Retiring to a tropical paradise is certainly high on many people’s lists, but if you’re more interested in culture (the arts, history, great food, and wine) and First-World amenities, then you may want to investigate retiring in France instead. This country offers arguably the world’s best quality of life, and retirement in France is more affordable than you might think.
World-class wines and haute cuisine, a vibrant art scene, and the variety of lifestyles on offer are a few of the things you’ll enjoy as a retiree in France. Retiring in France also means availing yourself of the world’s best health care, infrastructure that is second to none, and investment opportunities you might not have thought possible. (You could buy and renovate an old farmhouse in the Languedoc or invest in a rental property in Paris.)
The World Health Organization routinely awards France top honors, bestowing it the title of “Best Healthcare System in the World.” Life expectancy in France exceeds that in the United States. In addition to top-notch medical resources, the French lifestyle values leisure and culture, making it an enjoyable place to retire.
Most expats find the transition to France easy because many French people speak English (with some exceptions, of course). Plus, Brits and Americans make up a sizable expat community.
France is also a very pet-friendly country, and families can bring in up to three non-humans along. Dogs and cats must be microchipped and up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations.
Getting started with your application for a French visa is straightforward.
U.S. and Canadian citizens are automatically granted a 90-day tourist visa when entering the country for business or personal travel. In English this is referred to as a “short-stay” visa (type C) but is officially called a Visa de court séjour Schengen, a short-stay Schengen visa, as it allows you 90 days within the Schengen Zone at large, not just France.
It is nearly impossible to obtain or change visa status while in France, so if you intend to stay longer than 90 days, you’ll need to request permission at the French consulate before leaving your home country.
U.S. and certain other citizens can begin the application process online here.
To apply for a long-stay visa (type D), you must make an appointment at the French consulate nearest to you in your home country. These can be requested for stays of four months up to a year.
Read more about the various visa options on France’s official government administration site.
If you plan on retiring in France, you’ll find that gaining permanent residency is easier than you imagined.
Like many countries in Europe, France grants residency to foreigners who can prove they can take care of themselves financially.
To be granted permanent residency in France, you must live here for five continuous years. After five years, you will be able to apply for a ten-year, renewable permanent residency. You could also apply for citizenship in France after that five-year residency. France allows dual citizenship so you can continue to be a citizen of your current country.
What are the differences between residency and citizenship? Although both give you the right to health care, education, and the ability to work in France, only citizenship confers the right to vote and hold public office. In addition, French citizenship automatically includes citizenship in the European Union (EU).
Health care in France is arguably the best in the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) publishes a yearly index rating and ranking the quality of health care in every country in the world. Year after year France comes out on top.
If you’re a member of French Social Security (that is, you’re paying into the system), most of the cost of this extraordinary health care is covered. The remaining cost for your treatment or medicines (including fees for doctors who are non-conventionnés, dental, and optical care) can be covered by joining a health insurance, called complémentaire santé. This type of additional insurance will pay most, but not all of the residual costs, depending on your policy, circumstances, and treatment.
The Ministry of Health coordinates health care in France and its system is widely regarded as one of the best in the world. It works so well because it is a fully integrated system meaning that public and private hospitals, as well as doctors and other medical professionals, recognize and accept the plan. Every citizen is covered, and little effort has to be expended to take advantage of the coverage.
If you plan to relocate in France and are coming from a country outside of the European Union, you will have to register with the local town council. They will ask you to prove that you will be a contributing, viable citizen. You will be required to provide your own health insurance for five years unless you reach retirement age within that time period. Once these time requirements are met, you become eligible.
The cost of living in France does not have to be as high as you might expect. I don’t mean that France is a “budget” destination, but rather that, depending on where and how you live in France, you can find it to be surprisingly affordable.
Paris has the highest cost of living in France, but much it depends on how you live. This is an expensive city, and the Marais is one of its most expensive neighborhoods. But for access to the heart of Paris, there is no better location. The cost of living for this prime location amounts to 2,860 euros per month.
On the other hand, in the 16th arrondissement, a less central but still very appealing district for expat living, the average price per square foot is about 915 euros, and in the smaller towns and villages in France, prices drop even further.
As for utilities, water and gas are relatively cheap. Electricity, however, can be more expensive, especially for cooking and heating. Look for locations with gas heaters and stoves to save a buck or two. France also boasts world-class infrastructure, with internet, cable, and television (generally bundled) at very affordable rates.
Retiring in France instead of the States won’t result in a massive cut to your cost of living. That said, regions like Carcassonne, the area often labeled as the “Other South of France,” is far more affordable than its flashier counterpart. Plus, it offers the best of French country living. Your monthly budget could be less than 1,351 euros a month in the town of Carcassonne.
