Last year, about 41 per cent of the 297,000 people emigrating from the UK were British citizens, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
Almost half of these people left for work-related reasons, and about 6 per cent to study abroad. This is reflected in the latest data from NatWest International Personal Banking, whose annual Quality of Life Index showed that expatriates are becoming younger, with 27 per cent of the 2,400 expats surveyed aged 25–35.
“Previously, moving abroad was a huge life commitment which would entail a complete upheaval for all involved. With the advances in remote working and new means available to keep in touch with family, people are more prepared than ever to pack their bags in search of both adventure and a way to improve their career prospects,” said Dave Isley, head of NatWest IPB, in the report.
2014 data from the ONS states the ever-popular Australia as the top country for British emigrants, followed by France, the USA, UAE, and Canada.
But the Natwest 2015 data shows a different picture, with Singapore topping its list as the most popular country to emigrate to, owing to the rise in younger British people working abroad. China and Hong Kong also came high on their list.
They suggest that the traditional permanent expat – either retiring or looking for a new start in a new country – is being replaced by the temporary expat wanting to gain work experience abroad.
“The shift in temporary expats’ destination is largely due to the growing demand for British professional skills in a number of prominent Asian and Arabic countries, following rapid economic growth and a greatly improved standard of living,” states the report.
“This in stark contrast to European countries included in the index, which indicated that around a quarter of all expats now felt nervous or anxious about their economic situation (Portugal 22 per cent, Spain 26 per cent, France, 28 per cent).”
Of the 5 million British expats living around the world, an estimated 1 million are retirees based on government statistics. Of those surveyed by Natwest, financial worries and homesickness might see up to a third of them return to Britain.
“It is important for anyone planning a move abroad that they make an informed decision which factors in both the financial realities of living abroad and considers the impact of living in a new environment,” said Isley.
The cost of living can often be underestimated, and fluctuating economic and political conditions can also put added pressure on expats, such as house price falls or new tax laws.
Changes to UK pension laws and a freeze on the pension amount paid, depending on where they live, can also impact retirees’ ability to enjoy life abroad, not to mention fluctuating currency exchange rates that affect how much pension money is actually received.
While banks were the traditional go-to destination for cross-border money transfers, now a number of online money transfer providers are proving stiff competition, with much lower fees and better exchange rates.
Comparison sites such as FXcompared.com allow you to watch the exchange rate changes and pick the best time to make the transfer. They can also allow you to lock in favourable rates for future transfers with ‘forward contracts’.
A survey last year by financial services company Retirement Advantage found Spain was still the most popular choice for future retirees looking to move abroad, followed by France and North America.
“Thinking that a holiday spot can also be your ideal retirement destination might be hit with flaws. Without the right planning, savings and advice, you can quickly get caught out by local tax laws, exchange rates, and other financial arrangements, turning a retirement dream into a potential nightmare,” said Retirement Advantage’s Andrew Tully in a statement.
“To help navigate the complexities of retiring abroad, it is vital people seek professional financial advice. There are a number of firms who specialise in providing advice to budding expats, which could make the world of difference between the retirement of your dreams or an altogether more challenging experience.”