Ask Melanie

Swapping Hong Kong for the UK. An adviser here or there?

Melanie Nutbeam, a certified financial planner based in Hong Kong, addresses common personal finance queries. Send your questions to

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 March, 2013, 4:32am

My wife and I are British/Irish. We plan to sell our property in Hong Kong and use the money to retire to Britain. Should we look for an adviser here or in Britain and what steps should we take?

Retiring to another country is a major upheaval and the earlier your planning begins the greater the chance to optimise lifestyle and security.

Begin immediately with a glass of wine and a discussion about what retirement looks like to each of you. Map out your goals and do some homework on price tags. Use the internet to research house prices. Ask friends and family with enviable lifestyles in your target cities about the cost of living. Don't be shy - most people will offer a benchmark figure. You can also have lively discussions about buying a decent set of wheels - and the costs of insuring them.

Once you have rough figures for your home and lifestyle - perhaps £500,000 (HK$5.8 million) for a mortgage-free home, £30,000 for a car and £50,000 per annum for overheads - match them against your assets and liabilities. The hardest part will be working out tax payable on your combined income and whether your assets are likely to last as long as your wife does, given she's likely to live longer.

The lifespan of your assets, apart from your wife, will depend on a range of variables including return on investments, cost of investing, tax and drawdown on capital to meet unexpected expenses. Living costs may decline if you are less active in later life, but health costs may increase. Downsizing to a smaller home in later years, or a reverse mortgage, might be an option.

By now you will be developing a feel for the sort of advisory services you need. Hire someone who takes a total view on your goals encompassing investment, tax, insurance and estate planning.

Most qualified financial planners will co-ordinate overall planning, including referrals to third parties for specialist advice. Tax advice, especially, should be cross jurisdictional for Hong Kong and Britain. Structured insurance bonds sold in Hong Kong offering "time apportionment" tax benefits for future British residents are the cookie-cutter approach, but they are expensive and restrictive and may not fit your requirements, especially if your move is imminent.

Try to find either a planner in Hong Kong who specialises in advising returning British expats, or a qualified financial planner in Britain who understands offshore issues. Or, for a transitional period, work with both until you are confident all angles are covered.

Try or for certified financial planners in Britain and Ireland.