Why I am still in Thailand
Reading Farewell Canuck’s submission got me to thinking why I came here three years ago. The reasons Canuck cites are valid for him but certainly not the same for me.
I had been through three marriages, with the last one quite similar in circumstances to Sawadee 2000’s. After several trips to LOS I decided to try to find myself a partner with whom I thought might be enjoyable to live with—not marriage but– live with only. I found one (another story) and after her giving me a “one year free trial”, I am married again. Yes, in Thailand I found a wonderful partner that really makes me happy. In fact, we try to make each other happy and it seems to be working.
So why did I decide my future was in Thailand and not the U.S.—Do the numbers and it became easy to understand why. Using Canuck’s criteria, I will rate the following:
Climate: How can you beat the mild and balmy climate of Southern California living by the beach for all of my life up until 3 years ago? Climate could not be any better anywhere else in the world that I know of. Thailand is hot most of the time, which took me a year to adapt to. I am now used to sweating a lot and drenched when I get back from my 7 AM run (has to be at 7 AM before it warms up more). Ever run on the hard sand of the beach? Oh, how I miss those things. But swimming in my pool after the run is good also.
Winner: Southern California by a lot
Standard of Living: I felt my standard of living was fine in the U.S. just as I find it good for me here. Oh, the sights and sounds are certainly different and you deal with lots of different levels of ignorance here but the trade off in price certainly makes it better for me here.
Winner: A draw
Work: I started drawing a California State Teachers Retirement at 55 (Golden Handshake) and Social Security pension (earned from working at my business—but with 30% federal pension “offset”—deduction- because of the teacher pension) at 65 even though I was still working at my business. Sold the business in 2007 and now employed as an Independent Contractor doing what I enjoyed most, dealing with foreign orders and vendors. The job could be handled via the internet and living anywhere in the world. Being in Thailand has been an asset because I can visit our largest supplier in China easily and quickly. In fact even though the U.S. taxes all world wide income, I am better off tax wise in LOS than in states. Reason, No state taxes!!! I recently requested a raise for my work but my accountant told me that 40% of every dollar of raise would go to the government in the form of taxes. As an Ind. Contractor I have to pay both the employee and employer tax on Social Security so add that 14% to the 25% Income taxes I am already paying for my retirement earnings and I.C. work. It’s a no brainer not to want more income. My next thought was “perks” which are expenses to the company and non taxed for me also. Free flight anywhere in the world for myself and wife once a year— (oh yes, to an area where we do business already—Europe, here we come–YES!!!). I should get it because of some pay I gave up over a different situation.
1. House: We have an inexpensive 1 bedroom condo in Bangkok and a house in Hua Hin. Condo cost 500,000 baht (at that time) and house cost me 5.4 million baht. Where else could I get a condo that cheap and a very nice three bedroom house with 12m pool in a very nice development (by the best and most reliable builder in town) just 15 minutes away from the center of Hua Hin. How much house would $175,000 buy you in Southern California? I guess if you moved 60 to 100 miles inland you might find something descent but definitely not near the beach where I had lived. The townhouse I owned cost me $40,000/year just to support and maintain. When I calculated my monthly retirement income, it was a no brainer that I could not afford to continue to live in Southern California in retirement. Were I to take my “nest egg” and pay down the mortgage I would still have a small mortgage remaining and still have to pay homeowners fees, and California State Income Taxes (another 10% off the top). I am a numbers guy and when I figured that out, Thailand looked interesting. Have paid cash for the house and condo and can live here easily with only the retirement income not counting the extra I get for working for the company.
2. Car: Yes, my Honda Jazz (Fit in U.S.) cost more here in LOS than in the U.S. but not that much more. Maintenance costs for the car are much less than in U.S. so over time it tilts in favor of Thailand. Car Insurance also tilts in favor of Thailand where it is definitely less costly than where I lived in So. California.
3. Household Expenses: That one has to be a toss up unless I can drop my UBC and pick up the Dream Box at 400 baht/month (vs UBC at 2,000 baht/month). Satellite TV is expensive here but probably no more so than in the States. If the Dream box works it will be much less costly. Internet is OK and not any more than I was paying in U.S. plus “feeding” (that is eating) expenses are certainly cheaper here and more exciting too.
Winner: None or Thailand (Dream Box)
Quality of Life: As long as you don’t require medical attention, you're certainly better off in the States. I do enjoy, however, Thailand and all its warts and boils as it causes me to think of how the people live here and are “seemingly” happy with so little. I have been very healthy and do not require constant medical attention as most my age require, so knowing there is good medical care here in Thailand at affordable prices is important to me somewhere in the back of my mind. I keep my “nest egg” (safe in the U.S.) with that in my mind in case anything happens and I should need medical care in the future.
Now I have to add one category I have touched on that Canuck mentioned but did not highlight.
Taxes: U.S. taxes all worldwide income and I cannot escape it since mine all comes through the U.S. I lived in California where the state income tax would add another 10% to the bite. (Interesting note that Calif. has recently tried to ding me for the years I have lived in Thailand—I will win that one). I have already outlined what my income as an Ind. Contractor cost me tax wise. California has nice property taxes which compared to the inflated prices there can be substantial. I earn nothing in Thailand so pay no income taxes here and Thailand does not have a property tax though they're talking about it. My house costs me nothing except maintenance for it.
When my wife and I first got together, I told her I was not interested in taking her to the U.S. to live, as she is very comfortable here with all her friends and family. When I look at all of the above the big point with me is that my daily living expenses are so much more affordable here than in the U.S. I am very happy to be living with a wonderful woman and can live in Thailand at a much more comfortable standard than in the U.S. As a side note with reference to the current devaluation of the U.S. dollar here, I figured from the beginning (07) that, given my monthly income, if the exchange rate got to 25 baht/dollar, then I would have to give a fresh look to our options here in Thailand. Hope that day never comes.
I recognize that everyone’s situation is different but in my case, it works for me.
It's nice to hear the reasons why someone chooses to stay in Thailand as opposed to why they wish to leave. It would be nice to hear why others stay, particularly those who have seriously thought about leaving but ultimately decided to stay.