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Retirement Options for Foreigners in Thailand

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Retirement options for Foreigners in ThailandWe’re back from our Thailand retirement research trip and I’m going through a serious case Thai food withdrawal. Good food is so affordable and there are many eating options there at anytime of the day. Now that we are back in the United States, we’re going back to cooking for ourselves, and I am not looking forward it at all. Anyway, we had a great trip and found out a lot more information about retiring and living in Thailand. I primarily focused on Chiangmai because I have some families there. The cost of living in Chiangmai is much cheaper than Bangkok, but higher than the countryside. I think it’s a good middle ground. Today we will look at a few retirement options for foreigners in Thailand.

  1. Self Directed Early Retirement – You are relatively healthy and you don’t need a lot of medical attention. We’ll just look at what it cost to live in Thailand.
  2. Resort Retirement – This option is for older people who may need more medical assistance.
  3. Government retirement facility and Wats.

Thailand cost of living

The cost of living in Thailand is more affordable than in the US. In general, people there make much less money than we do. The minimum wage in Thailand is about $8.50 per day. That’s less than the hourly minimum wage here in Oregon. In Bangkok, I saw a wanted sign at a Dairy Queen in an upscale mall. The salary for a full-time regular employee starts at $300 per month and $400 for managers. That’s not much, but what about educated workers?

One of my cousins just graduated from college and she is looking for a job now. She told me the starting salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree is 15,000 baht or $420 per month. Wow, that seems very low. Can Thai people really afford to live on such a low salary?

Luckily, young people usually live at home in Thailand and they have minimal cost of living expenses. In Thai culture, the kids only move out after they get married. They can build up their savings and salaries for a while before having to fund their own family.

Option 1 – Self Directed Early Retirement in Thailand

Of course, foreigners have higher standard of living than Thais and we’d probably need to use more money. I want to take a year off and travel around the world when RB40Jr finished 4th grade. We will probably spend at least 4 months in Thailand and use it as a home base to travel around SE Asia. Chiangmai is also a good retirement location for us once RB40Jr goes off to college. The cost of living is much more affordable there than in Portland and we can live a more comfortable lifestyle with our budget.

We won’t be able to move to Chiangmai for long time, but it’s still good to have an idea how much it would cost to live there. Here is what I found out on this trip.

Cost of living

Housing – The cost of housing hugely depends on the location and size of where you’d like to live. You can rent a condotel room in town for about $300 per month. This is just like a hotel room located in a condo complex. A larger place like a one bedroom condo with a separate living area would cost at least $400 per month. These small condotel units only have kitchenettes and you don’t do much cooking inside them. My dad has a propane stove setup on the balcony for minor cooking, like for frying eggs. A 2 bedroom condotel unit starts at around $500 per month.

I didn’t look at houses because condos are so much easier. You don’t have to do much maintenance and they usually have amenities like a pool, a fitness room, and security guard. A house is also generally further out and you’d probably need a vehicle to get around.

Food – Food is cheap and plentiful in Thailand. If you eat like a local, you should be able to spend less than 300 baht each per day on food, $8.50.  That’s eating out every meal. We’d probably spend less because we’d eat breakfast at home and cook occasionally. Buying premade food at the local market also is an affordable option. If you eat like a foreigner, then expect to pay around 1,000 baht per day or $28. This would be eating in nicer restaurants in malls where a meal costs 200-400 baht. For the 2 of us, we’d probably spend $500 per month on food.

Groceries – I’m not sure here, but it shouldn’t cost that much. You can get pretty much everything you’d ever want from the supermarket. Soap, laundry detergent, shaving stuff, etc… I think $50 per month should cover this.

Transportation – A short taxi ride usually costs around $2. There are cheaper options if you know how to catch the buses and songtaews. You could get a moped, but I think that’s quite dangerous. I’d prefer to live close in and walk or pay for transportation as needed. The public transportation in Bangkok is a lot better than in Chiangmai and it’s very easy to live without a vehicle in Bangkok. I think $50 per month should cover transportation.

Utilities and other bills – This really depends on how much electricity you use. If you crank up the AC all day and use a lot of hot water, then you’d pay more. Internet is also pretty affordable. We paid $14 for a month of wifi access when we were there. A load of laundry that we sent out to be washed and folded cost $2. A thorough cleaning service would cost about $15 per visit. I think you only need this once or twice per month. In a 1 bedroom condo, everything should cost less than $100 per month.

Entertainment – This one really depends on you. I’d probably buy books and go catch a movie once in a while to get out of the heat. I’ll give us a generous entertainment budget of $400/month.

