There are more than 1.2 million people living abroad who receive a UK state pension, which is either paid into a UK bank or an overseas account in the local currency, usually monthly. Those opting for the latter are used to the amount they get varying because of exchange rates, but post-Brexit the drop in the pound has been dramatic – 20% against some currencies.
Mary Stepton, a British expat living in France, said: “I work here so in many ways I’m one of the lucky ones. Financially I can cope because I have a small private income from the UK – but that has dropped dramatically over the past few months because of the collapsing pound, and I’ve had to dip into my savings. I have a house in England which I was planning on selling to buy a little place over here, but that now looks impossible.”
Brian Shoemaker has lived in Italy for several years and is concerned about his pension. His main worry is for the future of his UK pension. “I really don’t know what’s happening,” he said. “At the moment the government hasn’t made it clear if the pension is going to be frozen as it is in Australia, South Africa, and Canada.” Brian also worries about future health care: “I just have no idea what’s going to happen,” he said. “Will ex-pat pensioners still be eligible?”
Around 560,000 UK pensioners live in countries where their basic state pension is frozen – they don’t get the annual increases that people who move to EU countries and certain other places currently get. Anyone who retires to a country within the European Economic Area has their state pension uprated by the “triple lock”, meaning it is guaranteed to rise in line with whichever is the highest out of earnings, inflation or 2.5%. But now the UK is set to scrap the “triple lock” system, and nobody knows what will happen after that.
Anthony and Gina Trigwell retired to Alicante, Spain over 15 years ago. “It’s so unfair,” said Gina. “The government shouldn’t leave us in limbo like this. We just don’t know where we stand. “Anthony, a 76-year-old ex-British Rail driver, added: “The whole point is that we want to stay here in Spain, we even have grandchildren here now. What with the pound dropping like a stone and all these questions as to what’s going to happen to our pension in the future, we don’t know what we’re going to do.”
Syd Carpenter and his wife Margaret were planning to move to Spain to join their daughter and grandchildren. “But we’ve had to put everything on hold for the moment until everything gets sorted out,” says Margaret. “The problem is, Syd’s got arthritis and needs to be somewhere nice and warm, but if we can’t afford it we can’t afford it – it’s as simple as that really. We don’t want to get there and find out in a few years’ time that we can’t afford to live.”
Do you have friends or family abroad in sunnier climes? How do they feel about their future?