Hello World!!! Welcome to my first post on retiring to the Land of Smiles...Thailand.
Since we are now going to be friends let me introduce myself. My name is Gerald Hogg (Ged). I am originally from the UK and moved to Australia in 1974. Since then I have travelled the world as a chef working in hotels and restaurants, gold mines, cruise ships, Antarctic supply ships, custom patrol vessels, rig tenders, and oil tankers. In the capacity of working as a chef, I have also lived in Jamaica, Bermuda, Singapore, the Falkland Islands, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and the USA. I retired to Thailand four years ago where I re-invented myself as an author, albeit a struggling author.
I loved living in Australia when I was working for a living and earning a decent wage but unfortunately, like many people who may not have been in a senior management position, a politician or a celebrity, my Australian pension did not stretch far enough to allow me to live the kind of life that I had always planned to live in my retirement. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining, I could live okay from week to week but the income from my pension was not enough to live the same life that I had when I was working and earning a six-figure salary, like taking domestic and overseas holidays, the odd weekend away, eating out at restaurants or visiting club and bars and owning and maintaining a decent car, so I decided to look to other countries where my pension dollars would stretch much further. After travelling to many countries in South-East Asia the USA, Central America and the Caribbean I eventually settled on Thailand as the country to make my home in retirement and when making that decision some of the factors I had to consider were:
1) Quality and cost of healthcare: Forty may be the new 60 but that doesn’t mean that you won’t get sick in retirement. During your earlier retirement years you may still be fit and healthy and should have little need for medical services beyond routine doctor visits but as you get older your circumstances may change and you will need to ensure that the availability of good doctors, quality affordable hospitals and inexpensive pharmaceuticals are in good supply.
2) The cost of living: The cost of living will be an important factor when choosing the best country for you to spend your golden years and you will want to enjoy and embrace your new lifestyle. There is not much point retiring to live in another country if you can’t afford to do all of the things that you planned to do on retirement.
3) Personal safety and a stable government: Safety concerns can become a higher priority as you grow older as you may feel more vulnerable. Some retirement destinations that have a lower cost of living may have economical problems that can then flow on to a higher rate of crime within the country. Regardless of where your views fall on the political spectrum, you will want to ensure that the government in your chosen country is stable and is consistent with what you would normally expect from a government.
4) Climate and weather: Many people choose to move to warmer, sunnier climates when they retire, and the weather will play a big part in your retirement as most countries that attract ex-pat retirees have great weather and thankfully no snow. When you go on a two week holiday to a tropical destination then it’s lovely for two weeks but living in a tropical climate 52 weeks of the year can be challenging for some people, as they may miss the four seasons of their mother country. Most countries in South-East Asia also have wet seasons that can impact on your lifestyle and activities, though for me I quite enjoy the wet season. During my first wet season in Thailand I decided to write and publish a book and I enjoyed the experience so much that I now write a book each wet season. So the wet season can have its advantages with many ex-pats taking up hobbies that they never had time for when working or raising a family such as taking a an online language course, writing their memoir, learning to play a musical instrument or trace their ancestors through genealogy. Some expats use the wet season to visit their friends or families back home or travel to other parts of the world. One of the good thing that I have found about the wet season is that I save money by not going out so much over those three months which I stash away and then use the saved money to travel around Thailand or to go to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos or some other country at the end of the wet season.
5) Lifestyle choices: There is not much point in retiring to the Bahamas if you’re a passionate snow skier likewise you should not retire to Belize if you love live theater and the arts. You will need to consider the activities you plan to be involved during your retirement, and then investigate whether each of those countries offers the amenities that will support your interests. For example, if you love golf are there golf courses in and around the area that you choose to live. If you enjoy fine dining or international cuisine, look at what the local restaurant scene offers. Another thing to consider is how do the locals respond to and befriend ex-pat retirees that come to live in their country. Most Thai people enjoy interacting with "farang" and make you feel welcome, that may not be so in other countries that try to attract ex-pat retirees.
6) Transport: If you plan to travel to domestic or overseas destinations during your retirement, you will want to know that your home is within a reasonable distance of an airport that offers regular flights to many destinations.
Being retired and not having to go to work every day you may not need to own a car. By not owning a car it can save you a lot of money on maintenance, petrol and road taxes not to mention the cost of buying a car and the depreciation over the years. If you decide to go down that road (no pun intended) then you will have to ensure that the public transport in the country of your choice is adequate and that the costs of taxis and other modes of transport are reasonable. Here in Thailand I owned a car and motorbike when I first arrived but I sold the car and kept the motorbike not long after as taxis, motorbike taxis, tuk-tuks and songthaews were so cheap that I hardly ever used the car. Now when I want to drive anywhere in Thailand I rent a fully insured car for about 9,000 baht (US$300) a month and that way I dont have to pay for the maintenance, insurance and road tax if I owned a car.
7) Things that you may miss from home: Usually the good far outweighs the bad when retiring to a new country but you may still miss some of the things that you leave behind, first and foremost being your family and friends. As mentioned before the climate has always played a big part in people’s lives back in their home countries and many people may find that they miss in retirement the seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter (well maybe not winter). Finding food that you like to eat from your own country can also sometimes be a challenge depending on which country that you decide to retire to.
8) Retirement vs Vacation destinations: When you are choosing an overseas retirement destination keep in mind that the places that you have been on vacation in the past are not always good choices for permanent retirement living. What you do when you’re on a two week holiday is not the same as living somewhere 52 weeks of the year, year in year out. I knew a couple who had been holidaying in Malaysia for two or three weeks every year for many years and couldn’t wait to retire to live there permanently. When they eventually retired and moved to Penang they loved it for the first few months but then the constant hot weather started to get to them and they started to miss their friends and family and their old social life and they ended up returning to the UK to live within a year.
Retiring to a new country can be a fulfilling, rewarding and an exciting new chapter of your life but it’s a decision that should not be taken lightly. Retiring overseas is a choice that will require extensive research and clear vision of what you expect your new life in retirement to achieve so that you can be sure that you are making the best choice of affording and enjoying your hard earned retirement.
Stay tuned to find out more about retiring to "The Land of Smiles"