Having worked and lived in two countries, I've had the opportunity to experience the differences in cost of living between the two places I call home - Penang, Malaysia and Huntsville, Alabama.
Before I dive into the numbers, here are some interesting facts about these two cities:
Penang, Malaysia - Malaysia ranked #6 on International Living's “10 Best Places to Retire Around the World in 2017", and #4 on Time's "The 10 Best Places to Retire Abroad". Penang ranked #10 on CBS's "10 Best Places to Retire Overseas" and Forbes "The Surprising Top 10 List Of Best Places To Retire Abroad".
Nuff said, Penang is awesome (and I'm proudly biased). =P
Huntsville, Alabama - Contrary to most people's perception of the South or Alabama (Alabama ranks in the bottom 10 US states for educational attainment and median income), Huntsville is the home of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Army's Redstone Arsenal, and is ranked #7 on Smartasset's "The Best Places for Pay in STEM Jobs". As illustrated in this Bloomberg article, the high STEM pay vs. the low cost of living in Huntsville allows your salary to stretch further.
In short, I moved from a low cost of living country in Southeast Asia to a state in the US with low cost of living. =) For the purposes of comparison, I will use local currency (without conversion) to better reflect how salaries and expenses line up (i.e. earn RM spend RM, earn $ spend $). Scroll to the end for the converted data. Note that all examples below are based on the spending habits of someone who is relatively frugal (like us). For more detailed data on cost of living, Numbeo has lots of good information on the comparison between both cities.
These are pretty good estimates for slightly above average salary (before taxes) in both cities.
Based on the 'guesstimated' numbers above, this is how long it will take for you to be financially independent according to Mr. Money Mustache's Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement:
P.S. It may not be obvious, but every dollar you spend directly impacts how much you are able to save and invest.
This is just a simplified calculation. You can play around with the numbers on Networtify.com
Here are my two cents:
January 2021 December 2019