Monthly Archives: September 2015

My column in MarketWatch on living abroad

Living abroad as a cheap retirement option

Published: Sept 14, 2015 10:23 a.m. ET

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Kenneth Roberts is a private wealth manager at Universal Value Advisors and has been in the securities business for over 20 years and has worked as an investment advisor, branch manager, professional trader and portfolio manager. He specializes in managing income and growth portfolios and has expertise using option strategies to produce income and control risk. Ken is also the author of “The Tactical Option Investor” and the host of Ken’s Bulls and Bears Report heard throughout Northern Nevada on the radio. You can follow Ken on Twitter @TacticalOptions.

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Many retirees living on fixed incomes today are finding it difficult to make ends meet and live the lifestyle they deserve. One solution some turn to is living abroad in a country where the cost of living is much lower, but the quality of life is still fairly high.

I have personally worked with clients who lived abroad, and one of them gave me permission to share his story here to give those considering it an idea of how it can work. The client was a retired ski instructor who had worked at Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe during the 1960 winter Olympics. He continued snow skiing his entire life, and he also enjoyed water sports like sailing and diving.

With limited income and assets, he couldn’t quite afford to live in the Lake Tahoe area year round, so his solution was to spend the winter at Tahoe and the rest of the year in Thailand. He’d purchase a ski pass at Squaw Valley, rent a nice place at Lake Tahoe, and ski through January and February. Then he’d head over to Thailand and spend the rest of the year sailing and enjoying the beach. He kept this up for many seasons.
He claimed he spent less in Thailand in that 10 months of the year than he did in his two months of snow skiing at Lake Tahoe. The Thai currency is known as the baht, and the current exchange rate is 36.11 THB to one U.S. dollar. The strength of the dollar recently has made foreign living even more affordable. In my client’s case, he said he lived well for 10 months on about $20,000 U.S.

A quick look at real estate listings in Thailand shows many condominiums on the market for prices under $30,000. Now that is the low end of the market, and you can certainly spend more if you wish, but that kind of price is certainly attractive. I saw one listing for a studio apartment, just 200 meters from the beach with a swimming pool listed for $26,182.

A cost-of-living website shows that rents for a one-bedroom apartment in Phuket, a nice beach town, average $370 a month in the city center and $195 per month outside the city center. Three bedroom apartments can be had for $973 per month and $473 per month respectively. A three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant will set you back between $20-$25, and a meal for one at an inexpensive restaurant can be less than $5.

Living abroad may not be for everyone, but if you’re on a tight budget and want a decent lifestyle, it may be worth considering. For some retirees it might be nice to own a $30,000 condo and live on the beach for about $20 per day.