Welcome to the resource page for Canadians living in the U.S. and abroad who are moving back to Canada to retire (and live the good life!) Here you will find resources specific to your context.
The main Moving Back to Canada resource page has links to a full set of resources for you to access, so be sure to check it out as well!
Retiring in Canada during these times of tremendous change in the world can seem like a good idea, doesn't it?
Well, it is a good idea to retire in Canada!
This past year alone I have helped dozens of Canadians make the move back from the U.S., UK, Hong Kong, and Australia to retire in Canada.
Their only real complaint?
It is not as warm in Canada as they might like.
Here are the top reasons Canadians are returning to retire in Canada, as explained to me by my clients:
But the return does come with some challenges, too.
Here are areas clients have requested the most help with:
A tip from G. Lundun, one of my clients who moved to Victoria, BC to retire after many years in the USA:
People make all the difference! Find organizations to get help from. Reach out to professionals. Ask for help! Recognize you need help with moving back and ask yourself: Who do I know in my network?
Build a team!
After his move, Mr. Lundun shared more thoughts with me that will be helpful to Canadians returning to retire in Canada, including about how electronic the world has become. For example, he suggested you have someone help you navigate government systems. He noted that to apply for public medical insurance he had to upload his scanned ID, which was difficult to do. And simply learning to get things done once more in Canada was a challenge, such as finding a car repair shop you can trust. More reasons to reach out and ask for help!
This "retire in Canada" resource page is the result of generous contributions from people like Mr. Lundun, and their wish to help other Canadians. This is also my wish! If you can, please share your experiences, tips, and insights to enrich this resource!
I could write a book on "how to retire in Canada" from my experience working with hundreds of returning Canadians. There are so many areas to consider. For the purposes of providing a succinct and useful resource, here are what my clients and I feel are the most important considerations:
Generally, retiring in Canada works well if you are moving back from the U.S., UK, Australia, and New Zealand, specifically. Why? Because these countries have both strong tax treaties with Canada and reciprocal pension arrangements.
However, a few general pension considerations:
Tip: As you plan your retirement move back to Canada, consider engaging the support of a professional to help you plan your savings/investment move, income in Canada transition, and to plan for dual-country filing of taxes. For Canadians returning from the U.S. this is particularly important because you will have to "dual-file" tax returns for at least the first year and most likely indefinitely.
Is the cost of hiring a professional of concern to you? One piece of guidance I offer my clients often saves them my fees 2x, 3x, or more times over. for example! Here it is:
Don't use your U.S. or foreign bank to send your money to Canada! Use a dedicated foreign exchange company. If you are sending USD $5,000 or more to Canada, foreign exchange firms can give you a much better exchange rate than a bank and lower fees, saving you hundreds or even thousands of dollars on very large exchanges and transfers!
See my Foreign Exchange resources page for suggestions of two foreign exchange companies recommended by other returning Canadians.
Retiring to Canada from Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, and other, less-connected countries
While many countries have tax treaties with Canada, these treaties are often much less formal than the U.S. / Canada tax treaty, for example. And there are no pension or other provisions made between Canda and these countries. In this case, your return to Canada is really one that offers you both more freedom and requires more care.
Questions arise, such as:
"Should we bring all our investments and money back to Canada?"
"Will we be taxed on the money we bring back to Canada?" (no!)
"Because we don't have pensions, will we have enough money to retire in Canada?"
If you are moving back from further abroad, an extended visit before you move makes a lot of sense, to allow you to get many questions answered, build a team to help you, and really understand whether moving back makes sense at all. At the time of writing this resource, a senior Canadian is considering moving back from Thailand, where he lives very inexpensively.
The photo (above/right) is the view from his home there. Perhaps he should consider staying in Thailand, at least every winter?
There is no perfect time to move, and your move will take a lot of organizing. No way around this reality. However, here are some suggestions that can make your move back to Canada smoother:
"We’ll be in Canada in one week! We are tired! This has been a tough move - we really hoped our moving days were over, but here we are at it again. It’s getting to be too much. Our bodies are having a hard time with this."Do you really need to do it all yourself? Perhaps getting moving help is worth the investment?
This is another area of question for many returning Canadians. Why? Because your tastes and lifestyle preferences have probably changed significantly since you last lived in Canada. Moreover, you are now at a different life stage than when you left!
While you may have had a dream Canadian location, house, and lifestyle in your mind years and decades ago, the reality of your current life stage means you may have re-visit this dream and determine if it is still realistic and desirable.
