the right people. “Having one foot in the international community was something that really helped my husband and I find our niche. There are many English-speaking business owners, multi-national companies, and embassy employees living here. My husband is Portuguese, but his English conversational skills are solid. Networking is everything.”

Along with photography, Maya also found a way to create a side-income from another one of her hobbies: “I created a running group. A place where expat and local Portuguese moms could work out and socialize at the same time. Most of us were in the same boat: living in a foreign country, needing to make friends, and to adapt to a new life. What better than a group for women to chat and burn off steam?”

#1 Malaysia

Malaysia conjures up all the mysteries of colourful Asia. The former British colony takes the top spot in the Opportunity category in theInternational Living Australia 2019 Annual Global Retirement Rankings with 90 points.

Expats Randy and Swelaine Bartley moved to Johor Bahru on the southern tip of Malay Peninsula, in 2013, with an eye to opening a business. The couple had never been to Malaysia before, but they heard through the grapevine that there were opportunities for expat business there.

With Johor Bahru’s warm tropical climate, it didn’t take long for Swelaine to determine a shaved ice restaurant would do well.

The couple had no difficulty getting approved for permanent residence through the Malaysia My Second Home Program and within a few weeks of arriving, they had moved into their spacious three-bedroom apartment just north of the city centre. Later that same year Swelaine opened the doors to Big Bowl Ice.

Although this isn’t the laidback retirement that Randy had once envisioned, he finds that the lifestyle agrees with him—and Swelaine is thrilled to realise her dream of being a business owner. “For me, owning my own company is what makes this home,” she says. “I’m happy to be here.”

The couples business in Malaysia continues to go from strength to strength.

The complete International Living Australia 2019 Global Retirement Rankings report, can be found here: The World’s Best Places for Australians to Retire to 2019