Retiring in Canada during these times of tremendous change in the world does seem like a good idea, doesn't it?
Well, it generally 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.
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 in 2017 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 because 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, New Zealand, specifically. Why? Because these countries have both strong tax agreements and favourable pension arrangements.
For example, the strong tax agreements ensure that you will never be double-taxed and anything deducted in one country receives an equivalent tax credit in the other.
Another example: if you are going to receive U.S. Social Security retirement benefits, you receive 100% of them straight to your Canadian bank account! No deductions on the U.S. side. There has been an agreement between Canada and the U.S. for decades to make cross-border retirement easy in this regard.
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 dual-file tax returns.
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! 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 $25,000 or more to Canada, foreign exchange and transfer companies can give you a much better exchange rate than a bank, 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 a lot of 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 at 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 happen easier:
"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?
This is another area of question for many returning Canadians. Why? Because your tastes and lifestyle preferences have likely changed significantly since you have 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 is that you now have to consider if this dream is still useful.
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 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 amount 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!
Latest update to this resource: January 2018.