As Thailand continues to be one of the world’s top retirement destinations, tens of thousands more retirees will move here in 2012. Since I moved to Thailand a decade ago though (to live, not to retire), things have changed quite drastically, so many retirees get a shock when they get here.
In fact, if you’re thinking of retiring to Thailand in 2012, there are a few things you should know before you do.
Cost of Living 2012 – In the 10 years I’ve lived in Bangkok, the cost of living has increased by 15-30 percent on many things. Food is more expensive (both buying groceries and eating out anywhere except at food stalls), the cost of electricity has risen, transportation costs have gone up, and medical care is on the rise. The only saving grace is rent, in many areas, has stayed the same.
While still cheap compared to many western countries, if you think you can live on $500-1,000 a month as in the past, that’s unlikely in most Thai cities. A monthly budget of at least $1,500 is closer to the mark, and $2,000 would be better.
Value of Western Currencies – Don’t forget, almost every retiree is living off retirement funds paid in a western currency. As western currencies continue to fall and the Thai baht to strengthen, the amount of money many foreign retirees are living on every month in Thailand is falling too.
Since I moved to Thailand 10 years ago the exchange rate has fallen from 42 baht to the dollar to 31. That means, the cost of what I can buy with one dollar has increased by 28 percent, when you factor in the increase in the cost of living, many items have gone up more than 45 percent.
When you calculate how much money you’ll need to retire, you must include a variable calculation rate as, if things continue as they’re expected to, the American dollar, British pound, and the euro will likely fall 10-20 percent to the Thai baht in coming years.
Political Instability – As a country, Thailand unfortunately is not politically stable, and since the last military coup in 2006, it’s been much worse. Some Thais I’ve spoken to recently are convinced there will be a civil war in the next few years, as the political divide in the country is so bad.
While I’m not sure I subscribe to that opinion, politics here are a mess. That’s why, if you plan on retiring to Thailand in 2012, you must have alternate plans and an escape route should the worst happen.
Floods in Thailand – More than 30 percent of Thailand has just lived through some of the worst floods in 70 years. My entire area of Bangkok was under 2 1/2 feet of water for two weeks, making it extremely difficult to live and to get around. If the government doesn’t create a more vigorous plan of action, many water experts are reporting we could see the same again this year.
Should you retire to Thailand in 2012 and the flooding does happen, if it’s like last year, you’ll have a good chance of living in an area that floods. That some towns flooded up to neck-height was terrifying to residents and, if you’re living in one of those areas, you will have to evacuate.
Again, always have a plan of escape, so you can afford to relocate for weeks should you need to.
Of course, I don’t intend this article to be all doom and gloom. Thailand is a wonderful country, Thais are lovely, and especially lovely with the elderly. Should you retire to Thailand in 2012, you’re highly likely to fall in love with the country, and the Thais, and have the time of your life.
All I’m saying is, don’t expect everything here to be sunny, tropical and perfect. Thailand, in past years, has had more than it’s fair share of problems, and any western retiree wanting to move here should take those into consideration before making what could be one of the most important decisions of your life.