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Making a Home Abroad - Retirement in Spain

Retire to Spain - Information and Advice for Retirement Planning, Retirement Activity, Leisure Activity, Jobs for Seniors, Retirement and Real Estate Purchases, Investment for Retirees, Health, Sports, Residential Care, Home Care, Long Term Care, Caregivers, Companionship and Dating, Spirituality and much more.


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The Kingdom of Spain is an attractive place to retire for many Europeans. In a recent report, 44% of Britains and 34% of Germans said (Madrid based Property Consultants King Sturge), they would consider retirement in Spain. Though, what works and is attractive for Europeans, does not necessarily mean, it works for people from the USA wanting to retire in Spain.

Spain has often been in the news in recent months. Not as a retirement place, but more as a place, where the Government has grossly overspent and ended in a budget deficit, far above what the European Union judges to be acceptable. The resulting austerity programs have made deep cuts in many government programs, Spains citizens have accepted as a right and standard entitlement.For instance, the age of retirement, has just been lifter to 67. The country has also hit the headlines because the property market along the coast has collapsed and many retirees from the rest of Europe, mainly Scandinavians, British and Germans had to sell their property and return home. This was mainly because they relied on local income from jobs they pursued, mainly in the tourist areas. Since the tourists stream has dried up, their jobs disappeared.

Spain, Geography and a very short History
Spain is a very large country in Europe. With 504,000 Sqkm (192,000 Sqmiles), it is about 72% of the size of Texas and larger than California. It has 46 million people. Besides the mainland, Spain includes the African enclaves of Ceuta, Melila and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera as well as the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands, of the coast of West Africa, more than 800 miles from the Spanish mainland.
Although Spain had been a unified Roman province, it only became a unified country again under the Visgoths and then, again, in the 15th century with the marriage of the Catholic King and Queen of Aragon and Castile. The subsequent completion of the reconquista and the defeat of the Emirate of Granada ended 781 years of Islamic dominance in Southern Spain. The event was also the foundation for Spain to become a world power with its conquests of the South American colonies. Map of Spain

The 16th and the 17th century were the time Spain and Portugal grew most and both countries conquest in South America and Asia led to their great wealth. While large parts of Europe were embroiled in religiouis conflicts as a result of the reformation, the Iberic peninsula created true wealth for its aristocracy and much of its population. The Spanish War of Succession changed all of that, at the end of the 17th century, when French Bourbon Kings inherited Spain and succeeded the Habsburgs. The Treaties of Utrecht (1713) and Rastatt (1714) established Philip V as King of Spain and also limited the power hegemoney of France.

The French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, at the beginning of the 19th Century led to the loss of most of the Spanish Empire in South America. Spain emerged from that as a weakened and internally instable nation. The Spanish-American War in 1898, resulted in the loss of Spain's remaining colonies to the USA in the Caribbean (Cuba and Puerto Rico) and Asia (Guam and the Philippines).

The early part of the 20th Century brought little stability to Spain. The African colonial adventures

at the end of the 19th Century did not bring the hoped-for economic revival. Instead, their costs further weakened the economy, fostering continued instability. The Second Republic (1931) was proclaimed during a worldwide depression and its attempt to curtail the power of the Church and the power of the aristocracy, while at the same time performing an ideological balancing act between rising Fascism and Communism led to its demise. General Francisco Franco was seen by many of the Spanish establishment as the savior, when he launched his coup d'etat on July 17, 1936. The bloody Spanish Civil War that followed, lasted for three years and cost more than half a million lives. General Franco triumphed and stayed in power until 1975, when the Monarchy was reestablished and the 1978 Constitution became the basis of a modern democratic Monarchy. Spain is now governed, at the local level, through 17 autonomous communities and two autonomous cities with varying degrees of autonomy. In 1986 Spain joined the European Union and in 1999 adopted the Euro as its currency.

