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Expats working in Thailand [Split from Thailand Air Pollution problems]

Expats working in Thailand [Split from Thailand Air Pollution problems]

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Old Mar 24, 19, 12:59 am
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Expats working in Thailand [Split from Thailand Air Pollution problems]

I get the sense that Chiang Mai was on the verge of a breakout of being THE place so often mentioned as the premier example of one where you can live a lot cheaper than in (insert developed country here, such as the U.S.) that it becomes known even to the public at large, but that this haze problem just killed that off for at least several years.

Now whenever we get the bloggers, YouTubers or even occasional TV shows gushing about it they hear immediately, "Yeah, but it's so polluted for some months in a year that it'll endanger your health. It even made Most Polluted City in the World during that time."

Thailand won't be able to measure the losses from the comedown from what COULD have been, but I have a feeling they'll be huge. CM could have been the world-renowned Digital Nomad Capital and another feather in the cap for the TAT, but for this.

Was in Bangkok earlier in the week for one of the 100-degree days, BTW. Not fun to think how it could be happening more often soon with climate change.
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Old Mar 24, 19, 11:53 am
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Originally Posted by RustyC View Post
I get the sense that Chiang Mai was on the verge of a breakout of being THE place so often mentioned as the premier example of one where you can live a lot cheaper than in (insert developed country here, such as the U.S.) that it becomes known even to the public at large, but that this haze problem just killed that off for at least several years.

Now whenever we get the bloggers, YouTubers or even occasional TV shows gushing about it they hear immediately, "Yeah, but it's so polluted for some months in a year that it'll endanger your health. It even made Most Polluted City in the World during that time."

Thailand won't be able to measure the losses from the comedown from what COULD have been, but I have a feeling they'll be huge. CM could have been the world-renowned Digital Nomad Capital and another feather in the cap for the TAT, but for this.

Was in Bangkok earlier in the week for one of the 100-degree days, BTW. Not fun to think how it could be happening more often soon with climate change.
Chiang Mai IS undoubtedly the digital nomad capital of the world. In our first week there alone we went to 3 different DN meetups: https://readyjetroam.com/2019/02/07/...eeting-people/

It's simply acknowledged that during burning season from early March til early June the nomads wander elsewhere. That's the beauty of being nomadic, after all!

Expats, otoh, are screwed and make do with face masks and air purifiers.
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Old Mar 24, 19, 12:28 pm
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Originally Posted by kokonutz View Post
Chiang Mai IS undoubtedly the digital nomad capital of the world. In our first week there alone we went to 3 different DN meetups: https://readyjetroam.com/2019/02/07/...eeting-people/

It's simply acknowledged that during burning season from early March til early June the nomads wander elsewhere. That's the beauty of being nomadic, after all!

Expats, otoh, are screwed and make do with face masks and air purifiers.
I don't think Joe Sixpack who doesn't even have a passport knows that CM is the digital nomad capital yet. That's what I was getting at when I mentioned being on the cusp of a breakout in terms of awareness.

I also don't see how it can stay the capital if it's got that kind of thing hanging over its head. Having better or worse seasons to go isn't unusual for places, but having a period of months where staying becomes a real hazard to health DOES make it more mandatory than optional that you leave for that time, and if there's no decent year-round option then it's hard to see how it stays the capital. It could be that this year was a wake-up call about that. Of course, maybe the Thai government cracks down effectively or gives the farmers some other alternative for disposing of refuse, but I'm not holding my breath there.
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Old Mar 24, 19, 6:47 pm
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Originally Posted by kokonutz View Post
Expats, otoh, are screwed and make do with face masks and air purifiers.
Along with the ~ 15 million Thais similarly affected each year who lead a less nomadic life.

While it seems like the Thai authorities have, more or less, laid off arresting "Digital Nomads" for now (assuming you're not on an overstay, and are on a valid tourist visa/TVE, which are becoming more limited; this assumes you haven't gotten the new SMART Visa), it's not difficult to see Big Joke (Pol Maj-General Surachate Hakpal) shifting his focus to "Nomads" once one is involved in a dodgy video or activity. After all, he's just about rounded up all the dark/brown people with Operation Black Eagle, since re-branded to Operation X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner.

There are more and more daily reports of people being bounced on arrival, most at DMK for now, for coming too often and staying too long in Thailand on tourist visas/exemptions.

Vietnam seems much more accommodating offering 90-day and even 1 year (maybe just for Americans?) visas.

