“I’ve just returned from my fourth trip to Singapore visiting my daughter,” 74-year-old Ann Clarke tells us over the phone. “It really is a beautiful country.”
Originally from a village outside Coventry, Ann took early retirement from the civil service when she was just 54. And while most people head out of the city when they leave full-time work, Ann bucked the trend, upping sticks for London and a life in our bustling capital.
“At the time my daughter lived there,” she explains. “I wanted to be nearer to her, so I thought I’d move there and see whether I liked it. I didn’t; I loved it and I still do. The art galleries, museums, exhibitions, the restaurants, the green spaces. There’s really nothing you can’t do or find in London.”
However, 10 years later at 64, Ann gave up work completely. While she had the time to do everything she wanted, she didn’t have the money to fund it. What she did have, though, was her flat.
“I did consider selling the flat. It was worth around £250,000 then,” Ann remembers. “But that would mean moving out of London, my home and the place that I loved, and further away from my family. I had heard of equity release before and the more I looked at it, the more it seemed like a good solution.
“I thought, ‘What’s the point of not going anywhere or enjoying my retirement when I’m sitting here in this flat worth all this money?’
“Before I did anything, I spoke to my daughter about it. She said: ‘Yes, Mum. See what you can get out of the house and go and do all the things you want to do.’ That was important to me, having her fully on board.”
Once she knew that her daughter was happy with her plans, Ann put the wheels in motion and contacted Key for advice.
Fast-forward two years and her life looks rather different.
“I found it a really quick and easy process,” she says. “Key sorted absolutely everything out and in no time at all I could start living the life I wanted to.
“The first thing equity release allowed me to do was tend to a few things around my home that needed doing. I had a window that needed replacing, for instance. I really spent the very minimum amount possible on the flat, though. I wanted to use the money for more exciting things.”
In the middle of 2017, Ann’s family took a massive step. Her daughter’s partner was offered a job more than 6,000 miles away, in Singapore, and so they relocated to the booming city-state.
Still reluctant to leave her home in London, Ann now visits them as much as possible instead. Although she admits money would never hold her back from seeing her family, taking equity release has made it much easier.
“They decided it was an opportunity not to be missed,” Ann explains. “Singapore wasn’t really ever a country I had considered visiting before they moved there. The first time I went out there was for five weeks. It’s a 13-hour flight on the way there and 14 on the way back, so not worth going for a short time.
“I tend to spend a few weeks at a time there when I visit... It’s incredibly clean and with so much to see. There’s the Singapore Zoo, the Marina Bay skyline, the Botanical Gardens with the most amazing orchid display; endless amounts of restaurants with every cuisine you could imagine.
“You can have the most delicious meals in the food courts called Hawker Centres. Then there’s the shopping, of course, Singapore is quite famous for Orchard Road, a major shopping area, so I always come back with something.”
Singapore isn’t the only place on Ann’s itinerary these days either. “We also have friends in Australia, so having the extra funds means I can go and visit my daughter first and then fly on to see them for a while, as it’s only eight hours away from Singapore.”
Over the past two years, using the money she released from her flat, Ann has racked up a considerable amount of air miles travelling across Europe too. In the meantime, her flat has continued to rise in value and is now worth £500,000.
“I have a very good friend who lives in Innsbruck, in Austria. We’ve travelled together to many places now,” Ann says. “We try to get away about two or three times a year. We love the opera, so we’ll fly to Vienna to visit the State Opera house.
“We’ve been to Krakow, Florence, Venice, Berlin and Paris. I absolutely love art galleries and museums, travelling means you get to see some of the greatest art in the world.”
Although she laughs off the suggestion that she’s become something of a jet-setter, Ann isn’t going to slow down any time soon. She still has places she wants to see. St Petersburg, Japan and Hong Kong are among the destinations on her list, not to mention returning as often as possible to see her family in Singapore.
“There are so many places I still want to go to. I’m lucky to have friends in different parts of the world. I have one just outside Geneva in Switzerland, friends in Montreal in Canada, one in Hong Kong, and some in Brisbane, Australia.
“It’s lovely to see them all and to be able to spend time with them. But it’s also fantastic to visit all these different places and see everything there. They also come to visit me in London, so to have the time to be with them is great.
“It’s just been lovely to have the chance to travel. This isn’t how I saw my lifestyle in retirement by any means. I’m amazed by the opportunities I’ve had and equity release has been a major factor in my enjoying my retirement.”
What should you consider before taking out equity release?
Our independent, specialist equity release advisers compare products from the whole of the market to find the most suitable equity release plan for you. They’ll discuss all the options available to you and explain that taking an equity release plan reduces the value of your estate and may affect any means-tested benefits you’re eligible for.
With a lifetime mortgage, you’ll still own your home. It’s a loan secured against your home and is repaid when you, or the last surviving applicant, pass away or move into long-term care.
Equity release plans we recommend have a no negative equity guarantee, which means you’ll never owe more than the value of your home.
You have to get expert advice before releasing equity; it’s a regulatory requirement. Key’s initial consultation is free with no obligation to proceed. If you decide to go ahead with an equity release plan, our advice fee – usually 1.99% of the amount released, subject to a minimum of £1,499 – is payable only on completion.