Retirement US v UK

What are the main differences in retirement in UK v US?

The main considerations have to be—>

State Healthcare

I am based in the UK. so effectively, regardless of whatever health issue I have, it should be entirely funded by the National Health Service (NHS). While still working, my employer provided Private medical care. What did that mean? You went to your NHS doctor (General Practitioner/GP) who listened to your symptoms, and said, this warrants more investigation. At this stage you have a choice – will I join the NHS Waiting list (variable waiting time, depending on where you live and the urgency of the symptoms), or ‘Go Private’? I have done both. I have been treated fantastically by both.

This is where your medical history comes in. When I retired 5 years ago, I chose not to renew my private health cover. This was based on my medical requirements over my life to date. I must have some very healthy genes, but I can safely say, I haven’t bothered my doctors too much in the last 60 years. because apart from producing 2 amazing children, my last operation (appendix) was aged 3. Long may it continue. If I do develop some ‘interesting’ illness, then I can take the decision at that stage to get some ‘private’ help. But really it should not be needed. I haven’t had to test the theory. Many years ago, (1992) my husband had gall-bladder problems. His private health care through his work could offer him a world leader surgeon in keyhole surgery, where he would be back at work in 2-3 weeks, or he could opt for the current NHS treatment, major surgery, 2-3 months off work, and many months before he would have a normal life again. We were so thankful for the company provided health insurance. Now, as a pensioner, it would be good to be treated quickly. whether it is worth spending a lot of money on, ‘just in case’, I decided it wasn’t.

State Intervention

Again, I hope never to have to experience this, but while the UK experience might not be great, ultimately the state will try and protect you when everything goes against you. If you’re homeless, there will be support, probably, jointly through charities and Social Services to find you a home, support you with benefits etc.

State Pension

I don’t quite know how this will work going forward, but just now, even if you haven’t got a great National Insurance Record you will still get about £115 pw to live on? Though I will be honest, while I could live on this for food, insurance, heating etc. It won’t pay rent…. So, I hope the benefits system is still there for many years to come to protect our most vulnerable. So I am worried for those who don’t have 10 years NI contributions. Where is the safety net?

The choices

If I chose to retire to the US (Green Card, Visas permitting), I would have only a fraction of the above….I am lucky, I do have choices. I choose where I live, whether I get additional healthcare etc. Sometimes I fancy the climate, the amazing lifestyles etc, but these come at a price….

Ultimately I prefer the slightly more supportive UK, even though I pay more in taxes as a result.

I recently added up my lifetime earnings. Scary in some ways (how did I manage to fritter away all that money?), to the shock  – wow, my husband and I have paid about 30% of our earnings in tax and national insurance. That is a significant sum. Far more than we will ever extract in state support for pensions, healthcare etc, even if we went into care today and lived to 100.

So lets hear it for the NHS, warts and all! Our far from perfect social care system, but so much better than nothing at all. Also the charities that fill the gaps which the state doesn’t quite manage to reach, from food banks, to the many myriad of charities, from cancer to homeless, mental health to childcare….


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