Medical – I have no idea. If you’re healthy, you can self insure and go to the hospital as needed. A consultation with a doctor in a private hospital costs about $20 and much less in a public hospital. The public hospital is very crowded, though. Thailand has public healthcare and the queue can be very long at a public hospital. I think we’d be okay at our age if we put $400/month into a medical fund. An a comparison, an emergency appendicitis and 2 nights stay at a private hospital cost about $1,000. After a couple of years, we’d have enough for emergency care. Health insurance costs for our age cost about $2,000-$3,000 per year, but the premium can increase quickly.

How much it would cost us?

So for 2 of us, this is what early retirement in Thailand would cost.

 

Housing $400
Food $500
Grocery $50
Transportation $50
Utilities $100
Entertainment $400
Medical $400
Total $1,900 per month

 

For under $2,000 per month, we could have a relatively luxurious retirement in Chiangmai, Thailand. We could eat out every day and cook just once in a while. Major cleaning and laundry services can be outsourced to the locals. For entertainment, we could go see movies, try a fancy restaurant once in a while, buy books, take classes, visit some local sites, and the internet is available. Going swimming and relaxing by the pool is a great option because it is so hot and humid there. That’s a pretty luxurious lifestyle compared to how we live now. In the US, we do most things ourselves because the labor cost is so high.

This budget is pretty extravagant and we probably could cut the cost down quite a bit if we need to. We already own a modest 1 bedroom condo so we only have to pay the property tax and HOA fee. I think we could live a comfortable lifestyle for about $1,000 per month as long as we’re relatively healthy. The medical expense is the big variable here, but we are pretty healthy now. Actually, I could use Thailand public healthcare. That would help cut down our healthcare expenses when we’re older. Once we need more medical assistance, we’ll need to look at option 2.

*Note – You can get a retirement visa if you are over 50 and have about $22,500 deposited in a bank in Thailand. The visa needs to be renew once per year and can be done by an agent. Foreigners can purchase a condo, but not a house with land.

Option 2 – Retirement Resort

My dad and I toured a retirement resort near Chiangmai when I was in town. The Care Resort Chiangmai is a retirement home geared toward foreigners that’s about 20 km (30 minute drive) from central Chiangmai. They were actually a regular resort at one time and they have been in the process of converting to a retirement resort over the last few years. Currently, they have about 15 retirement clients and will stop taking regular guests once they have 30 full-time clients.

This is an interesting option because retirement homes are quite rare in Thailand. The culture there is different in that the kids are expected to take care of their parents when they’re old. The oldest son stays at home and gradually takes over the household as the parents get older. Nowadays, people move around more so every arrangement is a little different. Usually the older generations move in with the kids if they live far away from their home.

I think the Care Resort is a great option for older retirees. There are many retirement homes in the US, but they are quite expensive. For a lower price, you can live in a much nicer setting and enjoy a more luxurious lifestyle. The facility seems very good with competent help.

Health

There are 2 full time nurses at the retirement resort and 26 helpers. Wow, that seems like a lot of helpers. This is just the medical staff and not including other resort personnel like gardeners, cooks, and maintenance staff. The medical staff is trained in CPR and the full array of senior healthcare skills. The nurses visit each client at least once per day for a health checkup.

There are 24/7 care support and guests can call for assistance from their rooms. They also have access to a medical alert that will bring the staff running. The nurses can take care of minor issues and healthcare maintenance, but guests would need to go to the hospital for major problems. Transportation to the hospital costs about $18 for a roundtrip with an accompanying staff member. The medical staff seems competent and they are very nice. The health staff also speaks some English.

Retirees would need to pay the hospital fee out of their own pocket. This is not included in the price of the retirement home.

Facility

The facility was quite impressive and it would be quite an extravagance here in the US. There are 2 nice pools, saunas, a fitness room, a small lake/pond, and a restaurant in a calm oasis.

The restaurant is particularly nice because the guest can have a meal whenever they want. The meal options are quite good with a mix of western and Asian choices. The restaurant is fully staffed and meals are cooked to order. Retirees could set a time to meet up with friends and socialize during meal time. The restaurant is in a nice outdoorsy setting.

The pools and saunas look good, too. Those would be useful when the sun is lower. The spa is at the club house near the pool, but spa services cost extra. The lake is neat, too. You could borrow fishing gear if you like fishing. The ground is good for walking around in and getting some exercise. However, it is not flat there. A little slope is fine when you’re stable on your feet, but it might be harder if you’re in a wheelchair or need a walker. You could get a staff to push the wheel chair as needed.

Accommodation

The rooms are quite nice and it feels like an all inclusive resort. Each unit is in a garden setting with a furnished outdoor terrace. Guests could add plants and other personal touches to make the space more homey. The basic units are like a good size hotel room with a bed, seating area, a small kitchenette, and a restroom. Bigger units are available at a higher price.

This is the basic room. It feels pretty roomy.

This is a bigger unit with a separate living area.

