In our new “Spending the Kids’ Inheritance” series, our writer Andrea Kirkby looks at the lighter side of later life finances. In our first article, we start at the end of it all: the cost of dying at home and abroad, and the cost of staying healthy in the meantime.

Some people decide to blow the kids’ inheritance on a round-the-world cruise or a fairytale chateau in France. Good luck to them! But some unfortunate pensioners end up frittering away quite a lot of money on nothing at all.

Some people decide to blow the kids’ inheritance on a round-the-world cruise or a fairytale chateau in France. Good luck to them! But some unfortunate pensioners end up frittering away quite a lot of money on nothing at all.

We’re not talking about playing the lottery, or getting caught out by scams like ostrich farms or jatropha plantations. It’s worse than that – if you’re not wised up, between the tax man and high bank charges, you can end up just throwing your money away. That’s particularly the case when, like many retirees, you decide to use your new-found leisure time to go to some of those places you always dreamed of visiting, or even retire abroad.

Just retiring can cost you money. Believe it or not, if you go for income drawdown, choosing the wrong provider could knock £10,000 off the value of your pension fund according to a Which? Report. That’s a shockingly large amount of money considering how hard you worked for it!

Foreign currency charges can take the fun out of your holiday

Then there’s the whole question of foreign currency charges. We’re a nation of travellers – but oh boy do we pay for it.

The overcharging starts before you even leave the UK. Go to your local Post Office or an airport currency change kiosk and buy some foreign currency with a debit card, and you’ll pay 2% of your money away in extra charges to your bank. (There are a few honourable exceptions, which won’t charge you extra, but many banks still do.) If, on the other hand, you went to an ATM, took your money out in cash, and then used the cash to buy your foreign currency, you’d get away scot free.

Unless, of course, you used the wrong bureau de change – and got stung by a bad currency rate. Change your money at the airport and you might get, say 90 euro cents for £1 instead of 1.10 euros – quite a difference.

2% may not sound much. But for an average two-week break for a family of four, you’re looking at over £1,600 in spending money. That’s £32 gone already. Add a poor exchange rate, and you could be getting 320 euros less, and paying more for it. You could have quite a few nice drinks in a beach bar for the £32 – and if you’ve lost out on those euros, just think how much they would have bought. The more you travel, the more you’ll lose – bad news for those who use their retirement to start roaming the globe.

If you take money out abroad, you’ll pay even more. Many banks charge 2.75-3% for using a debit card abroad, plus up to 1.25% on purchases and £2 on all cash withdrawals. In a society that’s increasingly cashless, that can really add up – if you tried paying for a EUR 1.80 Paris metro ticket with your card, you could end up paying £2.50 for it – and it’s only worth £1.60!

Figures from Which? show a shockingly wide range of charges. The magazine calculated how much you’d pay on two £50 purchases and three £50 cash withdrawals – most of us will spend significantly more than that on holiday – and the cost ranged from zero at one new challenger bank to over £15 at TSB, Lloyds, and Bank of Scotland.

The bigger your money transfers, the more you lose in translation!

If you have a holiday home abroad, and want to pay your bills from your UK bank account, transferring money abroad can be a high-cost operation. Many banks charge £15 to £30 for setting up a foreign transfer, and they don’t have particularly good foreign exchange rates, either. Send £10,000 to the US and the average High Street bank will only give you $13,550 – when you should be getting over $14,000.

It’s even worse when you make monthly transfers, for instance moving your pension money into a foreign account. £30 a month in transfer fees from your bank adds up to £360 a year – if you retire abroad, that’s £3,600 in your first ten years. For that, you could buy a 2CV to tootle around France, or a couple could take the Transiberian Railway from Moscow to China and still have enough money left for a week of spending in Beijing.

Even though that’s significant money, it’s unlikely to damage your savings materially. But again, you have to add the risk of getting poor exchange rates – somewhere most High Street banks don’t do particularly well. A 10% difference on a state pension would add up to over £6500 – without budgeting for inflation – and if you have a private pension as well, you could lose a whole lot more.

Caxton can’t do much about drawdown charges – that’s between you and your pension provider. But if you want to save money on transfers abroad, Caxton’s international payments service can stop the banks milking your wallet. Spend the money on something worthwhile, instead!


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