This handy guide for oldsters contemplating retiring in Belgium is authored by The BRATS (Brussels Retired Expats), four Brits and two Americans, all with different business careers and overseas experiences, with an average of over 23 years of retired life in Belgium. Their aim? To provide folks thinking of living their retirement dream here, particularly British and American readers, something to chew on before making that decision – something The BRATS wish had been available to them all those years ago – and still does not exist. Do they succeed? You bet. Their little 55-page book is invaluable to any Brit or American considering settling here for their retirement years.
The BRATS ask the reader in the opening chapters to carefully consider that retirement in general is embarking on a new and different lifestyle, particularly in a foreign land – even if it is a familiar one. It involves determining how to spend those retirement years (what is one really going to do without a real job?) and if the reader really wants to live those years that way in a foreign country, particularly Belgium. These are important questions, but because only the reader can answer them, the authors discuss what’s really involved in this literally life-changing matter.
In five of the succeeding chapters, of a total of 10 including a very brief summary, The BRATS address the nuts-and-bolts crucial to the decision to retire in Belgium: money, health care, and housing. Separate chapters address taxes, pensions, investments, medical care and (shrouded by an unclear title) housing, to include rest homes and palliative care. Each provides a succinct and matter-of-fact analysis of the situation in Belgium with regard to the subject at hand, and describes how it differs from that in the U.K. and the U.S. to show the reader clearly how the distinctions may impact the pending decision to stay. Pitfalls, as in the particular case of estate planning, are highlighted. This small guide cannot be comprehensive in explaining these matters, but the book is larded with references to agencies, activities, and websites in Brussels, Flanders, and Wallonia, where more detailed information can be obtained, often in English. Even a quick read, however, provides more useful information for someone contemplating retirement in Belgium than is available in any other single source I know. I sought in vain for such a guide when I was considering retiring here 25 years ago.
The book includes two checklists as appendices and an index. One checklist addresses factors to consider in the decision to retire in Belgium. The other is an outstandingly complete list of information that should be available to the surviving spouse, partner, or family member of a deceased person, particularly appropriate for a death overseas.
The current economic crisis is changing the financial landscape in Belgium, the U.K. and the U.S. with regard to pensions and taxes, and more changes are surely coming, so an update of this little book in a few years time will be very useful. In the meantime, it’s not just the best thing of its kind available – it’s the only thing. The guide is well worth its price, not least because all profits from its sale go to two worthy Belgian-based charities, the Community Help Service (www.chsbelgium.org) and the British Charitable Fund (www.bcfund.be). Buy one for any friend who is thinking about joining us in retirement here.
Retiring in Belgium: A Guide for Expats costs €15 and is available at the offices of the Community Help Service (Boulevard de la Cambre 33, 1000 Brussels) and at Waterstone’s (Boulevard A. Max 71-75, 1000 Brussels), or you can order a copy (€15 + postage) directly from the CHS at 02/647.67.80.