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Retirement Dilemma

(117 Posts)
Nansnet Mon 05-Jul-21 05:45:16

Sorry, long post!

DH and I have been discussing what to do when he eventually retires. Although it's not about to happen just yet, we do need to start making plans, as we currently live overseas. We need to decide where we're going to live as it will take time to find the right location/property. We've been having discussions about this for a very long time, so we certainly won't be rushing into anything without having already given it lots of thought and research. We've often gone around in circles, favouring one place over another, then changing our minds again a few months later! However, the time has now come when we do need to make some decisions.

Being long-time expats, we've always imagined that we'd eventually set down roots overseas, somewhere warm, where all the family can come to visit. However, as we're getting older, we wouldn't totally rule out returning to the UK (we do still have our house there, although we'd probably sell it and buy in another location). But, DH has some concerns about returning, as he's worried that we wouldn't be able to settle there, or we wouldn't 'fit in' after being away for so long.

We have a DD living in the UK with her partner, and I have no doubt they will get married, and hope to have children in the not too distant future. My DS & DiL live in another country, with our two young GDs, who (before Covid!) we used to visit regularly as they are only a short flight away from us.

Now, the dilemma! We are a very close family, and we have a great relationship with both our DD and DS, and their respective partners. BUT, geographically, we can't be close to all of them. I know that DD would love for us to return to the UK, and she's always said she wants us to be 'hands-on' grandparents if/when she has children, which is something I've always wanted to be in the position to do. Plus, I miss her terribly! However, if we relocated back to the UK, I can foresee that DS & his family probably wouldn't be too enthralled with the prospect of spending a lot of money on long-haul flights to the UK, to spend their 'holidays' with us in an average home, with dreary weather most of the time, and I wouldn't blame them!

However, if we relocated to say, Spain, for example, we'd be able to afford a house large enough to accommodate all of our family, with a pool, not far from the sea/beaches, etc., and I know that DS and his family would enjoy many long school holidays with us (they are both teachers). It would also be just a short flight to/from the UK for my DD & her partner to visit, and for us to visit them. But, of course, we'd never have that properly close relationship, or 'hands-on' grandparenting if she has children.

On one hand, my heart is telling me it would be better to be properly close to at least one of our children, and if we return to the UK we would be close to our DD, and also fulfil her wish, and mine, of one day being close to any potential GC she may give us. But this would mean we wouldn't see as much of our DS and his family, and it would kill me not to see our little GDs growing up.

On the other hand, my head is telling me to buy a home elsewhere, where all the family could enjoy regular holidays/visits. But that would mean we wouldn't be properly 'close' to either our DD or DS, and my husband & I would be on our own for the majority of the time in another country. That doesn't bother me, per se, as we are used to living overseas, and enjoy different cultures/exploring, and we have no problem making friends, etc.

What I am worried about is, if we were to relocate to Spain, would we live to regret not having that properly close relationship to at least one of our children? Or, should we consider a return to the UK to be close to our DD, but at the cost of seeing less of our DS and his family? Or, do we relocate to a place where both DD, and DS, can enjoy visits/holidays, but obviously not as often as we'd like to see them all, and we'll miss out on the closeness, and 'hands-on' grandparenting?

Retirement is something my DH and I have looked forward to for a long time, but right now I'm having sleepless nights about it all, and I feel in such a quandary about what to do!

What do other retirees think? Has anyone here been in a similar situation, and had to make decisions about what to do? What decisions did you make, and were they the right ones for you? Any advice or opinions will be greatly appreciated.

Ashcombe Mon 05-Jul-21 06:35:53

Closeness will always be part of your relationships if it is already there and it sounds as if it is. I live over 200 miles away from from my DD2 and DS plus DD1 is in Australia but we communicate regularly by text, FaceTime and Zoom calls to maintain closeness.

When we are together, it is for a few days at a time. The DGC cope with this and the relationships with them continue to enrich my life and, I hope, theirs, too! It is different from the regular time they spend with local grandparents but no less special.