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The Spanish Economy

Spain operates, like most European countries a mixed economy where some key economic tasks are performed by corporations owned by the state and most others by privately owned companies. By the size of its GDP (Source: IMF 2009) Spain is the 9th largest economy in the world and the fifth largest in Europe. The country is also a major worldwide foreign investor.

Currently, Spain has almost 20% unemployment (2010) and its economy has been hard hit by the collapse of a property bubble and extremely high inward immigration. Spain like Italy Portugal and Greece always had a large underground economy of goods and services that makes up about 25% of the total economy. Although, the banking crisis in the USA did not result in large write-off's by Spanish banks or pension funds, because of its conservative financial regulatory system, the property market was nevertheless affected by the drying up of sources of credit.

Although, Spain is highly industrialized, tourism is a major source of revenue, making up 5% of GDP in 2008. Spain is the second largest tourist destination in the world and the mix of a favorable climate, historical and cultural monuments, good food and a friendly population will continue to make it a favorable destination.


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Going to Spain to Retire

The recent worldwide economic difficulties have hit hard on Spain. Many of these difficulties were homemade, for instance the collapse of the building boom and the governments budget deficit. Though some, like the reduction in tourists, especially outside the main season June to the end of September were clearly the result of the international economic difficulties. For many early retirees to Spain, it killed their business with which they supported their lifestyle. We would therefore recommend that, for the time being, you do not count on any locally derived income for your retirement in Spain.


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Selecting an Area of Spain for Retirement

The Costa del Sol, stretching from the area of Gibraltar to Malaga, is one of the most popular areas for tourists and retired "European snow birds", mostly from Britain and Scandinavia. Although, Malaga itself is not an ideal retirement place, there are so many coastal resorts that the choice is difficult. Malaga is a beautiful city and it is the international airport, easily reached, by discount airlines, from almost anywhere in Europe. From the USA, you probably have to fly via London or Madrid. Valencia and areas south have mild winters. Marbella has the best winter climate of all and a little bit further up the coast, Murcia / Almeria regions have a lot of sun. As a general rule if lemons or avocados are grown, then the winter climate is mild.

Property, especially now (2010/2011) is good value for money. Just make sure that you are not buying into a place (sub division) that is half finished! Most Americans tend to buy in that area.

The year-round sunshine, beautiful countryside, nice shorelines, and a luxurious life style at affordable prices, even around expensive and exclusive places like Marbella, combine to make Spain a popular retirement destination. Cloudless, blue skies and the pace of life is easy going. Spanish food is world famous and the cultural offers are great and can match anything anywhere in the world.

The real choice is whether you want to live on or off (inland) the coast. For the coast speaks that it is more developed, has a milder climate, a higher concentration of ex-pats, lovely beaches, good infrastructure, roads, hospitals, main cities and railways.

Against living on  the Coast are that in winter the towns are often deserted. Property prices are also high and development has in most towns been unregulated leading to concrete jungles, Traffic jams are also horrific during the summer and restaurants are almost always full. Life  inland is a more authentically Spanish. Inland offers all year round environment for daily living, cheaper property, quieter roads, spectacular scenery. Don't go too far inland - just up to 90 minutes drive from the coast. There are fewer expats living inland than on the coast!

The other popular area on the mainland is north of Barcelona, the Costa Brava. Again the area is easy and cheap to get to with the discount carriers via the airports of Barcelona and Gerona.

Popular areas for retirement are also the Balearic Islands (Ibiza, Majorca and Menorca) and the Canary Islands off the Coast of Africa. The latter are especially desirable if you want year round warm weather.



The Spanish Healthcare System

Remember, USA Medicare and Medicaid is not valid in Spain.

