‘Can I live on my Social Scurity check?’


I love my country. I would die for it.

But I’m not sure I can ever live in it again.

Whoa! Did I just write that?

Well, it seems my little “vacation” in the U.S. has allowed me a bit of time for reflection, and assessment, and comparison, and …well you get the idea.

So why do I now think that I can’t, or don’t want to, live in my home country?

It all began when a good friend asked me if he could realistically live on his monthly Social Security check. I thought he was just ragging me on my “advertised” lifestyle, but when he asked me the same question a month later I started to wonder if he was serious.

My initial response to his question was that, yes, he could live on his retirement check, which was a bit more than mine is. But he would have to give up some things, like a car and a big house, and lots of furniture, and a wine cellar, and …

But I knew he had family responsibilities, two grandchildren he adores, a bevy of friends, probably some debt, and a myriad other reasons for not taking the plunge. It didn’t matter whether he could live on his retirement check; he wasn’t going to try anyway. But then he asked me a second time.

So here’s a breakdown of typical expenses for me in Indonesia, which will be similar in Thailand:

Rent – $230 month, 1BR, bath, furnished, free Wifi, central location. I expect my rent in Thailand will be higher.

Food – about $100/week for vegetables, chicken, meat, fish, sodas., juices, etc., for at-home cooking

Utilities – $50, electric and water, depending on A/C use

Phone/Internet – $10

Laundry – $6/week

Ferry to Singapore every month for visa run – $40

There are other costs that occurred I do not mention here, such as bank fees, which are high for me with my use of ATMS.

But those were my fixed expenses – less than $800/month.

Meals on the street will cost $2-3 per. Of course, nightlife and other entertainment (massage, sightseeing) are extra, but if you are really frugal, you can get by on $1,000 monthly. That total would leave my friend with almost half his monthly check to do with as he pleased.

All that “figuring” got me to thinking about what it was I was actually doing. And why.

UPDATE: I’m writing this in Asheville, N.C., where I’m staying with my daughter and granddaughter. Been here about six weeks and will be leaving for Thailand in less than two weeks. So it’s a time when I start to reflect and anticipate.

I know one thing this vacation has reinforced with me – I DON’T WANT TO LIVE WHERE IT’S COLD!! period.

And another:

I really like the more simple lifestyle I experienced in Asia. I don’t like the American car culture. You can’t even get to a grocery store in the U.S. without a car. I like being able to walk to the market, to the laundry, to the barber … you get my point.

Not to mention the difference in cost.

During my U.S. visit, I had the opportunity to reconnect with a group of male friends (including the one mentioned above), some of whom I’ve known for nearly 30 years. They are all younger than me but as I looked at them, and talked with them, it seemed as if they were far older physically and mentally. They seem ready for old age, willing to let it determine their lifestyles in future years.

I’m not.

In fairness, none of them is encountering the perfect storm I had in 2010 – downsized from my job, eligible for early Social Security, no debts, no family responsibilities, single. Many of them have families, wives, debt, houses, cars.

They might envy my nomadic life but leaving their own is not a realistic option. And even if it were, there is a certain mindset necessary to go off on your own to places you’ve never seen, with the intention of actually living there.

Meanwhile, my lifestyle will be filled with new experiences, difficult and unexpected challenges, new people, new cultures, new food, new sights. It will be significantly more simplified than U.S. living seems to be to me now, and well within my retirement budget.

Now, if there are actually fish along the beach of Hua Hin, this new adventure might be perfect.

About 2bagsandapack

Lifetime journalist, author, magazine editor and publisher, now semi-retired and traveling the world. My plan, after living in Costa Rica for 14 months, was to visit a new country in southern Europe every three months to experience the culture and the challenge of adapting to a new environment, while on a fixed income. That plan was sidetracked when I was offered a job in Indonesia, providing an opportunity to explore Asia. Indonesia lasted for a 4 wonderful years but I have now moved on to Hua Hin, Thailand.
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