An estimated 1.3 million Britons are living abroad in other EU countries, according to the Full Fact website on the 1st of February 2018. At the end of December 2017 more than 300,000 of these had chosen to make their home in Spain, say figures released by the Spanish Statistical Office, INE (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica).
More than 120,000 (some 40%) of these British expatriates have chosen to retire there since they are aged 65 or over. The figure is also reflected in figures kept by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) on those in receipt of a State Pension, according to Spanish Property Insight on the 7th of July 2017.
What kind of life are they living? A very good one by all accounts.
The Expat Insider Report for 2017 offers some of the clues as to why that might be.
Quality of life
Probably the overwhelming attraction for anyone seeking retirement in Spain is the quality of life as measured by the indicators used by Expat Insider.
According to the report, the quality of life for expats living in Spain was rated as the most important factor by 26% of respondents (an indicator that scores an average of only 9% for any other country). It may be little surprise, therefore, that nine out of ten British expats in Spain claim to be satisfied with their life in the country.
Indeed, the favourable ratings sometimes sound almost too good to be true:
- 91% are confident of their personal security in Spain;
- 90% are content with the travel opportunities that life in the country affords; and
- 89% praise the array of leisure activities that are available.
Those with children also reported that family life is good to excellent, with 89% of respondents indicating their satisfaction with this aspect of life.
The availability and cost of nursery care and education is generally favourably cited as is the degree of safety and security for children (91%), paediatric healthcare (84%) and the fact that most Spaniards are friendly towards those families with children.
Cost of living
One of the reasons often given by those looking forward to retirement in Spain is the reasonable cost of living.
Expat Insider found that this remained true even once the move had been made and respondents were already living in the country. Four out of five people reported that the cost of living in the country is reasonable and 33% went further to describe it as “very affordable”.
Against that relatively low cost of living, however, needs to be set some equally low incomes on the part of Brits retiring to Spain.
Two out of every five of the Brits living there, for example, have an income of less than £17,500 and one in four say that their household income is insufficient for their daily needs.
Careful budgeting and financial planning over the longer-term of your retirement, therefore, is likely to be the order of the day. You might want to give serious consideration to a European Funeral Plan, for example. This may allow you to pay in advance – at today’s prices – for the funeral of your choice, either in Spain itself, or, if you choose a suitable prepaid funeral plan, your repatriation from Spain for burial or cremation in the UK.
Settling in time
Living abroad takes a great leap of faith. For the majority of those surveyed, the overall friendliness of their Spanish hosts made settling in to their new home that much easier and quicker to do.
Four out of five expats consider the local culture to be accommodating and easy to accustom to – although fewer than three out of every five consider Spanish an easy language to learn.
Clouds on the horizon?
With such glowing references on the experience of retirement in Spain, it may be difficult to imagine there to be any clouds at all on the horizon.
Whilst retirement in Spain might appear more than attractive as you approach or start your retirement, many people who have lived overseas for a long time, still look forward to spending their final years in the UK.
Making a return
Probably the biggest difficulty anyone is likely to face in making that move back to the UK – when retirement savings may already be running short – is the differential in property prices.
Property values in Spain have fared less well since the credit crunch of 2008 than even the UK’s uncertain housing market. The result is that pensioners looking to sell a home in Spain are unlikely to have nearly enough – even if they manage to complete a sale – to buy the type and size of home they may have wanted in the UK.
A more or less common complaint across the expat network in Spain is that money simply doesn’t go as far as it used to during the heady days of the mass exodus of retirees to the country pre-2008. Those who want to return to the UK to spend their final years are unable to because they cannot afford to buy back into the UK property market.
Worries about the cost of moving back to the UK are compounded by fears about Brexit. How will the rights of brits abroad be affected by Brexit? Indeed, will they continue to have the right to live in Spain?
Much depends, of course, on the final outcome of the negotiations. Various pressure groups, looking to protect the rights of the British expat community are already in existence – the Expat Citizen Rights in EU (ECREU), for instance, currently claims some 10,000 members in various parts of the EU. It is just one of the lobby and self-help groups set up to pressure decision-makers to keep their position and security firmly in mind.
Although it remains to be seen exactly what position the Spanish government may take – there is still the knotty problem of Gibraltar to be reconciled, after all – encouraging noises have been made by the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Speaking in October of 2017, for example, Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis was quoted by the Independent newspaper as reassuring British expats that many choose to live in the country or retire in Spain “and we want to keep it that way as much as possible”.
Living the good life
In the meantime, more than 300,000 British expats continue to live the good life in Spain.
With some careful forethought, research and financial planning, it is a life you may well be able to share.