It is your retirement so I hope you will decide what will work best for you- swings and roundabouts! Good luck and happy retirement!

grandMattie Mon 05-Jul-21 06:48:52

When they retired after a long career with the UN and loads of different countries, my uncle and aunt bought two houses - one in the Italian mountains and one in Dublin. They spent the summer in Italy and the very cold Italian winters in my uncle’s natal Ireland. The family visited in both locations. They often left the grandchildren in Italy for most of the summer…
Perhaps something similar would solve your problem?

mumofmadboys Mon 05-Jul-21 06:53:14

I think you need to think ahead to when there is one of you left. Would you find it important then to be close to family? Hope this doesn't sound too negative but it is worth thinking about. Also this pandemic has taught us that travel isn't always easy. Wish you well whatever you decide.

Riverwalk Mon 05-Jul-21 06:57:50

I'm not in this position so can't give advice or insight but just a few comments.

Since Brexit you no longer have an automatic right to settle in Spain, assuming you're UK citizens - so the process might be harder than you think.

A friend has a holiday home in SW France which I've visited many times. There are any number of retired Brits there - some not in great circumstances. One inevitably dies first leaving the other alone to negotiate getting old and frail; often the one of the pair who doesn't speak much French is left behind.

I think you should think of yourselves and not give too much thought on providing holidays in the sun for your son and his family, and childcare, for children who don't exist, for you daughter.

You can always rent a villa in Spain so that everyone can visit.

tanith Mon 05-Jul-21 07:13:55

I think whatever you decide to please choose to be close to one of your children, DH and I had planned lots for his retirement but within a month of his finishing work he was diagnosed with two life threatening illnesses and sadly never got to do all the things we planned. I was never so grateful to have my family around me and they continue to support me. You just don’t know what’s round the corner best laid plans and all that.

I wish you both a long and happy retirement whatever you decide.

mokryna Mon 05-Jul-21 07:14:38

I think GrandMattie has the right idea two places. Having a small one in the UK and a larger one in the sun where everyone could meet up and you could fly to easily when the weather gets too miserable. The only problem could be health insurance in both countries.

Mattsmum2 Mon 05-Jul-21 07:27:09


I think GrandMattie has the right idea two places. Having a small one in the UK and a larger one in the sun where everyone could meet up and you could fly to easily when the weather gets too miserable. The only problem could be health insurance in both countries.

I was going to suggest this too. Afraid to say you don’t know if and when your daughter with have children. Having two homes would maybe solve your dilemma.
Also do you have to settle this time? If you’re only just retiring then be flexible until you can’t. Best of luck with your decision x

Septimia Mon 05-Jul-21 09:30:44

Maybe you could, upon retirement, spend a few months at your house in the UK to see if you can settle.

Then you can make your decision - two places if you can afford them may be a good idea so that your children can visit either - and buy somewhere where you feel comfortable.

Peasblossom Mon 05-Jul-21 09:45:26

Just a note of caution about the “families coming for holidays”.

We had both sets of grandparents in eminently desirable holiday places and it we enjoyed going there when the children were little. But when they got older (around 8 or 9) they wanted to holiday where there were other children of their age to mix with. A fortnight with Granny, Grandad, Mum and Dad didn’t cut it for them anymore.
By the time they were teenagers they were off on their own adventures. And actually, although we wanted to see parents, I was desperate to experience something new for my holiday.

All the family turning up to spend their holidays with you is a bit of a fantasy I think, or only lasts for a short time. Unless you are a do everything together family.

geekesse Mon 05-Jul-21 10:26:45

Please also consider the changed status of British immigrants to the EU. I’m not sure of all the ramifications, but issues like the cost of health care and tax on your pensions might make retirement in Europe a less attractive option.

Peasblossom is right about families and holidays. A trip to Spain to see Granny and Grandpa might be nice for a couple of years, but once the novelty wears off, it will be ‘do we have to go there again?’ Somewhere in the UK. that they can visit for as long as a month or as little as a weekend might mean you actually see more of them in the longer term.

If you have a decent sized pot, I’d suggest you consider a home on the Devon or Cornwall coast, or on the Isle of Wight, which would make a nice holiday destination when your family wish to come, and won’t cut you off from the conveniences of being in the UK.

geekesse Mon 05-Jul-21 10:31:52

My parents planned to retire to Cyprus from the Gulf. My Mum’s deteriorating health persuaded them to opt for Wales instead, and it was a very happy decision for them. After years of sun and sand, they loved the green countryside and community feel of the village where they lived, and they saw a lot more of the family than they would have done if they had gone to Cyprus.