Activities

Older retirees need to have fun activities to fill their days, too. Life would be very boring if you sit around all day without anything to do. I think a major part of a healthy retirement should involve socializing with other people. The Care Resort provide various activities like arts and crafts, game nights, fishing, cultural events (like Loy Krathong), fishing, and supervised fitness activities.

There is also a computer room and staff to help retirees get online. Skype is available on the computer. The resort is equipped with WiFi for those retirees who are more savvy with connected gadgets.

The resort provides optional shopping trips and retirees can go into town at least once per week. They also go on longer trips to visit local attractions once per month. There are orchid farms, elephant camps, snake farms, butterfly farms, historical sites, and other sightseeing spots in the area.

Cost

The price structure is a bit complicated due to the variety of rooms and level of care needed. Currently, a basic single occupancy room starts at about $1,300 per month for long term occupancy (12 month contract). The price increases to $1,800 for double occupancy.

Bigger and lakeside units cost more. You’d probably need to visit and see if those nicer units would be worth extra. They cost $350 to $850 more depending on the unit. The unit with a separated living area pictured above would cost about $1,900 per month for single occupancy.

A great idea

All in all, I think this is a great idea for certain situations. This type of retirement could be a great fit for quite a few people here in the US. For example, if you don’t have family in the US, why not get more bang for your buck by retiring in Thailand. The cheap retirement homes here in the US seem somewhat dreadful. It would be much nicer to retire in a small all inclusive resort overseas. An average social security check would cover the cost of a basic unit and it seems like a nice retirement.

Option 3A – Government run retirement facility

The third option isn’t available to foreigners, but we stumbled into a Thai government sponsored retirement facility while we were on our way back to Chiangmai. This is a pretty interesting idea and my dad had never heard of it.

The way it works is somewhat strange. The government opened this facility and anyone can come in and build a small house in one of the 32 lots. This modest home would cost about $10,000 and that’s the major expense a retiree would have. The service is provided on a first come basis and once you’re in, you’re set. The government provides transportation to the market and to minor health checkups. You have to be functional, though. If you need more medical assistance, then you’d need to find another facility because they are not equipped to provide that level of care.

There is a waiting list and once someone is ready to move out, the next person on the list will need to negotiate a move out fee. The newcomer should pay the current occupier something to help them move to a new facility. This is how the retiree recoups the cost of building a home.

This is a government run facility so the option is only Thai citizens. I thought I’d include it here because it is an interesting option that I’ve never heard of. My dad put his name on the waiting list. This is not a resort and there are no amenities like a pool or a fitness room.

Option 3B – Wats

My dad said his plan for retirement is to become a monk at a Wat (temple). The Wat and the Thai government will take care of the monks. That sounds like a good plan, but I don’t know if my dad can really be a monk. He is an extreme type A personality and that doesn’t fit with my image of a monk.

A foreigner can become a monk in Thailand, but I’m not sure about how healthcare would work when you’re old. Also, it’d probably be difficult if you don’t speak the language.

Retiring in Thailand

So those are a few retirement options in Thailand. Early retirees like me could go with option 1 for many years and live a nice lifestyle with a modest cost. Once they need more medical assistance, they can transition to option 2. I’m sure the number of retirement homes will increase in the future because people are having less kids these days and family ties are loosening.

Would you consider relocating to a different country to upgrade your lifestyle after retirement?

I’m in a unique position because I have a Thai citizenship and I speak the language. This last trip to Thailand was really great and we’re toying with the idea of living there on a more permanent basis. We still want our kid to grow up and go to school in the US so we’ll have to wait until that’s done. Life flies by, though. RB40Jr will be grownup and out of the house before we know it. After that, it would be much easier to move abroad.

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{ 66 comments… add one }
  • Michael @ Financially Alert November 28, 2016, 1:26 am

    Welcome back, Joe! Retiring in Thailand sounds like a pretty cool option for you. Like you said, life flies by pretty quickly and the kids will be out of school sooner than we think. It looks like a pretty nice lifestyle and the right price, plus you already have family and speak the language.

    For me, I think I’d still want to live out my remaining days in the U.S. Of course, the cost of living will be higher, but it’d be more for staying nearby family. It certainly would be nice though to have a condo somewhere abroad in another country to visit for a few months during the year. It’s always great to change up your environment and experience other cultures. I know my wife would definitely vote for a place in France.

    • retirebyforty November 28, 2016, 10:42 am

      Life in the US is very comfortable, but a bit bland. Thailand was so full of life and energy. I guess it’s just too comfortable here. We’d probably live part-time in various location when we fully retire. It really depends on family ties at that point.

  • Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes November 28, 2016, 1:58 am

    Living costs definitely seem to be lower in Thailand, that’s fairly clear.

    I have a hard time visualizing myself living in a retirement home, but I suppose one day it could become a reality. It’s nice to know there are cheap places in Thailand that are also nice.

