Is your emigration plan Brexit-proof?

If you're planning on emigrating post-Brexit, make sure to pay attention to your pension. bdhSterling's Paul Davies writes.

Pension plan

Depending on who you talk to, post-Brexit Britain is the best of times, it is the worst of times. We live in an age of wisdom, or an epoch of foolishness; we are basking in the spring of hope, or sunk in the winter of despair.

For many of those who hold the latter view, Brexit doesn’t just mean Brexit: it means “Exit”. That was the finding from our poll of 250 Brits seriously considering emigration, around a fifth of whom cited the EU referendum vote as the main reason why they want to start a new life abroad.

While there are many motives for considering a move abroad, the Brexit vote was certainly responsible for a surge in interest in emigration. The media was full of astounding anecdotes. Canada reported a 325 per cent increase in the number of online inquiries about passports, visas and emigration from Britain, while New Zealand experienced almost treble the number of UK visitors to its immigration website. Meanwhile, one specialist relocations business recorded a 657 per cent increase in people inquiring about moving to Edinburgh – and a 118 per cent rise in people asking about Australia.

There are certainly plenty of people who feel that Brexit will affect their business or personal prospects, but if you’re one of those tempted to make a British exit as well as a business exit, it might be harder to move abroad than at first thought.

Our poll found that most Brits are seriously underestimating one of the most important factors that threatens to affect their golden days in their adopted country – their pensions. According to our research, sorting out one’s private or work’s pension is bottom of the list when it comes to a range of pre-emigration priorities.

That should be a major worry, because if they leave it too late, Exit-ers will likely miss out on their full financial entitlements and not get the most from their hard work. Put simply, moving your pension overseas is a complicated business, involving issues such as taxation, currency risk and estate planning. But Brits are pretty blithe when it comes to their pensions, with half of those planning to emigrate (48 per cent) saying that they already know how to transfer their pensions abroad.

One presumes, then, that these happy Exit-ers are aware that in Australia, permanent residents with UK pension income, are assessed for tax on that income. Or that they know about the various entitlements and opportunities for maximising their pension income in their new home country – including the best time to take their PCLS entitlements, or how to invest in the most appropriate portfolio. One also assumes they’re aware that in some countries, such as the USA and Spain, ex-pats cannot even transfer their pensions in the first place.

Pensions are a vital lifeline for those who move abroad, with only 13 per cent of our respondents saying their existing pension would only make up a “minor” part of their retirement income, so it’s not something we should be complacent about. Unless you’re really sure that you’re intimately acquainted with the rules surrounding pensions, speaking to professional retirement planners and IFAs could be the wisest financial decision you’ll take in your life.

And, if Brexit blues mean that you’re seriously thinking of making that move abroad, the time to start planning is right now. We recommend that the process of moving your pension abroad can easily take six months, so it’s essential that you get your affairs in order in good time. And for something so important, it’s worth spending a bit of money – certainly more than the £50 an hour that a quarter of our respondents thought it should cost for expert advice…

Pay attention to your pension well before you move, then, and the best of times (or at least, a comfortable retirement) lie before you.

Paul Davies is a director at bdhSterling, specialist provider of cross border financial advice and investment solutions.

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