Retirement could be financially difficult for many of us. The median retirement account balance of U.S. households near retirement is very low, and many people will be dependent on Social Security benefits. One way to reduce your cost of living is to retire to a lower cost country. U.S. dollars will go much further in Southeast Asia and South America than in the U.S. Thailand is a great example of a country many people contemplate as a retirement spot. Here are seven reasons to consider retirement in Thailand:
A lower cost of living. The cost of living in Thailand is generally more affordable than in the U.S. You can buy a comfortable one-bedroom condo in the central Chiang Mai area for around $50,000 or rent one for about $500 per month. Food, transportation, entertainment and other necessities are all more affordable there. Many expats can live a very comfortable lifestyle on $1,500 per month in Thailand. It’s a great alternative to scraping by in the U.S.
Thai food. Thai restaurants are a favorite for many of us. If you like Thai food, retiring in Thailand will be a foodie paradise for you. There are many different dishes that just aren’t available in the U.S. You can also take cooking classes for an affordable price to learn how to make those dishes. Exploring Thai cuisine can be a great retirement activity if you have the time. While the food is much spicier in Thailand, you can always ask the restaurants to make your food without chili peppers.
Foreign foods are available. Of course, we all like our comfort foods, too. The good thing about Thailand is the availability of cheese, wine and peanut butter. There is also a huge diversity of restaurants to choose from. Japanese sushi, Indian curry, Korean BBQ, pizza and pubs are there in the bigger cities if you need a taste of home. Foreign restaurants are much more expensive than local places, but it can be a great comfort for expats.
Warmer climate and exotic setting. There are many scenic beaches in Thailand, and the weather is tropical. If you are tired of dealing with snow and ice, then an umbrella drink in Phuket might be a good fit for you. It takes a little time to get used to the humidity, but that’s what the AC is for.
Travel headquarters. Thailand is a great starting point for traveling to the rest of Asia. There are many discount flights to the surrounding countries. China, Japan and Vietnam are all fascinating and worth a visit. Living in Thailand for a couple years could give you an opportunity to thoroughly explore these foreign cultures.
Retirement visa. Retirement visas for Thailand are available to foreigners age 50 or older. These retirement visas are good for one year and can be renewed without leaving the country. If you can show proof of income (from a pension or other source) of about $2,100 per month or a bank account with at least $26,000, then you can apply for a retirement visa.
Many foreigners. Thailand had over 22 million foreign visitors in 2012. If you stick to the well-worn paths, you will be able to meet many expats and tourists. Most local people are used to foreigners, and won’t stare too much. There are many businesses that cater to foreigners including restaurants and grocery stores.
However, there are some downsides to retirement in Thailand. Medical care can be puzzling in Thailand, and foreigners will probably need international health insurance. The language barrier can also be difficult if you’re not open to learning something new. It's a good idea to take an extended visit before moving to be sure you can handle it. But if the culture agrees with you, retiring in a more affordable location like Thailand can significantly reduce your living costs.
Joe Udo blogs at Retire By 40 where he writes about passive income, frugal living, retirement investing and the challenges of early retirement. He recently left his corporate job to be a stay at home dad and blogger and is having the time of his life.