    I think the biggest challenge wouldn’t be the cost though…it would be the distance from family and friends. It might be pretty lonely living in a foreign country far from my family where I don’t speak the language.

    That said, I’d like to live in Thailand for a year just to experience it! (And eat some fantastic food!)

    • retirebyforty November 28, 2016, 10:46 am

      I don’t like retirement homes either, but that option seems much nicer in Thailand. I doubt the kid would visit much anyway.
      You can skype with families. I’m sure technology would improve quite a bit over the next 30 years. Most of the retirees in that resort are from the US and UK. The guests can communicate with each other very well and the staff are not too bad with English.

  • Alberto November 28, 2016, 2:35 am

    After several trips to Puerto Rico and other places in Central and South America living abroad is not an option us.

    • retirebyforty November 28, 2016, 10:47 am

      What was the problem? Was it too rustic?
      Thailand is much more developed these days. You can get pretty much anything you want. The quality of life is very good if you have the money to pay for it.

  • Pennypincher November 28, 2016, 3:37 am

    Thank you for sharing your epic, awesome trip with us, RB40 family!
    I always look at other places to live, and think, is the grass really greener on the other side??
    I would want to know even more, like- looks too good to be true, what is the real catch, the real downsides? Unstable governments, questionable politics? Extreme weather seasons that can really wreak havoc? Hey! We can get all this in many states here in the US, ha, ha!
    Everyone is truly different, that’s for sure. I see many people here in the states have a summer and a winter residence, then worry and deal with all that.
    There are legitimate reasons I stay put here. And yes, unfortunately pay a premium for it too.
    The years do fly by. It’s good to have a plan in place. Bravo to you, Joe.
    The thought of your dad as a monk made my whole day! Loved this post!!!!!!

    • retirebyforty November 28, 2016, 10:50 am

      One downside is the visa. You need to renew it every year and check it with the office every 90 days. An agent can do this, though. The bureaucracy is pretty bad in Thailand. The government is somewhat unstable, but it should not make any difference to foreigners. There have been many military coup in the past and they didn’t really affect the tourists.
      Weather is hot and humid. It’s pretty bad when you first get there, but your body would acclimatize in due time. The spring is not good in Chiangmai. The farmers and agriculture corporations burn the field to prepare for planting. We’d probably take that time to travel abroad.
      I can’t picture my dad as a monk at all, but I guess there are all personalities types there too…

  • Josh @ Biglaw Investor November 28, 2016, 4:02 am

    Awesome to see the breakdown for option 1. I think that’s something only you could provide, so glad you wrote it up for us. I can’t see retiring to Thailand permanently for the reasons mentioned above (friends and family) but I can certainly see living there for 6 months. I’m also wondering if it’d be fun to split my time between two locations: live somewhere for 7-9 months out of the year (home base) and then spend winter somewhere else. I think that might be the optimal combination of staying close to friends and family, having fun new experiences and also reducing my overall cost of living.

    • retirebyforty November 28, 2016, 10:52 am

      Thanks! Our plan is to split time too. Maybe stay in Thailand for a year and move back to the US for a year. It really depends on the family at that time. Once the kid move out, I don’t see the need to stick around much. We can skype or call.

  • The Green Swan November 28, 2016, 4:30 am

    Welcome back, Joe! What a great trip for your family and I appreciate you chronicling it.

    I’m not sure I could retire abroad, but I’m all about traveling much more when I’m in retirement and immersing myself in various locations and cultures. Thailand is definitely on the list now and I look forward to visiting one day.

    • retirebyforty November 28, 2016, 10:53 am

      Thanks! Thailand is a great place to visit. It’s very convenient now because a lot of people speaks a little English. There are a ton of things to do as a tourist.

  • Jay @ ITF November 28, 2016, 4:54 am

    Thanks for the summary of retirement options. I can’t believe what a great lifestyle you could have for a relatively small monthly outlay. Very intriguing!

    • retirebyforty November 28, 2016, 10:54 am

      The thing I worry about is inflation. In the past, you could afford full time maid, drivers, and other staff. Now, it’s more expensive. In 30 years, we might not be able to retire to a luxurious lifestyle in Thailand anymore. The inflation rate is higher than in the US.