Originally Posted by RustyC View Post
Of course, maybe the Thai government cracks down effectively or gives the farmers some other alternative for disposing of refuse, but I'm not holding my breath there.
For the most part, the seasonal burning is not "refuse", it's old growth, and that which affects the north of Thailand blows in from Myanmar. That's not to say there isn't a lot of burning within Thailand too.

Last edited by transpac; Mar 24, 19 at 9:06 pm
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Old Mar 25, 19, 5:16 am
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Originally Posted by transpac View Post
Along with the ~ 15 million Thais similarly affected each year who lead a less nomadic life.

While it seems like the Thai authorities have, more or less, laid off arresting "Digital Nomads" for now (assuming you're not on an overstay, and are on a valid tourist visa/TVE, which are becoming more limited; this assumes you haven't gotten the new SMART Visa), it's not difficult to see Big Joke (Pol Maj-General Surachate Hakpal) shifting his focus to "Nomads" once one is involved in a dodgy video or activity. After all, he's just about rounded up all the dark/brown people with Operation Black Eagle, since re-branded to Operation X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner.

There are more and more daily reports of people being bounced on arrival, most at DMK for now, for coming too often and staying too long in Thailand on tourist visas/exemptions.


.
This is a hot topic among the Farangs in CM.

IME, many of the people who call themselves digital nomads in CM are neither digital nor nomadic. They are what we came to call poorpats (poor expats who can't afford to live anywhere but CM)...aka 'backpackers.' These are the folks most likely to be doing visa overstays or visa runs.

Then there are the sExpats (the name explains itself)...although many of them are on retirement visas.

Many of the DNs we met were on teacher or education visas. Those folks are nervous that the poorpats and sExpats are ruining it for them.

As for us, we took a side-trip to KL to extend our time in CM by a couple week: https://readyjetroam.com/2019/02/23/...a-couple-days/

Was that a visa run? Hm.

Anyway, it's tough to blame Thai authorities if/when they do crack down on poorpats and sExpats. Those folks contribute little and do harm.

Vietnam seems much more accommodating offering 90-day and even 1 year (maybe just for Americans?) visas.
Vietnam is indeed cleaner...but also more expensive and painful...which tends to scare the poorpats and sExpats away. We paid $90US for 3-month multi-entry visas with fast-track: https://readyjetroam.com/2019/03/10/...-tourist-visa/
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Old Mar 25, 19, 9:00 am
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I personally think that the Philippines is trying to make itself the preferred destination for Digital Nomads

https://nomadcapitalist.com/2018/01/...esidency-srrv/

The SRRV program has a very generous age requirement, and the cash they require to be deposited as part of the visa application isn't remotely as high as some others like the Thai Elite visa program - $20k USD is all that's required and you can withdraw it whenever you decide to give up the SRRV. $360 annual fee and it covers the spouse.


IMO, that's the kind of program that Thailand should be implementing if they actually wanted to attract Digital Nomads. They should make a higher deposit requirement given different levels of economic development, but requiring something like $50k USD to be placed in escrow until such time the resident gives up the visa should weed out the sExpats and poorpats.
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Old Mar 25, 19, 11:40 am
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Originally Posted by kokonutz View Post
This is a hot topic among the Farangs in CM.

IME, many of the people who call themselves digital nomads in CM are neither digital nor nomadic. They are what we came to call poorpats (poor expats who can't afford to live anywhere but CM)...aka 'backpackers.' These are the folks most likely to be doing visa overstays or visa runs.

Then there are the sExpats (the name explains itself)...although many of them are on retirement visas.

Many of the DNs we met were on teacher or education visas. Those folks are nervous that the poorpats and sExpats are ruining it for them.

As for us, we took a side-trip to KL to extend our time in CM by a couple week: https://readyjetroam.com/2019/02/23/...a-couple-days/

Was that a visa run? Hm.

Anyway, it's tough to blame Thai authorities if/when they do crack down on poorpats and sExpats. Those folks contribute little and do harm.
People on limited budgets have been in Thailand for far longer than there have been digital nomads and would resent such characterizations. Especially if they had to jump through hoops with the retirement visas. Teachers in Thailand also aren't known for being well-compensated (are they poorpats?), and there's always room to suspect that many on the learn-Thai visas are using them as a loophole (and some schools will advertise how infrequently you have to attend class to keep it going).

