Phil Roeland

Money matters

Are you financially sound?

It is often said that all the money in the world can't buy you happiness. On the other hand, many studies have shown that people who are free of money problems - or wallow in money - are usually much happier and care-free than the ones who don't. If you'd like to know where you stand as a foreigner teaching in a faraway land, complete the survey below and you'll have a better idea of how healthy your finances are.

Each ‘yes' answer is worth 1 point. ‘No' answers get you no points. Look below to see what your score means. This survey is 100% scientifically accurate: it has been tried and tested on a group of no fewer than three randomly chosen test subjects. Should your results deviate from the norm, please post your comments below. This survey can be used not only in Thailand, but in similar countries as well,

1. I have a full-time job - yes/no
2. I earn more than 30,000 baht a month (USD 1,000) - yes/no
3. I save money almost every a month - yes/no
4. I don't have loans to pay back - yes/no
5. I never borrow money from friends or family - yes/no
6. I have a credit card - yes/no
7. I have a nest egg in my country of origin - yes/no
8. I have access to a minimum of 100,000 baht (USD 3,000) emergency cash - yes/no
9. I have health insurance - yes/no
10. My rent (incl. utilities) is lower than one third of my income - yes/no
11. I can buy most things I want - yes/no
12. I will receive a government pension upon retirement - yes/no
13. I have a private pension scheme - yes/no
14. I have a family that will support me in my old age - yes/no
15. I hardly ever worry about money - yes/no
16. I am not addicted to bars or other entertainment venues - yes/no
17. I could afford a western lifestyle if I wanted to - yes/no
18. I have an inheritance coming my way - yes/no
19. I own property - yes/no
20. I am residing and/or working in the country legally (i.e. with proper visa and work permit) - yes/no

The verdict

16 to 20 points
Excellent! You are well prepared and financially quite healthy. You've got it all figured out and are probably living a care-free life of comfort abroad. Thinking of buying a new flat-screen TV, a car or even a house is not a pipe dream for you but a real possibility. You regularly splash out on fine western food and quality clothes, or could if you wanted to. Friends and family may describe you as either generous or tight-fisted.
How to improve your financial situation: Gradually migrate to a more local lifestyle, if you haven't already done so. Invest wisely. Enjoy your life more by spending some of that dough or share some of your wealth, Scrooge.

10 to 15 points
Not bad at all. You're living a life of relative luxury in a tropical land. You are possibly spending more than you should and take life one day at a time. You're not worried too much about when your next pay cheque will be and you don't owe money to colleagues, family or the local som tam vendor. You're cruising but haven't thought of long-term planning yet.
How to improve your financial situation: Start drinking Leo instead of Heineken. Do some overtime or get an extra part-time job. Cut down on rent for housing and friends.

5 to 10 points
Technically you've failed the test, but there is a sparkle of hope. You enjoy life a bit too much and may have a hole in your pocket. Either that or you're working for a pittance - possibly because you're inexperienced or unqualified.
How to improve your financial situation: Get a better-paid job, or rather hide your tattoos and get a job. Save more, drink less. Go native: food courts, a shoe-box apartment and cheap or no booze should become your friends. Hope a wealthy relative without any heirs croaks sooner rather than later.

Fewer than 5 points
You are in dire straits financially. You don't know when the next meal will be. You won't be able to pay the rent if you aren't sleeping in parks yet. You are either addicted, a complete failure at keeping (or getting) a job or simply an expat hobo.
How to improve your financial situation: Your plans for getting out of this black hole probably involve robbing a local 7-Eleven or selling a kidney. Jumping from a tall building might be the quickest way out of your misery.

Although this mock survey belongs to the lighter side of the financial spectrum, one cannot ignore the importance of being well-prepared when living and/or working abroad. A steady job that pays well enough is the basis of any sound household (millionaires excluded) and at the end of the month, you should have spent less than you earned. Ideally, you should be able to set aside at least some of your salary every month. How else are you going to pay for your next holiday, visit back home, set of false teeth or that new DSLR camera?

