With careful planning, the dream can become a reality
With milder winters, warmer summers and the potential to get more from your pension pot, it’s not surprising that some of us take the plunge each year and decide to retire abroad. If you’re considering the possibility, it’s important to look into the effect this could have on your finances before you make the move.
Personal and workplace pensions
If you have an occupational or personal pension, it’s usually paid into your UK bank account.
If you’ve paid enough National Insurance, you can claim your State Pension while living abroad. Your State Pension can be paid anywhere, so long as you inform the Department for Work and Pensions (currently, the State Pension increases each year by the greater of the increase in earnings, inflation or 2.5%. However, you’re not entitled to the annual increase in every country, so you should also check this before you move).
You might also have the option to transfer your UK pension to a Qualified Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS). Transferring could give you more control, but there are various tax and regulatory implications that you’ll need to consider. It’s important to obtain financial advice to ensure you won’t lose valuable guarantees, benefits or need to pay excessive exit fees.
You’ll need to bear in mind that your income will be affected by fluctuations in the exchange rate, as well as local inflation, and there may be charges for currency conversion and transferring money to a foreign bank.
As you get older, healthcare is an increasingly important consideration. It’s important to investigate your rights to access healthcare in your country of choice and what costs may be involved.
Currently, most pensioners retiring abroad choose European Economic Area countries. These have a special relationship with the UK that allows our citizens access to free healthcare.
Pensioners already living in these countries should continue to benefit from this agreement beyond Brexit. However, for those considering a move in future, it’s still unknown if the relationship will continue, which might put your plans on hold for now.
In most other countries, you will have to pay some or all the cost of treatments, which can get expensive in later life. Find out which medical treatments are free and which you will need to pay for. Will you need medical insurance too, and what is the quality of healthcare available?
Buying a home in a foreign country can be more difficult than here in the UK, and the land titles, rights, consents, regulations, taxes and charges are almost certain to be different. Make sure you’re aware of buying costs, and seek advice from solicitors, architects and surveyors with local experience.
Remember that not only may the cost of buying be higher, but that you might need to budget for adaptations to keep your home accessible as you get older.
You may also be considering whether it is worth keeping property in the UK and will need to understand what that could mean as part of your overall financial plan.
Moving abroad will almost certainly have tax implications. Unless your new country of residence has a double-tax agreement in place, you could end up paying tax both there and in the UK.
Complicated tax issues can also make it difficult to buy property abroad and things like Capital Gains Tax vary from country to country. Make sure you understand the effects of tax on your income and your own tax responsibilities.
Whether you’re moving abroad to be closer to friends and family, to experience a different culture, or just for a better quality of life, planning ahead is key. The first step is to decide on the country that you would like to retire to. Depending on your chosen retirement destination, your own financial adviser may be able to help you to understand your retirement income options and suggest further expert advice if needed.