A fan of the site, who we’ll call Bill, recently asked me about whether or not he’s in the position to have a stress free existence for the rest of his life in Thailand. I never shut up about the benefits of setting up a stress free life, an exercise that I believe to be nearly impossible in Western countries. And on the surface, Bill (40 years old), does seem to be situated to live without stress for the rest of his life in certain cities in Thailand. So, naturally, my answer to the title question is: YES. And I could have just sent Bill a few lines to support that confirmation and called it a day. However, reading Bill’s email made me reflect on some areas of growth in my life over the past few years, and I now believe there is a lot more to this.
You see, Bill’s current situation reminded me a lot of my own in the months leading up to my departure to Thailand. Bill works hard in the U.S., and just didn’t see the upside in continuing the rat race, which is exactly where I was once upon a time. He has no children and he’s not married, and he manages to do better with the ladies than most men his age, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot in the U.S. For all of the work he’s putting into life, he just doesn’t love what he’s getting back in return. He has managed to put together a nest egg total that is appropriate for his age. But if he wants to live easy in the U.S., he’s going to have to retire right around the typical retirement age (65), and 60 at the earliest. So he came up with the idea to retire in Thailand 20 years earlier than that, as in now. He figured he could live off of the money he has now, indefinitely, with just a little supplemental income here and there to make things comfortable. He threw out ideas of: living on a farm in a rural area, and teaching in a place like Chiang Mai.
The key for Bill was that he just wanted to know that he would never have to work or worry as much as he does now. And shooting for a low cost/low frills lifestyle in Thailand could ensure that. I get it; and that security is one of the main things that drew me to a life on the other side of the world. I remember thinking, “well if all else fails I’ll just teach.” And I also contemplated making a nice house in the middle of nowhere where I could guarantee myself a life without ever having to work again. Coming off of a decade in the U.S., where I nearly worked myself to the bone, a lifestyle without work is what naturally appealed to me at the time. It really doesn’t take a lot to retire in Thailand if you’re ok with living a meager enough existence. And for any middle aged man who avoided huge financial pitfalls in the U.S., the opportunity to liquidate and retire in South East Asia is there.
But many years later, I am now advising to tread carefully with these decisions. As it turns out, I was not ready to just fade into Easy Street. And it would have been a shame if that’s all I did. Your 30’s and 40’s should be productive, period. I am in no way endorsing the rat race, and I’m so thankful that I did abandon that hopeless existence. But there are more options that just: rat race or living cheaply in ridiculously early retirement. And neither of those options comes close to matching the overall happiness and quality of life that you’d have if you do something you like without negative outside pressures. We’re men, and we’re at our best when we proceed with ambition. Do not let the tolls of your life until now diminish your hunger to make something happen for yourself and to do things that you can be proud of. I almost made this mistake. I almost wasted my abilities and tossed all of my goals in the trash…all just because I had enough money to live OK in Thailand.
I looked at my quality of life (or lack there of) working to the max in the U.S. to follow my goals, and I just assumed that doing little of anything in Thailand was a superior option. It is, but it’s far from THE superior option. If you just simplify your life, you can chase dreams and goals without the God-awful pressure of having to achieve them immediately. That is the biggest thing. If you’re trying to work at your goals while your American wife complains because her car isn’t as new or nice as your financially irresponsible neighbors’, you’re going to find things to be tough. Can you really start something in the U.S. steadily, slowly, and responsibly, while you have astronomical mortgage, tax, and insurance bills to pay? With all of the pressure to spend big, there is no time to regroup and reset in the U.S. If a plan doesn’t work immediately, it probably won’t work at all. But if you liquidate, simplify, and move to Thailand, you’ll afford yourself time to figure everything out, as long as you have it within you to do so.
The goal should not be to do nothing from 40 on. The goal should not be to live with constant stress. The goal SHOULD ALWAYS be to do something that you’re good at and something that you genuinely enjoy. And if you can do it big, that’s a bonus. Money isn’t everything, and there’s never enough of it in certain places. But when you don’t really NEED more money, this is the best time to make a lot more money. Trust me on this! When you need big money, making it sucks the life out of you. But if you simplify your expenses to the point where you have nothing to worry about for years, go on ahead and CRUSH the sh*t out of an endeavor that you believe in. Keep the budget tight, don’t risk a sizable portion of your nest egg, and give it all you got. If it doesn’t hit, you’ll be in the same position that Bill and I originally wanted to be in – you’ll still have enough to live modestly in Thailand without having to work or worry. But if it does hit, you can be the guy you hoped you’d be when you were 18 years old. You weren’t wrong to have that desire back then. In fact, you were just untainted at that point and you believed in yourself. Be that guy. Be the guy who the 18 year old version of you would be impressed by.