For many returning Canadians, the move itself is daunting. Some have lived in their homes in the U.S., UK, or Australia for decades. So the "move" is a challenge logistically: Deciding what to keep and what to sell from years and decades of accumulating belongings, then packing, and then finally moving their household.
And if the move is a "downsize" to a smaller home or condominium?
There are clearly psychological considerations as well! All those items you have had for decades and must choose to keep or let go? They have memories attached! Many dear memories that are worth treasuring. Never an easy decision on what to take with you.
Moving back to Canada to retire is different from moving abroad when you were 25 years old. The logistics include much more than simply "Pack up the u-Haul! Let's head back to Canada!"
"How much should we do ourselves?"
Canadians as a whole are an independent bunch. When we are 25 years old, packing and moving is usually something we do ourselves, maybe with the help of a few family members and friends, and with pizza and beer for all as a reward for loading the truck.
Moving back when you are 65 years old, with lots of stuff to pack, often moving from far away, is a different matter. Though we may still feel highly independent, hiring professionals to move us can be not only a relief, but also physically and mentally healthier than trying to do it all ourselves.
Suggestion: If you are downsizing dramatically to a small quantity of household belongings, and are moving from the U.S. for example, packing and moving yourself is still very doable, and may be a refreshing part of your return to Canada. If, however, this scenario does not fit your reality, consider the cost of professional movers an investment in the start of your new life in Canada with confidence and ease. You will likely have enough to do with the psychological aspects of packing and transitioning your lives alone, without having to do all the physical work yourself.
The topic of health care in Canada is a complex one. For this reason, I wrote a dedicated resource for it. The focus is on the difference between the health care systems of the U.S. and Canada, but the content will be useful for Canadians returning from any country. The resource:
Health Care in Canada - For returning Canadians
Some health care considerations specifically for retiring in Canada
This section applies only to Canadians moving back from the U.S. because you may only "import" your vehicle if it was originally purchased in the USA or Canada.
The main considerations Canadians returning to retire in Canada have are the importation paperwork, taxes/duties, and possible minor modifications to meet Canadian regulations. Some thoughts specifically for bringing your vehicle back from the U.S.:
Many people can remember when coming into Canada through airports and by land was not an easy and comfortable process. Lineups, feeling vulnerable, having your belongings searched, and being treated suspiciously by "border guards" may still be very much fresh in the minds of people who are over the age of 50. I can clearly remember visiting Hungary when I was 12 years old when it was still behind the "Iron Curtain". Crossing the borders there was nerve wracking...as was going through border control when we arrived back in Canada!
Thankfully, all that is behind us and coming back to Canada to visit or retire is really pretty easy. There is some paperwork required for crossing the border if you have goods coming after you arrive or if you are importing your vehicle, a wine collection and/or firearms, but the staff at the border are really helpful, polite and, well...Canadian! Be open, clear, honest, and friendly and you will in all likelihood be met with polite, friendly, professional, and simply nice staff at the border!
If you are a single retiree returning to Canada, the move can be scary, relieving, or exciting, depending on your life circumstances and how big this change is for you personally. If you wish you had someone beside you to make this move easier do trust that couples preparing for a return have it just as hard...or harder. For couples there can be complicated family structures to navigate, an array of friends they are leaving, mixed needs and wishes between them (maybe one wants to return and the other doesn't!), and more. Retiring "solo" to Canada can actually be easier in many ways!
Moving back to Canada alone does comes with some very specific considerations. This became clear to me after working with many single clients returning to Canada from the U.S. and abroad. These considerations apply to all solo retirees - widows, widowers, divorced, or simply those who are single and never married. One client I am supporting is 97 years old and returning to Canada on her own, so you can imagine the special needs she has! Here are special areas to consider and some thoughts to help you plan for a successful retirement move to Canada:
I recently visited a wonderful solo retiree client of mine who moved back to Canada from Australia. After some small health concerns arose while living there she chose to move back to be near her daughter. While not serious, her health concerns did make clear that as she gets older it might be helpful and emotionally supportive to be near a close family member.
Our conversation took a surprising turn, however. My client explained that while she had been away from Canada her daughter and family had gotten on with their lives and simply arriving back in Canada did not mean that everybody immediately integrated her into their lives. As a result, my client had to create her own life, independent of her daughter and family.
