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HEALTH

Pensions, healthcare and cost of living – is France a good country to retire to?

Retiring to France is a lifelong dream for many - but what is being retired in France actually like? And how do services for pensioners compare to those in other countries? We crunched some data to find out.

Pensions, healthcare and cost of living - is France a good country to retire to?
An older man plays petanque on a sunny day in Cabourg, northwestern France (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

Of the many reasons that people have for moving to France, retirement is a popular option.

Some people work here first and then retire, others retire in their home countries and make the move while some second-home owners view their French property as their eventual retirement home.

But how does being a pensioner in France compare to other countries? Here are some key statistics.

Retirement age – It’s no secret that France’s low retirement age has been a controversial topic these past few years, as President Emmanuel Macron has attempted to reform the country’s current pension system. While it is true that French workers do get to retire a bit earlier, France does not have the youngest retirees.

The legal age of retirement is 62, which is one of the lowest in Europe, according to data from economic forum the OECD.

But that is not the lowest – in Austria women can retire at 60 and in Bulgaria at 61 years and 8 months. However, when compared to the US – where the retirement age is 67 for anyone born after 1960 – and the United Kingdom, where the retirement age is being gradually increased, those born after April 1977 may need to wait until 68 before they can access state pension benefits. 

If you retire in your home country and then move to France your pension will be paid by the country that you worked in – but for most people transferring this to France is no problem. You can find specific information for Americans here, Brits here and Australians here.

Healthcare 

Of course you will want to ensure that you can access good healthcare as you get older. This is such a key topic that it has its own article – click HERE.

Cost of living – This depends where in France you live, as some places are less expensive than others, and as is true in other countries, rural areas tend to be more affordable than urban.

However, on the whole France is a better place to live (based on cost of living) than Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands.

When compared to other anglophone countries, France ranks better than the United States and Australia on cost of living, but worse than the United Kingdom.

Pensioner passes – There are however, quite a few discounts available for older people in France, including on transport – anyone over the age of 60 can qualify for SNCF’s Carte Avantage Sénior, which costs €49 annually fee, and gives 30 percent off train fares in both standard and first class. 

The Greater Paris region offers its residents over the age of 65 (with an income less than €2,200 per month)  free Navigo passes, allowing travel on the Metro, RER trains, trams and buses.

That being said, the 60+ Oyster card in the greater London area does allow for free travel on bus, Tube, and most National Rail services in London.

READ MORE: A few of the benefits of growing old in France

Access to home care or nursing homes – In 2019, the median price for a single room in a nursing home was €2,004 per month in France, which is significantly lower than that of the United States where a semi-private room in a nursing home median monthly cost was $7,756, (€7,637) and $8,821 (€8,685) for a private room.

The United Kingdom fell between France and the United States, with the monthly average cost of residential care being £2816 (€3,322) and nursing care averaging at £3552 (€4,190) per month.

France does offer affordable options for low income elderly people to be able to access home help. Financial assistance for home care (cleaning, laundry, meal preparation, etc) is available for those over the age of 65 (or over 60 but unable to work).

Additionally, those living in care facilities whose income is less than the cost of accommodation can also qualify for assistance, and the same goes for elderly people with financial constraints who need to improve the accessibility of their home to prevent accidents. All of these services are typically available via the town hall or by contacting the ‘services du département‘ (regional authorities). 

For a detailed breakdown on accessing French care homes and home-help services as a foreigner – click HERE.

All in all, the OECD has ranked France pretty well on its Better Life index, saying it performs highly “across a number of well-being dimensions,” so you could say in France, la vie est belle.

Member comments

  1. Can you provide information on how France taxes retirees? Americans typically do not receive a pension. We receive Social Security payments from the government which are low and intended to provide only about 30% of the income needed for retirement. 70% is expected to come from savings and investment which typically come from IRA or 401K accounts. The investment earnings in these accounts accumulate tax free in the US . Only withdrawals are subject to tax. Will France tax the earnings inside these accounts ? Will France tax the withdrawals ?

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For members

PROPERTY

What to expect from your 2023 French property tax bills

The annual demands for property taxes have begun arriving at households across France - and many people will notice quite a difference to last year's bill.

What to expect from your 2023 French property tax bills

Every year in September and October the French tax office sends out bills to households across France relating to property taxes – these are separate to income tax bills, which arrive over the summer.

The autumn bills are usually made up of three parts; taxe foncière, taxe d’habitation and the redevance audiovisuelle.

However, system changes to all three parts mean that for some people bills will be be much lower than last year, while others will have nothing at all to pay.

Here’s what changes;

Redevance audiovisuelle – this was the TV licence and was charged at €138 per household, with some exceptions for pensioners or people who had no TV.

This year, it has been scrapped for everyone (including second-home owners) so most people’s bills are €138 less than last year.

Taxe d’habitation – this is the householder’s tax, paid by the inhabitant of the property – whether you rent it or own it. This is gradually being phased out, a process that started in 2019. It has been done based on income, with those on lower incomes having the charge scrapped first until it is gradually scrapped for everyone – with the exception of very high earners and second home owners.

So depending on your income level, you may have already had the tax phased out, or it may be phased out for you this year, or you may be paying a reduced rate this year.

These two changes are part of a tax giveaway from president Emmanuel Macron, and at the bottom of your tax bill you will find a note explaining how the charges have changed this year, and what you would have paid without the reductions.

It will look something like this;

Taxe foncière – this is the property owners’ tax and is paid on any property that you own – if you own the home you live in you may need to pay both taxe d’habitation and taxe foncière and if you are a second-home owner you will also pay both.

In contrast to the other two taxes, however, this one has been going up in many areas.

In fact, it’s connected to the taxe d’habitation cut – local authorities used to benefit from taxe d’habitation, so the phasing out has left many of them short of money. In some areas, they have reacted by raising taxe foncière.

This tax is calculated based partly on the size and value of the property you own (which is why if you do any major renovations or add a swimming pool you need to tell the tax office) and partly on the tax level decided by your local authority. 

This means that the actual rate varies quite widely between different parts of France, but in some areas it has gone up by 20 percent.

You can find more about how the tax is calculated, and how to challenge your bill if you think it is excessive, HERE.

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