Spending patterns of super-rich show Asia is most expensive region
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Spending patterns of super-rich show Asia is most expensive region

Survey: Asia is the most-costly region to live well for the fourth year in a row

Buildings in Singapore on June 5, 2023. (Photo: Bloomberg)
Buildings in Singapore on June 5, 2023. (Photo: Bloomberg)

HONG KONG: Asia remains the costliest region in the world to live in, with Singapore taking the number one spot, followed by Shanghai and Hong Kong, according to Julius Baer's latest Global Wealth and Lifestyle report.

The report looks at a basket of 12 consumer goods and eight services that reflect the spending patterns of high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs). It showed that prices for all goods and services have increased on average by 13% in local currencies and by 6% in United States dollar terms over the past 12 months.

"Hong Kong and Singapore are long considered liveable, stable, and cosmopolitan," said Mark Matthews, head of research for Asia-Pacific at Julius Baer. The fourth edition of the report looks at data from November 2022 to March 2023.

Both cities have introduced policies in efforts to "woo the affluent", said Matthews. "[In Singapore] financial regulation and government policy to attract HNWIs are clearly paying off with a doubling of family offices by the end of 2022 compared to the previous year."

For the first time, Singapore jumped to the highest-ranking city in the lifestyle index, rising from the fifth, followed by Shanghai - last year's leader - and Hong Kong in third place.

The survey reconfirmed Asia as the costliest region to live well for the fourth year in a row while the lifestyle survey results show that high-net-worth-individuals are increasingly taking steps to preserve their health and wealth.

Having come through the coronavirus pandemic, respondents cited family health as one of the top priorities. Improving nutrition, taking time to recuperate and boosting fitness levels were also highlighted.

Spending money on hospitality, including on gourmet meals and five-star hotels, has risen in all five regions surveyed and this is particularly relevant in APAC, as more than half of respondents in the region have spent more on fine dining and hotels than in the previous year.

Pedestrians pass a LVHM Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE store at Harbour City shopping mall, operated by Wharf Holdings Ltd, in Hong Kong, China, on June 2, 2023. (Photo: Bloomberg)

Prices of Hong Kong's goods and services have risen around 13% on average in local currency. Some of the greatest price rises have been in hotel suites, which have soared 102% and fine dining which has jumped 45%. Car prices have also increased by 30% year on year.

Housing in Hong Kong remains the priciest in Asia and the second most expensive globally despite the cost of residential property falling by 2%. The city is also the most expensive in the world for legal services.

Although Shanghai remains an expensive city, average prices in local currency rose only 3%, the lowest of all cities, seemingly due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. Shanghai is the priciest city for business-class flights and degustation dinners.

In Singapore, the cost of fine dining and premium whisky rose 33% and 24%, both higher than the regional average, while business class flights cost 44% more on average.

Taipei is the only other Asian city to feature in the top 10, taking the 8th spot, while a strengthening US dollar led New York to make a significant climb to the fifth place from 11th last year.

Cities in developed economies such as Tokyo and Sydney continued to slip down the rankings, while those in developing economies such as Bangkok, Jakarta and Mumbai climbed. Mumbai rose from 24th to 18th in this year's lifestyle index.

People visit CentralWorld shopping mall in Bangkok in February 2023. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)

For the first time since the report began, EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) is the most affordable region to live well in, with European cities in particular dropping down the rankings. London, last year's second place, falls to fourth.

Looking at the financial habits of HNWIs globally, people are taking the opportunity to invest more, which is perhaps a reflection of post-pandemic uncertainty, with most investing more than in previous years. Again, APAC is in a leading position, with 73% of respondents stepping up investments.

"Price rises in premium goods and services underpin the case that wealthy consumers need to achieve high single digits investment returns in US dollar terms to preserve their wealth," said Christian Gattiker, head of research at Julius Baer.

Solid currencies, in particular, assets denominated in such currencies - such as the US dollar or Swiss Franc - can help weather these storms and secure a healthier, wealthier future, he added.

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