Why I am no longer going to retire in Portugal
I’ve been a rabid renter for years. In fact, even now I am not sure I even want a place, I want to rent and save the rest of my money if I can.
No, it has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with our family being extended, and everything to do with the fact that after we visited Europe and cruised through where we THOUGHT we might want to retire, we realized it was no longer a good deal.
We no longer want to live in Europe when we’re old.
We had originally planned on going to some hick village in the middle of nowhere Portugal, buying a property for cheap, and re-doing it with local labour (they’re fantastic stonemasons here when given proper direction and supervision!), then living our lives out in a fully-paid for, all-stone abode.
After visiting Portugal, this is no longer an option for us for these reasons.
1. IT IS NO LONGER IN ESCUDOS, BUT IN EUROS
The euro really, frickin’ effed up a lot of poorer, otherwise reasonably-priced and popular retirement destination countries like Spain and Portugal to name the two we were looking at.
What used to cost the equivalent of 2 EUR in escudos, now costs 10 EUR.
In Portugal, you could have purchased food for so cheap, at such high quality it would have brought tears to your eyes in the past.
Or so everyone tells me.
Now, the minimum price for something is “1 EUR”, which is 100 escudos, an amount that would have been considered significant, to the equivalent of about $10.
Can you imagine paying $10 for 3 oranges? I can’t.
Or how about paying $30 for 2 tubs of yoghurt?
It sounds crazy, but that’s basically the kind of money crunch people here are going through.
As a result, prospective retirees such as myself are not as keen to move to this country to live, if I am going to have my money basically be hamstringed by the greediness of everyone around me.
It’s a better deal in Canada.
2. IT IS NOT THE RETIREMENT LIFE I HAD ORIGINALLY WANTED
Now that the economy has tanked in Portugal, there is less of a life. Older people are now basically sitting on chairs outside, waiting to kick the bucket. If they’re not waiting outside to kick the bucket, shooting the breeze with other old-timers and trying to catch young people to have a conversation with, they’re inside, watching TV and slowly letting their brain turn into vegetable soup.
They aren’t really mingling and chatting any more because everyone is so stressed and unhappy about what’s going on, and the general feeling in this country is one of discontent.
Putting all that aside, even if the economy was better and people were as happy and as “rich” as they were before, swimming in escudos, I have had a lot of time (A LOT!) to think about what “retirement” means to me.
I had originally thought at 23 when I started my job that “retirement” would be me, sitting at home, doing jack squat. Yes, I’d cook, garden, read and perhaps continue to blog as some crochety ol’ grandma, but I wouldn’t be doing ANYTHING.
Sounds like utter bliss, right?
(This would be me in retirement)
Although… now, as I have had half my career (actually more than 50%) where I have been taking off long periods of time and NOT WORKING AT ALL, I have been unconsciously rehearsing for what my retirement would be like.
Frankly, I find the entire “retirement dream” quite stifling.
It’s so boring, I could scream. I did everything i thought I would in retirement, and I was so bored, I was on the verge of picking up a part-time job at Starbucks just to have something to do.
Seriously, why do you think I blog daily now? It’s because when I don’t work, I need to channel my excess mental energy somewhere, and you’re unfortunately, getting the brunt of it all!
Turns out, I need a medium-sized, moderately modern city (look at that alliteration!) where I am able to take walks around the same old neighbourhood or downtown core, feel the energy of young’uns around me and get re-energized as a result.
I simply cannot, and will not, force myself into a country life that I am not fit for.
I have realized that am more of a city mouse (sans television-watching) than a country mouse, it turns out.
3. I WANT TO BE CLOSE TO OTHER BIG CITIES
The reason why I liked Europe SO MUCH was because I could just take a flight from one city to another, and in a few hours, be in another environment.
Plus since I’ll have kids, they’ll have grandkids and they PROBABLY won’t be living anywhere close to me, but will stay in North America for the most part which makes it paramount that I am able to have them visit me easily and vice versa.
Who wants to really take a 13-hour flight and a 3-hour bus ride to go see Grandma in the middle of nowhere? I want to make it easy for them to visit!