3dognight Mon 05-Jul-21 10:43:55

I would not try and plan a retirement around my daughter, she may or may not have children. This is unknown.
You DO know your son has two children who you love to see and get on well with your daughter in law- so I would make it easy for him still to visit.
It is difficult to please everyone, not least yourselves, so if more grandchildren come along with your daughter and partner you could just rent a place big enough for all a couple of times a year with an open invitation for family visits/holidays.

Ultimately I would want to please myself and my husband- while making a concerted effort to make it easy for family to visit if they wanted while children were young.

Also Peasblossom post rings very true!

Witzend Mon 05-Jul-21 10:50:27

I do know couples who’ve bought two homes, e.g. a smaller one in the U.K., in case they ever need or want to return - a foot in the door - and a bigger one in France or Spain.

However I know another couple who’d never envisaged wanting to return to the UK, but health and circumstances eventually changed. Sadly they they had burnt their boats property-wise, though. While their foreign home fetched only more or less what they’d paid for it maybe 15 years previously, in the meantime U.K. prices anywhere near where they wanted to live, had soared way out of reach.
I have heard of others similar.

I know it’s different for you OP, since you’re not in the U.K. now anyway, but I would urge anyone thinking of retiring abroad, not to burn their boats completely.

Nannarose Mon 05-Jul-21 11:02:35

Goodness! I understand you not wanting to go into detail, but I am aware that if you would be buying 'an average home' in the UK then your finances may not allow the cost & upkeep of two homes.
You also do not say what your status is regarding benefit or health care entitlement in any of the countries you are considering. You may have already looked into this, but you don't list it, and I think it need careful consideration.

Although I am deeply rooted in England, and cannot imagine living anywhere else, I have many friends who have moved around the world for all of their lives and have family spread across the globe. A popular (pre-covid) solution was to rent a holiday home for a month, in a different part of the world each year, to allow family members to come and go a bit, meet up with extended family etc. Not cheap (!) but a possibility if you have some money left after your house purchase and necessary rainy-day savings. It also partly sorts the 'teenage dilemma' if other youngsters (or at least the cool uncles & aunts) are there.

A solution often offered on here is the idea of renting for awhile. If your finances could bear it (not sure if you own your own home and could rent it out or sell it) then you could try a few months in different places, and get a sense of how it feels - and it would be interesting if you like visiting places. Of course this is probably not do-able this year, but I get the sense that you don't have to decide instantly. It does delay a final decision, but may allow factors to come to light that you haven't yet included.

I have to say that I am completely fascinated by the idea of choosing where in the world you want to live, and wish you luck!

Nansnet Tue 06-Jul-21 06:08:07

Thank you all for your comments and advice, I very much appreciate it, and much of what has been said has certainly given me lots of food for thought!

As I mentioned, we have been discussing and researching this for a very long time, and have already taken into consideration the rules & regulations regarding tax/pensions/health insurance/residency/etc. (which are constantly changing!), so we won't be going into this blindly.

Having been expats since our kids were small, we're fully aware of all the pros & cons of living overseas, and whilst my DH is all for setting up home elsewhere, and would do so tomorrow, I am very much the cautious one! All the 'what if's' are keeping me awake at night!

As someone pointed out, I do have great concerns about one of us eventually being left alone. However, we're currently only in our late 50s, and I'm hoping that we'll have a few enjoyable years left in us yet! Obviously, we never know what's around the corner, and we've lost a couple of good friends recently, way before their time, and for this reason we both have the view that we need to enjoy life whilst we can!

The biggest issue for me is my heart ruling my head (or vice versa), and I'm worried in case I make the wrong decision and live to regret it.

Anyway, I will take all of your comments on board. It has been really helpful to get the views of others, as there were some things I hadn't thought about, or taken into consideration. I particularly like Septimia's suggestion of going back to live in our house in the UK for a while, to see how we feel back there, and I guess we could also spend that time looking at other locations, whilst we decide what to do ...

Sparkling Tue 06-Jul-21 06:13:53

Do what’s best for you, the children have their own life. If you become a duty you become a burden my dad used to say, I know what he meant.

