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How to Retire in France

Strasbourg, on the border of France and Germany, is one of many beautiful and unique places to live in France.

Strasbourg, on the border of France and Germany, is one of many beautiful and unique places to live in France.

Do you want to retire in France? Living abroad, particularly in France is a great way to spend your golden years!

Many Americans at retirement age find themselves in a new home somewhere else around the world. France is becoming increasingly popular for those who wish to retire abroad as it offers many benefits for those living there.

France is a beautiful country with relatively variable weather. It has a beautiful Mediterranean climate in the south with light breezes and palm trees. In the north, the weather gets colder with snowfall in the winter.

Living in France will allow you to benefit from being able to get in the car and just drive to another country whereas, n the US, it almost always requires a plane trip.

It's likely you're already aware of the geographic benefits of living in France. However, you may have many questions as to your retirement is handled in France, so I wrote this guide in hopes of answering some of these questions.


Using Your Pension Plan in France

If you’ve got a US-based pension plan, you probably have a lot of questions regarding whether or not you can use it in France. In the US, you must pay tax on your pension and when you bring in an income in France, you must a pay a tax. So which tax do you pay? Do you get double taxed? The answer is no, you do not get double taxed on your US pension in France.

You can take your US pension plan to France free of tax. This way you will only pay French income tax on it, and not both French AND US income tax. There is a form you’ll fill out (it's an American form) after you move to France which basically tells the US government that you’re paying French taxes on your income instead of American tax. Under French law, pensions are taxed very similarly to regular working income.


French Health Care for Retirees

Wondering about your access to the French healthcare system when you retire? Since you’ve not grown up in France and never really paid into the tax system (besides any sales tax), you might be wondering if you will be allowed to utilize the French socialized health care system.

If you go through the proper ways to attain residency and/or citizenship in France, you’ll be covered under France's universal health care system.

On top of this, there are many people who also carry health insurance on top of the national health. It's important to note that unlike the US, insurance in France doesn’t increase the amount of care you receive, it's just handy if you’d like some of the hospital luxuries like a single room.


Where to Live

Where in France do you want to live? This is a big question that many expats ask themselves and there is no easy answer. It really depends on what kind of money you have (Paris is very expensive) and really what kind of area interests you.

If you're interested in retiring in warmer areas in the countryside, the South of France is wonderful. There are also many cities in Southern France, such as Marseille if both warmth and city life appeal to you. The northern areas of France are absolutely gorgeous, too! Central France has a number of cities and villages if this is an area that appeals to you. Do you want to live by mountains? On the Mediterranean? On the Atlantic side? In a tiny, out-of-the-way village? In a metropolitan area in a city that never sleeps?

If you're not sure where in France you would like to live, it's a good idea to take a few trips driving around France to find an idea of where to retire. There are many villages, towns, and cities to choose from so it's a good idea to get the region down first because it's literally impossible to visit every city, town, and village in France!

© 2009 Melanie Palen


DaisyChain from France on July 02, 2012:

I would definitely recommend Limousin in S W France as a place to retire to. Green, peaceful, cheap housing and a lovely, leisurely lifestyle.

Peter on March 14, 2012:

Is there a minimum age an American has to be to retire in France, or is it possible just to prove a steady source and income that allows one to be self-sufficient?

Helen on February 21, 2012:

Thanks you all for the information. Presently, I live in Spain (nearby Barcelona), but my husband and I have previously lived in France. We love both countries, but we have realized Spain offers a more relaxed life style and great health care.

James Kearney on February 08, 2012:

Cressinia, if spouses take the time to have a Uso Fruto contract written by a Notaire, the wife or husband can continue to live in the same house for the rest of his or her life without the enforcement of French inheritance laws. That is the solution to the problem that concerns you.

James Kearney on February 08, 2012:

I'm posting this in Feb 2012 to put things in perspective. The Double Taxation Treaty was revised a few years ago whereby US Social Security and IRA distributions are NOT taxable in France. Pension income are taxable but only to the degree that your taxes paid in the US exceed what would be charged in France. I retired from the UN in Geneva Switzerland and rolled over my pension account to an IRA just to avoid French taxes on pension income. I've been here 20 years and never paid French income taxes. You do have to file a French tax report as a resident but there is a provision to deduct what you paid in the US so it is not taxes again.

tania on January 02, 2012:

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Dont't be so sure about no double taxation in France. My parents, US citizens are in France since 2005 (came at age 80). This year were told to declare US pension income in France. Surprise!! Must pay something in France even though taxed in US.

jackwozniak on August 16, 2011:

I have no pension plan, but I have an income, wlthough modest, from investments. Around $4000 per month.

Is it difficult to gain legal residence with an income of this amount? Also, are tere services that help with the process?

We are currently residents of Costa Rica, but, originally from the US.

Melanie Palen (author) from Midwest, USA on January 24, 2011:

Cressinia, that is definitely something to seriously think about. I would like to see that article, so I could include that information in this hub!

Paul on January 09, 2011:


Can anyone tell me how to get a 10 year carte de sejour as a retired person? I have been in France for three years now. Does a retired person have to file a tax return in France? I do not want to become a French citizen, just live here.

cressinia on December 11, 2010:

In the UK recently, there's been a lot in the news about how retirement in France (or anywhere abroad) is not such a good option when your spouse dies, leaving you alone. One thing to seriously think about.

France Travel Inf on October 08, 2010:

I want you to know that I found this article particularly informing. For that reason, I think my readers would also find it helpful so I have posted a link to it on my website

Thanks! Debbie, Admin for France-Travel-Info

Aine O'Connor from Dublin on September 25, 2010:

Especially if you love your food and tipples. Cheeses have been well described here by Melbel - but look out for regional liquers too: they're gorgeous. Some will knock your socks off and delight your tastebuds. Try Grenoble for a walnut liqueur (40% but as smooth as honey), Chartreuse. Or in Bretagne there's a strawberry one that'll add a delicious interest to your cooking.

De Greek from UK on July 02, 2010:

A wonderful and civilised country to retire to :-)

carole:) on July 01, 2010:

Its true France has the best health care and education,french are very conservatif they don't waist like they do in America i lived 25 years in France and 20 in America so i really know about those countries!:)

Melanie Palen (author) from Midwest, USA on July 17, 2009:

I agree with you both. Thank you for the lovely comments!

Brian Stephens from Laroque des Alberes, France on June 27, 2009:

I agree with Princessa, you do pay a lot of tax but in return you get excellent health care, real value for money when it comes to property (in the right areas) and a very relaxed lifestyle.

Wendy Iturrizaga from France on June 24, 2009:

Health care in here is amazing. You DO pay lots of taxes here and there but you get back a lot like excellent education for your children and top quality health care.

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