Spain's inexpensive healthcare system ranks the fourth best in the world. Moreover, the country's dry heat plus the numerous salt-water lagoons with their healing properties for age-related ailments such as arthritis, make Spain an ideal choice for older people. There are two options within the Spanish System:

Becoming part of the Public Healthcare System

Most larger cities have local hospitals. Even though Spain goes through tough times at the moment, new ones are still being built. Old ones are also extended and refurbished. Despite immigration of medical personnel from South America the main problem of the healthcare system is the shortage of available doctors.

In the villages and towns where there is no hospital, there is always a Health or Medical Centre where people register and where minor problems are dealt with. Each region or county will operate its own system and service levels will vary between regions, although along the Coast they have modern, efficient services. The patient does, in theory, have more power than in most countries, with the right to choose any hospital or specialist surgeon anywhere in Spain. If you need more information go to www.seg-social.es The site has pages in different languages.

How to become eligible to use the Spanish Public Healthcare System

When, as a non EU citizen, you come to Spain, the regional laws for registration for healthcare can differ from Province to Province. It is most important to employ the services of a local expert who is familiar and able to negotiate (in Spanish) what is required. Usually, you will find experts through the local expat paper or through the real estate agent.

Private Health Insurance

As an America (or other non EU resident) you are most likely to have to get private insurance. The Spanish Private Healthcare sector is expanding all the time with new centers springing up and more modern facilities, or upgraded facilities seen nearly everywhere. The main insurers in Spain are Sanitas (a Swiss company related to the French AXA) (www.sanitas.com) with upwards of 1.5 million paying members and DKV (a German company related to Munich Insurance) (www.dkvseguros.com). Prices for a couple aged 55, start at 90 Euros per month each for basic care, rising to 250 Euros each for top of the line care (prices accurate in 2011). The private sector ranges from medical centers where you can simply pitch up and ask to see a doctor, normally with basic facilities on site, such as x-ray and physio rooms, to full scale private hospitals with modern facilities and procedures.

You should be careful when taking out international insurance coverage with an American based insurance. It has been known that American Insurance companies will not reimburse you for foreign hospitalization or using a doctor abroad, even though, international insurance was part of the contract.


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Costs of Living in Spain

The cost of living in Spain is pretty much in line with some other European countries like the UK and France (outside Paris). Many of the shops in Spain are still family owned. Though, there are more and more hypermarkets (large supermarkets like Wal-Mart Supercenters).

Naturally, the tourist areas have the highest prices for daily consumables (food, toiletries etc). If you watch where the Spanish shop you are likely to get the best buys. The best prices for fresh produce, especially if it's grown locally, can be had in the villages or in local markets. The better your own cooking skills, the cheaper you will live!

There are some large foreign supermarkets such as Euroski and the German discounter Lidl.

All prices below are in Euros (end 2010). The exchange rate to the US Dollar varies currently around 1.30-1.40 (end 2010)

Sample Food Shopping List and Housing Utility Costs in Spain (end 2014)
1.5 liter bottle of still drinking water € 0.19-0.50
5 liter bottle of still drinking water €0.60
Tuna €1.25-1.55 (3 tins)
Sausages (price per kilo - 2.2 lbs.) € 5.90
Fresh chicken breasts (per kilo - 2.2 lbs.) €5.00 - €6.50
Best fillet steak (per kilo) €8.00 - €14.00
Pack of butter (250 grams 1/2 lbs.) €1.20 - €3.10
12 standard eggs €1.00 - €1.20
A liter of milk ( whole milk - one Quart approx.) €0.90 - €1.10
Bag of sugar (1 kilo) €1.00
200g jar of Nescafe instant coffee € 4.85
French Bread (Baguette - long stick) €0.40 - €0.70
A Pack of sliced bread €2.25
Cauliflower €1.50
Iceberg lettuce €0.70
Carrots (one Kilo) €0.65
Apples - (2 kilo bag of Royal Gala) €2.25
Bananas per kg €1.20
Fresh mushrooms (Spanish) price per kilo €2.50
Potatoes (5 kilo bag) €3.50
Onions 1kilo (4 onions) €1.00 - €2.00

