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Retirement abroad: a Thai real-estate pitch

For the many of you that have toiled your lives through with the glorious vision of retiring one day in comfort and security, the downturn in the economy over the last few years has suddenly brought about a very sobering awareness of the rapid changes happing all around you, as well as the undesirable changes that have taken place with your 401’s, stock portfolios, savings and retirement accounts. Not to mention the scary upward spiral of medical cost that seems to walk hand in hand with growing older.

What was once considered affordable as we reached our “Golden Age,” in particular, retiring within our own country, living in the house we bought years ago that may or may not be paid of, may fast be entering the realm of the unattainable.

As unfortunate as this may seem, it has become a sad reality.

Want proof?

Just turn on your television, or tune your radio to your favorite local or national news station, or better yet, pick up the daily paper. Regrettably, what is happening with the economy, failures of the financial markets; banks and mortgage companies, as well as the hundreds of thousands of individuals that are now unemployed within the U.S., it does not lead to a happy retirement.

But wait, it isn’t just happening here, you are not alone in your misery. You have to open your eyes and look at the big picture. What happens in the good ole USA, will soon rear its ugly head in other nations around the globe.

And it has.

Many, many nations in Eastern and Western Europe are facing the same, if not worse economic woes.

The last few years have brought about an unheard of number of home foreclosures and job loses. Many cities are seeing 30 to 50 percent of their homeowners with mortgages “Underwater.”

The effect was felt initially by those unfortunates with subprime loans, but soon, just as a snow ball gathers both size and speed as it rolls uncontrolled downhill, it was affecting those with prime loans, with great jobs. As it continued its uninhibited roll across this great land of ours, it took homes, huge numbers of jobs, and life savings in unprecedented numbers.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, as of June 2011, the unemployment rate is at 9.2%, with approximately 14.1 million people out of work. Now that’s a lot of people. These are folks just like you and me, with not only the inability to provide for their families, but with little opportunity to save for retirement. The regrettable thing, many of these folks were just a few years, even months away from retiring when the lights went out, so-to-speak.

Many of those that lost jobs, not only lost their homes, but employer based retirement accounts and medical insurance.

Within a short time it began affecting many of those that had already retired. Thousands of individuals began to look for ways to add a little extra income to assist with not only their daily needs, but to help offset the skyrocketing cost of medical care. Countless numbers were finding Medicare left a lot to be desired, and many times left substantial copay amounts due hospitals and healthcare providers..

What about the millions without the benefit of medical insurance? Those not able to receive Medicare, what were their options and if and when they retired? What could they do, where could they go to make retirement more bearable, be able to live and enjoy life again?

Let’s face it folks, the good Ole U.S. of A is facing an economic downfall that according to some sources, is as bad as, or even worse than that of the “Great Depression.” And there is no end in sight–not one in time to save the many that need answers now!

Taking all of this into account, you’re probably asking yourself, “How can I avoid this mess, how can I still retire and live a comfortable life? Is there an affordable solution to this dilemma?”

The answer! Yes there is, so take heart and read on.

You do as so many before you have done, will continue to do in even greater numbers in the months and years ahead; relocate to a country that not only offers a modern way of life, but an affordable, comfortable, and secure lifestyle to boot.

The majority of you have heard, or even read of the great exodus of American citizens to countries south of the U.S. border. Some of you might even have friends or relatives you can count in these numbers. Countless retirees have found happiness in places like Costa Rica, Guatemala, Belize and Mexico. In fact, it is estimated that there are over 60,000 US citizens living out their retirement in Mexico alone, with well over one-million residing worldwide.

However, let me ask you one question. Is Mexico truly the place you wish to retire?

Granted, as one that has spent the majority of my life working and traveling around the globe. One that has had the unique opportunity to live and work south of the border in romantic and fabulous places like Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco, I came to enjoy the open hospitality and friendliness of the Mexican people, the low cost of living, and a halfway decent medical care system.

Nevertheless, with all the violence being attributed to the drug cartels, not to mention a few US citizens included in the numbers of those having been injured, and or, killed. And with its long, ugly arm now reaching into several popular resort areas is this truly a place you want to retire? That is, with any hope of having a peaceful, safe, and uneventful life?

Oh yeah, one additional thing you should know before you pack up and head south. As beautiful as it is, Mazatlan sits along the Pacific Coast within the Mexican State of Sinaloa, and has seen its share of violence and murders attributed to drug cartels in the past year. It’s a well-known fact that the city of Culiacan, a drive of only two hours to the north, is the playground of the Mexican Mafia and Sinaloa Cartel, one of the most feared drug gangs in Mexico.

Now is this really a place you want to live out those Golden Years?

I wouldn’t think so!

Given this, you may ask, “Well what about Costa Rica? I’ve heard a lot of great things about that place.”

