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Retirement is all about safety first



PHUKET: I cannot even begin to tell you the horror stories I hear from many expats I meet.

Unfortunately, they’re coming to see me too late or have not been reading my columns.

The first thing that many Americans or Europeans think when they move to Thailand is how cheap it is to live here. We got a lot more for the Thai baht than we do in our home countries. The problem becomes we think we’re richer than we really are.

The reality is that if we retire at 60, we need to figure that we need enough money to last for another 30 years. With medical improvements, regular exercise and cutting back on smoking and drinking, we can live a lot longer than we imagine. With that, it’s all about making our money last. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to do that here in Thailand, even though it’s very cheap to live here.

The other problem is that for those that realize this fact, they end up making the wrong decisions here in Thailand. Here are a few examples:

• Investing in a bar or restaurant
• Building a house in Isarn
• Buying condos with the hope of price appreciation and rental income
• Spending in seven months what was supposed to last 12 months

I could go on and on with examples, but I think every expat has heard one too many horror stories about these four big mistakes. The key to a successful life and retirement here in Thailand is all about living within your means. The key to doing this is first setting up a plan.

The first thing you have to realize is that safety is priority number one. If you are no longer working and you lose money, you can’t make it back. Once that US$100k is gone, it’s gone. The key is living off that income. A budget of living within one’s means is the most important part of any retirement strategy.

That’s why many expats go into the bar business or buy a condo for rental income, they need money to live off of without going into their principal. Unfortunately, that’s not what they should be doing.

What they should be doing is investing their portfolio in stocks that pay dividends.

When it comes to dividend investing, the best options are telecoms, utilities, real estate investment trusts (REITs), large oil and gas companies and master limited partnerships (MLPs). MLPs are typically pipelines, gas stations and other assets of an oil and gas company that generate a lot of cash. This allows them to pay higher dividend rates than other companies.

Now, the final part of the plan is peace of mind. I am a Registered Investment Advisor with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). I do not have access to my client’s funds. The account is in your name and you have access 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For my US clients, we use TD Ameritrade. For European clients, I use Saxo Bank. I am a fee-only financial advisor. Your portfolio will be custom-designed and will contain many of the same stocks that I own as well.

So before anyone goes and buys a condo that they can’t rent out or sell, give me a call. I can devise a portfolio of high-quality dividend paying stocks to give you the income you need. While you won’t get rich, you will at least keep the money that you already have and will start generating an income to live off of. Your principal will grow at the same time. Thailand is really the land of smiles as long as we live within our means. If we do that, we can enjoy this wonderful country that makes our retirement here the envy of our friends back home.

Don Freeman is president of Freeman Capital Management, a Registered Investment Advisor with the US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), based in Phuket, Thailand. He has over 15 years experience and provides personal financial planning and wealth management to expatriates. Specializing in UK and US pension transfers. Call 089-970 5795 or email:

— Don Freeman


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