Digital nomads, OTOH, are in a newer area of constant change where the remote working to earn in a strong currency could be eroded by VAs from places like India and the FBA models by Amazon greed (already lots of gripes about Amazon knowing what sells and possibly trying to co-opt or compete...good luck trying to sue them if they do). Heck, I remember 15 years ago when eBay was looser and a very few people were making 6 figures briefly with the knock-off purses (that they hoped buyers were buying KNOWING they were knock-offs). That didn't last and that's my point. The retirees are probably there for life and have been known to pull out all the stops to not go back to their home country, whereas the DNs will, at minimum, have to constantly adapt and may be in a window of opportunity where the cost to maintain it rises over the long term.
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Old Mar 25, 19, 12:02 pm
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Originally Posted by Plato90s View Post
I personally think that the Philippines is trying to make itself the preferred destination for Digital Nomads

https://nomadcapitalist.com/2018/01/...esidency-srrv/

The SRRV program has a very generous age requirement, and the cash they require to be deposited as part of the visa application isn't remotely as high as some others like the Thai Elite visa program - $20k USD is all that's required and you can withdraw it whenever you decide to give up the SRRV. $360 annual fee and it covers the spouse.


IMO, that's the kind of program that Thailand should be implementing if they actually wanted to attract Digital Nomads. They should make a higher deposit requirement given different levels of economic development, but requiring something like $50k USD to be placed in escrow until such time the resident gives up the visa should weed out the sExpats and poorpats.
I've been saying for some time that we need to get some competition going with this. Some countries appear to be doing that (Malaysia is another) and trying to attract retirees with less hassle than you get in Thailand. Though as is often the case, there's not a lot of publicity or awareness. Every place will have negatives (the Philippines certainly does), and the more of those you have the higher percentage you'll get of people from western countries PRIMARILY attracted by low costs because of having to live on low fixed incomes. That's just a fact of life...Cambodia has long been known as the lowest-cost haven for that (though you certainly don't want to have a medical emergency there).

The whole "poorpats" and "sExpats" bit I think will be deeply offensive to some, and it's also in fact nothing new that Thailand has been trying to move up the scale on both the visitors and retirees they "prefer." (I remember efforts from 20 years ago in this area).

If the country develops then the "problem" will take care of itself, as wages will have to go up, costs will go up and the country will be less affordable. I saw a stat a few years ago that pointed out that all the gains in purchasing power that peaked after the baht crash in 1997 have been eroded away and then some, either by price increases or the exchange rate firming up.If the country stays on a path to development it'll be more of the same.

If not, though, it'll be like the casino that only wants to deal to high rollers, or the airline that wants only high-paying pax. Sounds good, but there simply aren't enough to go around in the real world. They could still get super tough on the visas like Vietnam did for years, but they'd just be leaving gobs of money on the table and I'm sure the Philippines, Malaysia or somebody else would love to try to get the increased business. (At least, if you believe in competition and markets working).
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Old Mar 25, 19, 6:53 pm
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Originally Posted by kokonutz View Post

Many of the DNs we met were on teacher or education visas. Those folks are nervous that the poorpats and sExpats are ruining it for them.

As for us, we took a side-trip to KL to extend our time in CM by a couple week: https://readyjetroam.com/2019/02/23/...a-couple-days/

Was that a visa run? Hm.

Anyway, it's tough to blame Thai authorities if/when they do crack down on poorpats and sExpats. Those folks contribute little and do harm.
The Ed Visa loophole is all but gone away, "whaddya mean I have to go to class". Teachers need a Non-Imm B + Work Permit. Anyone on a teacher's salary, save at an int'l school in Bangkok, is a TeaPat aka PoorPat, or BegPacker.

A TVE can be extended for 30 days (not 60 days) in country for 1,900.

Leaving and returning on sequential TVEs is by definition a Visa Run. Immigration is clamping down on this approach, regardless of one's pretentiousness.

A much better approach would be to get a METV, extend that by 30 days and use re-entry permits. That would give you 90 days in Thailand.

IME, Vietnam, specifically comparing Bangkok and HCMC, is less expensive. Challenges include bandwidth, transpo and health care.

I respect anyone who can live out of a suitcase, no matter how silly they sound branding themselves, but I don't envy them.

Immigration has been cracking down for a few years with Big Joke making a name for himself of late, although he is seen to be a bit jumped-up by the PTB.

