The Cost Of Living And Retiring

“Kathleen, firstly, let me congratulate you on what is a very truthful and informative broadsheet.

“However, I’m writing now because your article on living in rural France for US$1,300 per month including rent is a little over-egged, I think.

“I have been living and working in La Belle France for the last 20 years, in beautiful Normandy, one of the poorer and cheaper parts of this country. I don’t think you could manage here on US$1,300 a month. Average living costs in the last two to three years have increased by 15%, invisible costs such as insurances and service charges such as electricity and gas, Internet, and telephone have increased out of proportion to inflation. Compared with many countries in Europe, France has the highest costs for both new and secondhand cars.

“I can only speak from personal experience and my own lifestyle, but I’d say that, to have a ‘reasonable’ lifestyle here, you’d need a budget of 1,200 to 1,500 euro a month. That’s about US$1,500 to US$1,900.

“With the euro falling against the dollar and house prices static here at the moment, I do agree that now is a good time to invest here if you are dollar orientated.

“I also agree with your reports that health care is exceptionally good and cheap, provided you are within the system. Even if you have to pay out of pocket, the care is first class plus and affordable.

“You can still get fixed-price meals for 10 to 12 euro, including wine.

“Crime is very low. We do not lock the doors at night or the car when it is parked at home.

“French neighbors can be wonderfully helpful and also quite reserved. A polite ‘bonjour’ will get you invited for an ‘appero’ (a drink and snacks with your neighbors). Living in the country, you will be invited to all the local do’s, and the locals will welcome you without reserve, regardless of your nationality and regardless whether or not you speak French.

“This time of the year is exceptionally beautiful. The countryside looks and smells magnificent. The weather is pleasant and to sit outside at a small French village cafe and watch the world go by whilst sipping a glass of cold white wine must be one of life’s greatest pleasures. Winters can be another story.

“This is a great country to retire to. Not an easy place to work. But there is still a respect here for the older generation. If you wish to enjoy the culture, the history, and the excellent wine and food, and you do not need to work, you could do a lot, lot worse.”

— Bob H., France

It seems you know whereof you speak, dear reader, and we much appreciate the feedback.

Another reader wrote to report that his cost of living in another region of France is considerably more than our US$1,300-a-month figure.

It’s all in how you live.

Whenever someone asks me how much it costs to live in XYZ Country, I respond: I have no idea, and neither does anyone else.

It’s costing us more than US$5,000 a month to live in Panama City. We have dozens of friends living on half that amount or less. And we know dozens of others living on US$1,500 a month or less. We have one friend living here on his Social Security check of $800 a month. He’s comfortable and contented.

As I said, it’s all in how you live.

It cost us more than US$10,000 a month to live in Paris when we lived there…but, again, our budget was bigger than most everyone we knew.

Except for one good friend who was probably living on US$15,000 a month…

The truest point is that your cost of living can be as much or as little as you want it to be anywhere in the world, within very broad ranges. You control your cost of living more than most people realize. You have a car or you don’t have a car. You employ a maid or you don’t employ a maid. You shop for imported foods and wines or you shop at the local markets. You run your air conditioning throughout your entire house 24 hours a day or only in your bedroom when you sleep. Etc.

This is why an important part of our Live & Invest in France Conference will be given over to a close look at a series of budgets representing different lifestyles in different parts of the country.