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The Lucky Rolls of the Paris Dice

I stand corrected. In Monday’s Nouvellettre®, I wrote, “Three or four times a year, the planet Mercury is said to go “retrograde” — meaning it moves in an opposite direction to planet Earth and this has been one of those times (August 12th – September 5th). It’s an illusion, actually, when Earth passes Mercury in the orbit, but because Mercury is moving slower than the planet Earth, it appears to be moving backward.”

I learned yesterday, thanks to retired-to-Paris Professor Emeritus from the Physics Department of Washington University, and friend of Parler Paris, Thomas J. Bernatowicz, that this is not true! “The orbital speed of a planet goes as the inverse square root of the distance from the Sun. The smaller the distance from the Sun, the faster the speed of the planet. Mercury’s orbital speed is about 61% higher than Earth’s, because the radius of its orbit is only about 39% of Earth’s. And because of its closeness to the Sun, it takes only about one quarter of the time that the Earth does to go around the Sun. So, Mercury will go around the Sun roughly four times for every time the Earth goes around once.”

Tom went on to say that he understands that “aside from factual misstatements, this all is meant as whimsical, tongue-in-cheek musing,” but his sense of humor has worn thin recently with climate change denial and the countless other counterfactual beliefs foisted on us by the current U.S. administration. “We are living in an increasingly irrational world.”

A roll of the dice

I particularly appreciated another illustration he gave: “When you roll one die many times, you expect each of the six sides to show up with the same frequency. But sometimes you may find that the number three comes up four times in a row. It doesn’t mean or imply a thing. It’s just a random fluctuation.  Life is sometimes like that, too.”

I couldn’t agree more. My own philosophies have to do with equating life to a game of backgammon. Do you play? In simple terms, you roll the dice and the numbers are random luck, but it’s how you move the pieces that set up the play on the board which in turns creates the potential “luck” of your future rolls. So, like Tom’s illustration of the roll of the die, we have no choice as to what opportunities or tragedies may befall us, but what we do with and how we handle those occasions determines our future.

Let’s now relate this to the potential of a new life in France, or a life involving time spent in France. Recently I’ve spoken with several people of pre-retirement age who have the dream of living in France when they retire. It’s great that they are thinking about it now, but “thinking” isn’t going to get them there. “Doing” is. Like in backgammon, setting up the play on the “board of life” properly will in turns create the potential luck of their future opportunities.

If you have plenty of money to purchase a property or pay rent the rest of your life with no worries, then you may want to stop reading now. Applying for a visa and getting it will be “du gateau” (a piece of cake). Purchasing property or qualifying for a long term lease will be just as easy. But if you have to consider a more creative route to managing your assets, finances and investments, then you’ll have to set up the moves to your advantage.

Getting a mortgage in France has become increasingly difficult for Americans thanks to U.S. FATCA regulations. If you aren’t already fully aware of these, it would be a good idea to become acquainted: “The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which was passed as part of the HIRE Act, generally requires that foreign financial Institutions and certain other non-financial foreign entities report on the foreign assets held by their U.S. account holders or be subject to withholding on withholdable payments. The HIRE Act also contained legislation requiring U.S. persons to report, depending on the value, their foreign financial accounts and foreign assets.”

In addition, French lending banks don’t take the same kinds of risks that U.S. banks take and will not offer a loan that extends beyond the age of 75, because a life insurance policy is mandatory to secure the loan in the event of death. At the upper years, the premiums become too expensive. This means that if you’re 60 years old, the maximum term will be 15 years…if you’re lucky…since as you approach retirement age, your earning potential naturally reduces.

On top of that, the lenders aren’t as interested in your collateral as they are in your income. The lenders in France can’t collect on all those properties you own Stateside, so while you’re gainfully employed is when you want to start the process. This means that if you need to borrow money to make a purchase in France, you need to start the application and purchase a property as early as possible while you are still earning money and young enough to keep the cost of the life insurance premiums down to a minimum.

The Bernatowicz retirement homeThe Bernatowicz retirement home

I had one dreamer a few years ago who couldn’t wait to tell the bank that they were quitting their jobs in the U.S., moving to France to purchase a big house in the country that they would run as a “Chambre d’Hôte” (Bed and Breakfast). They got denied, of course! (Of course, the bank saw them as a major risk.)

Tom Bernatowicz and his wife, Anne, purchased their apartment in Paris years ago and rented it until they moved into it permanently this past year. It’s small, but very well equipped and decorated (Martine di Mattéo‘s brilliant work), so when they gave up their big American home to move to their efficient Paris “pied-à-terre,” it wasn’t a step down, but a step up to living the good life in Paris. They were smart — having done this before retirement to have set themselves up to get the “lucky rolls of the dice.”

Tom’s letter correcting the information about Mercury in Retrograde is what sparked my thinking about the strategy of life, in retrograde or not. Your situation may not be anything like theirs, or the person who dreamed of opening a B&B in the countryside, but no matter. The ability to strategize may have come from many years as a backgammon player, and have found it useful in working with people who are dreaming about their future lives in France — having helped literally hundreds of people to get the “lucky rolls!”

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds - with Jason Gardner at Après Midi

Adrian Leeds
Adrian Leeds Group

(with Jason Gardner at Après Midi)

Respond to Adrian


The Adrian Leeds Group

P.S. Let us help you strategize — to move to France and/or purchase a property. It’s what we do best! See our Consultation Services page for more information about how we can assist you. And note, guests of our luxury rental apartments are entitled to a free hour with me! Ask our booking agents for more information: email [email protected].

Jason Gardner

P.P.S. Yesterday’s Après Midi was a packed house of about 55 attendees who came to hear what Jason Gardner, Author and Photographer, had to say about what he calls “Visual Anthropology” and his new book, “A Flower in the Mouth,” a book of photography and writing about the culture, music and rituals of Carnaval in Pernambuco, Brazil. To learn more about the afternoon and see photos, visit Après Midi on our website.

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