Most people know to avoid the north of Thailand from early Feb until after Songkran, assuming they can. Most Thai people just have to suffer through the burning season.
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Old Mar 25, 19, 8:30 pm
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I remember a spa operation back in Ko Samui from some 20 years ago where their employees working on the colonic cleansing programs were expats working on tourist visas. It was the done thing at the time, and the management didn't think that Thais were qualified for those jobs even though the government might not agree there.

Things have changed. The stated intent of what the Thai government is doing is hard to argue, i.e. they're insisting you have the right kind of visa for whatever it is you're doing, rather than using one type of visa for something else. It's always in the implementation that things get messed up. I remember when they first started the B2000-fine litter patrols...sounded like a noble idea, but it morphed into a revenue-raising thing targeted at the tourist areas. That's how you get all the cynicism.

As for the pollution, from reading the Bangkok Post from about a week ago it sounded like the PM2.5 was especially worrisome...small particles that can get caught in lungs and deliver carcinogens. There was a lot of focus on levels of those in particular.
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Old Mar 25, 19, 11:57 pm
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Originally Posted by transpac View Post
The Ed Visa loophole is all but gone away, "whaddya mean I have to go to class". Teachers need a Non-Imm B + Work Permit. Anyone on a teacher's salary, save at an int'l school in Bangkok, is a TeaPat aka PoorPat, or BegPacker.
The expat teachers we met in Chiang Mai were making ~$30US/day, had valid visas without resorting to runs. Although not rich, $900/mo is a decent income in CM.

A TVE can be extended for 30 days (not 60 days) in country for 1,900.

Leaving and returning on sequential TVEs is by definition a Visa Run. Immigration is clamping down on this approach, regardless of one's pretentiousness.

A much better approach would be to get a METV, extend that by 30 days and use re-entry permits. That would give you 90 days in Thailand.
Yes, as I say in the blog post, we considered that. But were ready for a side-trip anyway. And I make no pretension: what we did was a visa waiver run. Although we didn't do the classic Mae Sai VR, we did leave most of our stuff at our flat in CM when we visited KL for a couple days with the intention of returning to it on fresh visa waivers.

IME, Vietnam, specifically comparing Bangkok and HCMC, is less expensive. Challenges include bandwidth, transpo and health care.

I respect anyone who can live out of a suitcase, no matter how silly they sound branding themselves, but I don't envy them.
Of our major data points as digital nomads in SE Asia we have found Koh Samui more expensive than Da Nang more expensive than Chiang Mai.

We're leaving for Bali tomorrow so we shall see where that falls...
Originally Posted by RustyC
People on limited budgets have been in Thailand for far longer than there have been digital nomads and would resent such characterizations.
The whole "poorpats" and "sExpats" bit I think will be deeply offensive to some, and it's also in fact nothing new that Thailand has been trying to move up the scale on both the visitors and retirees they "prefer." (I remember efforts from 20 years ago in this area).
Offensive to whom? The poorpats and sExpats I met know they are poor and/or know they are there for the sex, even as they try to rebrand themselves as digital nomads. Heck, that's WHY they want to rebrand themselves as digital nomads!

Go have dinner at Pern's in CM on a Wednesday night...it's where folks on retirement visas tend to gather for half-price wine night...and strike up a conversation as we did. No end to the defenses, resentments and theories about what it will all bring about. But the overriding concern is that poorpats and sExpats will ruin it for everyone.

Originally Posted by Plato90s
I personally think that the Philippines is trying to make itself the preferred destination for Digital Nomads
The PI brings out very strong reactions among the DNs I have met along the way: people either love it for the cheapness and beaches or they hate it for the people and the crap food. I haven't been (yet) so reserve judgement. But it's a well known DN blogger trick to bash the PI because it will trigger DNs and filipinos into responding.

Originally Posted by RustyC
Digital nomads, OTOH, are in a newer area of constant change where the remote working to earn in a strong currency could be eroded by VAs from places like India and the FBA models by Amazon greed (already lots of gripes about Amazon knowing what sells and possibly trying to co-opt or compete...good luck trying to sue them if they do). Heck, I remember 15 years ago when eBay was looser and a very few people were making 6 figures briefly with the knock-off purses (that they hoped buyers were buying KNOWING they were knock-offs). That didn't last and that's my point. The retirees are probably there for life and have been known to pull out all the stops to not go back to their home country, whereas the DNs will, at minimum, have to constantly adapt and may be in a window of opportunity where the cost to maintain it rises over the long term.
This gets right at the heart of an ongoing hot topic among 'digital nomads': What the hell IS a digital nomad, anyway. These days people who used to be defined as expats, backpackers, gap year kids, gap year adults, travelers and even some vacationers now define themselves as digital nomads.

