If you want to retire abroad you will probably discover that you have a whole heap of questions that need answering! From concerns about healthcare, pensions and property laws to worries about your pets, family and friends we’ve got your top 10 concerns covered…
On the face of it there’s not a lot keeping retired persons in the UK nowadays – the general feeling in Britain is not a positive one, economically the country is suffering, the weather doesn’t ever get any better, and the health, wealth and lifestyle aspects of retirement can often be improved upon with a relocation abroad.
However, because moving is a massive undertaking – and moving abroad brings with it additional challenges and issues – a cautious approach should be applied if a would-be expat retiree wants to be assured of success.
If you’re thinking about relocating overseas in retirement you very likely have a whole host of questions that need answering. Naturally enough we frequently hear from those who are planning a retirement abroad, and often the same questions come up. Today we have decided to answer your top 10 retirement abroad questions in this report, so that once you know some of the most fundamental facts you can get on with actually planning your international relocation.
Whether you believe the NHS delivers on its promises of delivering the highest levels of patient care or not, Britons are to a lesser or greater extent spoilt by having relatively swift access to free treatment for the vast majority of ailments. A reciprocal agreement exists across much of the EU that means qualifying Brits of retirement age can gain basic free treatment if they retire to the likes of Spain or France for example.
However, if you retire early or fail to qualify for some other reason, you may find yourself having to foot any medical bills if you retire within Europe. What’s more, this reciprocal agreement does not extend beyond the EU’s borders and it really is restrictive.
As a result you must not assume you will get free medical treatment abroad, furthermore you need to know that if you move abroad permanently and therefore take up residence overseas you will not be afforded anything other than free emergency care in the UK…so don’t bank on being able to come back to Blighty if you need an operation or to see a GP.
Do your research based on the country you’re choosing to retire to. The Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health are good places to start when researching reciprocal agreements and any forms you may need to fill in to access treatment abroad, such as the E106 form for example. But look closely at how healthcare is funded in your new nation. Will you need private medical insurance, is there a state scheme you can effectively buy into – is national or international health insurance appropriate for you.
If you do have to buy insurance note that premiums increase with age, pre-existing conditions may not be covered, there may be an age cut-off point beyond which insurance cannot be bought – and look also at the facilities available locally. Are they good enough for you to maintain good health? Knowing all of this in advance of your retirement abroad will mean you are not stung with unexpected bills or let down if you need to access treatment abroad having not secured insurance in advance for example.
Yes. If you qualify for the state pension then moving abroad will not stop your entitlement to it. You can choose to have it paid into your UK bank account or your overseas bank account provided you live in the government’s approved list of nations. See the Direct Gov website for more details.
Your state pension will only be index linked however, if you retire to the European Economic Area, Switzerland or a nation with a social security agreement that includes the UK State Pension.
Those who retire to Australia or Canada, to name but two examples, will not receive the annual index link adjustment. There is an ongoing fight against this injustice being led by the International Consortium of British Pensioners if you want to learn more.
You do not have to open a bank account in your new nation, however you may find it is advantageous to do so to enable you to manage day-to-day bills and financial aspects of your retirement abroad. Alternatively or additionally you may discover that having one centralised international or offshore bank account suits your needs better.
Such an account can allow you to have multi-currency accounts beneath one account number umbrella, which can make transferring money between currencies and countries easier and cheaper perhaps.
There may also be reasons why you wish to keep the majority of your wealth offshore – from tax advantages to improved saving and investment opportunities – these should all be explored and examined with the help of an independent, regulated and qualified financial adviser used to assisting expats with their money management.
There is no legal requirement that states you must learn the language of the nation you’re moving to, and many expats around the world who herald from many different nations find they can get by with just a rudimentary understanding of the local lingo. However, you will get far more out of life in your new nation if you do learn the language.
Also, think about how you feel towards foreigners who move to the UK and fail to learn English. You may feel that they are failing to make sufficient effort to integrate, and that they don’t therefore have as valid a place in society as someone who makes more of an effort. Now turn that argument around on yourself as a foreigner living abroad who cannot speak the local language!
You may now be inspired to take language lessons!
The older we get the harder it can be to learn a new language – but in retirement we often find we have more time to dedicate to new hobbies and pastimes. Invest some of your spare time wisely in learning the local lingo and see how much more welcome you are in your new community.
If you can communicate with neighbours and shop keepers you will make more friends, get better service and be much more likely to achieve a better level of integration. Even if you only master the basics ensure you use them as often as you can – in making an effort you will endear yourself to more people.
