Too Little, Too Late: New Study Finds Most Thais Have Poor Retirements

 | Fri 25 Jul 2014 18:02 ICT

CityNews – A new study has revealed that many Thais do not start saving for their retirements until they are well beyond their thirties, and that this causes many of them to live poorly and and sometimes even in extreme poverty during their elderly years.

A happy elderly man in Chiang Mai.

Research conducted by the Stock Exchange of Thailand showed that Thais generally only start to put money aside for their retirement at the average age of 42, which is significantly later than many countries whose citizens are more concerned with having a content and financially-secure retirement. The United States in particular has seen a boom in people striving to retire early and have money to spend during their later years, even though it was predicted that fewer people would retire early due to the 2007 financial crisis – in fact, recent research show the opposite has happened since then, with mass layoffs being cited as one reason for the shift in retirement patterns.

However, despite Thailand’s normal retirement age of 60 being lower than the US and many other countries, the majority of Thais do not find it vital to put aside a reasonable percentage of their earnings for the seemingly-distant future. Retirees in countries like Austria, Denmark, and the Netherlands (where the retirement age is 65) generally enjoy retirements free from poverty, with many also taking advantage of the availability of elder care facilities and retirement homes. The same is true for countries like Germany (where the concept of retirement originally came from), Italy, and Norway, despite the retirement age being even older, at 67.

Thailand’s need for elder care facilities are growing, as we have explored in this Citylife article, but in current times most retired Thais, whether as part of a couple or not, live at home or with relatives. This creates a further strain on younger families who might have to take care of them financially. The study also found that most Thais underestimate their future cost of living, and this naive attitude leaves them poor at retirement.

Out of the priorities offered in the study, most Thais chose buying cars and houses as their most important priorities, along with getting married and travelling before the age of 40. It is only after these things have been acquired or accomplished that they might consider the quality of their retirement. A researcher from the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC), Mr. Jitmaneeroj, said that these findings were worrying for Thai people and that delaying retirement plans would negatively affect their lifestyles and those of their children.

He said that the government and authorities need to raise awareness and educate people about investing and saving their money in order to enjoy a well-funded retirement. He also mentioned that it’s about time the normal retirement age be extended, just as many other countries have done, due to rising life expectancies and better health in old age.

The study also showed that more Thais are in debt than previous studies, with the average person in debt owing 13,358 baht per month. Other findings also showed that the average household debt in Thailand had increased from last year; the record average now stands at 219,158 baht per family in June 2014.