How Much is Enough
“The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life.” Katsumoto, The Last Samurai.
Thanks to all who replied to my first submission publicly and privately. I’m always amazed (maybe I shouldn’t be) at the level of intelligence and insight possessed by the majority of Stickmanites. I received some great emails and it was while reading them that I posed this question to myself. I now pose it to Stickies at large. “How much is enough.” What I mean is, what amount of savings / income are necessary to semi / early retire. I know from previous submissions and Stick’s comments that it is different for everyone, but there must be some way to come to some sort of consensus.
Even before I wrote Heaven on Earth, I had been working out the amount I would need to semi-retire. I had read submissions on Stick from writers who lived on 30,000 baht per month. Others claimed 60,000 is the absolute minimum to meet basic needs. One of the email replies I received from a Pattaya resident opined that 75,000 to 100,000 would meet my needs with not much extra, especially if I wanted to do any drinking in the bars. As an aside, I was recently speaking with the retired stepfather of a friend. I asked him what he thought was the amount one should have available to spend for each year of retirement. He said without hesitation, that I would need $100,000 US (3,173,493.66 baht at today’s exchange rate) to spend each year. And he wasn’t kidding. I would add, however that he lives exactly as he did before retirement: boats; RVs; motorcycles; and a mortgage and he has one of the last real pensions. This startled me. At that amount I can never retire, even after I am dead.
Many readers as well as Stick have been saying that Thailand is changing and not for the better. Higher prices are the norm and they’re just going higher. This is why semi-retirement makes the most sense to me. Part of the year I can spend in the US earning income and the other part I can spend in another country enjoying it. This still begs the question of what is enough. I want to stay in a nice condo in Thailand or wherever, but don’t ever see myself buying in a foreign land. I want enough money to hoist a pint or two at the pub, but not 7 days a week. I want to enjoy the company of a lovely young lady or two, but I probably won’t be bar fining 2 a day like many visiting mongers do. That said, I believe I can enjoy Thailand on around 80,000 baht per month or less. I break it down like this: 20,000 for rent; 10,000 for 2 trips a week to the pub (on my first trip to Thailand I visited The Londoner and The Dubliner and had a great time at both for 1100 baht or less. In fact I landed in the Dubliner an hour after my arrival on a Sunday afternoon quite by accident. Had a great time, owner bought me pint and I met a couple of English expats who took me under their wing and showed me a few places that night, including Cowboy. It seems that locals all know where the deals are. We went to one place where we rolled dice for the price of a beer. Beat the bartender and it’s free, lose and just pay the regular rate. I was 50/50 so I figure everything was half-priced); 10,000 for food; 20,000 for a “girlfriend;” and the final 20,000 for some diversions on the side, perhaps a full English breakfast and a quick stop at Lolita’s.
I know these numbers are going to bring a variety of comments, especially since I have only been to Thailand once. But I have traveled throughout the world, and have experienced many different lifestyles. From eating tamales cooked in an “oven” dug in the dirt covered by a burlap sack in Nicaragua to shopping in London. I’m still not sure which one I enjoyed more.
That said, bring on the comments. Do your worst. Call me a newbie and chastise me for my lack of economic insight. Tell me I don’t know the first thing about retirement or Thailand. Scoff at my budget outline and pummel me with examples of others who fled the Kingdom after trying, and failing, to live on twice what I propose. Like Katsumoto, for me it is not the hope of finding perfection that drives me. It is the hope that along the way I can experience a few life-changing moments, some hearty laughs with friends and an adventure or two. For me, this would not be a wasted life.
80,000 baht a month to live the sort of lifestyle that you outline in Pattaya is definitely doable.
Now it is not my intention to be overly negative or play devil's advocate, but from what I see sitting here in Thailand – and admittedly I am WAY out of touch – life is getting tougher in the West and people are working harder for much the same money. In fact many seem to be really putting in the hours just to keep their job. With all of this in mind, and the way that cost-cutting and austerity look like they will be the buzzwords for the next decade or so, what does that do for anyone who wishes to float backwards and forwards between their country and Thailand?
As a guide, if you want to retire in Thailand now, I reckon if you now have $US 25,000 for every year that you expect to still be alive should cover it. Given that you can earn 6% safely (term deposits in Australia) or a little less in other countries, the principal along with the interest earned *should* be enough to see you through until you croak. So if you're 60 and expect to live until you're 80, $500,000 should do it. If you're 45 and expect to live until you're 85, a million should do it. That would be my rule of thumb – $25,000 a year for each year that you intend to be on this earth, a time frame that none of us can predict with any accuracy!