Five big retirement planning mistakes of UK expats

Types of Pension Plans


Expat life is complicated enough having to cope with a new language and culture, but don’t forget to sort out your finances. Managing pensions and investments in the UK while living sometimes thousands of miles away in a different time zone takes organisation and patience even with online access to banks and financial providers.

Try to sort out your tax and finances before you leave the UK as it’s a lot easier than playing catch-up from overseas.

Expat finance pitfalls

And here are the five biggest retirement mistakes every expat should bear in mind before they leave the UK:

  • It’s easy to spend too much as a new expat. A honeymoon period follows the move as your new life gradually settles down, but you must remember you are not a tourist and to control your outgoings
  • Set up an offshore bank account – that means an account in a third location separate from the country where you live and the place you left. This is especially important if your new home has a volatile government or economy
  • Tell HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) you are leaving the UK before departure. Ask a tax professional to file a P85. This form sets the date you left the UK and sorts out whether you owe any tax or are due a refund
  • If you are leaving any financial assets in the UK, draw up a will to deal with inheritance issues. Make a will in the new country you call home as well. Inheritance rules vary widely between countries and often do not follow the British template
  • Don’t fall victim to unqualified scammers posing as international IFAs. Chancers prey on expats unfamiliar with overseas finances. The same rules apply abroad as in the UK – make sure you receive regulated advice and do not sign up for investments that seem too good to be true because they probably are just that

Check out your expat IFA

Even if an IFA comes recommended, check out their credentials before agreeing to hand over any cash. Instead, ask for their registration number and qualifications to give advice in the country where you live. For instance, Australian pension regulations clearly only allow local IFAs to give advice on transfers to superannuation schemes.