      • connie munoz November 30, 2016, 1:51 pm

        wow, I love your break down, whats really odd is we are about to move to Puerto Vallarta mexico and the costs are about the same that we have budgeted, we are both 55 and have been researching and planning for 15 years and we just got back a couple weeks ago and secured an apartment, with the peso to American dollar, our rent for a one bedroom apartment is $263.00 a month, and we paid for a year in advance with the current exchange. we actually got a really good deal with the apartment, from a Mexican family. I go back for 3 weeks in January by myself and go buy dishes, things we will need and set up place, its furnished but I want to replace somethings. I figure 2000 and I will have it totally redone…then I come home, apply for perm resident( ours will be good for 10 years), we are totally excited and as far as family, think we will see more of them living there, everyone will to stay free, a flight isn’t bad from seattle, I just purchased round trip for 400 dollars for jan visit and only 4 1/2 hour flight…but would be skyping and facebook, we of course will vacation back to visit, but not every year…we are in our mid 50’s and for the 1st year going to feel paying out of pocket for medical and sign up for the Mexican insurance which only we can do because we are perm residents.. we aren’t worried about mexico’s inflation, we are more worried about our investments in the US, we will need them in 10 years… we could not afford to retire in our 50’s if we stay in US….our biggest problem is going to be mail situation, mostly everything is electronic, but say our American debt card and or credit card if lost and or needs renewing…we will have a Mexican bank account but will only keep 10,000 in there and the will just transfer money from us bank to Mexican bank when needed…but we have to have a forwarding address and I don’t want to make a relative responsible for our mail…there are services out there, but im leary of them opening our mail and access to our private info…but there are no mailmen in Puerto Vallarta:)

        • retirebyforty December 1, 2016, 10:24 am

          Good luck on your move! It sounds like you’ve got it figured out. The flight is relatively short and not too expensive. That’s great. I heard the Peso is dropping in value. That’s good for your move, right? No mailman in Puerto Vallarta? Why not? Maybe you can get a PO box or something like that. You could also get an electronic PO box in the US. They’ll scan all your documents and you can access them online. I think that’s how it work.
          We’re thinking about traveling to a closer location this year and may visit Mexico. I’ll email you if we head down that way. 🙂

  • Mr Crazy Kicks November 28, 2016, 5:13 am

    I like the sound of retirement in Thailand! Those are some incredibly low costs for eating out every day and having your laundry done for you. And the retirement home sounds like an excellent option for elderly, much cheaper than what you pay here for such comprehensive amenities.
    We will have to get out there soon, thanks for sharing all the in depth info!

    • retirebyforty November 28, 2016, 10:56 am

      I’m happy to show you more of Thailand. 🙂
      The cost of living is much lower than in the US. Labor and food are very cheap in comparison. Other luxury items like car and housing are pretty expensive. I hope you visit soon!

  • David Michael November 28, 2016, 7:23 am

    Great reports Joe about retirement and travel to Thailand. I love traveling there, especially using it as a base for surrounding countries such as Burma, Cambodia, and Laos. Burma (old name) is absolutely fascinating. Fortunately, I was one of the first travelers there just after it opened up to western tourism.

    The reality for my wife and myself, however, is that we like the USA with all of its crazy ups and downs, and have enjoyed retirement for 22 years with family spread over the American West. We have lived five of those years in the Middle East and Mexico while teaching ESL at the university level and traveled worldwide much of the time on a $3000 a month budget.

    I’ll be 80 in a few weeks and we have decided to keep the USA as our home base, despite the election results. If we did move to another country full time, it would be New Zealand, South Island, in the town of Nelson. Love the peacefulness of New Zealand and the fact it’s a lot like the Pacific Northwest 50 years ago. I missed the opportunity of buying a lovely small home there a few years back for $30,000. Today it would be more like $100,000.

    We live frugally in Oregon on $3000 a month but I find it necessary to augment our income with working seasonally for special adventures. Right now we are converting a new van into a camper which should take care of our domestic travels for the next ten years. Note! 80 is the new 60 when it comes to retirement. Save lots and lots of money for your journey.

    • Dr Mo November 28, 2016, 9:54 am

      David, your story sounds great. Sort of a funny coincidence, I live in Portland as well and have been looking at New Zealand for a possible career move or even retirement. Thanks for mentioning the South Island, would love to learn more about New Zealand if you can point me towards a good source or if I could pick your brain about it.

      Just like Joe, I am really drawn to Southeast Asia too, I’ve traveled there quite a bit and it has some great upsides.

    • retirebyforty November 28, 2016, 10:59 am

      It must have been an incredible experience in Burma when it first opened up. I have been to the border towns a few times, but haven’t visited the big cities and main sites.
      The US is a very comfortable place to live. I’d be reluctant to move abroad full-time as well. Life is better here than in most countries. I love New Zealand too. The laid back vibe was great when I visited about 12 years ago.
      Happy 80th in advance. Enjoy!

    • Ms. Montana November 28, 2016, 11:24 am

      David, this is awesome! I love everything you just said. I know you are probably way too busy to start blogging, but if you did I would be there reading! I would love to hear more of your story. Thanks for sharing this little snippet!

      • David Michael November 29, 2016, 3:25 pm

        Thanks Ms. Montana. Happy Travels!

  • Dividend Growth Investor November 28, 2016, 8:02 am

    Thank you for sharing the option for retirement in Thailand. It is nice to know that you can get a residence visa if you are over the age of 50.

