How much for expat life in Thailand?

How much to live  in Thailand?

We get this question all the time from our American friends.

Many years back when I was living a comfortable life in the fashionable suburb of Palo Alto,  California i recall having discussions with friends about the necessary size of a “nest egg” for retirement at say age 60 or so. If I suggested a figure of a million dollars (for a couple, or, as often as not in America, a man paying support for a former spouse), my friends would shuffle uncomfortably and say well they didnt know about THAT,  which meant that they already had gone through the calculation and had come up with a lot more than a million for a retirement requirement.

Today a million dollars wisely and diversely  invested might yield and income of say 6 percent ( as a 30 year annuity at say 4% return over inflation) which would provide about $5000 a month income. If this were combined with Social security at $2000 a month, the total would be abiut $ 7000 or 200,000 baht per month, a lifestyle the Thai would call “hi-so”. Half a million dollars plus social security would still yield close to 150,000 baht a month. I’m going to call that “the gold standard” for living in Thailand.

But what about lesser amounts, say for younger people or others who have been hard hit by the downturn? Here is our suggested menu:



25,000 baht per month   (830 USD)  Young Thai college graduates are happy to earn this much. Also hardworking service people, waitresses, beaticians working fairly long hours, can earn the same. Young foreign people taking time in Thailand provinces seem satisfied with this wage, which is typical for a beginning english teacher or NGO worker.

60,000 baht per month (2000 USD) Comfortable but simple living in Bangkok for many upper middle class folks from wealthy countries. High salary for English teachers.

100,000 baht per month. Dr Iain Corness, who wrote the excellent book Fahlang and Fahlang Sequel, suggests this as a reasonable middle class level for a foreigner with Thai wife and family in a smaller city. Foreigners in in Bangkok with the same circumstances with children,  whom most send to (expensive) private school, wiil have a hard time on this. Europeans seem generally thrftier than Americans, so this might be realistic for them.

150,000 baht per month. Gold Standard, as suggested above. Good but not lavish living for couple or small family.

Many younger educated Americans have got beyond the stage of attaching importance to  “making a high impression” on others, e.g. via display of the trappings of middle class success — trimmed lawns, cars, mail order fashion, all the latest Apple gear. Genuine inexpensive craft-style furnishings, such as we use in our projects, may be more to their taste. These visitors to Thailand will feel little distress at taking a bus, eating street food, and enjoying a budget nightlife, and will not be disappointed in their experience in Thailand, where a little downward mobility may be the best route to a more enjoyable and satisfying life.

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