Stickman Readers' Submissions January 2nd, 2009

To Build Or Not To Build?

I have been having cold sweats lately. I don't have an ulcer, but I think I could develop one soon…This is all about money. Money, money, money…

I have been living in Thailand for 4 full years. I came here to escape after a stressful divorce. Plus, I had just completed a long project. So I needed to relax. I only intended to travel for a few months. Maybe a year, through SE Asia. I ended up staying.

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A quick intro. I was a freshly minted 40 year old 4 years ago. I was always a free spirit and loved to travel. I have worked and lived in many, many countries all over the world. I never owned a house. I was always a "ready to go" type of a person. After my divorce and the "long project", I was left with a savings that most would consider modest. Maybe just enough to afford a modest life in SE Asia, if I was careful with the money. So an early retirement was a possibility. This money was also an assurance that I could escape Thailand whenever I wanted.

Ok, back to Thailand. In the beginning, I immersed myself in mongering. I drank every night, and took girls. It was non-stop. I had a bad novice experience with a girl that cost me a chunk of change.

After about 1 year of this, I decided to stay for good. Stop this mongering non-sense. Find a nice girl. Settle down. Then I met this woman, much younger, non bargirl. We married, and we now have a baby. My relationship with my wife is great, and she is really a good woman. This I know for sure.

What's my problem then?

Over the past 4 years, I didn't have a single penny of income. I lived off of what interest my savings earned, but mostly dipped deeply into my savings… A car, all kinds of household goods, etc, etc. Now, we just bought a piece of land to build a house.

Then, since a few months ago, my gut started to ring alarm bells, which in turn began to spin my brain, and I didn't particularly like my situation.

If I spend the money for the house, my savings will take another large hit, and I would be in the position of not being so financially free… The money left after the house would be such that I would not feel comfortable being "free" to drop everything and get out of Thailand if the need were to arise.

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I suppose some people might say that I could sell the household stuff, land, house, whatever, and get out. But as we all know, if I were to do that, I would probably recover only a small portion of what was spent for them, especially if they are sold in a rush… So, in my mind, everything I bought here, I wrote off. Much like a bank writes off bad debt.

So I am looking at my net cash savings balance after the house, and it's not so pretty.

If I were to live forever in Thailand (the current plan), then this money would still be ok. This is because if I get some part-time job and together with the interest earnings, I can maintain the savings balance without having to dip into it. I think I can find something to do here in Thailand, as I do have a graduate degree from a prestigious U.S. university and good experience.

But…what if I were to leave Thailand, either of my own free will,… or forced? This latter possibility bothers me. If I leave because I wanted a better education for my child, I probably would be planning an orderly exit, so that my Thailand assets would fetch reasonable prices.

If I were FORCED to leave, however, I could be in big trouble. What do I mean by "forced"? I don't mean that I would get into some trouble with the law (I am a straight shooter). I can think of many such forced scenarios:

* Corrupt town official where my house is located is demanding money from me, and it drives me nuts. Finally forcing me to say f*** it and get out of Thailand.

* Neighborhood thugs / scammers constantly trying to get the best of me. Finally forcing me to say f*** it and get out of Thailand.

* Starved and drug addict burglars and robbers always trying to see what's behind the fence. Finally forcing me to say f*** it and get out of Thailand.

If we were living in a rented place, if any of the above occurred, we could just pack up and leave. But if we have a house, we can't do that. But my wife wants a house… And actually, I want one too. I have lived in rented place all my life, as I was constantly on the move. And now that I am over the hill, and with a family, I want our own place with nice things and a sense of permanence.

So basically, what I am saying is that if I do build the house, my financial flexibility is more or less shot. And the possibility of being FORCED to live in Thailand becomes great. I know that many on this site have been talking about getting out of Thailand for this and that reasons. So this does not comfort me any.

I bounced the idea of living a few years each in different countries for the rest of our lives to my wife. She didn't like the idea, and after thinking about it, I, too, think that's silly; I am not 20 anymore.

I guess I am scared that I would be sinking my finances into Thailand, and if it does not work out, I am screwed. I would be stuck. I know that many of you will say that I should just rent. But if I am going to rent in Thailand, I would rather take up the idea above—living in different countries a few years at a time…

I don't think my concerns are due to the conflict between my "free spirit" and being tied-down. If I were in the U.S., or another developed country where illogical / unreasonable / idiotic / insane things don't occur as much, I would not be so conflicted.

Just move to a developed country and settle down? Then I would always be asking myself "what if" I stayed in Thailand.

I don't see many who are in a similar situation. The expats here seem to be either short-term or older expats who don't have a long-term horizon. If there are middle aged expats out there with similar predicament, please drop me an email!

Very, very confused.


Stickman's thoughts:

My advice is fairly simple. Building a house will run about 2 million baht. That's about $US 60,000. In terms of retirement – and retirement at the grand old age of 40, that is small money. I'll give you the same advice I gave another reader recently who funnily enough is the same age as you. I think you retired too early. I think you need to replenish your finances. Your finances are too tight for someone who wishes to raise a family.

On the matter of being forced out of your home, well that is one of the big negatives of buying or building in Thailand…

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