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Retired expats surf silver seas for new horizons

26th August 2010 Print

Despite  a belief that a significant number of British retired expats are regretting their decision to retire abroad and are planning to return to the UK, retiring abroad is very much still a popular decision according to the third annual NatWest International Personal Banking (NatWest IPB) Quality of Life Report.

The right decision

The majority (71%) of retired expats are happy with their chosen retirement route and consider they made a good decision to retire abroad. Encouragingly over half (58%) describe their experience as being better than they expected. A further 32% of expat retirees rate the experience of retiring abroad as meeting their expectations.

Furthermore a quarter of all retired expats rate their quality of life as excellent and the majority (67%) are happier now than they would have been in the UK.

Expat for life

Interestingly the NatWest IPB Quality of Life study revealed two types of British expats: those who have spent their working lives in the UK and have chosen to retire abroad, the so-called ‘silver expats'; and those who left the UK to work abroad and subsequently retired in the country in which they had been living. The latter are often referred to as ‘lifer expats'. The NatWest IPB analysis revealed that more than nine out of ten (91%) of those living in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA (the lifer expats) do not foresee returning to the UK. However, those living in France, Portugal and Spain (the silver expats) are far less certain with 19% saying they are undecided with 16% envisaging a return to the UK.

And those expats who worked abroad before they retired seem happier with their decision to continue living abroad yet those who have had no work experience in their chosen retirement country are having doubts about their decision to remain abroad. 

Overall, silver expats retire in Western Europe, principally in Spain, France and Portugal. The lifer expats are spread throughout the world, principally in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and the USA. When it came to choosing locations, surprisingly, 92% do not live in an established expat community. Of those that do, the majority (56%) did not consider this to be a determining factor in their decision to locate where they did. This is interesting, particularly when taking into account that silver expats have had no experience of living in the country and are happy to throw themselves into the deep end of foreign life.

Dave Isley, Head of NatWest International Personal Banking comments: "Our latest UK expatriate study has revealed that retiring abroad is still very much a popular choice and expats are happy with their chosen life paths. It's encouraging to see that the majority of expats believe they made the right decision in retiring abroad and are living their chosen dream.

"Looking at retirees who decide to move abroad, it is enlightening that 92% of expats chose not to retire to a designated expat community. This seems to emphasise the notion that expats have retained a sense of adventure, they really do want to start afresh and experience life as a local rather than settle with other expats. By immersing themselves in a full, enriched life as a local, retired expats can certainly learn and gain more from their time abroad. "

Financially stable

Almost nine in ten (87%) of retired expats own their home outright, helping their financial stability. Furthermore 38% describe themselves as reasonably well off, 47% state they are able to live within their means. For retired expats, extra cash gained from owning their house outright comes as a well earned respite enabling them to live a good life through retirement.

Expats remain optimistic with over a third (37%) expect their financial position to have improved whilst living abroad. Those in New Zealand are the most optimistic with 53% thinking their financial position will have improved. Interestingly the most pessimistic are those in Spain with 29% thinking it will have deteriorated.

Dave Isley, Head of NatWest International Personal Banking comments: "Reflecting on the financial stability of retired expats, it is re-assuring to see that over a third (37%) expect their financial position has improved whilst living abroad. Whilst there are many factors contributing to a great life aboard, feeling financially stable is such a valuable and important factor for retirees.

"With almost nine out of ten owning their home outright, retired expats are in a good, stable financial position helping to explain why well over a third consider themselves to be well off. It is encouraging to see retirees living abroad are experiencing a good quality of life, something which is so precious at that particular stage in life.  Moving abroad at any time of life is a life changing decision and not one to be taken lightly, so the findings of our study are hopeful."

For further information on NatWest International Personal Banking, visit