Retirement Around the World – Thailand

Published on August 15, 2013

Thailand brings to mind so many things: beautiful beaches, exotic foods, and a fascinating culture.  Thailand has become a country many people flock to not only for vacations but also for retirement. From cities to beaches, Thailand has many different places that you can choose to retire to.

Retirement for Thais

The retirement system in Thailand has separate pension plans for those who work in the public sector, those who work in the private sector, and for teachers and headmasters of private schools.  For the private sector employees are enrolled in the Old Age Pension Fund.  With this pension fund employees must reach 55 years old, have contributed for at least 180 months, and quit their job in order to receive their pension. Private sector employees also have the option of contributing to either a Provident Fund (like a 401k) or a Retirement Mutual Fund (like an IRA).

For those who work in the public sector (the government) coverage is by the Government Pension Fund. There are two pillars to this system:  unfunded defined benefit, paid out of the fiscal budget, and a funded defined contribution from officials (employees) and government (employer).

For teachers and headmasters of private schools there is the Private Teachers’ Provident Fund.  This has mandatory defined contributions.  Teachers can receive a lump sum when they resign after five years of working; because of this rule many teachers will resign after five years, collect their lump sum, and get re-employed.

For those not covered under one of these plans retirement can be very difficult; however the Thai culture places a lot of emphasis on family and it is common for multiple generations to live together.  This cultural norm means that in their old age Thai’s are not very likely to have to spend money on things like housing and care.

Health care coverage in Thailand is universal and a person is covered under one of three systems:

  1. The Civil Services Welfare System (for civil servants and their families)
  2. Social Security (for private sector employees)
  3. Universal Coverage (for everyone else)

Since almost all Thai citizens are covered under one of these plans it makes it easier for older Thais to receive the health care that they need.  Although the system is not perfect it does provide the majority of Thailand’s population with health care coverage.

Americans in Thailand

For Americans looking to retire in Thailand they will need a visa if they plan to stay longer than 30 days.  There is a specific retirement visa which you can obtain from any Thai Embassy called the Retirement Visa or “O” Visa; this visa allows you to stay for up to a year in Thailand if you are over 50 years old, do not work in Thailand and have at least $25,846.06 in a U.S. bank.  Once you get this visa you will have to reapply for it each year.

Health care in Thailand is considered very good and in major cities you will be able to go to an up-to-date hospital.  You will need to buy health insurance when you get to Thailand; health care in Thailand is much less expensive than in the United States and many find that they are able to have the same standard of health care that they get back home.

As a foreigner you are not able to own land in Thailand although you are allowed to own a condo or a house (with the land it is built on leased).   Because of these laws many foreigners choose to rent in Thailand, where lease agreements can be for up to 30 years.  If you are planning on living in a condo or apartment the building cannot be more than 49% non-citizens.

As an American retiree living in Thailand you will get to experience all of the wonders of the country.  Whether you choose to live in one of the major cities or a beach community, the beauty of the country will be apparent.  Living in Thailand is still relatively affordable and the quality of life that will be afforded to you is very high.  Goods and services are much less expensive in Thailand than in the United States and you will be able to afford things that most people see as a luxury, such as regular massages and maids. The average American retiree living in Thailand can expect to spend about $1,000-$1,500 per month depending on where you choose to live and the lifestyle you plan to lead.  Living in Thailand as an American can offer you a life you may have never dreamed you could live.

Besides going to the beach and exploring the various big cities of Thailand, the temples (Wats) are not to be missed.  These extraordinary buildings bring visitors from around the world to marvel at their beauty and grandeur.  Besides going to Wats, as a retiree living in Thailand, there is an endless amount of activities that you can do –  from hikes, to snorkeling, to taking care of elephants there is something for everyone.  Each province of Thailand has lots of things to do ; in southern Thailand the big pull is the ocean and beach while in northern Thailand the national parks mean hiking trails and scenic beauty.

The food in Thailand is one way to learn about the people and country, and for me, it’s one of the major draws of the country.  No matter where you go in Thailand you will be able to find very good, authentic Thai cuisine, but if you want American-style food you will have to go to one of the major cities or tourist areas.  Being an adventurous eater while living abroad will help you to feel apart of the culture more quickly than if you decided not to eat the local cuisine. Traditional Thai food can range from mild to very spicy so beware when you are ordering.  Also, ordering local dishes is less expensive and easier, in many areas, than getting American-style food.

The official language of Thailand is Thai, learning the local language will help you to navigate the country and meet more people.   For some helpful phrases and the pronunciation the following source is very helpful.

Learning about the Thai culture and history will make your time in Thailand that much more special and enjoyable. The more you know about the people and culture of where you are going the better you are able to appreciate the differences and understand the significance of the places that you visit or choose for your new retirement home.

The sites below contain helpful information:

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