In many nations around the world Britons can buy and own property – sometimes you may only own a lease for a fixed period however. What’s more, you must not assume that property laws are anything like our own in the UK. The laws relating to the purchase and ownership of real estate differ from nation to nation which is why it is imperative that you get independent legal advice every step of the way.
Do NOT rely on an estate agent to tell you the truth! Do NOT rely on their suggested lawyer or use the same solicitor as the person you’re buying from. Speak to other expats about their experiences and rent for a good while before you even consider buying.
You need to get to know the lay of the land and see where you might be happiest living before you commit to purchase. Many nations’ real estate markets are very restrictive and if you make a mistake and want to sell you may find it next to impossible or that you are taxed highly.
Ensure that if you need permission to purchase from the government for example, that you have this permission before you go house hunting. It is never a matter of course, do not believe those who tell you it is. Also, ensure the correct buying price is entered on the contract of sale and purchase. In many nations vendors attempt to avoid taxation by putting a cheaper price on the contract – this can backfire on you when you come to sell.
Finally, as stated, tread slowly and cautiously and double-check every element of the process at every step of the way.
The answer to this question depends where you want to retire. As holders of British passports we have freedom of movement within the EU – but even then all EU countries require those who want to reside therein to register their presence.
In some countries in the world you will have to prove that you have the financial means to support yourself in retirement, and that you will not become a burden on the state. In other nations you have to apply in advance for a residency visa. You will need to check your obligations depending on the country you want to move to.
A good place to start is by visiting the website of the nation’s consular services in Britain.
Nowhere in the world is 100% safe – you may have to face the realities of bugs and spiders and snakes, you may need to factor in the risks of earthquakes or hurricanes. Crime statistics may be higher, or road safety may be worse than in the UK. If you want to know what the British government thinks about a country’s safety then visit the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s website.
Once upon a time the pound was a formidable force abroad – now it is a weak pretender in the face of other currencies’ strength. This means that it is much more expensive for Britons to retire abroad than it was just 4 short years ago, as their currency has less buying power in the majority of nations.
However, some countries do have a cheaper cost of living than our own in the UK. Nations where the national wages are lower, and/or where they produce the majority of their goods and services nationally tend to be cheaper in relative terms for Britons to consider.
It will be exceptionally critical for you to ensure your dreams of your new life in retirement are affordable based on your pension budget. So, work out how much money you will have to live on and then spend time in your chosen country looking at the cost of living.
Factor in property costs, taxes, groceries, utilities, fuel and the few luxuries you enjoy…make sure you protect against inflation and currency blips too when planning how you will manage your money for an overseas retirement.
Those of us who love the company of our four legged and furry friends could not imagine a life apart from them. However, not all nationalities feel the same way about pets! If you want to take your animals abroad there are a number of considerations to take into account.
Firstly you will very likely need permission to export your pet! Some nations won’t enforce quarantine on your animals as long as they have been inoculated against the main diseases and rabies too. Speak to your vet for advice and cross check it with DEFRA and their Pet travel scheme as well as with the embassy of your chosen nation.
Next up you need to think about getting your pet back to the UK in the event that you decide retirement abroad is not for you. Most people skip this point and then despair if ever they need to return to Britain. UK is one of the most restrictive nations in terms of animal movement, and once your animal is out of Britain it may not be allowed back in without spending 6 months in quarantine.
One country that causes confusion is Northern Cyprus – if your animal moves to TRNC then it will not be allowed back into the UK without quarantine. Southern Cyprus is a different matter – see the Green Line restricts so much.
Finally, you need to think about how your animal will travel and adjust to your new nation. If you’re moving to a very hot climate will your dog or cat cope with the heat? If your animal is old or unwell will they survive a long haul transit. Many Muslim nations are less loving towards dogs in particular, and what are the local vets like in your new nation? Be kind and careful.
This final question is really only one you will be able to answer – and perhaps only with the benefit of hindsight. You can reduce the amount you miss family and friends by keeping in close touch by texting, instant messaging, using social networking sites, utilising the likes of SKYPE and of course by using traditional methods such as letters and phone calls.
You can visit and they can visit you. Perhaps your family will relocate with you once they see how happy you are abroad? And you will certainly make new friends overseas if you go out of your way to socialise and integrate.
But would it make sense for you to try before you buy? What about renting a house overseas for 6 months to see if you really like it before committing to a full and final relocation? Think about what will work for you and your family and friends, and make every effort to keep in close contact if you do decide to relocate in retirement.