For my 60th birthday a little over two years ago, a dozen friends joined us for a glorious three-week escapade through a decent chunk of Spain (Madrid, Barcelona, Sitges, Valencia, and Granada). I was honored to have everyone carve time from their busy schedules and travel from all over the US to be a part of my celebration, and will forever treasure the memories of the group enjoying cocktails, dining, sightseeing, and making new friends from all over the world.
As we often did during previous trips to Spain, we would find ourselves daydreaming over a bottle of albarino or verdejo about how wonderful it would be to actually live in one of the many very agreeable cities we explored. “Wouldn’t it be amazing to wake from a particularly gratifying siesta and wander down the block to a sunny table on the plaza, order a bottle of wine, and just watch the world go by?” was a question voiced in a variety of fashions and many times over.
After surviving a rather bumpy reentry into rural Cochise County following that milestone birthday, I began to ask myself, “What exactly are your plans for retirement, anyway?” We had lived happily in our self-designed, custom home for over eleven years, and the default option had always been to work until I didn’t want to do that any longer and then just hang out. Travel maybe, or perhaps become a fitness trainer who caters to seniors — the house would be paid off by the time I turned 63 ½. In any event, it occurred to me that at age 60, it was time to get serious about planning.
I don’t recall the first time I actually sketched out a retirement budget. My hesitation stemmed largely from the fact that health insurance would be a huge expense with both of us too young to qualify for Medicare, not to mention the ongoing costs associated with maintaining a house and pool on almost 15 acres, even with no monthly mortgage. “What do people in Spain do?” I wondered. Most of them don’t own big homes on huge lots, and it seemed that many got along just fine without cars as well. And even though the economy there has been pretty crappy ever since the 2008 financial meltdown, the locals sure appeared to be enjoying life wherever we went.
So I started doing some research.
It turns out that private health insurance in Spain is very affordable. If Robert and I were to go on COBRA in AZ, it would cost us nearly $1,100 a month for the two of us. In Spain, for the equivalent of a gold-level plan the cost is around $300 a month for the two of us. In addition, rents in Spain are surprisingly low. Even in the very desirable neighborhoods of central Madrid, you can rent a furnished flat for no more than it costs in Bisbee. And if you wander just a bit outside Centro (still within walking distance), rents can drop by half.
The next thing we knew we were seated across the table from our financial advisor to make sure we hadn’t missed any crucial details. After some tinkering with the allocation of portfolio assets (which was overdue anyway), the financial pieces came together. Suddenly, and amazingly, it all crystalized — we can make this happen.
We are often asked, “Why Spain?” to which I reply, “Why not Spain?” Here is an interesting and dispassionate series of articles about Spain’s current situation and challenges.
While not ignoring the hurdles facing the country, I completely agree with one of the concluding sentences: “Spain is a country that respects human rights, believes in the separation of powers and is high on the list of the world’s advanced democracies. It is increasingly feminist and tolerant of immigration, and it upholds gay rights. There are few better places in which to live.”
I’ll continue later with more details on the ensuing steps of preparing for our departure.