Lamp posts have a right to stand vertically! In Britain we take it for granted, they stand tall and erect. In southern Spain where I spent ten days resting recently it is a totally different story.
They are thrown up in any direction but straight, like lances planted by tired drunken medieval knights after a long day jousting. Perhaps this is out of respect for their famous Don Quixote de la Mancha and his passion for tilting at windmills, a reminder of earlier times. Flag poles outside five star hotels similarly stand in a drunken disorganised array and as for street signs, many have lost the will to stand at all. When you look at the crumbling potholed pavements, which in many cases lack foundations, you realise that there seems to be a lack of understanding that to build anything, even a street sign, you must first lay secure foundations.
This is an area of Europe where there is no hot water or breakfast before 8 am. The shops and banks sleepily open around 11 am only to shut again just three hours later to possibly re-open at 5pm. This is an area to where many Brits have retired, drawn by the sunshine and because most things were very much cheaper. They sold up and moved lock, stock and barrel using the equity in their UK house to fund their retirement. However, all is not well I fear as prices have risen. Even in the hills, away from the crowds, I saw little difference in prices from Salisbury except for petrol which is 1 Euro a litre as opposed to our £1 a litre.
Southern Spain is a huge building site but much of the new building has been stopped; something to do with corrupt Mayors and an over supply problem. Indeed, the property market is dead. Our taxi driver explained that he has an apartment he has been trying to sell for over a year. No one has even viewed it. “I can’t give it away” he told us.
It is apparent that many retirees in Spain are effectively financially trapped in a changing country, very different from the UK. Most will not have sufficient pensions to return to the UK even if they could sell their Spanish properties. This really does reinforce my passionate belief that every working citizen’s first call on their wage or salary should be to make realistic pension contribution for their future. Just as in Britain we understand and have encompassed the necessity of foundations for all structures, including lamp posts so they can stand tall, so we must all save in a pension so we are not left stranded in financial entrapment in later life.
David Seaton is director of consultancy at Rowanmoor Pensions.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the individual and not necessarily the company he represents.
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