Retirement Around the World – France

Published on August 8, 2013

Bonjour! Welcome to France – home of the Louvre, Versailles and the French Riviera.  In this week’s blog we will explore what retirement is like in this beautiful, romantic country.

France isn’t just home to Paris; there are a wide variety of locations that you can retire to, and a type of location for everyone.  If you want a quiet, peaceful life you can go to the countryside; for excitement try one of the cities; or if  you want to lie in the sun, head for the Riviera. With all of places that you can retire to in France the question becomes, “what is it really like to retire there as a French citizen and as a foreigner?”

Retirement for the French

retiring to FranceIn France the official retirement age is 65 but retirees can receive full pension at 62 if they have met certain requirements.  There are two types of mandatory supplementary pension plans worker are put into; the AARCO (for blue-collar workers) and AGRIC (for white-color workers and managers). Besides these two plans, workers in France are also enrolled in a mandatory state pension plan called the FRR.  Between these different options the majority of France’s population is covered by a retirement plan.  There is also an Old Age Benefit plan from which a person is eligible to receive a pension at 60 years old and an Old-Age allowance if they are 65 years old and have a low income.

Health care coverage in France comes from the state and the health care in France is rated among the best in the world.  This means that a retired French person does not have to worry about buying health insurance because everyone gets it automatically for being a French citizen. Having automatic health coverage makes it easier for the retired population of France to get the medical services they need without having to pay an arm and a leg to get coverage.

Between the state pension fund and state-issued health insurance, these retirees have less concerns regarding meeting their expenses than their American counterparts. Aside from these state benefits the French receive, their way of life in retirement is much like in the U.S. – a time to travel and spend with family and friends.

Americans in France

The first thing you will have to do if you are considering retiring to France is to make sure you actually want to retire there.  Take a long trip, notThe Louvre just one or two weeks, and really explore the different areas.  Once you find an area you think you could live in spend some time there and get to know the culture and the people.  France has a wide array of places for a person to choose from.  Your budget and the lifestyle you want to live will greatly impact where in France you go.  Paris, with all of its flash and grandeur, is a fast-paced, expensive place to live. If you are renting in Paris expect to pay several thousand dollars a month for the privilege.  The countryside, however, is relatively less expensive and much more relaxed.  In the countryside you can buy a charming farmhouse or château for as little as 60,000 Euro ($79,815.67) (if you don’t mind doing major renovations).  If you want something already renovated expect to pay 100,000 Euros ($133,026.12) and up.

Once you have decided on where in France you want to live the next thing you must do is look at the visa requirements and make sure you will qualify for a visa.  As with many foreign countries you do not need a visa if you plan to stay less than 90 days; however, if you are planning on staying longer than 90 days you are will need a long-term visa.  By getting this visa you will not be able to work in France. To apply for a long-term visa you’ll have to visit the nearest French consulate.

While French citizens get universal health coverage, you will need to buy private insurance, unless you decide to become a citizen. Health insurance is affordable in France; the price for health insurance be as little as 1500 Euros ($1,990.50) per year for an individual.

Lots to See, Do and Eat

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you’re looking for a central location in Europe, France is a great option.  Just look at a map! It’s practically in the center of western Europe; you can go take a quick ferry across the English Channel and be in England, or hop in your car and drive for a couple of hours and be in a variety of countries. Even traveling by plane around Europe is relatively inexpensive. However, you don’t have to go out of France to have a good time; France is filled with interesting places to visit.  In the Paris area alone there are art museums, high fashion, palaces, and amazing food.  If you’re not near Paris there is still a lot to see.  The country’s wine region is famous and touring vineyards will give you a first-hand look at what goes on behind the scenes of wine making.  If you choose to be near the Rivera there is an endless list of outdoor and water activities to choose from. There are also many historical sites throughout France; history buffs will find  a never ending list of places to visit.

One of the biggest expenses you might experience when retiring to France is travel.  When making this decision, remember that you will probably want to come back to the U.S. to visit friends and family so it is extremely important to budget so that you will be able to do so.  Budgeting for everyday expenses is also extremely important.  Prices are higher in France; the cost of day-to-day living is relatively expensive because of high sales tax on items, which is included in the market price.

One advantage to living in France is the quality of food.  The French are known world-wide for their love of food and the high quality of their cuisine.  In the countryside you won’t have to go far to find fresh produce, cheese or meat.  Even in the cities the selection is amazing and the quality is excellent. Besides the fresh produce and meat, the pastries and bread in France are to die for.  Going into a patisserie (pastry shop) or boulangerie (bakery) is like walking into heaven.  You are surrounded by delicious looking and tasting foods to choose from.  In a patisserie you will find cakes and tarts while in a boulangerie you will find a wide selection of breads.  Unlike in the U.S., the idea of going to one store for all of your food needs is very uncommon.  Many people have a butcher, produce man, and baker who they go to for their needs.   Shopping for food is an experience in France to be enjoyed; taking your time to pick what to buy is part of the fun.

When moving overseas it is always important to remember that you are not in the U.S. anymore. Although many people do speak English, it is always advisable to try at French first; after all, it is their native language.  Things will be different from what you’re used to but if you are willing to make the jump it can be tres bon!

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