Revealed: The top 10 most popular locations for Brits retiring abroad

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What do you plan to do with your retirement?

Do you dream of travelling the world, or spending more time with your family? Or do you plan to start your own business, or relax in a house by the coast?

If you’re considering moving abroad when you retire, you’re not alone. Thousands of Brits head overseas every year, tempted by great weather and a slower pace of life.

New research from Canada Life has revealed that, for the over-50s who aren’t yet retired and who are looking to retire abroad:

  • 64% would do so for the better lifestyle
  • 64% would do so for the better weather
  • 54% would like to retire abroad for the cheaper cost of living.

Indeed, the cost of living crisis has made 51% of over-50s thinking about retiring abroad more likely to actually make the move in the future.

There are lots of positive reasons to retire overseas – but where should you choose? Here are the top 10 most popular locations for Brits wanting to retire abroad.

1. Spain

Canada Life say that, for the last decade, Spain has topped the poll as the most popular overseas retirement destination.

With great weather and transport links back to the UK, it’s perhaps no surprise 46% of those surveyed chose it as their top destination.

Remember that, after the UK withdrew from the European Union, you’ll need to get a visa if you wish to stay in Spain for longer than 90 days.

Basic state healthcare services are free after you have registered, but there are some things that you may need to pay for. For example, you usually have to pay something towards prescriptions.

2. Portugal

Overtaking France this year into second place, 21% of Brits identified Europe’s westernmost country as their preferred destination.

One reason could be because of the preferential tax benefits. Once you become a non-habitual resident (NHR) of Portugal, you could receive up to 10 years of your pension tax-free. And, the NHR scheme also grants eligible applicants a flat 20% tax rate on Portugal-sourced income.

3. France

Just a short hop through the Eurotunnel, 19% of Brits said that they would like to retire in France.

With great food and weather, and a thriving expat community, France could be a great choice for your post-work years.

To seek residency, you will need to apply for a long-stay visitor visa in France, followed by a Carte de Séjour. These will likely need you to prove sufficient income and healthcare coverage.

4. Italy

Great food, a relaxed lifestyle, and superb weather made Italy the top choice for 16% of over-50 Brits looking to retire abroad.

One reason is that becoming a citizen in Italy can be significantly easier than in other European countries, which could grant you useful, wider state benefits.

In addition, a relatively low cost of living – especially in more rural areas – could make your retirement savings stretch further than in other locations.

5. South-east Europe (Greece, Cyprus, Serbia and so on)

An increasingly popular choice among Brits is to head to south-east Europe – to a former Yugoslav republic, Greece or Cyprus.

Greece has an exceptionally low cost of living and, in fact, boasts one of the lowest in Europe. You’ll need to apply for an entry visa and then a residence permit, and you will likely need to prove income and healthcare coverage.

Retiring to other south-eastern European locations could be trickier. For example, to retire to Croatia you’ll normally need to prove that you have rented a house or apartment for a year, or that you own a property – and you’ll have to leave the country for 90 days after your residence permit expires.

The next 5 most popular destinations for Brits retiring abroad

  1. The Far East (Japan, Thailand, Singapore and so on)
  2. USA
  3. Australia
  4. New Zealand
  5. Turkey.

How retiring abroad can affect the value of your State Pension

One important factor to consider if you’re planning to retire overseas is that you may not benefit from an annual uplift in the value of your State Pension.

At present, the “triple lock” ensures that the State Pension rises by the higher of:

  • Annual wage growth
  • Inflation
  • 2.5%.

Consequently, anyone in receipt of the State Pension in the UK can expect the amount to rise every year. You’ll also benefit from this annual rise if you retire to:

  • The European Union
  • USA
  • Turkey
  • Switzerland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, or North Macedonia
  • Jamaica, Barbados, or Bermuda
  • The Philippines
  • Isle of Man, Jersey, or Guernsey
  • Mauritius
  • Israel.

If you retire to any other country – for example, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, India, or South Africa – your State Pension will be frozen when you leave the UK.

The government reports that, in May 2020, there were 492,176 people overseas in receipt of a frozen UK State Pension with the vast majority (84%) living in Australia, Canada or New Zealand.

Here, the State Pension remains payable at the same rate as it was when the individual first became entitled, or the date they left the UK if they were already pensioners then.

So, if you’re thinking of retiring overseas, remember to factor in whether you can expect your UK State Pension to rise every year.

Get in touch

If you are thinking of retiring abroad and you’d like to explore whether this is feasible, and the consequences for your pension, please get in touch.

Email us at or contact your adviser on 020 3828 8100.

Please note

This article is no substitute for financial advice and should not be treated as such. To determine the best course of action for your individual circumstances, please contact us.

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