France has a truly complex tax system, known for being as grand as it can be costly. The social security system is regarded as one of the best in the world, offering a universal health care plan almost free of cost. Pensions are first-world, and there are even more benefits available to help families maintain and establish themselves when needed.
But these large benefits come at large expenses. The levels of social security contributions maintaining said system are some of the highest in the world (43.3% of GDP).
That doesn’t mean you couldn’t retire in France because of taxes. Those who want to retire in France will happily discover that they have little to pay tax-wise. Even for some businesses, social security contributions can be tax-deductible in their entirety, depending on your tax regime.
Non-Taxable Income includes social security payments, some French bank savings options, and allowances for students.
Pension Income: US pensions are generally not subject to tax. You must report them, though, and they may be subject to social security payments to cover the public health care plan. 401Ks and IRA deductions aren’t treated as income to the French, as “you already earned it.”
Foreign Savings Income: Foreign savings are taxable in France and must be declared, but you can get tax relief if you pay taxes on these back in your country.
French Rental Income: All rental income earned in France will need declaring, whether you are a resident or not. The taxation depends on the rental, whether it’s furnished, unfurnished, size, and type. Furnished accommodations are taxed at 50% or 29% of gross income, depending on the type of rental you have.
Taxe Foncière, or Property Ownership Tax is a tax imposed by the owner of the property, whether he lives in it or not. This tax is paid yearly on the first of January.
The tax serves as funding for the local community and other councils. They determine the paying amount, while the central tax authority calculates and collects it. The tax rate varies a little, but it should be about 0.2% for the main household, while second homes rate from 1.2% to 1.7%, depending on their value.
Are you looking for a top overseas investment market? Look no further. France is the sixth largest economy globally and it holds about five hundred of the world’s multinational offices. The flagship industries in which France pioneers include cosmetics, insurance, airline, fashion, luxury, and energy companies.
Investing in France offers myriads of opportunities such as exchange-trade funds, American Depository Receipts, and real estate.
Foreigners are allowed to invest in property of all types in this region. The good side to it is that the tax which applies to French citizens also applies similarly to foreign investors. The only difference involves money transfers from the States to France where banks and money transfer agencies provide a certificate to the notary for any acquisition or purchase. The investor is then eligible for the full tax benefits.
You may be wondering where an American should consider retiring in France.
How do you imagine your life in retirement? Do you dream of sidewalk cafés in Paris, sipping espresso, and reading the latest issue of Le Monde or Paris Match? Or does the French countryside with its vineyards and chateaux call you? French retirement options are many, so you need to narrow your focus.
The best place to retire in France is the more affordable and enjoyable place that suits you and your budget. Here are a few retirement options…
The Burgundy region is justly famous for its wines (and tasting tours), but there is so much more here to see and do for the adventurous retiree. Take a barge or try canoeing or cycling along the many canals in the region.
Exploring the countryside, you can visit the16th century Château de Ancy-le-Franc with its Italian-influenced murals and painted ceilings, and l’Abbaye de Fontenay, one of the oldest Cistercian monasteries in France, with its strong, uncluttered architecture and stained-glass windows illuminating the interior in tones of aquamarine, sky blue, and brilliant yellow.
Best of all, real estate in Burgundy can be very affordable. You can find a cottage or row house for about US$100,000 as well as fixer-uppers in the countryside for as little as US$55,000 or less.
Morbihan in southern Brittany features a variety of interesting contrasts for retirees, with the prehistoric monoliths of Carnac, the beaches and islands along the coast, medieval towns and castles inland, and the ports and villages around the Gulf of Morbihan.
The more than 3,000 standing stones at Carnac, dating back as far as 4500 B.C., still inspire awe, and the Prehistory Museum here showcases artifacts from the Stone Age up to Roman times. The popular resort of Carnac Plage has all the usual beach facilities, as well as numerous restaurants, cafés, and small shops, while off the coast here you’ll find the picturesque islands of Ile-d’Arz and Ile-aux-Moines.
Pontivy in the north of Morbihan is ideal for history buffs. The seat of one of Brittany’s most powerful families in the 15th century, the medieval town center is still dominated by the castle that bears its name, the Chateau Rohan. In the early 1800s, Napoleon expanded the city westward using a cleaner and more regimented design, giving Pontivy two very different faces. Morbihan also offers some incredible bargains, including a two-bedroom house, minutes from the village of Rohan for under US$30,000.
Given the attraction of the Cité, the Bastide, and the surrounding area, property prices are very reasonable in Carcassonne and other regions like Languedoc and Pau. Fully renovated apartments can range from about 80,000 euros for a studio to 200,000 euros for a six-bedroom property. Houses in Carcassonne center are harder to find but are available starting at about 200,000 euros. If you extend your search to 5 kilometers out from the center, there’s a far greater choice, everything from new-build villas to renovation projects. Rents start at about 350 euros per month for apartments and from 600 euros per month for houses, making some of them even cheaper than renting in markets like Panama.
