How to retire abroad with financial peace of mind

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Please note that this article is over six months old. While Blevins Franks takes care to make sure that information is accurate on the date of publication, some content may change over time. You should not rely on the accuracy of legislation and tax information in this article; take professional advice for your circumstances.

If you’re retiring to Europe, be prepared to adjust your savings and investments, tax, pensions and estate planning to suit your new life abroad.

Anyone recently retired or approaching retirement is entering a new and exciting phase in life. While some worry retirement will be boring, many embrace the freedom it offers. If you have chosen to retire in SpainPortugalFrance, Cyprus, Malta or somewhere else abroad, you probably fall into the latter category!

Southern Europe certainly offers a beneficial lifestyle for retired expatriates, but long-term financial security is crucial to help you enjoy your retirement years. To achieve this, you need to take a good look at your finances and the way you hold your assets. Your situation is totally different now from your working days in the UK, so be prepared to make some adjustments.

Savings and investments

You may have built up a successful portfolio of savings and investments over your working life, but your circumstances and objectives were different then. With a regular salary coming in you could afford to take more risk when choosing investments and focus more on growth.

Many retirees, however, are looking for income; whether it is receiving regular payments or taking ad hoc withdrawals. Besides planning for that, you need to protect the capital that generates the income, so have to be careful about managing risk. You should aim to earn at least enough capital growth to keep pace with inflation over time to help maintain your spending power throughout retirement.

It’s a fine balance. The starting point is to obtain an objective assessment of your risk tolerance. Together with a good understanding of your aims, circumstances, needs and time horizon, this is key to ensuring your portfolio is suitable for you. In any case, diversification is central to managing risk within your defined tolerance.


All that free time in retirement costs money! You can help maximise your income through strategic tax planning. While tax mitigation opportunities are limited when paying PAYE on your salary, how you hold savings and investments can make a significant difference to retirement income.

Take note that UK tax planning is unlikely to be effective in another country. ISAs and UK bank interest, for example, become fully taxable for non-UK residents. Once resident in another country, you gain access to investment opportunities that might provide much better tax-efficiency alongside other advantages.

Locally compliant arrangements, such as a suitable life assurance bond, can combine your investment, tax and estate planning in one exercise, grouping different investments together under one tax-efficient roof.

Pension planning

This is the time you get to benefit from those years of pension contributions; instead of paying money in each month, you can start taking it out.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for expatriates, but once you are no longer UK resident it may become less beneficial to leave UK pensions where they are.

UK pension income is paid in sterling, so if your key spending is in euros, this invites exchange rate risk. UK pensions also remain subject to UK regulations, which could potentially change in future for non-residents now that the UK is outside the EU.

To protect your long-term financial security, make sure you research your pension options and fully understand the various implications. You need to take extreme care here, so professional, regulated advice is critical.

Estate planning

None of us like to think about our departure from this world, but there is no denying that reaching retirement age does bring it closer to home.

The key message here is not to risk leaving it too late. Decide who you want to leave your assets to, how much and when. Then research the most effective way to achieve this, in the most tax-efficient way, taking rule in both the UK and your country of residence into account.

Succession law in most European countries is quite different from the UK’s, with restrictions on how you can divide up your estate. If the local rules don’t suit your family situation and your wishes, you’ll need to plan ahead.

Don’t ignore your own needs in the process – look for arrangements that provide tax-efficiency for you today as well as your heirs in future.

An integrated financial planning approach produces better results than just focusing on one element at a time. For example, the way you hold your investments and pensions can affect how much tax you and your heirs pay and how the assets are passed to heirs.

While some try a DIY approach, cross-border tax, wealth management, pensions and estate planning is complex and it is difficult to objectively assess your own situation. For ultimate peace of mind, talk to a specialist adviser who will take time to understand your unique circumstances, needs and goals to help you secure a prosperous retirement wherever you live.

Contact us to discuss your financial planning

Tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; individuals should seek personalised advice.