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British pensioners lose £10.6 billion by living abroad

Research from currency specialists HiFX shows that falls in the pound since the start of the financial crisis have resulted in expat pensioners losing thousands of pounds in income.  We look at ways you can protect yourself.

British pensioners living overseas have potentially lost out on over £10.6 billion of their income since 2007 due to the falling strength of sterling, according to currency specialists HiFX.

The analysis of the top 13 countries where over one million British expat pensioners live and receive state pensions revealed that an expat pensioner living in the Eurozone claiming state pension abroad could have seen their monthly pension income of £440.60 worth anywhere between €655.60 in April 2007 to €510.40 in April 2013, a difference of €145.20.

Mark Bodega, Director at HiFX, commented: "The global economic downturn hasn't settled down in any way. Unfortunately, Brits living abroad and receiving a fixed income in sterling have been hit particularly hard, missing out on £8.9 billion since 2007, and could not have failed to notice that they are now receiving less and subsequently now have a big hole in their pension pots. Pensioners have been struck hard by the on-going financial crisis, as well as importing and exporting volatility which has had a dramatic impact on exchange rates."

Analysis of these top 13 countries has indicated that pensioners in South Africa are getting more for their money at ZAR13.70 against sterling, having fallen from just ZAR14.40 in April 2007. Pensioners in Europe fair the worst due to the on-going financial crisis hugely impacting exchange rates, they currently get €1.16 against the pound, falling from €1.49 in January 2007. Those in Switzerland have taken one of the biggest hits, going from 2.43 Francs against the pound to 1.41 Francs.

Mark Bodega added: "Pensioners in South Africa have seen the biggest return on their state pension, however, South Africa is notoriously very volatile, so they need to consider fixing for 12 months to avoid any drops in their state income.  For those in Europe, the days of €1.3 - €1.5 against sterling are now over, €1.2 against sterling would now be seen as high.  However, pensioners in Switzerland have not only taken the biggest hit in terms of their state income, Switzerland is also notoriously expensive and has high living costs, so pensioners hit will have been struck from both sides."

The highs and lows of sterling in 2007 and 2013 against key currencies and the difference to an average state pension:

HiFX data on state pension returns

Source: HiFX data examined state pension returns in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Cyprus, Netherlands, France, Portugal, Switzerland and Canada)

Advice for British pensioners who are feeling the pinch

"With further sterling volatility predicted, pensioners who cannot afford to see the value of their pension income decrease any further should consider using one of the Regular Payments schemes offered by many currency specialists in the UK."

HiFX for example, runs a regular payment service to enable British people who have emigrated or retired abroad to manage their currency payments via direct debit and protect themselves against currency fluctuation by fixing exchange rates for between six and twelve months. HiFX do not charge their customers to send money overseas through their regular payments plan and they also eliminate all receiving charges by foreign banks.

Advice for pensioners who are feeling more bullish

Those who are uneasy about fixing the exchange rate for up to 12 months and are more bullish about sterling's future should at the very least shop around for better exchange rates and compare the rates offered by their high street bank with a currency specialist particularly one which offers an online service for smaller amounts of money.

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