You can’t please all of the people all of the time
It’s a sad but true fact that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. While most of us dance a little jig each time the sterling pops its head over the 1.40 mark (however briefly!), others wince and reach for their calculators, working out how much less they are now worth in sterling terms. For various reasons, as we have discussed before, people decide to ‘go home’. The very fact that they describe it in those terms probably makes them all the more likely to take that decision in the first place, but the fact is that the older we get, the more compelling the argument can become to return to our roots.
There are currently two main problems for those who come to that decision today. The first is the exchange rate, and the second is the housing market. How unfair is it that many of us came to France on the back of a strong pound, then congratulated ourselves when it collapsed, only to find that when we need it to stay weak, it bounces back to bite us where it hurts? And, to compound matters, our cherished piece of French real estate turns out to be worth a fraction of our own valuation. I don’t think this is particularly a French issue though, unless we (surely not?) were persuaded to pay more than the property was worth in the first place. I learned many years ago that if you think you might want to move home at some time in the future, plan ahead. Don’t wait until you want/need to sell and bide your time. Advertise early, and wait for that elusive buyer who really wants to buy your home. Easier said than done though, I must confess, although I have in the past been successful in selling a ‘quirky’ house on this basis, and buying a much more sellable property, purely to put myself into a more flexible situation where I knew I could move quickly if I needed to. Even then some ego inflated politicians started a war and held up our move to France for quite a few months.
No, you can’t please all the people all the time, but what you can do is try to give them the best advice at all times. If you get that right, then major upheavals such as moving back ’home’ can be made less of a trial. A good example is investment advice. I estimate that currently around 5% of my clients are in the process of moving back to the UK, or are thinking about it. I know for a fact that all of them are happy that they took my advice to invest in what I class as ‘Expat Assurance Vie’ policies. I call them this because I know full well that they are designed for and aimed at the expatriate market in France. One major advantage is that they are completely portable. It is easy to convert the policy to a standard UK investment bond. You could even have stayed invested in sterling, but if you had switched to Euro, you can switch back. If the current exchange rate deters you, there is nothing to stop you going back to the UK with your investments still in Euros, to be converted when the rate goes back down (as it surely will).
In part I blame social media for this new type of expat existence. Originally, when you moved abroad, you kept in touch by mail. Good old fashioned post. If something of note happened, either abroad or in the UK, you would write to your family and tell them about it. If it was very urgent, you’d phone, but that was expensive. Nowadays little Jimmy in Tonbridge Wells starts teething and the whole world knows about it in minutes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a complete dinosaur when it comes to these matters. I have a Facebook page! But I don’t really know how to use it though. I’ve never found my ‘Wall’, and I’ve never enjoyed being poked. As for Twitter, I’ve never understood the rationale behind it, never mind how to use it. I thought retweeting was military code for a strategic withdrawal.
I suppose it all has its uses, but it makes the world a more volatile place. Sometimes you can just have too much information. Sometimes it’s better to let someone else take over and do ‘stuff’ for you.
Maybe a financial adviser for example…