With a recent survey from Scottish Widows suggesting that over a third of resident Britons would actively seek a retirement abroad, it’s time to look at the pros and cons of retiring abroad.  Because the reality of the dream can be strikingly different to that which people expect.

If you’re one of an increasing number of people growing dissatisfied with the state of the UK and who wants to move abroad either now or in retirement, this article should make essential reading.

Whilst we will never deny the absolute appeal of living abroad in a sunny climate and the benefits that one can find overseas, the reality of changing your life and cutting many ties with your old life can be tough for some, harsh for others and just too much for the occasional few.

Have you ever wondered why no one ever mentions the numbers of Britons who move abroad only to return home, usually within 2 years of their relocation, having discovered that the dream was more akin to a nightmare?  It’s hard to get your hands on the figures relating to the number of people who decide that living overseas is not for them, but we are quite convinced that the number is relatively high.  Having lived abroad in many different locations you watch people come and you watch them go.  The ones who cannot cope have the rosiest coloured glasses on when they arrive and cannot adapt to the realities of living abroad.

With any relocation there is upheaval, and this upheaval can continue for months or even years depending on your circumstances and the country you relocate to!  If you move to France for example, the upheaval in the form of local bureaucracy will continue for your lifetime – or the duration of your stay in France anyway!  And if you were to add to that a home renovation perhaps, the upheaval initially could be intense and very trying.  Therefore, it is essential to consider the pros and cons of retiring abroad before you commit to the move.

The Pros of Moving Overseas in Retirement

If you’re leaving the UK you’ll most likely be leaving a very miserable climate in favour of a desirable one.  The most popular overseas locations with Britons are always the likes of Australia, Florida, South Africa, Spain, Italy, Cyprus and Portugal – i.e., sunny destinations world famous for their excellent climates.  And moving somewhere where you’re at least guaranteed a summer is a definite and undeniable pro!

The cost of living overseas can be cheaper – especially if you move somewhere with a favourable climate where fuel bills and heating costs are likely to be lower.  If you can add to this a move to a place where property costs are also cheaper, then you’re on to a winner.

If you’re retiring within Europe for example, your UK state pension is likely to remain index linked.  Additionally, your right and access to free state health care benefits may be assured because of a deal of reciprocity between the UK and the European country.  This can be a massive pro, especially for those moving to a country where the state healthcare is better than that available under the NHS in the UK!

Access to wide history, culture and language challenges and delights – by moving abroad and living in a different culture and embracing that culture you can really broaden your own personal horizon and find much to enjoy and experience.

The Cons of Living Abroad in Retirement

If you and your partner move abroad and one of you more successfully integrates than the other, is ‘responsible’ for managing the language barrier, the money or just the driving perhaps, the other can be left incredibly isolated if they then lose that partner.

Many retires fail to integrate properly with the locals – this can lead to feelings of resentment and to misunderstandings on both sides, and it can mean that the retiree in question can become bored by the same old same old expat company and Sky TV!

Languages are harder to learn the older we get, this can also leave one feeling isolated and unable to ask for the help, support or care perhaps required.

With the pound languishing so low particularly against the euro, the cost of living abroad can be up to 20% higher now than it was just 12 – 18 months ago, therefore a lot of people who want to move abroad are waiting to see what happens to the currency.  However, if you do make the move at some point in the future there is nothing to say that the negative value of the currency in which you receive your main pension income won’t impact the cost of living abroad.  This is something that you need to remain aware of but something about which you can do very little.

In conclusion, there are pros and cons to be considered when contemplating a move abroad, to only focus on the dream and not the realities and practicalities of achieving the dream can lead to problems being encountered along the way that the retired expatriate is not prepared for.  It is when these problems arise that some people head for home and give up – but if you’re realistic that not everything about your relocation will be totally easy, perfect or smooth but that the long term benefits will outweigh any short term hurdles, you should manage your retirement abroad in style!