10 step guide to retiring abroad

Posted on: 01 August 2014 by Olderiswiser Editorial

Escaping to a place in the sun is the retirement idyll that many of us dream of - but before dream can become reality there are plaenty of things to consider.

Retire abroad

For some people, it is dreams of retiring abroad which motivate the latter decades of hard work and keep them going during the Nine to Five slog. Enjoying a well-earned, more permanent rest beside the sea of foreign shores is a fantastic way to kick-off your retirement in style, much to the envy of those back at home. However, it’s not a decision that should be taken lightly, as there may be more complications behind the scenes which mean it’s not simply a case of booking that plane ticket and jetting off across the water.

Perhaps you already have a holiday home abroad and are looking to make it a permanent abode, or you may be making a completely spontaneous leap into the unknown. Either way, aside from packing up and physically moving home, here are a few topics to chew over:

Where can you go?

One of the first things to consider is which countries you’re eligible to live in. There’s no point making elaborate plans for your jungle hut in the Congo if you’re sent back on a plane to Heathrow before you’ve even made it past the border. As a UK citizen it is within your rights to live abroad in any EU or EEA member state, but there may be more strict requirements for getting a visa further afield. It’s a good idea to check the website of the country you wish to move to and see what financial requirements you might have to meet in order to emigrate permanently.

Considering the complications - Language

It’s important to think about the language barriers you might face as part of your move. In most expat-heavy destinations, this might not necessarily cause a problem, but if you’re looking at moving to a more remote location it could be necessary to make preparations before you leave. The simplest activity, such as ordering a taxi, or trying to set up a phone contract, could cause a serious headache if it’s all conducted in pidgin English or a language you can only half understand. Our brains struggle with new languages more and more as we get older, meaning that taking classes well in advance could make the transition a much smoother one.

Considering the complications – Cost of Daily Living

You may be surprised at how the cost of simple items can differ entirely to those in the UK. For example, basics such as baked beans, toiletries and familiar brands like McVities, Cadbury or Kellogg’s, which you can purchase here relatively cheaply, could come with extortionate price tags abroad. It might be a good idea to stock up on items you know you’re going to struggle to find, and to check that you’ll still be able to live comfortably in the style you’re used to in your chosen destination, without too much of an overhaul. Even the most adventurous of us will crave home comforts at some point.

Considering the complications – Healthcare

Healthcare is a huge factor to consider when deciding to move overseas. In the UK we are fortunate enough to be able to access free healthcare through the NHS – a very rare and exceptional provision of services when compared to other countries. Choosing to settle abroad permanently means giving up access to free healthcare, with the exception of emergencies. In popular EU destinations your healthcare is likely to be provided partly free, with a necessary supplement of around 30%, whereas in other countries where there are no government sponsored services, it is essential to purchase insurance on a private basis.

Transfer your state pension

Pensions are likely going to be your main means of survival when retiring abroad. Transferring your state pension scheme is relatively easy, although if you haven’t chosen an EU/EEA country things could become tricky as your pension will be frozen at the amount set by the government at the time of your departure, and won’t increase with inflation.

Transfer your private pension

Private pension schemes could be subject to tax if paid into a foreign account. However, if the pension scheme you wish to transfer to is registered with HMRC as a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme then you may find certain benefits, such as a removal of the UK tax net barrier. Be careful though – although the UK has recently introduced a system of a 25% tax free lump sum, other countries’ tax systems may not permit such a generous tax-free withdrawal.

Moving Pets

Pets – if you’ve got furry friends you were hoping to take with you across the water, it may be sensible to check with the DEFRA if your mutt or moggy will face any restrictions.

Friends and Family

Keeping in touch with your loved ones is often a worry for people moving overseas. Although technology baffles the best of us, there are several ways of keeping in touch at a minimal expense with the use of easy-to-use programmes such as Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp.

Telling the Authorities

When you’ve chosen a destination and sorted out an address, it’s important to let the relevant authorities know about your new abode and provide them with details to forward anything important to. This means contacting HMRC, and also your local council.

Shutting down accounts

If you’re going to be paying for a UK-based bank account that you have no intention of using, it might be a good idea to downgrade the account to a standard, non-fee based account. The same goes for any credit cards – you could be better off cutting them up, rather than risk taking them abroad and having the additional complications of cancelling them from overseas. Mobile phone accounts, old insurance contracts you’ll no longer need, and any subscription memberships to magazines – don’t forget to cancel them, or change the addresses if you want to continue access.

It’s a big decision, but with more and more expats choosing to retire in style abroad where their pounds will stretch further, it’s definitely an option worth giving some thought.

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