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How to retire in Spain: What happens to my pension? What about healthcare?

How to retire in Spain

Several million expat retirees live in Spain.  The endless coastlines, light, warm seasons, healthy lifestyle, excellent healthcare and laid-back communities are all compelling reasons.  But perhaps the most persuasive argument is that the relatively low-cost to high-value lifestyle makes the pension pot stretch that bit further than it would in most other European countries

If you’re considering retiring in Spain, here are some questions to ask yourself before you decide. 

Do I need a visa? 

As long as you live inside the EU it’s relatively easy to retire in Spain.  All you need to do is apply for a residence certificate and then after five years apply for permanent residency.  If you live outside the EU, you need to apply for a Long Stay Visa before you move.  To apply for a visa, you’ll need a valid passport, a medical certificate and proof that you have the means to support yourself financially.

Where should I look? 

The cost of living is different in every autonomous community as house prices, food costs and household bills vary considerably.  With careful preparation and a realistic budget, you could live on very little, but it’s important to consider what will make you happy in your golden years.  Choosing the right location is essential to the success of your move.  You can find lots of useful information inside the Kyero location guides and don’t forget to download our Buying Guide for a step-by-step plan to find your dream home.

What’s my budget? 

Your income will depend on your savings and investments, and whether or not you’re drawing a private and/or state pension.  It’s worth checking in on the exchange rate from time to time as fluctuations between your home currency and the euro will affect your budget.  It’s also worth seeing if your native pension provider will pay your income in your preferred currency. 

If you’re not drawing a pension yet, and have worked in both the UK and abroad, you can contact the International Pension Centre for advice and claims.  If you’re an EU national or have worked in several EU countries, you’ll find up-to-date pensions advice on the EU website.  

Will I need to pay tax? 

Spain is a large country with excellent infrastructure but this advantage is supported by heavy taxation at state, regional and local level.  It’s advisable to talk to an accountant who specialises in international tax laws to help you avoid paying more tax than necessary. For example, there are several countries that have signed treaties with Spain to avoid double tax billing.  Check if your country is listed on the Agencia Tributaria website.  

What happens if I get ill? 

EU nationals are entitled to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).  This will guarantee you free access to the Spanish healthcare system for the first three months you are there.  After that, you’ll need to pay into the Spanish Social Security system for a small monthly fee. 

Currently, people receiving the UK state pension are eligible for medical treatment without paying for Social Security.  Although, as the nature of the UK’s role in Europe evolves, this might change in the future.

Spain has both public and private healthcare systems and it’s relatively easy and low cost to get health insurance to cover the cost of private healthcare.

What about my family?

If you have a family back home, then don’t forget to take them into consideration when making your plans.  You may have children, grandchildren, other dependents or vital relationships you need to sustain. Thinking of them goes beyond ensuring you have a spare bedroom (!)  For example, if you buy a Spanish property, you may need to make a Spanish will as the Spanish laws of succession differ to the UK and other countries. Also, depending on how long you’ve lived in Spain, Spanish laws may override any wishes made in a will from your home country.

You may also want to consider how connected your new home is.  Does it have Wi-Fi? Is it close to an airport? Is it safe for small children to visit you?  It’s also important to be able to remain flexible if circumstances change. For example, Harry, our podcast guest, changed his plans when he became responsible for his granddaughter. 

Anything else?

If you hold a British passport, speak to the Pensions Advisory Service if you have specific questions. 

And do ask at your local Town Hall in Spain about the ‘Tarjeta de pensionista’, a pensioner’s card that provides access to discounts and useful services.

Are you thinking about retiring to Spain?  Or have you done so already? How did you find the experience?  Would you recommend it to others? Would you be willing to share your story with us, either as a guest blog or via our podcast series?  Please do get in touch if so, we’d love to hear from you.

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