by Steve and Denise Peete
1oth September 2009
When Denise and I first approached Andy in 2001, on the recommendation of one of his clients, I think he was taken slightly aback by our lack of goals. We really only had one and that was to move lock stock and barrel to Spain and to do it while we were both young enough to enjoy it, ideally before I was 55 in 2013. To do this we needed Andy and his team to make our money work as hard as possible and to put us in a position where we could live off our accumulated savings and pensions.
Throughout all of our meetings and planning sessions this goal never really altered although the timeline kept being reduced and by early 2008 it had reduced to 2010. Both Denise and I had recovered from serious illnesses and as a result we both wanted to change our lifestyles to something more relaxing and hopefully less stressful. Andy's team really seemed to identify with what we wanted and came up with suggestions on improving our income. We made sure that Denise had paid enough contributions to qualify for a full pension for example and we tried to maximise my pension contributions.
In 2007 we had sold our city centre flat for a reasonable amount and bearing Spain in mind we moved into rented accomodation which allowed us to save a larger amount each month. On the downside the "credit crunch" and associated recession put something of a dent in our ambitions but Andy was adamant that the portfolio would perform better than the market and that in the long term there were opportunities to bolster our income, a view that has proved to be right.
In early 2009 I became increasingly frustrated at work and came to a mutual parting of the ways. We were now free to achieve our goal a year early and after a final meeting with Andy we left England in April, having found somewhere to rent in Spain.
Despite the strength of the euro the cost of living here is still cheaper than in the UK and it is very much a different approach to life. We shop in Spanish markets and live on seasonal produce - strawberries in April/May, cherries in June/July, peaches, plums and nectarines now. Lemons grow in such profusion that they just fall on the floor and oranges grow just about everywhere. Our part of Spain, Almeria, is pretty poor so there are few shopping centres. Things are changing slightly but it will be a long time before we have anything rivalling Bluewater or the Trafford Centre (I hope).
After 3 months we knew this was the right place for us and we started looking for a house. There are a lot for sale here as many Brits are returning to the UK and after a while we despaired of finding what we wanted, an individual villa in a small Spanish village, within walking distance of a bar and with great views. Then we were shown a half completed two storey house in Los Cojos (the Cripples) and we both fell in love with it. After some tense negotiations the builder accepted our offer and we hope to move in at the end of October.
While we love Spain and the people here you do have to accept the drawbacks as well as the benefits. Corruption is still very much a part of life here and there are major concerns that many houses are illegal because the developers should never have been allowed to build. Spain is also intensely bureaucratic and obtaining our National Insurance Numbers (NIEs) was quite an exercise as we had to travel over 100 miles to the provincial capital for a 3 minute meeting to apply and then return two weeks later to collect them. Spain is also behind the UK in terms of broadband and as a result our access to the internet has been sporadic.On the upside the local town hall provides a free wi-fi broadband service which we are able to use - something I can't see happening in the UK. We have managed to have our scheduled meeting with Andy via Skype and we have also been able to stay in contact with the family in the same way (note from Andy - we don't usually do home visits but I'm sure we could make an exception in this case!).
Despite all these drawbacks both Denise and I already think of Spain as home. We check on the progress of the house every couple of days and the furniture search is well under way. (Unfortunately no DFS or Dreams sales here). We fret about the Euro versus the pound but in reality we can afford to have a good life here. Andy believes that we can fund our desired life style for the forseeable future and we can nip back to the UK to see the family when we want to. There are still lots of things to do to integrate properly. We will need to apply for residency status and then investigate if it makes sense to become fiscal residents but that's all in the future. For now we are looking forward to moving in and enjoying our first Spanish winter up in the mountains.