TOP FIVE Retirement Hot Spots; Hoping to Spread Your Wings When You Retire? Graham Norwood Finds That There's a World of Opportunity out There

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Byline: GRAHAM NORWOOD

RORY and Jen Slater are planning for the end of their working lives, but they are not anticipating years of pottering around a cottage in Devon or the Cotswolds.

Instead, they are looking forward to spending several months each year in dramatic Canada.

'I told myself that after 50 I'd work only when and if I wanted to, and not because I had to. That time is fast approaching and buying a home in Canada is part of planning for that next period of our lives,' says Rory, 47, who is in charge of the branch network of a building society in Derbyshire.

Rory and Jen, 41, now own a three-bedroom, waterside log home on Fiddler Lake at the Mont Tremblant resort in Quebec, eastern Canada. They currently have the property in a rental scheme to let out to holidaymakers when they are not there, and this helps bring in extra funds for their retirement pot.

'But we get to enjoy it, too. We're planning to visit three or four times this year ourselves,' explains Rory.

Mont Tremblant is a year-round resort, with extensive ski slopes in the winter, and great golf, walking, cycling, sailing and fishing over the balmy summer months.

The Slaters looked at other locations for homes ahead of their retirement, including Eastern Europe, but they have holidayed extensively in North America and Jen has a brother in Seattle.

'Much as I love the UK, I really do enjoy the North American lifestyle and want to experience more of it when I stop working,' says Rory.

The couple also have a timeshare on the Caribbean island of Antigua, which they intend to keep when Rory retires.

'We've never had children, so we've been able to holiday and travel whenever we wish, without being tied to school holidays. That gave us an appetite which we're not going to lose,' he says.

The Slaters are just the latest people to look overseas for their retirement plans. Although there are no definitive figures on the numbers of Britons owning or having access to a property abroad, business consultancy Grant Thornton estimates the total could be as high as 1.2million.

The consultancy says that at least 280,000 UK households own properties overseas as well as in Britain.

There are also 665,000 retired UK citizens living abroad permanently and receiving a pension.

According to Grant Thornton, the most popular destinations for Britons remain Spain and France and, especially for retirees, the English- speaking locations of Australia, Canada and the U.S.

'We anticipate that the trend of a gently rising number of people deciding to leave the UK permanently and live abroad upon retirement will continue,' says Maurice Fitzpatrick, senior tax manager at Grant Thornton.

He says that by 2025 there could be around 1.3million retired Britons living overseas and drawing a pension.

So what are the hot spots for Britons in the top five countries on Grant Thornton's league table?

AUSTRALIA

Hot spots: The Outback may sound romantic, but few Britons move to anywhere outside the big coastal cities. Prices in Australia have changed little in the past three years and some pundits predict small falls in 2007.

The highest prices (and best views) tend to be in regenerated marina areas and along the 25-mile Queensland coastal strip known as the Gold Coast.

Buying: Once a contract has been signed, it commits both seller and buyer to the sale, so there is no gazumping. On the downside, foreigners can find it hard to purchase unless they have Australian citizenship or permanent residency status. Expect to pay at least 6 per cent of a property's price in fees and taxes.

CANADA

Hot spots: Eastern regions are most popular as flying time from the UK is shortest - between five and seven hours. The large Humber Valley resort is the best-known in Newfoundland, while neighbouring Quebec has areas like Mont Tremblant, which offers year-round attractions, activities and facilities. …