Why Retire To Spain?
Although the country has experienced some economic problems in recent years, Spain still appeals to many baby boomer retirees as the retirement destination of their dreams. As the second-largest Western European country by area, Spain’s size attracts many retirees who are looking for a country with a varied landscape and climate. A mixture of historical sites and modern-day architecture, Spain draws baby boomer retirees from North America and other parts of Europe who wish to call the Kingdom of Spain their new home.
Varied Climate of Spain
Depending upon where one settles in Spain, one will find a climate that offers four seasons in the northern part of the country; or a hot, subtropical season in the southern part of the country. In the south of Spain, the summers are hot and dry with cooler and a bit wetter “winters.” Even when it does experience “winter,” Spain’s winters are known to be quite mild. Spain experiences up to 320 days of sunshine per year, which appeals to sun-worshippers who wish to retire to a warm, bright country.
Spain’s Diverse Landscape
Spain has the second-highest number of mountains of any country in Europe (Switzerland has the most). These include the Sierra Nevada mountains, the Sierras, and the Pyrenees. Some of the best skiing in the world can be found in Spanish ski resorts in the mountain regions. The beaches of Spain are just as popular as the mountains. Baby boomer retirees have many spots from which to choose when deciding where to settle in Spain.
Along the Atlantic coast. Andalucia is a top spot for kite and wind surfing, as well as horseback riding and other outdoor and water sports. Within Andalucia are the cities of Seville, Granada, Cordoba and Malaga, all popular spots in which many baby boomer retirees decide to settle.
Seville features an Old Town UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as flamenco dancing and tapas, and offers a moderate cost of living.
Granada, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, offers the best of both worlds- easy access to skiing and to Mediterranean beaches. Granada is noted for a low cost of living.
Cordoba is full of history and features the Old Town, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the center of old Islamic Spain. It, too, offers retirees a low cost of living.
Malaga, located along the Costa del Sol, is a popular beach town and an ancient city that has become popular with retirees from the United States and Great Britain. Smaller towns just outside of Malaga have a lower cost of living than the city of Malaga itself. Malaga features the Pablo Picasso museum, named after its favorite local son.
Another popular spot in which baby boomer retirees may settle in Spain is Catalonia, located in the northeastern part of Spain and featuring its capital, Barcelona. Much history can be seen in the Old City part of Barcelona. It is the second largest city in Spain (with Madrid being the first) but, unfortunately, has an expensive cost of living.
Valencia is the capital city of the region of Valencia and is along the coast, just north of the Costa del Sol. Its historical architecture and subtropical climate along with its low cost of living makes Valencia a popular region for baby boomer retirees.
Baby boomer retirees who are history buffs will have many ancient ruins to explore in Spain. One of them is the Atapuerca Caves, in which archaeologists have found human fossils dating back 800,000 years. Another artifact that attracts history enthusiast retirees is the Paleolithic rock art that can be found throughout the Mediterranean basin. Early Spanish cities still exist for modern tourists and expatriates to visit, including Cadiz, the oldest and longest continuously inhabited city in Spain; and Seville, filled with 2000-year-old marble columns. Forty-four UNESCO World Heritage Sites are currently found within the country of Spain, providing baby boomer retirees who decide to call this country their new home with plenty to do and see.
The Importance of Family in Spain
Spanish culture has long valued the family and children. When Spanish families go out for long walks or out to dinner, all children, even the youngest, are usually included. Young adults often live at home with their families well into their 20s and 30s, sometimes due to poor job prospects, but also because of the value of family in the culture. Many retirees enjoy seeing large Spanish families out and about, partaking of the pleasant weather the country has to offer.
Family businesses have also contributed to the Spanish economy in a big way. Up to 70 percent of all businesses in Spain are estimated to be family-owned. They contribute about 65 percent to the Spanish Gross National Product. This also demonstrates the importance of family in the country of Spain.
Cost of Living in Spain
As one of Europe’s main cultural and historic centers, one might surmise that Spain would have a higher cost of living. However, living is quite affordable in many parts of Spain, as described above. Estimates say that baby boomer retirees can live comfortably in some parts of Spain for $2000 per month. Rents average $700 per month (of course they vary in different parts of the country). For those who would rather purchase housing, prices range from $160 to $260 per square foot. Property taxes are quite low.
Baby boomer retirees do not have to stay home all the time to conserve money once they move to Spain. It has been estimated that food and drink prices in Spain are about ten percent below the average in the rest of Europe. Spanish restaurants are noted for their top-notch cuisine, with many being ranked among the top restaurants in the world.
Spain’s flagging economy means that there are few job opportunities for those who want or need them. Luckily, though, this does not affect many baby boomer retirees who are looking to settle in Spain after they are finished working. The economy is slowly recovering from its recession and is still a good choice for retirees looking for an exotic retirement destination.
Quality of Life in Spain
Baby boomer retirees who are sports enthusiasts and golfers will be happy to learn that Spain’s Costa del Sol offers 70 golf courses. It is sometimes called the “Golfing Capital of Europe.” Golfing in Spain is especially popular between the months of October and June.
Health care in Spain is ranked highly by the World Health Organization. Some of the best doctors and hospitals in the world can be found in Spain, particularly in Catalonia and Barcelona. In these two areas, most medical professionals speak English, making communication with baby boomer retirees much easier. Specialists in many health fields are also found in these areas. Keep in mind, however, that those who are not residents must pay privately for health care and cannot usually access Spain’s public health system.
Spain’s transportation system is well developed and one of Western Europe’s best. It also has a highly developed system of roads and highways as well as modes for water trade and travel. Traffic can be heavy in parts of the country, however, as the roads have not been updated to keep up with the current population.
Spain’s culture and many historical sites lend to its high quality of life, offering much for baby boomer retirees to see and do. Its globally recognized cuisine is some of the best in the world. Additionally, Spain is one of the safest countries in the European Union, a real attraction for many retirees desiring to call Spain their new home.
Although Spanish is the prime language in the country, English is also widely spoken. Spanish natives are said to be quite friendly and welcoming to expats.
Visa and Residency in Spain
United States citizens are permitted to enter Spain without a visa and stay up to 90 days. If one spends less than 183 days per year in Spain, they are considered to be a non-resident and will only be taxed on Spanish assets (usually just their Spanish property). Visitors who wish to stay in Spain longer than 90 days must apply for a long-stay visa in the U.S. prior to coming to Spain.
Spain recently introduced an “investor visa” to attract baby boomer retirees and others who have money to invest in the country. In order to qualify for this visa, a person must either: make at least a two million euros sovereign debt purchase; or establish a business in Spain that creates employment or opportunities for post-graduate study; or purchase property valued at a minimum of 500,000 euros. Investor visas will cover the visa holder’s spouse and dependent parents and children (even those over the age of 18). The investor visa gives the holder the right to work in Spain, access its social security and health care system if employed, and has no minimum stay or residency requirement. Investor visas must be renewed every five years.
Spain is an interesting choice to consider when contemplating where to spend one’s years after retirement. Its warm, sunny climate, welcoming culture, and great history make it one of the nicest European countries to which many baby boomer retirees move upon retirement.