With France’s pleasant climate, delicious food, excellent wine and laid-back lifestyle, not to mention the world-class healthcare system, value-for-money homes and the fact that older people are really well respected, France remains high on the list of ideal retirement destinations.
“Retiring to France can be a dream come true for many people,” says Daphne Foulkes of The Spectrum IFA Group.
With food and other everyday expenses, the costs depend very much on where you shop. Small and traditional businesses are usually at the higher end of the pricing scale while large grocery chains might offer significantly cheaper prices. Processed foods can be particularly expensive, while wine and cheese, on the other hand, are comparatively cheap. A good-quality bottle of good wine can cost under €5.
There are a number of key areas relating to retirement finances that you should consider when you are moving to France, such as finding out what impact a move might have on the benefits and pensions that you are entitled to receive in Britain.
When thinking of retiring abroad, it is essential that you seek independent advice when it comes to your private pension and UK state pension. This would ideally happen before arrival in France.
Foulkes comments: “Some planning and realisation of UK investments is likely to be needed before you become a French resident, if you wish to avoid paying unnecessary taxes after becoming a French resident.”
It is important to inform the Department for Work and Pensions that you are moving overseas and provide them with your contact details.
Because France’s currency is the euro, it is important to take the sterling-euro exchange rate into consideration, and what impact any major rise or fall between the two currencies may have on your lifestyle in France (see section 7: Currency exchange to and from France for more details on getting the best value out of currency exchange).
As well as a private pension, you may also be entitled to receive a UK state pension while living in France, but you should enquire with the International Pension Centre (IPC) first t make sure that you are entitled to receive this money. You can contact the IPC by phone, email or post.
Those of you who have not yet reached your state pension age should receive a claim form around four months before you hit the milestone. If you are still waiting for a letter three months before you reach state pension age, contact the IPC.
The Department for Work and Pensions may send you a form called a ‘life certificate’ to help them determine if you are still entitled to receive a state pension. If you do receive a life certificate, you will need to follow the guidelines provided, which includes getting it signed by a witness. Your payments may be halted if you fail to comply.
Your state pension will increase each year, even if you reside in France, as the country is located within the European Economic Area (EEA).
Your state pension can be paid into a French bank account or a UK bank or building society account. However, you are not permitted to have the money paid in to France for part of the year, and a different country for the rest of the year.
Whether using a bank account in your name, a joint account, or someone else’s account, subject to their permission, there are a number of ways that you can receive payment.
You are entitled to be paid every four or 13 weeks, but IBAN and BIC numbers (both of these are international bank codes) will be needed if you would like to receive payments in France, with the amount of money you receive set to fluctuate in accordance with exchange rate changes.
There is a chance that you may be liable to pay UK tax on your state pension over a certain amount. This will vary depending on your taxable income and whether you are considered to be a UK resident or non-UK resident for tax purposes.
While non-UK residents are not required to pay tax on their state pension in the UK, they may have to pay tax in France. However, you will not have to pay tax in both the UK and France due to the fact that a double taxation agreement exists between the two countries.
People who are seriously considering retirement in France will be pleased to learn that the French healthcare system is generally recognised as one of the best in the world. Above all, it is a system that works, provides universal cover, and is a system that is strongly defended by virtually everyone in France.
The healthcare system in France is made up of a fully-integrated network of public hospitals, private hospitals, doctors and other medical service providers. It is a universal service providing healthcare for every citizen, irrespective of wealth, age or social status.
Non-residents can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access state-provided healthcare at a reduced cost, or sometimes even for free. This cover includes treatment that is needed to allow you to continue your stay in France until your planned return. It also covers treatment of pre-existing ailments and for routine maternity care.
You also need to be aware of emergency procedures; who to call in an emergency and which hospitals that will be the most suitable for your needs in the event of an emergency. France’s emergency number is the EU-wide emergency number 112 which is free to call, although in some places it is better to phone the hospital direct.
Note: In France, a doctor has to confirm that you are really in need of an ambulance service otherwise you’ll have to carry the cost of the ambulance transport. Alternatively, you could use a light medical vehicle (‘véhicule sanitaire léger’ – ‘VSL’) to get to hospital.
Other important phone numbers to note down:
15 – ‘SAMU’ (‘Service d’Aide Médicale d’Urgence’) the SAMU provides both ambulances and specialist medical teams. Only call SAMU for serious medical emergencies
18 – Fire brigade (‘Sapeurs Pompiers’) can also be called in cases of medical emergencies, such as traffic and domestic accidents
17 – Police (‘commissariat de police’ or ‘gendarmerie’)
1616 VHF Channel 16 for emergency at sea (calling from sea)
32 37 (phone) or website www.3237.fr – the service helps you find the nearest duty pharmacy. Not all pharmacies in France are covered by the service yet.