Retiring in Spain: a complete guide

1 min readLast updated December 7, 2023by Rachel Carey

From busy cities to soft white beaches, there’s so much that Spain can offer you as a retiree. But how does the expatriate retiree system work in Spain for non-EU citizens?

If you’re currently living in the USA but wondering about retiring to Spain, there are some things you’ll need to consider.  

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How much will retiring to a new country cost you? What expenses will you face in that new country? Will your existing American retirement benefits be affected, stopped or reduced? 

Let’s explore the pros and cons of retiring to Spain as a US citizen, from visa requirements for non-EU nationals to costs like housing and healthcare. 

What’s the average cost to retire in Spain? 

Before making real plans to relocate for retirement, you must check that you can cover the costs of applying for a visa. As well as moving any belongings you’d like to take with you and funding day-to-day life once you arrive.  

If you choose to relocate to a larger Spanish city, you’ll usually need an income from your retirement savings and other sources of around $2,000 to $2,200 monthly (or $25,000 to $27,000 annually).  

This monthly demand reduces to approximately $1,700 to $1,900 in more rural areas and less touristy towns. Looking at these monthly amounts, we see that the cost of living is notably cheaper in Spain than in the US, especially when comparing expenses in major cities on a like-for-like basis.  

What visa do I need to retire in Spain? 

If you’re a US citizen considering relocating to Spain for retirement, it’s probably not surprising to learn that you’ll need to apply for a visa. There’s no specific retirement visa; the most popular alternatives utilized by retirees are ​​the Golden Visa and the Non-Lucrative Visa

The Golden Visa grants non-EU (European Union) citizens the right to live in Spain for one year but requires them to invest significantly in the Spanish economy, so it won’t suit everyone. Most often, this investment will take the form of a property purchase or multiple purchases above €500,000, but it could also be: 

  • An investment in Spanish securities of over €2 million  

  • An investment in Spanish stocks and shares of over €1 million 

  • The creation of a business in Spain  

The Non-Lucrative Visa (or NLV) doesn’t request investment in the Spanish economy but does ask that you can evidence your self-sufficiency from a financial standpoint up to a certain standard. 

If you can successfully attain an NLV, you won’t be able to work in Spain. In the case of retirees, you must receive a state pension or “a beneficiary of a life annuity, not capitalizable, payable by a public or private institution in convertible currency and/or investment accounts.” Also known as something like an IRA or a 401(k). 

Your NLV will last 90 days, and you’ll need to obtain a Foreigner Identity Card during your first month of living in Spain. This will be valid for one year, with renewal options available. 

After five years of living in Spain, foreign retirees will be invited to apply for permanent residency. 

Where are the best locations in Spain to retire? 

If you’re intrigued by the prospect of a Spanish retirement, you might wonder about the best areas to retire to. It all depends on what you love to do and how much you have to spend. Overall, these are some of the highest-rated areas among retirees: 

  • Costa Blanca – located on the southeastern coast of Spain, Costa Blanca is popular with retirees on the hunt for beautiful beaches, a mild climate and an affordable cost of living. 

  • Valencia – located on the eastern coast of Spain, Valencia is picture-perfect for retired folk in search of a healthy blend of cultural attractions, outdoor activities, delicious cuisine and beautiful beaches. 

  • Costa Del Sol – southern Spain’s Costa Del Sol boasts 300 days of sunshine annually. It’s perfect for retirees with money and a love of indulgence, home to spas, world-class golf courses and plenty of other exciting outdoor activities. 

What are my healthcare options in Spain? 

For full coverage, private healthcare costs in Spain range from about $55 to $220 a month.  

Once you’ve been resident in Spain for a year, you can apply for the country’s public health insurance scheme, the Convenio Especial. Before this point, or if you can’t access this scheme, you must ensure you have a private plan covering any potential medical expenses. 

After five years of living in Spain, as touched on briefly above, you can apply for permanent residency. If this application is approved, you’ll have access to all the same public healthcare options as a native Spanish citizen.  

Understanding the housing market in Spain 

As noted earlier in this guide, the cost of living in Spain is lower overall than in the US. But, as is the case in any country, you’ll find much variety in the housing market, and you’ll need to research to find an area in your ideal budget.  

The average house price in Spain is $400,000, or $200 per square foot, with prices ranging a lot from place to place: 

​​​Area of SpainAverage house price
Seville $325,000
Costa del Sol $501,500
Madrid $314,000
Valencia $765,000

What happens to my retirement benefits if I retire in Spain?  

Thanks to a 1988 agreement between the US and Spain, Social Security payments are protected for expatriates who work or have worked in both countries.  

Retirees moving to Spain, therefore, remain eligible for Social Security and other benefits such as disability and survivor benefits. But they won’t remain eligible for Medicare or Supplemental Security Income. 

In terms of other retirement accounts, including any IRAs or 401(k)s, you’ll need to determine whether you’d like to empty the account and receive a full payout before you retire and relocate or whether you’d like to transfer the money into a new account. In some cases, due to country-to-country financial red tape, transferring to a new account might be a multi-step process. 

It’s always worth consulting a financial expert when making significant life decisions like moving abroad – so why not speak to a financial advisor and get their take? A financial advisor can help you plan and realize your dream retirement.   

Find your financial advisor with Unbiased today.

Senior Content Writer

Rachel Carey

Rachel is a Senior Content Writer at Unbiased. She has nearly a decade of experience writing and producing content across a range of different sectors.

Want to retire in Spain?

A financial advisor can help you plan and realize your dream retirement.