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June 29, 2011


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$900 per month is living like a middle class local, far from royalty!

From what I know about Vietnam it is easy to get cheated / overcharged, the locals even do it to each other. I do know that inflation is a huge problem in Vietnam (the Dong is also being devalued like crazy, it makes the USD look like it's on a gold standard!).

I think they will have issues getting good medical care in Vietnam. It seems like the best medical care in SE Asia is in Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok.

Ideally they would also be able to speak Vietnamese or at least French, realize they are taking lessons.

Mark Faber lives in Chiang Mai and claims it's a good place to live if the financial world crashes. I think giving yourself $3-5k a month to live will provide a lot of margin and you could live a comfortable life. You cannot call it royalty though because you will be unable to purchase a car (not that you absolutely need one) and would need to live like a semi-local.

If anyone wants to disagree with my comment I'm open to hearing another viewpoint.


I had a cousin who immigrated to the US following WW2 and retired back to his birthplace 40 years later. He lived quite well off his monthly Social Security check. This is quite different from Joe Sixpack emmigrating from a lifetime living in Kansas City to Viet Nam. I'm not so comfortable needing my language tutor and remaining retirement funds to escape when the government changes to an uninviting regime.

I wouldn't be surprised to see and hear of more of this, but like Mike says, I would hardly classify this as royalty. I am sure their Vietnamese neighbors don't consider themselves royalty, either.

If it were safe to live in Mexico, I'd be there right now. The Depression has affected Mexican citizens even worse than it has harmed Americans. It was cheap to live there before, and now a Social Security check would support you in in grand splendor. Assuming you don't mind dodging the occasional bullet. ;-)

Seriously, though: it's beautiful, the people are gracious and kind (except for the odd druglord), Spanish is easy to learn even if you don't already have it, some of the cities have fine cultural amenities, and you can live in a lovely home by the ocean or in the mountains for a fraction of what an elbow-to-elbow tract box would cost you here.

There are worse things, btw, than living "like a local," Mike. Have you noticed how some of the locals here in the States are living these days? :-D

@Funny: I like the locals just about everywhere. But most Americans aren't ready to live like a local in SE Asia because this means the following: living in a one bed room apt with many people in shared space, often no A/C but a fan instead which makes for poor sleeping. Living like a local means eating Asian food - rice every meal- even for breakfast. It means foregoing all the Western delicacies like cheeses and good snacks, I can do all this for a while but I am an American at heart- I need my cereal and milk in the morning to get me going, and really like Italian food. I also like the occasional glass of wine, it is usually very expensive though in Vietnam it may be cheaper because of the French influence :-). All these amenities cost far more than living like a local.

By the way, this is how people drive their motorcycle in Vietnam. Granted Ho Chi Minh is busier that Nha Trang but you get the idea. Not exactly living like royalty, and you had better be a very confident and skilled rider.

I'm also wondering how the concept of medical tourism will play into overseas retirement plans. I don't know of anyone personally who has done this, but I have read a vast number of articles about people who travel to foreign countries for medical procedures. They rave that the care is many times better, they received excellent doctor treatment, and they are still able to save money even while being pampered and living the high life in their hospital. I wonder if these locations that are popular for medical tourism will begin to see a rise in EXPATS who retire there to be close to excellent medical care on the cheap~!

I don't think that too many retirees will be going overseas because I think they like to be close to family (especially grandchildren). If they didn't have any children, then the sky is the limit though, unless they have medical problems.

I think the US still has some of the best medical facilities versus foreign countries.

Sounds like a great place to visit for a winter vacation home though. Perhaps more and more middle class retired folks will be renting or buying places like you describe above during the winter months?

I can see how this can work for some people, but I think most aren't equipped to do this. As for me? No way.

My objections would be ability to see kids/grandkids, quality of medical care, and totally giving up my American culture!

All this being said, I'm somewhat fascinated by the decision making process and subsequent self-evaluation of the overseas retirement experience, by those who did make that choice.

I would move overseas in a nanosecond, as long as my kids were close by or I had enough of them. Having grown up in SE Asia, there are many places that I could consider living. Coast of Thailand, in a locale with tsunami warning system, or Bali would be high on my list. Even parts of Africa, Argentina and Brazil are good options.

My wife and I emigrated to the USA from England as newlyweds in 1956. We have lived in the Santa Clara Valley in Northern California since 1960, retired in 1992, and married for 55 years. We have travelled extensively all over the world including many 3rd. world countries and for a whole host of reasons there is nowhere else in the world that we would rather live.

