Mario Vitanelli is a freelance writer and blogger who specializes in international politics and finance, retirement and investment. His areas of expertise include European, Asian and Latin/South American economic policy and expat pension plan. When away from his keyboard, he enjoys photography and appreciates the rest of the Vitanelli family’s endless patience with his football dependence.
The dream of retirement to some exotic foreign clime for one’s golden twilight years is a fairly universal ambition, particularly as the increasing life span stretches that twilight into more of a ‘late afternoon through twilight’ season of life. However, the prospect of spending that extended expatriate holiday without the money to ‘spend’ your retirement anywhere or on anything is less appealing. So finding a retreat where you can stretch your dollar (or pounds sterling, Euro, baht, drachma, etc.) from a pension, savings or hopefully both, and where you’re happy to do so, is the ultimate goal. With those criteria in mind, here are some possibilities for great retirement spots with great QROPS and more general investment opportunities.
Until HMRC’s QROPS-killing Statutory Instrument 1221 (SI 1221) razed its pension investment scheme industry in May 2012, the Bailiwick of Guernsey was the Qualified Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme superstar. More than a third of all QROPS could be found there. After SI 1221, though, business took an obvious and precipitous nosedive and many financial experts presaged the extinction of Guernsey as a QROPS destination. The Channel Islands dependency has no doubt been happy to prove them wrong.
There are now about 40 HMRC-recognised QROPS in Guernsey. Although that’s only about an eighth of the 313 schemes present at Guernsey’s peak, it’s considerably more than most other QROPS-holding nations and 40 more than many pension scheme specialists thought there’d ever be there again. Guernsey’s history as a QROPS hotspot, an economy and financial sector designed with accommodation of QROPS in mind and a host of resident experts in the field with years of experience shouldn’t hurt their recovery either. Devastating as SI 1221 was, the experience gained and future safeguards enacted should likewise serve as a bulwark against comparable future poleaxings.
Combine that with a solid economy in the EU Common Travel Area and a location right off the coast of the UK, moderate climate, beautiful white sand beaches, excellent scuba diving and snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, unique wildlife-viewing opportunities, lovely sea-side vistas and charming population, and the appeal of Guernsey as a home-base for retirement becomes apparent.
As a younger man, I was fond of hatching plans with my friends about pooling our funds (when we were grown-ups of course) and buying an island together somewhere exotic. We’d establish our own government and infrastructure, only invite people we liked to join us and live out our days in the utopia we’d made. I’ve always had a soft-spot for the Knights of Malta (the Hospitallers) because they did exactly that- just took Malta and made it their own. And their presence is exactly the sort of thing that’s given Malta such an incredible backstory- a paradise for history buffs. Over the course of its tremendously storied history, Malta’s been ruled by the Phoenicians, Romans, Normans, Aragonese, Arabs, Knights of Malta, Arabs again, Knights of Malta again, Spain under the Hapsburgs, the French and the British. All of these cultures, and more still, have left their mark, their relics, their culture and their history on and in Malta.
When Guernsey fell from its place of dominant eminence as QROPS capo di tutti capi, Malta was waiting to pick up the pieces. If not the most popular pension investment jurisdiction, certainly the QROPS destination with the most ‘buzz’. Their rock bottom tax rates and double taxation agreements (DTAs) with dozens of other nations have attracted pensioners and allows them to have a Malta QROPS subject to Maltese taxes while living somewhere else. Considering Malta’s turquoise water, pristine beaches, Mediterranean lifestyle and modern night life, stellar diving and all the accompanying water sports, EU governmental stability and incredible history however, one has to wonder why many do choose to live elsewhere.
I’m not sure I really have to elaborate on this one. It’s Barbados. Tropical paradise; cost of living far lower than most of Europe, North America and Oceania; English as the official language; a community of 34,000 fellow British expats; a Caribbean haven outside the principal Atlantic hurricane belt and stewards of an excellent QROPS program. I can literally hardly think of a retirement more amazing.
When I first looked at photos of St. Lucia I was honestly convinced they had to be the product of Photoshop alteration. It looked simply too perfect and beautiful- painfully inviting beaches and crystal tropical lagoons; stunning, vegetation-clothed peaks rising dramatically from the sapphire sea… It turns out, however, that there was no digital trickery afoot- that’s just St. Lucia. Basically, St. Lucia is a jewel in the Barbados mold though with slightly fewer amenities a slightly lower cost of living.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
I’m beginning to feel a little repetitive here but another Lesser Antilles paradise, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is to St. Lucia what St. Lucia is to Barbados- a little more exotic, a touch less discovered, a solid QROPS program and a tropical dream come true.
There are a number of places that have been described as “where the East meets the West”- Budapest, Hong Kong, much or all of Central Asia and Russia… However, it’s far rarer for anything to be categorised as “where the North meets the South”. It’s a title that would aptly describe Gibraltar, being the one place in Europe from which one could actually see Africa. Like Malta Gibraltar offers excellent outdoor activity options and like Malta it has an amazingly fascinating history.
Its history actually predates human history with the Neanderthal habitation that lasted thousands of years. In fact, relics found in Gorham’s Cave make Gibraltar the last recorded holdout of any Neanderthal groups. Recorded history has the incredibly strategically-important sea-bridge between the Atlantic and Mediterranean being held (after being single-handedly created by Hercules) by Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Visigoths of pre-Spain Hispania, Arabic and Islamic empires, Jewish ‘conversos’ (for two whole years before being persecuted out of the area), groups from Morocco and Granada, the Spanish, Dutch, British, et al.
Like Malta, Gibraltar’s location amidst a number of different cultures and enjoying the influence of its many visitors and conquerors has resulted in a poly-cultural pastiche atmosphere where English is spoken predominately. Also like Malta, Gibraltar sports a comfortably moderate climate and a stable EU/British-backed economy with an extremely attractive and specially designed QROPS sub-industry. In fact, with its tax rates comparably low and its investors not dependent on being the expat resident of a Maltese-DTA-sharing nation to ensure those low rates, many pensioners find they prefer and do better with Gibraltar QROPS.
Of course there are dozens of other countries that offer QROPS and every one of them has something totally unique to offer the investor. As is the case with any other major decision, and perhaps more so the case here, finding the right retirement country and the right retirement savings/investment package requires a great deal of research and a solid understanding of what you’re looking for, what you’re hoping for and what works best for you. Good luck and bon voyage