The expats confuse me: how can you be a nomad when you never travel? The backpackers and gap year folks and even travelers I get: DN is cool (for now). But most of those folks aren't working on line...they are chasing a Tim Ferris-inspired dream of one day making money on the internet.

After attending a dozen digital nomad meetups we have met maybe a total of 7 or 8 people like us who make a good income from working online...and a couple of those are simply remote workers for western corporations (ie, 'real jobs.')

But honestly: whatever! Who cares?

Here's what I wrote on a DN Facebook group yesterday on the question:

I’m fairly new to the DN lifestyle. But I must say I’ve been a bit surprised how many poorpackers and expats identify as DN.

I’ve never been a Tim Ferris fan...that dude never worked a 4-hour week in his life.

Have you SEEN him? Waaaay too hyper-focused for that. That makes him like all the other hucksters who sell a dream that they don’t live: fast-talking music man.

I don’t identify with a 4-hour workweek. More like 30.

I’ve definitely struggled with adopting the DN title/moniker.

After all, i like to fly business class. I don’t eat rice OR noodles. I might just be a poser!!!

At the end of the day does it matter? I’m living the life I love being location independent and meeting amazing people while having incredible experiences.

Wait...

/sarcasm/ it’s time to create a DN guild where certain standards of work and actual nomading have to be met to differentiate DNs from expats, sexpats and poorpats. /sarcasm/

Nah. You do you. YOLO!
You do you. YOLO!


Oh, one last thing, Rusty: TOTALLY agree that the online retail business model is in constant flux. We're spending a lot of time these days diversifying our sales channels as a result.

Last edited by kokonutz; Mar 26, 19 at 12:06 am
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Old Mar 26, 19, 1:03 am
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Originally Posted by kokonutz View Post
The expat teachers we met in Chiang Mai were making ~$30US/day, had valid visas without resorting to runs. Although not rich, $900/mo is a decent income in CM.

But the overriding concern is that poorpats and sExpats will ruin it for everyone.

Valid visa? Maybe. Work Permit? I'm guessing, maybe not. 29,000 baht/ month is most definitely PoorPat territory, and definitely not sExPat territory. No Money, No Honey.

To qualify for an extension of stay based on retirement now (2019) requires 65,000 baht transferred into a Thai Bank from outside of Thailand each month, if your Embassy no longer authorizes income, or 800,000 baht on deposit for 5 months (and cannot dip below 400,000). An extension of stay based on marriage to a Thai requires 40,000/month, or 400,000 on deposit.

I seriously doubt that this is an "overriding" concern. Weeding out the people who may not qualify hardly seems negative for those who do. There should absolutely be no concern whatsoever. As long as the digital nonad qualifies as a "tourist" (and that definition is subject to on-going modification) no one can ruin anything for you, and it seems silly to suggest such a thing.
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Old Mar 26, 19, 1:28 am
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We met expats living on $12-$15/day out of their savings making visa runs on their scooter. <shrug>

The retirees we met at Pernís were mostly fixed-income pensioners: former cops, teachers, railroad workers who have a defined benefit income each month. Their concern is that the income or deposit limits will be raised beyond their pension income.

Last edited by kokonutz; Mar 26, 19 at 1:34 am
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Old Mar 26, 19, 3:41 am
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Originally Posted by kokonutz View Post
We met expats living on $12-$15/day out of their savings making visa runs on their scooter. <shrug>
This strains credulity. <un-shrug>

Chiang Mai to Mae Sai is ~ 260 Km, on not very scooter friendly roads.

It is widely known that the maximum land-border crossings allowed per 12 months is TWO. (Anything north of SIX air arrivals can be a cause for a bounce, or at least an in-depth "review".)

Not sure what constitutes "living"? Housing, food, transport, entertainment?
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Old Mar 26, 19, 5:46 am
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Originally Posted by kokonutz View Post
Their concern is that the income or deposit limits will be raised beyond their pension income.
Deposit limits tend to be grandfathered in so if they start at one level they maintain it and future rises do not affect them. There are still guys using deposits put in place 20 (or more) years ago that have never increased.
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