    I am actually thinking about potentially retiring early in Eastern Europe. There are places that are really affordable there, with high quality of life.

    Best Regards,

    DGI

    • retirebyforty November 28, 2016, 11:00 am

      Eastern Europe sounds nice too. I’d love to live there for a year or two and explore the area. What countries are you thinking of? What’s the visa situation?

      • Dividend Growth Investor December 1, 2016, 6:37 am

        If you want to stay in the EU, the visa situation may be more challenging. Some countries allow you to invest a couple hundred thousand euros in property and you can obtain residence this way.

        I am thinking something in the likes of Romania, Bulgaria, Greece. I have heard that Portugal and Cyprus are other popular destinations. Though Portugal is not Eastern Europe 😉

        We are similar to your situation, because we are not just Americans. The only difference is that we are EU residents. This is why I am not worried about residence – but this is also why I do not know the ins and outs of moving there permanently as someone who is only a US citizen. I know that some retired UK, Italian and German readers have moved abroad, but they are EU citizens (The UK is for now at least 😉 )

  • Mrs. Picky Pincher November 28, 2016, 8:13 am

    Wow, I had no idea that the cost of living was comparatively so low! I would definitely consider retiring to a foreign country, especially with a lower cost of living.

    It’s funny because in America things are so expensive that we recommend insourcing to save money–but if we were to retire in Thailand the cost of outsourcing would be so cheap. The time it takes for us to do, say, laundry, would be better spent on other pursuits when it could be outsourced so cheaply. I think it’s all about balancing between the choice of having time or money. I personally lean more towards the “time” part, myself.

    • retirebyforty November 28, 2016, 11:01 am

      Right! Labor is so expensive here that we need to do most things ourselves. In Thailand, we could hire out a lot of the chores because labor comparatively cheap. I would love to have more time for myself. Life is too busy here in the US.

  • Lazy Man and Money November 28, 2016, 8:22 am

    I thought it was interesting that the housing costs for a small place, were essentially the same as an college graduate’s starting salary… around $400/mo. (If I’m understanding that right.)

    Does the salary ramp up greatly from there? Otherwise how could people afford to pay ~100% of their salary to housing?

    Retiring in Thailand definitely sounds like it could make sense for you. My only thought is that you could probably live even more luxuriously given the costs. What a good “problem” to have ;-).

    • retirebyforty November 28, 2016, 11:07 am

      Like I mentioned, most young people live at home. There are cheaper options, but foreigners probably wouldn’t like it. Older homes should be much cheaper to rent. You might have to use a squat toilet and take a shower with a bucket. Thais are used to that lifestyle, but I don’t think foreigners would like it.
      I’m not sure how the salary ramps up. Most of my cousins still live at home…

  • Welcome back Joe! I love the looks of that Retirement Resort option! I’m not sure we would be able to retire overseas because we are taking care of our parents here in the U.S. Maybe down the road, I could see living abroad for part of the year though! A lot depends on our own kids and where they end up living and working. Thanks for sharing your stories and photos – sounds like an awesome family adventure.

    • retirebyforty November 28, 2016, 11:08 am

      Thanks! The retirement resort seems quite impressive to me. It’s luxury compare to the retirement home here in the US.
      Living abroad part time is a great option. Although, it would be more difficult to travel when you’re older. We were beat after flying back.

  • Ms. Montana November 28, 2016, 8:46 am

    Thanks for all the great updates. I really want to try traveling with the kids to southeast Asia when the kids are a bit older. So it was great to hear a parent’s perspective. I spent a month in the Philippines when my oldest was 4. It wasn’t a well planned trip, and a bit of a bust. But it definitely peaked my interest in travel outside of the US and Europe.

    • retirebyforty November 28, 2016, 11:09 am

      We had some rough spots, but overall it was a good trip. The heat and humidity was the biggest problem for our kid. He kept wanting to go back to the AC room/car. Hopefully, he could adjust better when he’s a bit older.

  • JP November 28, 2016, 9:26 am

    Great article. Like most here, I could not see myself retiring anywhere in Asia. I had been traveling for business around the world for over 20 years. Sadly, I am not even a fan of the food (then again, my Latin American roots pull too hard). Latin America? Now, that is a place I can retire to. The warmth of the people, pleasure to be alive under any circumstances, the food, the beautiful women (oh my wife knows what I think). Oh, the beauty of culture!

    • retirebyforty November 28, 2016, 11:10 am

      I’d love to live in Latin America for a few years too. It’d be great to immerse ourselves in the culture. Mrs. RB40 speaks a little Spanish so it’d be fun. She love the food too. I enjoy any type of food. 🙂

  • Mike Drak November 28, 2016, 9:58 am

    Welcome back Joe and thanks for doing all the research for us. My mother is in a nursing home here in Canada and I’m concerned about the quality of care she receives. She needs more interaction with the health care workers but due to cost constraints most patients end up being isolated in their rooms for most of the day. She could get this in Thailand but then you would need to deal with the family issues etc. Something to think about but it’s always a tough decision thinking about leaving behind friends and family. just wish there was a better solution.

