As you stare out at the frost and biting wind from your living room during winter, with the central heating on full, it’s easy to understand why retiring to a warmer life abroad might be appealing.
According to recent research, as many as one in ten Brits would consider retiring abroad, attracted by roasting gently in the sun, a relaxed lifestyle, and in most cases a lower cost of living.
But how easy is retiring abroad? In this guide, we’ll highlight the most popular countries for moving abroad, and point out some of the considerations you need to take on board before selling up and heading off to the sun, sangria (or French wine) and fun.
Where are Brits retiring abroad?
Some of the destinations like France, Spain and Portugal won’t be a surprise, but there are plenty of idyllic locations further afield to consider when buying property overseas.
The number one country Brits emigrate to every year, and it’s quite obvious why. With beautiful weather, great beaches, a varied local cuisine, and a low cost of living, there’s a great deal to recommend.
You’ll find a large expat community, or if you prefer, head to a less populated area for that quiet, stress-free life in the sun.
Access is great, with lots of airports connecting directly to the UK, while you can also take a ferry to northern Spain, or simply drive through France, making the road trip an enjoyable break in itself.
It’s reckoned that a couple can live in a Spanish coastal resort quite comfortably for as little as £1,500 a month, including rent. Of course, if you’re buying property overseas, your outgoings will be considerably less.
Portugal has many charms, with gorgeous coastal landscapes across the Algarve, thriving cosmopolitan cities and quiet, rural retreats on offer. It’s well known for golfing resorts, so if that’s your thing, this might be the retirement destination for you.
Portugal has a growing economy, and a great healthcare system, into which you pay just a small amount depending on the service you require.
There’s plenty of flights to Portugal each day from across the UK.
By far the easiest to get to, and those considering retiring abroad to France generally head for the south, where the weather is glorious during the spring, summer and autumn months, and mild during winter.
Provence, or the French Riviera around Nice is popular, but generally a more expensive option than other countries like Spain. But if easy access to pop home to the UK, or for family and friends to come and visit appeals, this is your ideal choice.
The cost of living is more expensive in France than elsewhere, but if you’re willing to pay more for your property to live here, that may not be a concern for you.
Once part of the British Empire, Malta still has substantial connections to the UK, and most people speak the language. It’s home to more than 6,000 Brits and many more move there for work. The climate is superb, there’s hardly any crime, and the general cost of living is low, on a par with Spain.
But be aware that, as an island nation, Malta imports most luxury or consumer goods, so you’ll pay a premium for these.
The island is also small, and densely populated, so if you wanted a quiet, away-from-it-all retirement, consider the south of France, Spain or Portugal.
Popular retirement destinations further afield
Modern air travel has made the world smaller, opening up new countries as viable places for moving abroad.
While the following all tick boxes for great climates and a low cost of living (although watch out for seasonal extreme weather in Asia or the Caribbean), you won’t necessarily enjoy the security or companionship of a large British expat community or, in some cases public healthcare (private health is nearly always good).
Be sure to do some thorough homework for each destination. In Thailand, for example, the healthcare is affordable and of a very high standard. Here are some places to look at:
Before settling on a preferred country and being sucked in by promises of nearly full-year sunshine and cheap living, think very carefully about how easy it is to get there. Not just to move to, but how convenient (and expensive) it is to pop home to Britain? How willing and able will family and friends be to visit?
You might soon start feeling isolated and homesick if visitors rarely come to see you in, for example, Malaysia in Asia, or Ecuador in South America.
Planning your finances and pensions
Finance is global. You can open a bank account in just about any country in the world, and have your finances transferred there from the UK. If you’re retiring abroad, then you can have your UK state pension paid into your new bank account directly. A currency exchange provider such as Foreign Currency Direct can also assist with transferring your pension to euros and sending to your new bank account automatically.
You simply need to let the International Pension Centre know that you’re moving, and also contact the HMRC to ensure you will be paying the correct amount of tax in the UK. At the same time, if you are receiving an income in your new country – perhaps you have holiday accommodation you’re renting out, or you’ll be doing some part-time work to keep busy, then be sure you are across the local taxation rules.
You can research this easily online. Another tip is to seek out expat forums in the country you’re keen on moving to and ask some questions. People are generally happy to offer lots of free advice.
France is a great example, with loads of free help on offer at expat forums like this one.
More established economies like France also offer better protection against inflation. Research this, as rising inflation in your new host country could soon eat large chunks out of our stable UK pension.
Are you buying property abroad or renting?
There are many up and downsides to this question. If you have the capital, then buying abroad will reduce your monthly outgoings by negating the need to pay rent.
However, you need to be sure you have found the right place. If you rented abroad, then you have the freedom to move about as each rental period ends. Renting also means you have access to your capital should you need it.
Then there are property prices. Once you’ve purchased, your investment is at risk. Some of those who bought at the height of the property boom in Spain or Portugal may have lost out when the market dropped. Of course, prices could go up as well. If you intend to stay abroad for the long-term, then these fluctuations tend to balance out, much like the UK.
Deciding on buying abroad or renting might also be influenced by whether you want to sell your home in the UK. You might want to rent it out, meaning you always have a home should you wish to return, in which case you’d take the income and use it to rent abroad.