Riviera Reporter
Riviera Reporter

The benefits of retiring to the French Riviera

Counting the last days as you coast towards retirement?

Maybe you're one of the 11 million tourists that visits the Alpes-Maritimes each year, and you're thinking of retiring here. There's no doubt about it, France is a pretty good place to do so if you're British.

Retired Couple on BeachFrance has a reciprocal pension agreement with the UK and so a British State Pension won't be frozen at the point of retirement, which is not the case for fellow expats in Australia or Canada; friends and family at "home" are only a short flight or drive away – a mixed blessing for some; the weather is appealing although winter is not quite as mild as it's cracked up to be and summers, especially in the South, can be very hot – but not as scorching as in Spain.

Property transactions are enshrined in laws that make the sorts of cons that many Spanish expats have suffered impossible. Depending on the location, you may get a larger house in France from the proceeds of the sale of your British property. Again subject to where you buy, local taxes are often comparable but in France you can expect better local services such as rubbish collection.

France has a double taxation agreement with the UK so you won't be paying twice on income, however inheritance tax on your French assets may be taxed so advice from a good financial advisor is important. The French also have a wealth tax on acquired assets over €1.3 million so it’s imperative to consult a local financial advisor well before moving here.

You'll be able to vote in the last place you resided in the UK until you have lived abroad for 15 years at which time you'll be disenfranchised. You’ll have the right to vote in local (but not national) elections in France and you could even serve on a city council as some of our readers have.

Finance is a major consideration for most expats. Exchange rates can be unfavourable at times but over the years this can work both ways. In some cases it's worth looking into a fixed exchange rate contract with a UK bank or currency broker. If you have a private pension you'll probably be hit by transfer charges so you may wish to keep an account in the UK for these payments. If you are a French taxpayer remember that foreign accounts should be declared even if they're not taxable.

The biggest hurdles will be learning the language – make an effort to learn at least basic French – and getting along with the French, but you can expect to live longer and in better health in France than your stay-at-home counterparts. The famous Mediterranean diet and the quality of health care is not without some faults; it's both excellent and inexpensive – although not free at the point of use like in the UK. You have a right to the Sécu if you're of retirement age and have been paying into a reciprocal EU system such as the NHS. Whereas French employees and businesses pay very high payroll taxes for this, British expats get the same treatment for the comparably lower NI rate they paid during their working years in the UK. What a bargain that is!

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