It isn't just the wonderful climate and the natural beauty of our area that makes us want to spend the rest of our days living in "America the Beautiful", it's also all of the rights, freedoms, services, institutions, and protections provided at the local, state, and federal level that make this such a fabulous and unique country in which to live. Without America's great role in WWI, WWII, the Marshall plan, the Cold War, and its subsequent host of innovations and discoveries, the world would be a very different place today - epecially for us.

America is where the majority of the people in the world would choose to live. Fortunately our immigration laws don't allow them to or we would be totally inundated with more and more people. This is just another of the many reasons why we would never want to live in the UK again. At the end of WWII, because of its dire financial state, the UK gave all of its former colonies their independance. This independance however came with the right to emigrate to the UK, which they did in great numbers. The result was that the fabric of British life was forever changed, particularly in London and the large industrial cities in the Midlands and the North.

>retire to a place where you can live like royalty for $900 a month.
This is actually a somewhat risky financial proposition- as their income is critically dependent on the exchange rate.
If the value of the dollar ever drops vs. the local currency these people will go from living live royalty to living like peasants.
To make it work they would need a fair reserve in local currency/local investments, even that wouldn’t help if there was significant inflation for the local currency.
If they are not citizens, it seems there would be additional legal problems:
Can they stay in the country for long? Can they own property? Could they legally work? Can they legally use medical services?
I think it would be interesting to travel abroad and live “like a native” in some very different countries, possibly as a way to have an early semi-retirement.

-Rick Francis

Sounds like a great inexpensive way to spend the first year or two of retirement when healthy and adventurous.

But everyone I know over the age of 65 (my parents & their friends) are usually deciding between living near their lifelong friends or their children (the default seems stay in hometown).

Forget Vietnam, I can't imagine permanently moving across State to a place I don't know anyone (other than my spouse) at 70. I myself look forward to finally being able to have my friends over for lunch on a Wednesday or be with my grandchildren at the park on a Tuesday afternoon.

I've always thought of that since so many areas with tropical locations and such are a fraction of the cost of what we have in the USA. I doubt it's for everybody especially those who want to be close to their children and grandchildren, but there are definitely some who I'm sure would do this and not even blink. More power to them if it's what they want and makes them happy and doesn't cause family rifts.

I am planning to retire in Central or South America. I've lived in South America in the past and used to have family (ex-boyfriend's family who I consider part of my own) there. There are many countries I will consider retiring to -- Argentina, Chile, Honduras, Panama. I love them all!

Once your accommodation is paid for, you can live well on $10/day in Nha Trang, but beware: close to 20% inflation is terrorizing the country.

My parents are considering to retire to Philippines and I am coaching them. They were born in that country but migrated to US.

Residence. Rent or own? My suggestion is rent for a year, then consider owning if all is good. Big advantage of owning is freedom from rent increase. One can own a 1-bedroom condo unit in a skyscraper for $65,000 in a nice location like Makati City -- close to hospitals, malls, theaters, Churches, airport. The reason I am suggesting a condo is convenience. Below the building are usually eateries, laundry (you just bring your dirty clothes and come back after 2 days to pick them up and pay); internet shops; coffee shops; beauty salons; etc. Among basic amenities of a skyscraper are gym and swimming pool. Foreigners are allowed to buy condo units. Cable TV will allow you to connect to favorite American shows like football, Jay Leno, etc.

Food. If American food is what you want, there are many American fastfoods and restaurants in the country.

Language. Filipinos understand English, though they don't speak it that well and as such, timid in expression. But they can understand you and reply in basic understandable English.

Banks. There are Bank of America, Citibank in the country where you can have your SSN deposited directly.

Health care. You'll basically be giving up your Medicare unless you were a military person. Simply buy an American health plan (e.g. Cigna) in the country. Makati Medical Center is the best hospital in the country.

Communication. Skype and internet allows easy call/video call to family and relatives in US.

Safety/crime. Could be an issue especially to foreigner-looking people. Befriend local neighbors and go out with friends. Later, say after a two years, once there is more knowledge about which places to visit are safe, then you can go by yourself/ves. Try to manage/minimize risks by just going through routines and researching the landscape and being alert.

Transportation. Another advantage of being in a developed city like Makati is one don't need a car. You can walk/exercise and be to where you need to be (mall/grocery/bank/etc). For further places, you have to avoid rush hours. There's many buses, jeeps, trains. Don't use taxi. They rob you even if you are a local.

Overall, there will be risks and rewards. But my opinion is for retirees, the rewards dominate the risks. In my example, one can live modestly in Makati with $800 a month. If you wish to own a condo (which is the way to go), add $400.

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