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#1
Old 04-16-2011, 02:31 PM
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Join Date: May 2002
Location: Baltimore or less
Posts: 3,775
Retiring to the UK on a middle-class US income

I'm about 5-10 years away from retiring. I'm single, with no dependents. My house in Maryland is paid for. It's hard to put a definite dollar amount on what my retirement income will be - working ten more years will increase it substantially over working only five. I'm a fairly senior federal civil servant, covered by the newer, less generous retirement system.

I like the southwest U.S., so I may spend part of the year there (The option of spending some of the year in 2-3 different places appeals to me).

I also like the UK. I've traveled there a lot for work, mostly the North Yorkshire area. I think I would enjoy the summer there.

But based on the places I've visited in the UK, I'd say it's definitely more expensive to live there than (most of) the U.S.

Are there any areas of the UK where this isn't the case? Say rural areas?

IME, housing is more expensive than back here. FWIW, I would be happy with a fairly humble residence - a small apartment would do me fine.

I know a car and gas cost more there. I could be happy without one, or with something really scaled down for grocery shopping, if I lived someplace where that's an option (which would however seem to rule out rural places).

I assume there is something in place where I would pay only U.S. income taxes if I stayed in the UK under a certain number of days per year?

I'm especially interested in hearing from retired American ex-pats in the UK, but all info is welcomed. TIA.
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#2
Old 04-17-2011, 05:50 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Oxford, UK
Posts: 199
I'm a dual UK/US national and I moved over as a teenager, so my experience is quite different from yours, but I thought you might like some advice.

First of all, immigration to the UK is tougher than you might think. You'll definitely need to check with a UK immigration lawyer to see what you'd have to do to be able to visit frequently. In particular, I understand that a key component of proving visitor status is demonstrating an intention to leave the UK, which might be more difficult if you have bought a flat or house.

Secondly, you'll have to think quite carefully about medical arrangements. The NHS is only free for those who have a right to remain in Britain (work permits, student visa, citizenship, etc), so you should factor insurance into your budget. I don't know how the Federal Civil Service rules work: if you have access to US military medical facilities, you can clearly address this problem through living near one of the remaining US Air Force bases.

Finally, I'm not clear whether you intended to buy a flat or rent one. I'd recommend the latter, as maintaining several houses could get very expensive, and being 4000 miles away from a maintenance problem never helps. In addition, it would give you the option to visit different parts of the UK - you might spend one summer in Yorkshire, the next in Wales, then the Scottish Highlands or wherever else takes your fancy.
#3
Old 04-17-2011, 06:43 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 3,068
Quote:
Originally Posted by F. U. Shakespeare View Post

But based on the places I've visited in the UK, I'd say it's definitely more expensive to live there than (most of) the U.S.

Are there any areas of the UK where this isn't the case? Say rural areas?
It varies massively. It would help if you gave us an idea of what a middle-class US income was, in terms of figures.

Quote:
IME, housing is more expensive than back here.
Yup. Much higher population density means less available land, means more expensive houses.

Quote:
I know a car and gas cost more there. I could be happy without one, or with something really scaled down for grocery shopping, if I lived someplace where that's an option (which would however seem to rule out rural places).
Millions of us manage just fine to run a car.
#4
Old 04-17-2011, 04:36 PM
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Location: London (the original one)
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My immediate thought was on what basis would you retire here - unless you're planning to marry a UK resident, get sponsored for work or be willing to pay through the nose to study here I can't think how you'd qualify for the right to immigrate.

Turning to your question, costs vary quite substantially in the UK by region and you're right that a rural area would be far cheaper to live in (possibly nicer too). Be aware that when you say you'd be happy with a "small little apartment" that our definitions of small are very different to yours. You will have to pay a lot of money proportionately to get something that you deem satisfactory.
#5
Old 04-17-2011, 05:10 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2004
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Originally Posted by Illuminatiprimus View Post
My immediate thought was on what basis would you retire here - unless you're planning to marry a UK resident, get sponsored for work or be willing to pay through the nose to study here I can't think how you'd qualify for the right to immigrate.

Turning to your question, costs vary quite substantially in the UK by region and you're right that a rural area would be far cheaper to live in (possibly nicer too). Be aware that when you say you'd be happy with a "small little apartment" that our definitions of small are very different to yours. You will have to pay a lot of money proportionately to get something that you deem satisfactory.
Most countries have ways for people who are financially well off to immigrate even if they don't meet various other criteria. I don't know about the UK but I've known people who have retired to Germany on pensions that would make them middle class but they certainly weren't super wealthy. This website has some more details about it (and the individuals I am thinking of were not married to German nationals, and were not in any special way entitled to live in the country.) The website I linked to sort of confirms what I've heard, some European countries, if you can prove you're financially self sufficient (retirement income is solid etc) and have health insurance, why wouldn't they want another country's pensioner? If they don't become part of their host country's support system and instead are actively living off of their home country's system while spending their discretionary income in the host country, it's basically free money for the host country.

I've not read of similar situations in the UK though. The UK does seem to be pretty liberal about letting individuals come over who have > 1,000,000 of capital to invest in the British economy (of course I wager virtually every country in the world makes an exception in such cases as that...)
#6
Old 04-17-2011, 05:19 PM
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That being said I wouldn't necessarily advise someone retire to Germany or the EU in general. While I know people who have done it, I still wouldn't describe their experiences as "easy" and all of them had extensive experience in the country in question (the ones I knew were career military who had spent decades living in Europe.)

That's not an anti-European stance, I would also not advise Europeans to retire here. It's an oddity, but outside of countries with immigration/freedom of movement agreements moving from one first world country to another on a permanent basis is insanely difficult for people who aren't wealthy. You would think, for example, the United States would be happy if say a trained, educated German, French, or British citizen wanted to move to this country. Well, it's not the 19th century anymore and the truth is getting in is almost impossible. I've heard horror stories even of Americans married to Canadians and even with the existence of the marriage there are a ton of hoops to get the Canadian spouse permanent residency in the States.

While the EU countries are good about allowing movement between themselves, they are just as difficulty to emigrate to as the United States is.

Paradoxically people from third world countries seem to, on the whole, have an easier time moving to the United States and the EU than EU citizens have moving to the US or US citizens have moving to the EU...
#7
Old 04-17-2011, 08:13 PM
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Join Date: May 2002
Location: Baltimore or less
Posts: 3,775
Good info - thanks to all.

I guess I didn't much clarify that I would not expect to buy property in the UK.

It's sounding like I might prefer to be basically a tourist who spends 3-4 months a year there. I was sort of aware that immigration policies were tight. Interesting situation about US-UK immigration vs other countries.

If I stay for 3-4 months, can I rent a flat? It would be much cheaper than staying in hotels.

As for health insurance, I expect to retire with the same coverage I now have, and what's left of Medicare down the road. So I would probably get reimbursed for any treatment I received there - I will check the fine print.

I need to talk to a laywer if I'm serious about this.
#8
Old 04-17-2011, 08:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F. U. Shakespeare View Post
If I stay for 3-4 months, can I rent a flat? It would be much cheaper than staying in hotels.
Friends of ours used to do this - they'd stay in London for a month or two every year and rent a flat for the duration of their stay. I seem to recall there are companies that provide listings of properties for short-term rental.
#9
Old 04-18-2011, 12:33 AM
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Location: Bay Area, CA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F. U. Shakespeare View Post
As for health insurance, I expect to retire with the same coverage I now have, and what's left of Medicare down the road. So I would probably get reimbursed for any treatment I received there - I will check the fine print.
I believe that Medicare and Medicaid do not cover any medical services abroad with the exception of emergencies. It's possible that Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part C (or D through Z or whatever) may give limited coverage, but it'll cost you.

Perhaps the insurance you have now covers some overseas medical? I know that the individual health care insurance I've had (most of it really good) only covered emergency medical care in other countries. Plus it only paid a limited amount of medical evacuation costs, and only in very limited situations.

It seems that you would have to get some sort of supplemental (and limited) Medicare add-on policy, or a new batch of travel insurance each time you visited. I think either would be pretty darn expensive if you traveled to the UK every year.

On edit: I meant to add this link which explains Medicare coverage overseas. The link is to a Google Docs "quick view" version of a PDF.

Last edited by I Love Me, Vol. I; 04-18-2011 at 12:36 AM. Reason: adding link
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