Retiring in Paris means a never-ending feast of gallery openings and special performances, museum exhibitions, and seasonal celebrations. You can enjoy three-course meals for US$20 or less, and you can spend hours at a café, watching the city flow by, for the price of a single café au lait. You can join conversation groups, discussion groups, book clubs, and cooking classes, often for very little cost, sometimes even free.
While the price of real estate (renting or buying) is higher in Paris than anywhere in France, some neighborhoods are still quite reasonable. Look to the 15th, 16th, and 18th arrondissements for the best property values. (You’ll find the largest concentration of American expats in the 16th arrondissement.)
France’s rich history and culture provide retirees with endless opportunities for enjoyment.
The variety of lifestyle options available in France are tremendous, from medieval walled villages to the City of Light, plus the best of country living and dramatic Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts. Retiring in France means you’ll never be bored.
France has arguably the world’s best health care, and if you qualify for French Social Security, the cost is minimal.
The infrastructure is among the best in the world and less expensive than in many U.S. cities.
We don’t recommend people leap into retirement to France without first trying it. This’ll give you the time to look at where in France you think best suits your wants and needs, and the extra time will let you network and make more friends with other retirees.
Usually, Americans have no trouble getting long-term residency and retiring in France. Nevertheless, you still need a lot of documentation to meet the requirements before you can retire to France. Your nearest French consulate will give you the best instructions on the process of retiring in France.
The cost of living in France can be much lower than you expect. We don’t mean that France is a “budget” destination (although there are certainly some very attractive real estate bargains here), but your cost of living could be brought down significantly depending on where and how you live.
Your lifestyle influences greatly on your monthly budget. For example, a Coca-Cola at Champs-Élysée can cost more than lunch for two at a nice bistro in a far less recognizable corner of this city. Paris is expensive, and the Marais is one of its most expensive neighborhoods. But for access to the heart of Paris, there is no better location. The cost of living for this prime location amounts to about 2,860 euros per month.
The Marais district in the center of Paris has one of the highest costs of living in France. The average selling price for property is over 1,020 euros per square foot, and rentals are averaging close to 1,700 euros per month.
Absolutely. France offers the world’s best quality of life and retiring here is more affordable than you might think. In fact, France is included in our 2023 Overseas Retirement Index.
If you’d like to reinvent your life in this culture-rich European country, make sure to check our France Starter Kit here. We’ve also published in-depth Country Retirement Reports on several areas of France. These are available in our online Bookstore, here.
France has a famously complex tax system.
Residents are taxed on worldwide income, while non-residents are taxed on locally earned income only. Figuring out French tax can be complicated. The total amount of taxes you’re likely to end up paying between France and the United States should be roughly the same as what you’re paying now. There’s a tax treaty in place between the two countries, which eliminates the risk of double taxation.
In France, you’ll pay taxes to the central government only; there are no state or county taxes. If you’re moving to France as a couple or a family, you’ll be able to take advantage of tax reductions.
If you choose to settle in Paris, most locals will know English, especially those in customer service positions––bookstores, news services, cafés, restaurants, etc. Plus, there’s a large expat community here. You don’t have learn French, but we highly recommend you try to learn at least the basics. A “Parlez-vous anglais?” can carry you a long way.
If you choose to live outside of Paris, you’re less likely to encounter English speakers. To make the most of French country life, learn at least conversational French.
Start by joining ourFacebook page. It’s become a forum of current and soon-to-be expats and is a great place to start a conversation with other France expats.
You could also search online for local expat groups and clubs. These exist all over the world in the form of book clubs, sport clubs, cooking clubs, etc. Some of the most established international expat groups includeInternations,and AngloINFO.
Don’t underestimate how nice it would be to make friends with the locals, though.
When purchasing property in France, you’ll incur notary fees (about 1%) and a transfer tax (5.09%). Both fees together would amount to less than 18,800 euros based on the purchase price you reference.
You also need to consider your real estate agent’s fee. Typically, this is disclosed up front by the agent (whether the fee is bundled in the list price or not); however, if the agent doesn’t detail this, you should ask. Agent fees are usually in the range of 5% but can be negotiable.
A mortgage broker in France should charge you 1% of the mortgage amount, though for a small mortgage, the fee may be greater.
You could apply for a loan to purchase property in France. However, it might prove tricky right now seeing as banks are not particularly open to doing so right now.
Check this video if you want a step-by-step explanation of how you can buy property in France.
Yes. Hazan Immobilier, 145 rue St. Dominique, in the 7th arrondissement; tel. 33(0)1-53-59-59-53; website:www.hazan-immobilier.com.
France is not a “budget” destination, but depending on where and how you live here, you can find it to be surprisingly affordable.
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