Coming Home Sticker Shock

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Hey everyone. I just came back to the U.S. from Thailand and I’m hit with sticker shock. The news tells me inflation is slowing down, but I’m still appalled with how much everything costs. Yesterday, I walked by the neighborhood Burmese restaurant and they were charging $19.50 for the tea leaf salad. Two main dishes, drinks, and tips would bring the price up to nearly $100! That’s too expensive for a casual meal out. I’d rather cook at home than spend that kind of money.

We are comfortable financially and we can afford to splurge occasionally. However, the problem is I recently spent less than $2 for an awesome tea leaf salad in Thailand. The sticker shock is making me very reluctant to go out. Mrs. RB40 has been telling me about all these new places opening up in our neighborhood, but I don’t want to go anywhere. I guess I’ll adjust to these prices eventually, but wow! Life is expensive in the U.S.

U.S. sticker shock

When I was in Thailand, I met up with Jason Fieber. He blogs at Mr. Free at 33 but spends most of his time making YouTube clips these days. He moved to Chiangmai 6 years ago because the money goes way further there. However, he is planning to move back to the U.S. soon. The last 6 years gave his net worth a big boost.

Now that he is wealthier, he thinks he’ll be more comfortable in the U.S. It’s too hot and humid in Chiangmai for him. In addition, the air quality is horrible from February to April every year. The burning season puts a ton of fine particles in the air. He also misses the variety of food in the U.S. He said Thai food is good in Chiangmai, but other cuisines are overpriced and unpalatable. I disagree because other Asian (Chinese, Korean, Japanese, etc…) cuisines are quite good there. But he’s probably right about western cuisines. I don’t eat pizza and burgers when I’m in Thailand so I don’t really know.

Life in the U.S. is good, but he’ll get a big sticker shock when he moves back. Housing, food, and transportation are so much more expensive here. An apartment in Portland cost 3-4 times more. An average new car cost nearly $50,000! And as we all know, groceries and eating out are much more expensive than 6 years ago. The same lifestyle in the US will easily cost 5x as much as in Chiangmai.

RB40 household

Fortunately, we’re relatively shielded from inflation because our housing and transportation expenses are stable. We purchased our home 10 years ago and refinanced when the rate was low. Also, it’s a duplex so the rental income is helping out a lot. The utility bills are going up, but we can handle that. Our transportation expense is also way lower than average. We already have a car and we don’t drive much.

Groceries and eating out are much more expensive and we feel that. We used to spend less than $50 when we go out, but that won’t go far these days. That’s why I’m cooking at home as often as I can. Groceries are more expensive too, but it is still way cheaper than eating out.  

Jason expects he’ll spend more when he moves back to the U.S., but I think he’ll be surprised how much more. Everything is so much more expensive than when he left 6 years ago. He’ll get a sticker shock, for sure.

Retirees & Inflation

Inflation is a big problem for everyone, but it is worse for retirees. Workers can change jobs or ask for a pay raise to help deal with inflation. Retirees don’t have that luxury. They have to depend on passive income which might not keep up with inflation. Fortunately, Social Security benefits will increase by 8.7 percent in 2023. That’s just part of the equation, though. Retirees also have to depend on personal savings. That part needs to keep up with inflation as well.

Last year, our passive income grew by 32% from the previous year. That’s much better than inflation, but we won’t be able to grow at that pace for long. The main reason why it grew so much was that Mrs. RB40 is still working. We kept investing and grew our passive income. Once she retires, we won’t be able to invest as much. By then, our passive income should be much higher than our expenses. Hopefully, we can reinvest and stay ahead of inflation.

In conclusion, I’m still shocked by the high prices, but I should be able to readjust soon. Our passive income outpaces inflation by a large margin. I shouldn’t feel guilty about splurging occasionally. I’ll probably make my own fermented tea leaf salad, though. $19.50 is ridiculous!

Has anything given you sticker shock lately? I heard eggs are pretty expensive these days.

*Passive income is the key to early retirement. These days, I’m investing in commercial properties with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the United States. It’s been working so well that I’m planning to sell our rental condo so I can invest more. Go check them out!

More about tea leaves salad

Fermented tea leaf salad is a dish from Myanmar (Burma). It’s delicious and very healthy. Here is a really nice version I had in Chiangmai.

It’s a mix of fermented tea leaves, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, mango, cucumber, carrot, sesame seeds, crunchy nuts, scallion, honey, and other herbs. It’s one of my favorite things to eat in Chiangmai. It’s way better than the $19.50 tea leaf salad in Portland, IMO.

Anyway, the internet tells me I can make my own fermented tea leaves at home with green tea. I’ll try it out and see if I can replicate this dish at home.

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Image credit: OSPAN ALI

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.

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