Thankfully, this was not a problem! My client is a strong, independent person who quickly grasped the reality of her situation. Now, just a few months into her life in Canada she had a social group who all moved to Canada from Australia, she is planning to spend a few months every winter in a warm climate with a solo female friend of hers, and she is building a support group for herself here in Canada, comprised of other seniors.
But what if a solo retiree does not feel strong and independent? What if they move back planning and expecting to be supported by one or more family member and integrated into the family, only to be surprised when it doesn't happen the way they hoped and expected?
When a retiree couple moves back to Canada they have each other as primary support.
When a solo retiree returns to Canada, they have only themself as primary support during the journey and while settling in. It is therefore important to consider ahead of a move back what support might be needed and where that support will come from. I am not trying to scare solo retirees, but instead suggesting that expectations and plans be openly considered and discussed with family and friends to be sure they will really unfold in the desired manner.
And of important note: Your family may say with complete sincerity that they will provide the support you need, but they may not understand at the time what the support entails and ultimately that they really can't and won't be this support for you.
Building on the above consideration, here is another one to think about: In the past when telephone long distance costs were high and there was no internet, being physically close to your support team (a close family member and friends) was the only way to be emotionally close as well. A letter or once-a-month telephone call quite simply did not provide the same emotional support one might need in one's retirement years. In the past, people needed to be physically near each other. Now, everyone in the world is only a text message, email, inexpensive phone call, or free Skype video conversation away!
There is now a separation of physical in-person connection and emotional connection. They are not required to be the same thing all the time.
This is really important to understand!
If you are moving to be near an adult child, for example, who you expect to both physically and emotionally support you, it may come as a shock if this arrangement does not come to fruition. They may move away. They may be busy with their own lives, their own life challenges, and connected to their own in-person and virtual communities who provide all the support they need. You need them...but they don't need you.
Suggestion: Consider who you need to help you with your physical and your emotional support needs. Where are these people in the world? Will you get the physical and emotional support you need from your family in Canada?
OK, this may be the biggest challenge of all...or the biggest enabler of a joyful retirement lifestyle in Canada for you.
Scenario 1: A retiree who moves back, finds themselves increasingly lonely, frustrated by a lack of day-to-day support for shopping and logistics, no social group who understands them, no family doctor established and trusted medical support team available, and scared about what will happen in an emergency.
Scenario 2: A retiree moves back to Canada. They immediately and determinedly seek out a group of other seniors for both social and active events, find a nearby drop-in medical clinic and other needed care professionals, arrange with one or more retirees in their apartment/condo building to provide day-to-day and emergency support for each other, and starts building friendships.
A successful solo retirement move to Canada requires not just logistics planning, but a clear and open picture of what support will be needed and how to get it. The world has changed! Traditional family support and social networks are usually not as available as they were in past. You may still have such a system if you have lived in a location for decades, but now most solo retirees must consciously create their own support system and social connections if they move back to Canada.
The biggest surprise for me after working with solo retiree clients is that many are not choosing to move back to Canada full-time! Once they figured out the above realities, they choose to either move to a different place in the world or only move back to Canada part-time. Some of my clients put one foot down in Canada and the other foot in Australia, Mexico, the UK, and other countries. Some simply leave again to a new country (and typically a warm one!)
On a recent visit to Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, the condo building I stayed in was populated largely by expatriate retiree Canadians...and many of them single! What a wonderful supportive community they were for each other. They taught each other how to thrive in Mexico, supported each other logistically and emotionally, and were consciously social with newcomers. I learned from them that Mexico even offers a retiree-specific residency visa and modest-cost health care insurance for expatriate residents! Wow!
This is the 21st century. As a solo retiree, either by circumstance or choice, you have opportunities that were never before available in history to live where you wish in the world. Using the internet and international travel you can find community and support in many places, while keeping in touch with family and friends in Canada or anywhere in the world. Yes, it takes courage and strength to choose a lifestyle that will really support and excite you. But from what I have seen from dozens of inspirational clients and other retirees who I have connected with, the pay-off is huge! Whether you are 60, 70, 80 or yes, even 90 years of age, you can do it! The oldest person I heard of moving down to Puerto Vallarta from Canada?
A 94 year old man, tired of the cold in Belleville, Ontario.
Please share your learning and experiences, and suggest improvements to this resource page, so that other Canadians moving back to Canada to retire may benefit from your wisdom!
Latest update to this resource: March 2020.