The problem is that with the way Europe is (even before the crisis), it is a new style of life you have to get accustomed to — lower standards of customer service, basic amenities I take for granted in Canada like having a clean, stocked with toilet paper and soap, public bathroom available FOR FREE, EVERYWHERE, etc etc.
If I am old, I’ll probably be in something close to adult diapers if I live in Europe, but in North America, I’d be able to get away without having to wear diapers in my old age if bathrooms are free and readily available in stores and restaurants.
Minor point, but something I thought was important to bring up.
Back to my lifestyle point — it gets frustrating even as a tourist for a short period of time when things are not like you’re used to in Canada, especially the customer service bit.
It’s a small interaction at each store or restaurant each day, but it adds up on your consciousness and builds an emotional and mental debt that takes a toll after a while and breaks you.
Yes, I said it, BREAKS YOU.
I don’t really want to live a life in frustration because things are not the way I am used to.
4. CANADA ALREADY HAS UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE
France has a much better healthcare system by far (a little too good for the amounts people pay.. or should I say, don’t pay), but how long is that really going to last with the way the country is going? Not for very long, I suspect.
I couldn’t retire in the U.S. because there’s no healthcare there, but I could stay in Canada and do my part to stay healthy, but be assured that I am in decent hands.
On the plus side, there are still a few good reasons to move to Portugal if you are so inclined.
Here are the plus sides that still exist:
1. THE WEATHER IS NICER
No winter, or a very mild one. Sun about 99% of the time, and not a raincloud in sight.
Now, I am going to go a bit negative on this “positive” spin.
The only downside is that during the summer, it is hot as #$*&#%.
Some people love that, but I am not one of those folks. I’d prefer it to be too cold than too hot, plus I hate being in the sun.
You can’t go out from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. without wanting to kill yourself and bake under the heat like some pop tart. You basically hide in your cool, stone house from the heat, and the sun is relentless.
You definitely need a car here if you are to survive, unless you plan on waiting 45 minutes for a bus to go do some basic groceries.
2. YOU CAN STILL GROW YOUR OWN FOOD TO SOME EXTENT
I really like that in Portugal, you can randomly find blackberry bushes and gorge yourself on eating the best, most organic, sweetest, juiciest berries you have ever had in your life.
Figs, oranges, and all those other fruits are also easily grown if you are interested in doing so, and you can definitely buy enough land around your home to grow potatoes and other basic vegetables. Maybe even a few chickens.
The water in some areas is even free if you are able to get a source of it running through your property.
This, they have down. A nice space, with a good way to grow food, get water.. it’s dreamy for a pretend country mouse like me, who in the end, is a true city mouse.
3. HOUSES ARE STARTING TO BECOME CHEAPER
A village in the middle of nowhere was once asking 150,000 EUR for a decent-sized, 3-level home.
That price has now dropped to 25,000 EUR since we’ve asked, and although it sounds like a deal, you still have to consider that you might want to do renovations on top of that…. and all my other points above about the kind of lifestyle that is.
Now, you can also pick up small dilapidated homes for 5000 EUR, even 1500 EUR, and to redo it, it might take 20,000 – 50,000 EUR, but you’ll have a nice, sturdy, stone house at the end of it.
If you are really, truly not able to save well for retirement, Portugal is still a nice option for people.
BUT NEVER SAY NEVER
Hey, by the time I retire in 20-30 years, maybe things will have flipped the other way again and I’ll be in Europe after all (maybe somewhere in France, instead), but based on my assessment I doubt it.
20 years is a relatively short amount of time for any country or continent to turn itself around. You need at least 10 years to stabilize, and another 10 to try and recuperate. If I had 40 years ahead of me, Portugal may still be on the table.
What I am not doubting is that if I don’t have enough money saved for retirement, Portugal remains my Plan Z.
(It is so far down the list, it is “Z”, not even “B” or “C”.)
I will move and live in Portugal to retire, waiting to kick the bucket by sitting on a chair staring at the landscape outside, if I have absolutely NOTHING LEFT for retirement.
Talk about motivation to save for retirement, eh?
I’ve even gone so far as to consider printing a photo of a house I took in Portugal (see above) and writing the words: