Expat guide to retiring in UK vs USA

07th February 2018
Expat guide to retiring in UK vs USA

Choosing where to retire is a difficult decision. There are many factors to take into consideration. Many British expatriates opt to retire in the United States, often in one of the coastal states, like Florida. Arizona also has a large retirement population.

Here we explore the key things to consider when relocating abroad, comparing the USA and the UK.

Medical care

One of the biggest concerns many retirees have is access to high-quality medical care. This is a key priority to consider, as health needs will likely increase with age. Think about what care and support you may need in later life, as well as your current medical needs.

In the UK, you have the NHS. You will receive access to medical care as and when you need it. By the time you retire, you will have paid your full contributions to the NHS. That means that you won’t be paying for your normal day-to-day care, emergency care and treatments.

Alternatively, you can opt to have private medical treatment under your own insurance. You will have to consider your future social care costs too. You won’t get state funding if you have significant assets or if your care needs don’t meet the criteria.

In the USA, you won’t receive any state-funded medical care or social care. You will need to invest in a comprehensive insurance plan. This should cover everything from doctors and dentists, to treatments, operations and physical therapy.

There is no NHS reciprocal healthcare agreement with the UK in the USA as there is with some other countries. You will also need to self-fund any care and support that you may go on to require in later life.

Finances

When retiring in the UK, your finances are more straightforward. You will likely receive your income from ongoing assets and investments, private pension funds and the state pension. You will pay the relevant tax within the UK, as per HMRC guidelines.

Retiring to the USA is a little more complicated, at least at first while you arrange your finances. You will still get your UK state pension, paid into an American bank account to make life easier. You will just need to contact the International Pension Centre to arrange this. Bear in mind that you may have to pay some tax.

Private pensions are less simple. You’ll either need to keep them in a UK account or transfer them to a Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes (ROPS). The latter will incur fees. The government website only lists one ROPS in the USA: Transform Group Simplified Employee Pension Plan.

You will have to pay tax in the USA on any income you receive. You may have to pay UK tax on some income, but there is a treaty to reduce double taxation.

We advise you to seek independent financial advice to discuss the best ways to prepare your finances.

Quality of life

One reason British expats opt to retire to the USA is because they are hoping for a different way of life. One of the most popular places to retire to is Florida, with its long summers, relaxed atmosphere and attractive beaches.

There is also a strong expat retirement community, which can help when it comes to making friends and building relations. The cost of living in the USA is slightly lower than the UK too.

The hardest part of relocating anywhere is being further away from home. Staying in the UK means being close to family and friends, existing hobbies and clubs, and familiar locations. It will take time to build up the same confidence and social life in a new country. For many, that’s just part of the challenge of relocating abroad.

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