Breaking point: British pensioners in Spain open up about money worries

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Breaking point: British pensioners in Spain open up about money worries
People drink on a terrace at a bar on the Costa del Sol's Benalmadena. Photo: AFP

Dipping into savings, a lack of social life, constantly worrying about money – British pensioners in Spain have opened up on the impact of the falling value of the pound on their lives.


When the British pound fell to a two-year low last week, most headlines focused on tourists getting less holiday spending money, but for retirees in France the situation is far more serious than having to cut back on the ice creams on their annual break.

There is a large community of people in Spain who are reliant on some way in money from the UK. Some people work remotely for British companies, others get income from house rentals or dividends from businesses or shares, but the largest group are pensioners.

Currency fluctuations of the pound have a massive impact on the lives of British pensioners in France. Photo: AFP

Many are not on high incomes anyway, so a drop in the exchange rate can take a significant chunk out of their monthly income.

On July 31st, the pound hit a two-year low, trading at €1.09.

Currency fluctuations of the pound have a massive impact on the lives of British pensioners in France. Photo: AFP

That means that anyone who is on a fixed monthly income of £1,200 from the UK is getting €1,308 per month, compared to €1,548 at the start of June 2016 (before the Brexit referendum). Back in 1999, the same amount would have got you €1,800.

And readers of The Local have been telling us how this has affected them.

Some in Spain spoke of "becoming a recluse" since having to cut back on trips out and socializing.

“I buy less , go out less , buy cheaper,” explains Peter Roberts who is living off a combined state and private pension in Spain.He said that he has changed his spending habits and now “only goes out for a meal once every 3 or 4 weeks”.

Penelope Darby agreed, explaining that the drop in the value of the pound has meant “having to watch utility bills and food shopping,” and that “eating out curtailed a lot,” and now only have a meal out “once a month”.

But it was one account from a reader who lives in Barcelona that was particularly shocking: “It has made our relaxed lifestyle into a very stressed existence as we no longer have sufficient for fixed outgoings,” wrote Karen Kessi.

 “We have used up savings and going into debt on credit cards.”

She explained that her family could no longer “eat out or go on excursions” and that it had seriously affected  not only her son’s schooling but also her health.

“Our son (in public local school) had to give up extra curricular activities. I am disabled and receive no benefits and can no longer afford therapeutic treatments that were helping me cope with chronic pain,” she said, adding that her income came from renting out a property in the UK.


Many British pensioners in France and Spain have having to make big lifestyle changes. Photo: Susan Sermoneta/flickr

Meanwhile over the border in France, several British pensioners spoke of their struggle.

Paul Trevor Bale, who lives in Aude in South West France, says he estimates his income has gone down around €150 a month.

He said: "I can’t make all the trips I want to, haven't been able to redecorate the house or buy rugs and furniture I need, or get help in my massive garden since a knee injury.

"I'm looking at all outgoings and cutting down on expenses as far as possible. I shop more carefully."

For some it has meant putting off dreams of retirement.

Bryan Woy, who lives in Normandy, said: "Taking into account that over half of my retirement pension comes from the UK, I would say that my overall income has gone down by about 10 percent since the referendum.

"I am lucky enough to be able to continue to earn money in France, teaching and translating (until I become too old and tired). I probably work more than I would have done if the referendum result had gone the other way."

And Ivan Robinson, who has emigrated to Oregon in the USA, pointed out that the pound has also fallen steadily against the dollar.

He said: "This is not only a problem in Europe, I am a permanent resident in USA and the loss from the pound to dollar is causing a definite hardship, the present drop in the pound equates for me two to three weeks grocery bills, resulting in a major drop in lifestyle."

And of course there was also some classic British humour deployed in a difficult situation. One respondent – we think jokingly – suggested taking up prostitution while Ivan Robinson added: "I have researched British war time recipes for cooking at home – amazing the different ways one can cook meals with Spam."

READ MORE: The ultimate No-Deal Brexit checklist for Brits in Spain


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