Hithere Tue 06-Jul-21 06:25:50

If you settle close to one of your kids, what if they move? What would you do then?

Spain: immigration concerns + buying property in a foreign country complicates things
Do you speak Spanish?
Have you been to Spain and the area you are thinking of relocating?

Why not renting vs buying to start with?

One thing is being in the area as a tourist vs resident.

This applies to Spain or any location to you pick

There is no right or wrong decision - I would be careful of making decisions based on other people's lives as you have no control over their changes.

I have several friends that went back to home country after decades abroad and they found a very different country than the one they remember - the one they wanted to find.

Nansnet Tue 06-Jul-21 10:07:08

Sparkling, I know what your dad meant! And I totally agree with what you said about doing what's best for us ... I just wish I knew what that was!confused

Hithere, we wouldn't consider settling close to DS as we know that he's likely to move around with his job, but our DD and her partner are totally settled where they are, close to his family and all their friends, and close to where we have a house in the UK. I'm certain they will never move from the area, but if they did, we wouldn't dream of following them, as it's not difficult to get around the UK. But I do totally agree with you in that we shouldn't really make decisions based on their lives.

We keep ourselves informed regarding the Spanish immigration procedures/residency/buying property/etc.

I do speak a little Spanish, and hopefully, with more practise, I'll know a lot more if/when we actually make the move. DH doesn't, but he's good at languages, and he's a fast learner. We have been to Spain many, many times, to various parts, and we love the culture. So we already have an idea as to areas we would be interested in.

Renting vs buying could be an option, but the renting would eat into our budget for buying, if we decide to go ahead with that, so not really something we would particularly want to do.

Your last comment, "I have several friends that went back to home country after decades abroad and they found a very different country than the one they remember - the one they wanted to find", is what worries me, and this is DHs biggest concern!

I will ponder on everyone's comments, and hopefully we will eventually make the right decision ... for us!

Grannygrumps1 Tue 06-Jul-21 10:37:54

Something to consider…… the government are planning to stop paying brits pensions if they live abroad. It’s something that’s in the pipeline. Would this affect you in any way which might sway your decision.

Cossy Tue 06-Jul-21 10:40:42

I’d certainly plump for the big house and pool in Spain, you can get to the UK easily and everyone will be able t come and stay and enjoy time in the sunshine with you x

Magrithea Tue 06-Jul-21 10:43:22

We lived overseas for 20 years but bought a house we eventually returned to 20 years ago. Our children were younger then (one of the reasons for returning) and we worried that they wouldn't settle but they did and have never wanted to do much travelling themselves.

You need to consider where you want to be, if your adult children can visit if you decide on overseas all well and good but they won't be there all the time. I find a few days at a time with my elderly Mum is enough so your dream of long summer hols with DS, DiL and grandchildren might turn into a chore and the grandchildren will eventually grow up and not want to spend all summer with Granny and Grandad.

Listen to your head!

kjmpde Tue 06-Jul-21 10:43:38

i hope as part of any discussion you have considered healthcare. Our neighbours have a holiday home in Spain and he often discusses the fact that healthcare is expensive in Spain whilst we have the NHS here in the UK. I think you need to consider finding out the health insurance costs of wherever you decide to live . I presume you can stand the heat -eg over 40 degrees in Cyprus at present?

Cossy Tue 06-Jul-21 10:47:21

Re state pensions

“ If you retire in Spain, you can claim: your UK State Pension or new UK State Pension. your Spanish and UK State Pension from the Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social if you were living in Spain before 1 January 2021.”

Torre Tue 06-Jul-21 10:49:56

My DH and myself moved to Spain permanently 15 years ago. Sold up our UK property and purchased a fabulous golf resort property. 6 years ago with one grandchild, another on the way and soaring temperatures we decided to move back to the UK. We lost all of our equity in the property and are unable to purchase here due to fast rising prices and our age but……we have not regretted one minute of our amazing 10 years in Spain. Plus living close to our DD we see our grandchildren regularly. When I asked my 12 year old GS if he would visit if we still lived in Spain he said no…..the summers are far too hot and he prefers camping.
My answer to you would be do what you want to do for you no one else…regret is a big burden to carry.