    • retirebyforty November 28, 2016, 11:13 am

      It’s a tough decision. The labor cost is so high here in comparison. I was shocked to hear there are 2 nurses and 26 helpers for 15 clients. Can you imagine that here? Long distance would be a problem for the family. Maybe you could live in Thailand for a few year while your elders are in the retirement homes there? That might be a good solution for the right family.

  • Lord Metroid November 28, 2016, 10:00 am

    1900 USD per month, sounds kind of expensive!
    I live as a single person on 1300 USD in Sweden. I got a 100 sqm newly built house 15 minutes away from a rural town and a car.

    • retirebyforty November 28, 2016, 11:15 am

      That’s for a couple living relatively luxuriously. We wouldn’t have to do much chores and we’ll have a lot of time for ourselves. If we live the same lifestyle as here in the US where we do everything ourselves, it would probably be under $1,000.
      Do you have a mortgage on your new house and car? $1,300 seems very low for Sweden.

  • Dan November 28, 2016, 11:41 am

    Like many people have mentioned it would be ideal to retire in the u.s. for me/probably majority of u.s. citizens. But such low expenses are quite enticing. Depending on investment opportunities, having a net worth of only $300-500k might be enough to get by in Thailand/similarly situated countries.

    • retirebyforty November 29, 2016, 5:55 am

      The lower cost of living is the main attraction. Many people can afford to retire in their 40s in those countries. Thailand is getting more expensive because it is very developed now. Other countries like Vietnam would be much cheaper still.

  • Tawcan November 28, 2016, 11:54 am

    Interesting article, money definitely go a lot further in Thailand so retire there might be a good idea, especially if you can find the right living arrangement that will work for you and your family. 🙂

  • Jason in Vancouver November 28, 2016, 12:18 pm

    The information on Thai salaries is very interesting. I knew it was low but it’s always insightful to get info from different reference points. The income disparity in Thailand is kind of sad though.

    While I understand the “Self Directed Early Retirement in Thailand” scenario is supposed to accommodate a somewhat more luxurious lifestyle in Chiang Mai and is likely flexible enough for a lower spend, it does seem a bit expensive. That’s roughly how much we spend living in Vancouver, excluding travel after the current USD/CDN exchange rate. $1900USD/month x 12 months = $22.8k USD ~ $30.5k CDN. With the current exchange rate, living in Chiang Mai would roughly be a wash for us from a financial perspective. However, we’d love to spend some extended time there once retired and perhaps explore the region more.

    • retirebyforty November 29, 2016, 5:57 am

      Well, if you cook most meals, then the food bill would be much less. Everything could be cut back quite a bit.

  • ASAPRetire November 28, 2016, 1:08 pm

    Great post on the specifics, thanks a lot. I´m considering 3-6 months a year during retirement in SE Asia, Thailand definitely is high in the short list. Costs are great and culture-livability seems excellent. I was thinking also about Vietnam, will you go soon? thanks for the blog!

    • retirebyforty November 29, 2016, 5:58 am

      I would love to visit Vietnam. I think the cost of living is lower there, but it’s a bit less developed than Thailand. We’d probably visit Vietnam when we take our year off to travel in 4-5 years.

  • Martin - Get FIRE'd asap November 28, 2016, 2:22 pm

    Hi Joe, welcome home. I know what you mean about Thai food withdrawl. I get this everytime I come back from SE Asia.

    I’ve been following your Thai trip with interest as we are in the initial stages of investigating places we’d like to live in Asia in a few years time. I have a long time love of the region and living over there has been a long term goal for me after retirement.

    Our plan is to take some extended trips to our shortlist of countries, which include Thailand, Bali, Malaysia and Cambodia, over the next few years to get a feel for various places and determine where we might move to to.

    Bali is booked for February next year and then Thailand and Malaysia in 2018. Our plans will fall into your option 1 at this time but who knows, maybe option 2 will become more attractive as we reach our senior years.

    Thanks for the extensive trip reports over the past few weeks. It’s given us some great ideas for places to visit, and probably avoid as well, lol.

    • retirebyforty November 29, 2016, 5:59 am

      That’s great! I’m sure you will find a place that you’d feel connected to. Cambodia is very neat. The cost of living is very low, but it’s a bit rough too. It feels like Thailand 30 years ago. Thailand is very developed now.

  • Mr. All Things Money November 28, 2016, 3:00 pm

    Thanks for sharing your trip. It was very interesting and informative.

    How easy is it to get by there without knowing the local language? I am assuming most people in Thailand speak some English.

