This paper explores the usefulness of the ‘asset vulnerability framework’, as devised by Moser (1998), for assessing the economic wellbeing of older people living in poor rural and urban communities in Thailand. Gaining an accurate view of older people's material situation is essential for the development of policies that target the needs of older people in contexts of resource scarcity. The paper shows the limitations and potential biases of assessments based purely on reported income levels. It then sets out the key principles of the asset vulnerability framework, which seeks to combine information about exposure to different economic risks with the relative capacity to deal with them. Drawing on survey data, the paper maps resilience to economic risk, finding that the very old and those living in rural communities are in the most precarious position, whereas gender differences are less apparent. The asset vulnerability framework is then applied to specific forms of risk: catastrophic health expenditure and the death of a child caused by HIV/AIDS. Patterns of vulnerability revealed by the framework roughly accord with those revealed by reported income, but there are important differences, such as the size of the vulnerability gap between rural and urban populations. The framework provides a much fuller picture of why some groups of older people are in a more precarious economic situation than others. The paper recommends that future surveys draw on Moser's framework, and place emphasis on identifying the risks that older people consider most important.