Well it is beautiful, I’ll give you that. In reality however, the cost of living has sky-rocketed drastically over the past two decades due to the tremendous influx of retiree’s from around the globe, one nation in particular; the good ole USA. Housing can be costly, depending on the area, and medical care, although very good, can reach into the realm of unaffordable.

Nope, don’t think I’d want to retire there either.

“Well golly, what about Spain, Portugal or Italy?” you ask.

Fantastic countries! Friendly populace, good food, and hey, incredible wine! The bare truth, over the last thirty years thousands of Scandinavians and Europeans have found

Retirement in these wonderful lands. Spain and Portugal receiving the lions share. But what the heck, if they’re there, it must mean something, right?


With the increase in the Euro over the last few years, these areas have seen a tremendous drop in the influx of retiree’s from other nations. In fact, many areas of Spain, once considered very affordable, are now, not.

Just about now you’re probably asking yourself, “Well golly, so what’s left? Where on this big globe can I possibly go?”

Simple answer!

You go where a great numbers of retiree’s from the USA, Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan and numerous other nations have decided to invest their retirement dollars, and live out a safe, secure, and affordable retirement.

Where is that you ask?

Well Thailand, that’s where! Yes siree, in the “Land of Smiles.”

With each and every passing year, this remarkable sub-tropical nation sees an increase in the number of retiree’s coming to live out their retirement years, and enjoy the beauty and lifestyle this magnificent paradise offers.

Thailand presents the retiree with everything and anything they will need and desire in order to experience a blissful retirement.

In the three years I have lived here, I have found the one question asked by hundreds of individuals interested in retiring in Thailand not related to the cost, or even the manner of real estate ownership, but one that revolves around the availability of quality, affordable medical and dental care, both routine and emergency.

Bumrungrad Hospital, Thailand

Bumrungrad Hospital, Thailand

My answer is always the same. “You’ll find it not only very accessible, but will easily fit within a retiree’s budget. In fact, there are a few very reasonably priced medical insurance programs available for expats residing within the Kingdom.”

The retiree will find that no matter the local they chose to settle within the country, with well over 450 hospitals, numerous small, yet high quality clinics offering a vast array of services to patients, you are always within easy reach of medical and dental care.

Medically, you will find the whole shebang, from routine checkups, to very up-to-date surgical procedures. And those wishing to subtract a few years from their overall appearance, will find excellent, and very reasonably priced surgical, and non-surgical cosmetic “remodeling” options available to them.

The great thing, in the majority of situations, any and all these services can be found under one roof.

Now as far as dental care goes. Everything from your basic twice yearly cleaning, to modern implant surgery is easily available, and at one third to one half the costs of the same procedures in the States

The physicians, specialist, surgeons and dentist working at these clinics and hospitals are very well educated and knowledgeable; many having studied for their specialties at top facilities within the USA or the UK. And you’ll find the vast majority speak excellent English.

Bumrungrad Hospital lobby

Bumrungrad Hospital lobby

The King is very proud of the medical community within Thailand, and has spared no expense to make sure the hospitals, medical and dental clinics, have been well funded, the equipment state-of-the –art, and the nurses, physicians and dentist working within these facilities the best Thailand an offer.

Thailand itself boasts twelve very modern medical schools, both public, and private.

It is because of the high quality, affordable health care that Thailand has become one of the top five nations in the world for medical tourism. And the number of patients traveling from abroad to seek medical and dental care within the Kingdom grows yearly.

To this end, many major insurance carriers within the USA are finding it far more cost effective to send their insured, on an “Expense-paid” holiday so-to-speak, to Thailand for required major medical procedures, many of which allow the immediate family to tag along as well.

Those of you into the prestige of having their surgical or dental procedures performed at one of the top hospitals in the world will want to check out Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok ( This facility is a JCI Accredited International Hospital and has been named within the Top 10 World Medical Destination by Newsweek Magazine, providing the “Best Quality Service” and is also considered one of the “Top 4 Medical Tourism Pioneers.”

At Bumrungrad, you will find internationally trained doctors, an excellent and very experienced American management team, and advanced technology combined in a truly “Five-Star” environment. So truly fabulous is this facility, it would make many “Five-Star” Hotels envious.

Business and economy wise, Thailand is rapidly becoming a strong economic hub within Asia. Several foreign companies have located factories within the country, with many more looking to invest in the nation in the years ahead.

The standard of living is excellent, yet the cost of living is low. You can take the entire family out for dinner, have a very filling meal, and spend less than twenty US dollars. You can spend the day playing golf at one of dozens of well-designed and maintained golf courses about the country at half the cost of equivalent courses in the States.