Being prepared for all eventualities (e.g. temporary unemployment) or even small catastrophes (e.g. accident or health problems) is simply common sense. You may find yourself out of a job unexpectedly, need a hip replacement or go on holiday. And don't forget, somebody will have to pay for your Thai mother-in-law's funeral rites (if applicable) or the sick buffalo's medication and, guess what, that person would be you.

Unless you plan to live a life of forced moderation and Spartan accommodation, you'll need at least some sort of pension to see you through your old age. This might still seem a distant future now, but remember that times flies when you're having fun. You don't want to find yourself in the situation where you're considered pitiful not just by fellow expats, but also by locals. By the way, making some extra cash on the side by collecting and selling recyclable crap is on the Ministry of Labour's ‘forbidden jobs for foreigners' list.

Without any savings or benefits from either a public or private pension scheme in your old age, you might be forced to opt for the ‘Go Native scheme' (the fried rice & Sangsom approach), the ‘Bangkok Pension Plan' (wait for moneyed relatives to expire) or go out with a bang aka ‘The Flying Club'. None of these options is ideal if you ask me. Anyway, I won't lecture others on what to do - or not to do - but don't blame me later for not warning you.


Dear Somying,

You are absolutely right. This test is not fair, nor scientifically accurate.

On the other hand, I do not believe this test only caters to teachers who are getting long in the tooth. Everyone can take it.

However, look up meaning of 'tongue-in-cheek' or 'to be taken with a pinch of salt'.

By Philip Roeland, Thailand (27th November 2011)

I think this is an unfair 'test' financially.

It caters to older expats of senior years to a lot of the younger generation teaching here.

I answered yes, honestly, to only 5 questions, but I am happy financially. If I were to go home to the UK, I would be much less stable.

I am able to send a third of my wage home every month to pay off UK overdrafts from my student days, which was not long ago and I still manage to travel and buy pretty much when and what I wish.

Just because I earn 35k a month and don't own any property doesn't make me a financial failure, I'd much rather be living in the culture here than being back home and scrimping for cash after tax and expenses there.

By Somying, Thailand (24th November 2011)

So where do you sit Mr know everything? - less than 2 points maybe...

Still renting a nasty cheap appt in China and trying to change the world with boring articles or maybe you have gone travelling again to relieve the sadness in your life.

By philip, Philip land (9th December 2010)

Post your comment

Comments are moderated and will not appear instantly.

Featured Jobs

Fun Native English Teachers

฿44,000+ / month


Full-time NES Teachers

฿47,500+ / month


NES English, Science & Math Teachers

฿42,300+ / month


NES Chemistry, Science, Maths and English Teachers

฿59,000+ / month


NES Corporate Teachers

฿650+ / hour


Full-time Native Chinese Teacher

฿43,000+ / month


Featured Teachers

  • Charles

    Canadian, 56 years old. Currently living in Canada

  • Melanie

    Filipino, 24 years old. Currently living in Philippines

  • Bhiench

    Filipino, 26 years old. Currently living in Philippines

  • David

    Australian, 43 years old. Currently living in Thailand

  • Tint

    Myanmarese, 32 years old. Currently living in Thailand

  • Jie-ann

    Filipino, 25 years old. Currently living in Philippines

The Hot Spot

Contributions welcome

Contributions welcome

If you like visiting and reading the content, why not get involved yourself and keep us up to date?

Will I find work in Thailand?

Will I find work in Thailand?

It's one of the most common questions we get e-mailed to us. So find out exactly where you stand.

The cost of living

The cost of living

How much money does a teacher need to earn in order to survive in Thailand? We analyze the facts.

The Region Guides

The Region Guides

Fancy working in Thailand but not in Bangkok? Our region guides are written by teachers who actually live and work in the provinces.

The dreaded demo

The dreaded demo

Many schools ask for demo lessons before they hire. What should you the teacher be aware of?

Teacher mistakes

Teacher mistakes

What are the most common mistakes that teachers make when they are about to embark on a teaching career in Thailand? We've got them all covered.

Need Thailand insurance?

Need Thailand insurance?

Have a question about health or travel insurance in Thailand? Ricky Batten from Pacific Prime is Ajarn's resident expert.

Air your views

Air your views

Got something to say on the topic of teaching, working or living in Thailand? The Ajarn Postbox is the place. Send us your letters!