What’s it Like To Be A JAM? – BALKAN NEWS MAGAZINE

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First of all, we need to understand how the British pension system works, how and why your various retirement pensions have decreased, and why it is that payment abroad, to pensioners in the European Union, is so erratic.

Being a JAM – Just About Managing – means that you are currently receiving 20% less pension money  from this time last year, if you are paid directly from the UK via Citibank. This is because the rate of exchange between the British Pound and the Euro has crashed, exclusively due to Brexit, and mainly due to the ham fisted negotiations which are presently being held in Brussels. Very shortly, the pound will reach parity with the Euro, and right now, British change bureaus in the UK, are exchanging British currency into Euro’s, for less than one Pound.

According to certain glib of tongue British politico’s, this is very good for export – meaning that British goods are now cheaper on the international market – but, as a consequence, extremely bad for would be British tourists travelling abroad, and particularly bad for us pensioners, who now receive considerably less pension money than before.

Why have we never heard anything about this in the news or on the telly? Well, it may be because we don’t matter, or because in their rush to get “A Good Deal in Brussels,” British pensioners have been given a bad deal in retirement.To an otherwise floundering bunch of Tory hacks – who might well have difficulty, in finding their behinds in the morning – the British living abroad are practically invisible.

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In the past, people who who moved to other countries within the European Union, did so on the back of various government promises. Due to the political stability – which existed before Brexit – many saw their retirement in terms of the cost of living, having adequate health care provisions, as well as plenty of sunshine. Most could also see the benefits in terms of where they could live in retirement, and the cost of housing. When you consider the outrageous price of even the most humble abode in the UK, it is hard not to see the benefit of living in the Balkans, and how the most modest UK householder could acquire a substantial property, for about 10% of the value of their UK dwelling. Why not live in Spain, Portugal, Greece or Bulgaria – despite the cultural differences and bureaucratic problems – if you feel better off?

There are some 1.5 million of us living in the EU, and to my knowledge, we have never been the subject of any serious discussion. Expat support was called upon during the referendum, and for those few who might have unwisely voted to be out of the EU, you must be wondering if you did the right thing. But this is not the only problem, because the rest is down to the bankers themselves, and – you might well ask – why your UK pension payment is so unpredictable?

Bankers count bank interest in nano seconds. If they can delay payment until it suits them – there being no performance liability for their services – they will, and consequently pensioners are held to ransom by the whims of the forex market. This means that you only get your Euro’s when the exchange rate is at its worst. In case you wonder, it also means more money for them – because they are dealing with billions – as well as less money for you!

"Some days I think of retiring. But at my age, I'm not sure I'm up to it."

Many JAM’s are going home. Not so much those in the Balkans, but many in Spain and Portugal have got fed up with the lessening of their income. By returning to the UK, they can claim all sorts of additional amounts from the UK Social Security system, and as their health deteriorates, they can also receive free medical treatment, and free medicines. They can also get proper medical treatment, which is often missing in certain parts of the EU, which can be expensive, and even downright lethal.

All in all, most of us do not regret living in sunnier climbs. I have been living in the Balkans for twenty five years, and with only a few regrets, I have never actually been without. But, things are changing, and as the EU itself levels out, and the cost of living reaches some sort of parity, it is only the cost of property which determines which country you live in, including lifestyle, and public services. If you are young and working, there is little to worry about, but old age is the problem. Recently, there have been a few deaths in the expat community; that I know of at least, and this is also the moment when you ask yourself the question, do I always want to live abroad?

Colin Trump