For those shoppers in the crowd, you can pass your time away browsing through one of many very modern shopping malls located within the cities of Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai. You true bargain-basement shoppers will be enthralled wandering through the hundreds of open air markets and bazaars that dot most cities and villages. It is here you will find any and all varieties of hand-made articles, from clothing and fine furniture, to decorations for your home, or as a unique gift for loved ones. And all at a fraction of the cost you’d pay for the same, or comparable items back home.

Now, as far as entertainment goes, you’ll find modern multi-screen cinemas in most cities, as well as a new, and ultra-modern IMAX Theater in Bangkok itself. Here you’ll be able to sit back, relax and enjoy all the current tinsel-town releases, and choose from one of three or four seating arrays, all for less than five-dollars a person.

For those into the concert and music scene, many top internationally known performers visit Thailand to perform yearly in both indoor and outdoor venues. Opportunities abound for those with a desire to explore the traditional music and dances of Thailand. You’ll find possibilities galore to view and appreciate countless traditional music and dance festivals throughout the land, the majority being free.

Now as far as the purchase and ownership of real estate within the Kingdom goes, Non-Thai nationals will run into some hindrances here.

For those looking to buy a home or condo, there are a couple very important things you need to know. First and foremost, foreigners, cannot own property outright; deeded fee ownership. Now you can own the house, but not the land. “Expats” are allowed a thirty year lease on land itself, followed by two renewable thirty year periods, for a total of ninety years.

Many Expats will buy land with a Thai partner through marriage, or business. I do not advise this as the Thai national will control the ownership with fifty-one percent to your forty-nine. If at any time they decide they don’t want you involved anymore, which unfortunately does happen, they can, and will sell the property out from under your home, so-to-speak, leaving you with the house – but not land . Not a comfortable position to be in. You’ll find yourself in a position of having to sell, and most times at a loss, if at all.

Now if you are one of those that have found the house you want, and simply have to have it, my advice, at the time the deed is recorded, file for a “Superficies.” This will prevent the owner of the land from selling, or in any way encumbering the property while you own the house, or are still among the living.

Expats can own condominiums outright. And there are some fantastic condos for sale within Thailand. You’ll find them in a variety of styles and price ranges. They range from the plain and affordable, to the opulent, and outlandish pricey.

I recommend those looking to retire in Thailand, do so far from the confines of the concrete and steel madness of Bangkok. Although nice to visit, it is a true mad-house, and far more expensive than the rest of the country. My strong recommendation, “Travel north Expat, travel north,” and settle down in the northern city of Chiang Mai; the “Rose of the North.” To its plus, the US Consular in Chiang Mai announced through an article appearing in the Washington Post in August of 2009, he highly recommended Chiang Mai as a spot for US citizens to retire to.


Chiang Mai is located about two hundred miles from Thailand’s northern border with Burma. The city sits surrounded by lush tropical forest and dense jungle, with thousands of working rice fields to its north, as well as the fertile Mae Ping River, which dissects the city on its way south.

Due to the cities location in the Northern Mountains, temperatures here will average ten to fifteen degrees lower and without the smothering year round humidity found in Bangkok, and many of the beach areas.

Chiang Mai has two large, modern shopping malls, comfortable cinemas, many western franchise restaurants, three well-kept golf courses, excellent hospitals and clinics providing quality and very affordable health and dental care, and several three, four and five star hotels. Combine this with the exceptional outdoor markets, including the renowned, “Kalare Night Bazar”, and the unique, one of a kind eco-system that surrounds the city, and you have a well-rounded, affordable, secure and comfortable area in which to retire and play.

The simple fact is folks; you work hard your entire life. You raise your families, put money in retirement funds, savings, and any number of employer’s retirement accounts with the great expectation of one day being able to sit back, and enjoy your golden years.

Unfortunately, for many of you, when the day finally arrives, you find that all too often, even though you scrimped, stashed, saved and planned your entire working life for this glorious day, when it finally arrives, you simply do not have what we need to get you by, let alone, live out a happy, secure, and carefree retirement.

So disenchanted, many of you find yourselves with no other choice then to return to the workforce, that is if you can find a job, just to help make ends meet.

So take the advice of someone that has studied various areas of the globe, one who has had the opportunity to live in several desirable areas before settling here; sit back, relax, and take a look at your options. Then, turn on that ole computer; go on line. You will find many, many, great and informative articles on Thailand. Or, simply head to your
local library, find a good book, read about the wonders of the country, or even better yet, talk with those that have been here. And last but not least, if at all possible, plan a short visit to Thailand. I am sure once you have, you will find as I, and thousands of other retirees have discovered, life in retirement does not have to be one full of stress and uncertainty. It can be one of happiness, security and fulfillment. And after all, isn’t that what retirement is all about?

The retirement you have always desired and dreamed about awaits, you in the “Land of Smiles.”

Buy property from Donald at his own corporate website.

See you soon!

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