Bill Williams retired to a small village in western France just over five years ago with his wife. The Williams herald from a small village between Hereford and Abergavenny, and despite the region's picturesque countryside, increased rowdiness at night in the two local towns gradually discouraged them from visiting them at all, and was a significant factor in their decision to leave the UK.
After several holidays exploring different regions of France and with Bill's retirement approaching, the Williams eventually decided to move to the tiny village of Poitou-Thareate in 2004.
Bill and his wife purchased an old, two bedroom detached house in the village which required extensive renovation and the house and garden consequently became an ongoing hobby and project for the couple. Bill admits that despite the work needed on the property, they've enjoyed the project and feel entirely settled in their new home – so much so that they have no plans to return to the UK.
For individuals who are thinking about retiring abroad, Bill highlights that there are a number of factors which should be taken into consideration. For example when looking to purchase a house, "You need to be as clear and as firm as possible with the estate agents. At the end of the day, the agents will just want to sell you a house and you’ll find yourselves viewing properties which don’t match your criteria at all. However, it's important to stick to your guns, be direct with your agent, be patient, and enter the viewing market with an open mind, as it's unlikely that you'll be able to find a property which matches your criteria exactly."
Bill continues, "Many individuals who move to France are often tempted by beautiful, large houses which are accompanied by acres of land. However the long hot summers often mean that it is too uncomfortable to take on physical work during the day so large gardens end up being left incomplete. It's important to be realistic about the size of property that you go for and not to bite off more than you can chew!"
Since moving to France, the Williams have become good friends with the locals in their village and often have fun trying to communicate at dinner parties. Bill advises that "Although learning French is difficult, giving it a go is important, even if it's just a couple of words here and there - the locals really appreciate it."
Financial planning is another vital aspect of moving abroad, and the Williams sought out opportunities to save money wherever they could. One key money-saving tip Bill shares is to research foreign exchange options – as moving to a foreign country inevitably requires the exchange of finances from one currency to another, especially when buying property.
The Williams need to exchange money on a regular basis for general living costs and house maintenance. As such they transfer £700 of their pension over to their French account every month and transfer £7,000 worth of dividends on a yearly basis using foreign exchange specialist, Foremost Currency's Overseas Regular Payment Plan (ORPP). Unlike FOREX services offered by the High Street banks, Bill is not charged commission, gets a great personal service from specialist brokers whose day-job is currency, and gains a competitive exchange rate (please see comparison table below). "I found that when transferring relatively small amounts of money the High Street banks would offer close to a tourist exchange rate and charge between £20 - £40 per transfer and as much as 2% by way of commission. By using a specialist I can also fix a good rate for anything up to two years, and so lessen my exposure to negative fluctuations in the money markets."
The Williams are fully content with their new lives in France, and with no plans to ever return to the UK it is clear that Poitou-Thareate is now where they call home.