how to retire on $1200 a month

a sabbatical rest, day 71

It’s simple to retire on $1200 a month. Just move to Nepal.

We’ve been surprised at the cost of living here. Perhaps it’s the pandemic and skilled colleagues as negotiators, but we have a decent apartment for $600 a month with utilities. That includes good internet and light housekeeping. We have hot water for a few hours in the evening, more than enough for a good shower.

We pay for bottled water to drink— 5 gallons for about 50 cents. Fresh vegetables are really cheap, probably a quarter of what we pay in the US and fresher too. And we can buy a quart of the world’s best yogurt (juju dhau) for less than 2 dollars. Packaged goods—think a jar of jam or something like that— cost about the same or in some cases a little more. We’ve been buying meat from the frozen section in the grocery store; less than 2 dollars a pound for chicken, for example. We haven’t ventured into the fresh meat markets yet.

Eating out is generally much less expensive than at home. There are probably forty restaurants within our large city block, and we can split a meal for four or five dollars. The eateries have a fairly standard menu: some Chinese dishes, pizza, fried rice, and momos—basically small, steamed pierogis with vegetables, chicken, or buffalo. Also, dal bhat, a standard dish composed of lentil stew and rice. Some restaurants specialize in particular tribal or ethnic cuisine, and of course, you pay extra for ambiance. Still, we can both eat in a nicer restaurant for 10 or 12 bucks. Designer coffee is about half of what you pay at Starbucks, and of course, tea is cheap and plentiful. Even the good stuff, if you know where to look.

230 Nepali rupees is about $2 USD.

Our apartment came with a few pans and dishes, but we’ve spent perhaps 150 dollars buying spices, some storage containers, teacups, a tea kettle, a large saucepan, and cleaning supplies. And we can buy fresh flowers for the kitchen table for 2 or 3 dollars. I set up a home office—laser printer, office chair, and whiteboard for about $350 USD.

We walk almost everywhere, except when we go out to Bhaktapur on the weekend. But even a taxi is relatively inexpensive—3 or 4 miles for less than 2 dollars. And there are buses (all signage in Nepali script) that we haven’t tried. Yet. You can also arrange a private car and driver whenever you want for less than a late-model car payment in the US.

I pay less than 20 cents a day for four English language newspapers and Katie can get her hair washed and blown dry for about 8 dollars. Medical costs are low, and you can get reasonably good (Western) medical care for much less than you might at home, at least here in Kathmandu. Through the wonders of socialized medicine, you can get a colonoscopy for less than 25 dollars, or an MRI for less than 150.

You get the idea. You and your spouse could live here comfortably, not frugally, for $15,000 to $20,000 a year. You could still order gifts on Amazon for your kids and grandkids back home. (You couldn’t, however, buy anything for yourself on Amazon.)

There is plenty to see and do. Mountains to climb. Literally. In tourist-friendly Thamel, just about every third shop is a tour or travel agency. (I recommend my friend Dhan). Lakeside lodges, and clean but inexpensive hotels, are everywhere if you need a weekend away. Four and five-star hotels as well, if you want to splurge. I can stay at the Hyatt Regency next door for about $100 USD per night.

No use just being retired either. There is plenty of meaningful work to do, especially if you don’t expect to be paid for it. There are many NGOs, and you won’t have to look very hard to connect with something that you care about.

A Katti roll is meat and/or vegetable filling wrapped in a fresh grilled flat bread.

The language is challenging, but the people are friendly and helpful, and there are more English speakers than we expected, at least in the part of town where we are now. We met a woman who retired here from New Zealand 20 years ago. She said she has been “seduced” by Nepal. I can see that. In fact, it may be happening to us.

A residential visa is $1200 for a year, and you have to show you have a bank account with 20 grand. You also have to be flexible, patient, and resilient. For purposes of this exercise, I may have underestimated some challenges.

Let us know when you get here. We’ll probably be back in the States by then, but let us know.

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