Predicted Food Price increases for 2011 are about 6% over 2010

Soft Drinks, Table Wine and Beer

Coca Cola 2 liter bottle €0.30 - €1.00
Standard white table wine (75cl) €0.65- €0.75
Standard red table wine (75cl) €1.00 - 3.10
Bottle of red Rioja wine (75cl) €4.00
Bottle of white Rioja wine (75cl) €2.00
Finkbrau beer (per cans) €0.25
1 liter fresh orange juice (50/50 mix) €1.00 - €1.20

Car and Motorcycle Fuel (January 2014)

A SEAT Ibiza, 4 door 1.9 ltr Diesel will cost including all taxes (IVA) 14,500. This is about like a VW Golf. SEAT is also owned by VW. Diesel is a lot cheaper than petrol and if you think about the noise and vibration of American made diesels, think again! European diesels are a lot faster and much nicer to drive!

Type of Fuel Per Liter Per US Gallon (3.8 liter)
95 Unleaded €1.25 €4.75
97 Super €1.40 €5.32
98 Super €1.55 €5.90
Diesel €1.13 €1.30

Costs of Household Utilities (December 2014)

Most older villas and apartments, except at the very top end, in Spain do not have central air conditioning. If they have it, it is likely to be window units in the bed rooms. Heating in winter is generally electric. The VAT (IVA - Value added Tax) rate will be 20% in 2011.

Type of Utility Unit Charge Usage per Month Approximate Costs per Month for a 1,100 Sq. Feet (100 Sqm) 2 bedroom apartment
Electricity; 1 months standing charge €8.58 + 18%IVA - €10.13
Electricity - Price per KWh €0. 117759 1,100 kWh (two a/c window units - heating in winter) €130.00
Water rates 2 months charge (approx.) €16.73 + 18%IVA €9.87 €9.87
Telephone; ADSL 3Mb plus landline (Telefonica) €54.90 p/m inc. IVA €54.90 €54.90
Gas bottle replacement (one per month) € 13.19 (End 2010) € 13.19 €13.19
Total Household Utility Costs per Month - - €218.09

Buying Property in Spain (end 2014)

A primary consideration when buying a home and retiring in Spain is the location and the cost of property. Spanish property is relatively cheap compared to equivalent homes in the UK, Italy or France. Another point to consider is that if you do choose to retire in Spain, you will have easy access to the rest of Europe, especially now with all the discount airlines. You can have a comfortable life in a beachfront property, but travel to Europe's tourist destinations without making a big dent in your savings.

Here are some locations for buying Property. The information has been given by a UK site and we just give you the links without any comment. There is a lot of information for each place and it is really well worth going through it!

Locations for buying Property in Spain

The site has also a constantly updated property prices (under Properties for Sale and under Luxury Properties) We are not in any way associated with that site.

General Comments about Buying Property in Spain

The Spanish property market is currently going through some hard times. If you have the cash it's a buyers market. Wherever you look in Spain, there are bargain properties to be found. Many Spanish estate agents have gone out of business because of the economic climate. The agents that have their large offices offer an excellent choice of Spanish properties and generally offer a first class service for the interested purchaser.

Make sure when you buy property in Spain that you take proper legal advice. Do not use a lawyer located in the USA but you have to make sure your lawyer speaks your language, is registered and works from an office. In addition, ensure that your Spanish property agent is not simply a name behind a website.


Some Final Words about Retiring to Spain

Retiring to another continent, if you come from Canada or the USA, is a big undertaking and should be well considered and properly evaluated. The costs of living is not the only thing, and maybe, not even the most important one. Differences in culture and social behavior are likely to be far more important issues. Overall, living in Spain is safe and there is generally a low crime rate. The health services are excellent and property is at the moment reasonably priced. Moreover, the Spanish people are nice and well educated and the quality of life is high!

If you have any question, do not hesitate to contact us by e-mail


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