    Thanks

    • retirebyforty November 29, 2016, 6:01 am

      It would be tough to get by without knowing any Thai. Bangkok is okay because a lot of people speaks English. Probably other touristy area too. If you go outside of the tourist track, then not many people speaks English.

  • Vanessa @ Achieving Freedom November 28, 2016, 4:09 pm

    I’m liking the look of the first option, but the food cost seems crazy high! I’m not sure what that breaks down to but we currently spend less than $8.50 a day for 2 people in western Canada.

    I have absolutely considered locating to a different country and being a EU citizen I have a little more freedom in terms of immigration. However at this point it’s looking more likely that we retire to a small town where the cost of living is low and we can be close to nature.

    • retirebyforty November 29, 2016, 6:03 am

      That’s eating out pretty much every meal. If you cook your own food with the local ingredients, then it would be much cheaper. Probably under $100/month. Cheese and other western food ingredients are more expensive so YMMV.
      It’s great that you have an EU citizenship. There are a lot of options for you.

  • linda November 28, 2016, 4:33 pm

    Joe, I thought you want to retire in Big Island, HI? now you set your eyes on Thailand?
    Welcome back!

    • retirebyforty November 29, 2016, 6:03 am

      Eventually, we’d retire to the Big Island. Thailand would be for a few years. We probably won’t stay in Thailand forever.

  • Fiscally Free November 29, 2016, 9:32 am

    Call me crazy, but I like the idea of the retirement resort, even as a 29-year-old. It comes down to the fact that I don’t really enjoy cooking, and I really don’t enjoy washing dishes, so if I can have someone do that for me, I’m all for it.
    It reminds me of the dorms from my college days, but a lot nicer. I loved the dorms, and a nicer version would be great!
    Thanks for sharing.

    • retirebyforty November 30, 2016, 3:33 am

      Well, for $1,300/month even a young retiree can afford it. That’ll free up all your time to do other things. No cooking, no cleaning, no chores, that’s pretty awesome. 🙂

  • James November 29, 2016, 11:33 am

    For me personally, non english speaking countries or non western countries are nice to visit for few weeks, but is out of the question for any long term stay. Too much cultural difference and language barriers to make life worthwhile.

    • retirebyforty November 30, 2016, 3:34 am

      I can understand that. Living abroad isn’t a good fit for everyone. Probably just a few people can do it.

  • savvy November 30, 2016, 9:04 am

    During our time in Chiang Mai, we met a lady from Switzerland who intends to move there in the next few years. I believe she’s already retired but she stated that her doctor believes she will fall prey to Alzheimer’s as she ages. She said assisted-care facilities in Switzerland are ~$10k/mo (US), therefore not really affordable. Accordingly, she’s spending a month in Chiang Mai to scope out her options there.

    One on hand, it’s good that she’s preparing herself and that she has time. On the other hand, I don’t know if I’d want to have to expatriate just to be able to afford the care I need.

    • retirebyforty November 30, 2016, 1:39 pm

      That’s a tough call, but what can you do? $10k/month is very expensive. At the care resort, that level of care would cost much less, maybe $2,000.
      I thought Switzerland has good social services.

  • Finance Solver November 30, 2016, 6:10 pm

    Wow $8.50 a day as minimum wage.. It’s all about relative pricing!

    I’ve heard of the term medical tourism, but I haven’t thought about retiring in another country. Maybe personal finance blogs will start a new movement called retirement tourism? With a little bit of hard work, anything is possible! 😉

  • Tim December 11, 2016, 2:24 pm

    My wife and I are thinking about retiring to Chiang Mai in the next year or two at the most. We probably could do it now.

    My biggest concern is health care first. It could get very expensive if I find myself with a serious but treatable condition while living there.

    The second thing is my wife is a dual citizen, Thai/Canadian. But the marriage visa is an endless thing. Constantly having to report to an immigration office, and renew/pay for the visa every year. I wish they would make it a bit more permanent for legitimately married couples. But wishing gets my no-where. Will just have to do it.

    • retirebyforty December 12, 2016, 9:10 am

      Good luck! I think you can get health insurance, but healthcare is much cheaper in Thailand than here. You should research it a bit more. I think there are some good forums out there.
      Yes, the bureaucracy is bad in Thailand.

  • Endre Fredriksen December 13, 2016, 5:36 am

    One of the best article I read here! Thanks for putting this up. I always find that most expats love Thailands because it’s cheaper here according to them compare to neighboring countries. I came to Thailand the 1st time to Teach English. The biggest requirement is that you have at least a Bachelors degree. My salary is about USD $2,137. and I am supporting a family of 3, I can save up to 1000$ a month, and I can say that I don’t live frugal lifestyle.

    • retirebyforty December 13, 2016, 9:34 am

      Where do you live in Thailand? Your monthly expense is very low. Where does your kid goes to school?
      Thanks for sharing.

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