International money transfer resources

Retiring abroad? Here’s what you need to know about sending your cash assets overseas

From balmy beaches to scrumptious cuisine, many Aussies dream of retiring overseas. But moving halfway across the world is no easy job, and requires a lot of financial planning, especially if you’re looking to be free of money worries by the time you jet off to your retiree’s paradise. Often, you’ll be dealing with big sums of cash, whether that’s your pension, super or life savings. 

So the big question is: how can you most effectively send your retirement money overseas? 

There are a number of tasks to tick off your to-do list before retiring abroad - researching the eligibility criteria and conditions for taking your pension overseas, assessing whether it’s better to send all of your money in one go or to opt for regular payments, watching out for money traps that could cause a headache, just to name a few. 

How to move your pension and super overseas

A lot of preparation work is required when you’re taking your Australian Age Pension overseas, so if you’re looking to retire in another country, planning ahead is key. 

Firstly, keep in mind that you’ll need to be in Australia to apply for the pension transfer, unless the Australian government has an International Social Security Agreement with the country you’re moving to. And secondly, you’ll have to wait two years from submitting your application before you can start receiving payments. This means that if you’re already overseas, you’ll need to figure out another way to cover your expenses in the meantime, whether that’s ‘dipping’ into your savings or asking your family back home for a bit of financial help. 

As for the amount you’ll get as part of your age pension, this will depend on factors like how long you plan to be abroad and any International Social Security Agreements that may apply. Your age pension will arrive as regular payments every four weeks, usually as a direct deposit into your bank account

Meanwhile, for superannuation, withdrawal rules while you’re overseas generally stay the same as if you were living in Australia. You can choose to receive your super as regular payments (at a minimum, annually), as a lump sum, or as a combination of both. 

When it comes to receiving your pension or your super, you have two options: either you request for the payments to enter an overseas bank account, or you have the funds transferred to your Australian bank account. 

In the former case, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) will use the current exchange rate and your pension will be converted into the local or US dollar currency. In the latter case, you’ll be able to complete the international money transfer yourself, which means the opportunity to shop around for a cheaper deal. 

Transferring money as a lump sum or as regular payments: which is better?

When moving your cash assets across the globe, there’s another decision you’ll have to make: whether to exchange your money all at once, or whether to do this gradually over time. 

There’s no right or wrong answer here, as it depends on your individual situation. Ultimately, it’s about working out what’s best for you and your budget, but to get you started, here are some pros and cons for each option: 

Lump sum payments

Pros: 

  • Save on transfer fees: As a general rule, the fewer exchanges, the lower the cost. That’s because transfer fees are charged per transaction. 
  • More flexibility: Having all of your money on hand means you get more control over it, which means you can spend it or invest it as you wish. 

Cons: 

  • Maximum transfer limits may apply: Some IMT providers won’t let you make transactions above a certain amount. This may prevent you from being able to transfer all of your savings in one go. 
  • Could miss out on hot deals: If you exchange every dollar you have right now, then you won’t be able to take advantage of even more competitive rates that may crop up later on. One way around this is a limit order, where your provider will only convert your funds when the currency reaches your desired rate. 

Regular payments

Pros: 

  • Opportunities to hop onto better exchange rates: Not only do you have the freedom to jump onto any competitive rates down the track, but you could also use a forward contract to lock in today’s rate for your transfers in the future, protecting you from poor rate fluctuations.  
  • Makes budgeting easier: Retirement may be a time for fun and enjoyment, but that doesn’t mean it should mark an end to managing your expenses or budgeting. Receiving regular payments, as opposed to a lump sum, can help you stick to your budget and resist the temptation to overspend. And unlike lump sums, these regular payments generally continue until death, potentially making them the more financially stable option.

Con: 

  • More transfer fees: You’ll likely have to pay transfer fees every time you receive a regular payment, which means in the long run, more of your money gets eaten up by these fees. 

3 traps to watch out for when moving money overseas 

Before sending your cash assets abroad, there are a few other things to keep your eye on so that you aren’t paying more than what you should: 

1. Tax

For Aussies living overseas, tax can get especially tricky, as you need to be across the rules of both your home country and your new residence. So it’s a good idea to consult a tax expert prior to transferring money and ask for guidance on things like how to avoid double taxation, which bank accounts you need to report on, and how to report on them accurately.  

2. Whom you’re banking with

Doing your banking long-distance while you’re staying in another country is an expensive way to access your money, as you have to take into account foreign exchange margins, hefty transaction fees, and the risk of rate fluctuations. Instead, it could be far more cost-effective to open a local bank account with an ATM card for your day-to-day expenses and cash withdrawals. 

3. Total transaction price

When shopping around and comparing your money transfer options, make sure you’re looking at quotes that include both the exchange rate on offer and any fees that may apply. Finding out the final cost of your transaction from your IMT provider is important, as it can help you avoid any nasty surprises during the actual transfer. 

See what other questions you should ask your FX provider before sending money with them. 

Getting ready for your retirement abroad? Check out our other money tips for moving overseas, or head over to our international money transfer comparison page to weigh up foreign exchange providers and find the best exchange rate for you.

Save on sending money overseas

Compare top rates