How to retire further afield

Chris Torney / 21 September 2016

Our guide if you’re thinking of retiring to Canada, Australia or New Zealand.



The idea of retiring to Spain, France or any of our other European Union neighbours might have lost its lustre recently, thanks to the uncertainty created by June’s referendum decision.

It is far from clear what rights British citizens will have when it comes to matters such as owning property and receiving free or subsidised healthcare in EU member states post-Brexit – and these issues appear unlikely to be resolved in the near future.

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But if you want to spend your later years overseas, there are of course a number of alternative options, with Canada, Australia and New Zealand among the most popular. 

Here’s what you need to know about retiring to any of these three countries.

Retiring to Canada

What’s the appeal?

Canada is a huge country and there is a great variety of places to live. It’s not too far from the UK – a flight from London to Toronto takes less than eight hours – and living there makes it easy to visit the United States. 

English is spoken throughout the country (although French is the main language in Quebec), and the quality of life is generally high. 

Bear in mind, though, that winters in many parts of the country can be much harsher than we are used to here in Britain.

The cost of living

The cost of property and day-to-day living is reasonable by UK standards, although recent falls in the value of sterling versus the Canadian dollar have made comparisons less favourable. 

At the start of 2016, £1 was worth roughly C$2, but by summer this had fallen to around C$1.60.

What will Brexit mean for UK holidaymakers?

House prices in cities such as Toronto and Vancouver are, as you’d expect, considerably higher than in quieter or more rural areas.

Healthcare

A big advantage of living in Canada when compared with the US, for example, is the fact that it offers long-term residents free or low-cost healthcare. 

You may need to take out your own medical insurance to cover all eventualities but this is likely to be much cheaper than in the States.

The right to retire

If you plan on living in Canada permanently, you will need to apply formally for residence. 

Priority is given to immigrant workers, but if you have a high level of savings and are well educated, this should help with your application even if you have already retired. If possible, it could be worth making an application for residence while you are still in employment.

Finally, if you have a family member who is already resident in Canada, they may be able to sponsor you and thereby speed up the process.

Your UK state pension

One of the biggest downsides of retiring to Canada is the fact that your UK state pension will not be eligible to annual uprating: instead, it will be permanently fixed at whatever level it is when you emigrate. 

State pensions rise by at least 2.5% a year for those in Britain or other eligible countries under current rules. Losing out on this inflation-linking could be costly in the long-term.

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Retiring to Australia

What’s the appeal?

English is spoken, the weather is great and the quality of life is very high – it’s no wonder that Australia is one of the most popular retirement destinations for Brits. 

One issue, however, is the distance: if you want to return to the UK to visit relatives (or have them come to see you), it will involve a very long flight.

The cost of living

As in Canada, living costs have long compared favourably with those in the UK – but over the past year, sterling has lost a significant amount of value versus the Australian dollar. 

This is not to say the pound won't rise again, but now might not be the best time to buy a house, for example.

Healthcare

The Australian healthcare system is a mixture of private and state-funded provision, and you are likely to need a fair degree of personal health insurance to cover your potential needs. 

However, the cost of cover tends to be lower than in the US, say.

The right to retire

If you plan on living permanently in Australia, you will generally need to formally migrate there. 

Visas are available to wealthier individuals who plan to invest in the country, and it will be easier to be granted residency in Australia if you already have relatives who are citizens.

Your UK state pension

As in Canada, the UK does not have an agreement with Australia to uprate Brits’ state pensions every year. This means your UK pension will not be inflation linked, and could decline sharply in value in real terms if prices rise significantly.

Retiring to New Zealand

What’s the appeal?

Beautiful scenery, a cooler (but still pleasant) climate than Australia, and a great standard of living – for older people in particular, according to numerous surveys. Even more distant than Oz, though.

The cost of living

Historically lower than in the UK, but sterling’s fall over recent months has not helped matters.

Healthcare

New Zealand also has a mixture of private and state-funded healthcare, but private medical insurance is necessary. If you’re applying for residency, you will need to demonstrate that you are in good health.

The right to retire

Like Australia, visas are available for high-net-worth retirees as well as those people with family already in the country. Otherwise, you might struggle to move there permanently.

Your UK state pension

New Zealand is another country in which Brits are denied their annual state pension increases.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.