Retire to This Low-Cost Thailand Haven For $1,500 a Month

“Every day is a new experience,” says Kate Dixon. “We live a 10-minute walk from one of the best food streets. For less than $10, we can both have a delicious Thai meal with a couple of beers. We rarely cook at home anymore, and go out on average once a week to a Western restaurant. Even then, we rarely pay more than $15 for the two of us.

“I only wish we had done this 10 years ago.”

These days, Kate and her husband Howard call the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai home.

“I had always planned on retiring at 70,” says Howard. “After my career in the Navy, I had a variety of jobs for the next couple of decades. Before we moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand, I was working in the field of aged-care nursing. It soon became obvious that my next step would be checking myself into the facility. I was actually older than several of the residents.”

As the magic age of 70 drew closer, the reality of retirement was rearing its head. After a close look at their finances the couple realized they could get much more mileage from their fixed income if they moved to a country with a lower cost of living.

Chiang-Mai
Located near the foothills of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has a cooler, more temperate climate than the rest of country.

“Chiang Mai jumped out at us as the place to move,” says Kate.

They figure their monthly budget is approximately $1,500, excluding their travel expenses. They pay about $410 for their furnished two-bedroom, three-bathroom soi house. Sois are the quiet side streets right in the center of the city. This traditional type of housing is common throughout Thailand and consists of several adjoining homes, each with its own gated entrance and parking area.

Add on a monthly electricity bill of about $28 for the hottest part of the year, and $3.50 for water, and it still amounts to a small monthly total.

“We live off Howard’s Navy pension, plus a part service pension for serving in Vietnam,” says Kate. “I also get a part service pension because I’m his wife.”

This monthly income means the pair satisfy the Thai retirement visa requirements. You must have a monthly income of 65,000 baht ($1,830), or 800,000 baht ($22,480) in a Thai bank account or a combination of both. For couples, it is necessary for only one spouse to satisfy the requirements. The other can “piggyback” as a dependent.

As with other expats, they love the low cost of healthcare in Thailand. They are partially covered with travel insurance, and agree that paying for medical expenses out-of-pocket is very feasible considering the inexpensive cost of hospital visits and the exorbitant cost of medical insurance after the age of 70. Kate said, “A recent visit to a specialist only cost me $14 and Howard only paid $430 for a new porcelain crown.”

When asked if they had any regrets about moving away from family and friends to a new life thousands of miles away, they both cheerfully responded immediately, “Not at all! We are in constant contact with email and Skype.”

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