Most people choose to retire in specific countries because they wish to reduce their cost of living and, at the same time, maintain a high quality of life. Spain and France are favored mostly for warmer weather, the culture, and in some cases, favorable property rates.
Retiring in France or Spain is a good option for US retirees. Spain and France have great weather, low cost of living, good food, great healthcare, and cheaper real estate. However, each country has its advantages. Spain has friendly people, while France offers convenient travel within the EU.
Spain and France have become increasingly popular for retirees 50 years and older. The rest of the article will dig deeper into the advantages of each country for retirees, what you need, the best cities to retire, and the comparative advantage of retiring in one country over the other.
Is It Better To Retire in Spain or France?
Before choosing between Spain and France, you need to consider your priorities against your budget. Spain has traditionally had a large expatriate community of retirees, but France is slowly catching up. Both countries have their advantages, and you need to decide which one works for you.
It is better to retire in Spain if you have a limited budget because cities outside Madrid and Barcelona are cheaper. However, you need to earn €2,259 ($2,468) and €1,500 ($1,700) monthly, to get a residence visa in Spain and France, respectively.
Spain recently tightened the conditions for people interested in retiring in Spain. However, even though the income requirements are higher, living costs are lower than in France. France may have more favorable terms for residence visas, and you can easily access other EU countries. Both countries offer a great quality of life, although you will pay a higher price for it in France.
Can a US Citizen Retire in Spain?
Spain is home to many American retirees, most aged above 50 years. The options of where to live are many. If you wish to, you can stay in the big cities like Valencia, Madrid, and Barcelona, or you could go further North if you want to retire in a cooler environment.
A US citizen can retire in Spain because it has many options for retirement. Large retiree communities are found on the Mediterranean coast, and smaller ones are inland. You could settle in any city, from Barcelona to Valencia. If you prefer cooler areas, look at the cities on the north coast.
You can test the waters with the 90-day visa-free option to visit Spain before you decide if it is where you would like to retire. Spain is home to at least 40,712 Americans. Most have settled in Madrid, Catalonia, and Andalusia. As long as you have the requirements and meet the set conditions, you should have no difficulty retiring in Spain.
What You Need To Retire in Spain
The decision to retire in another country is usually not an easy one to make. You are moving away from friends and family for a new adventure in your old age. Relocating can be a little overwhelming, but if you consider the relaxed lifestyle, warm weather, low cost of living, welcoming society, great food, and excellent health care, this is a shot worth taking.
Here is what you need to retire in Spain:
Non-EU members need visas to retire in Spain.
There are three types of visas for retirees interested in staying in Spain long term:
Long Stay Visa
The long stay visa is ideal for people who would like to settle in Spain temporarily. This visa allows you to retire in Spain, but it is also the same visa that expatriates who work and study in Spain get.
You need to renew the long stay visa annually, and it is indefinite. You can stay in Spain for as long as you want to, as long as you keep renewing this visa. The only condition is you need to live in Spain for at least six months to renew the visa.
It is easier for retirees to get a residence visa than a long stay visa because they will not seek employment but spend money in Spain’s economy. You will initially get a residence visa for a year, but you will get one to last two years when you renew it.
The golden visa is also known as the investor visa. It allows you to retire in Spain as long as you make an investment of at least €500,000 ($544,485) in real estate, €1,000,000 ($1,082,970) in business development, or €1,000,000 ($1,082,970) on capital transfer in Spain.
The golden visa offers the following advantages:
- You can freely travel to other EU and EEA countries.
- If you have children above 18 years but are dependent on you, they also get this visa.
- You only need to stay in Spain for one day in the year to renew the visa.
- After staying in Spain for ten years, you have a direct path to citizenship.
Besides the individual requirements for each type of visa, you need to have a passport, proof you have the finances to retire in Spain, a police record showing you have no criminal past, and medical insurance with a healthcare provider in Spain.
Can a US Citizen Retire in France?
Like Spain, France is another preferred destination for retirement for many people. The process of retiring in France may be different from Spain’s, but retirees have similar benefits. They get to retire in a country that offers a great quality of life, the best healthcare systems in the world, and good weather.
A US citizen can retire in France if they can prove they are receiving a pension, have a healthcare plan that covers them while in France, proof of accommodation in France, and a guarantee that they will seek employment. The minimum income requirement is €1,500 ($1,700) a month.
France has a lot going for it as a retirement destination. However, cities like Paris are expensive. If possible, take advantage of the 90-day visa-free visit to determine where you would want to live or even if you would like to retire in France. The cost of living is lower in the countryside and other cities away from Barcelona and Madrid.
What You Need To Retire in France
France is home to about 550,000 American retirees. Some people choose France for its culture, quality of life, low cost of living, or even for a change after living in the US all their lives. Before packing your bags and relocating, you need to know everything about retiring in France and why you want to live there.
US citizens can visit France for 90 days without a visa. If you decide to stay longer, you can request a temporary visa that lets you stay for six months. Retirees can get a long-term visa to stay in France for more than six months. You need to apply for the visa at least three months before your departure.
When you decide to stay in France and become a resident, you should apply for a carte de séjour (residence permit). The residence permit allows you to access the French health system, which is cheaper than private health care. You cannot use the national health care system if you do not have a long-term visa and a carte de séjour.
This video offers all the information you need regarding visa requirements in France:
You also need to prove that you meet the minimum income requirement, which is €1,500 ($1,700) per month. If the pension you receive is less than this amount, you need to show that you have savings to make up for the shortfall.
Can You Receive Your US Pension in France or Spain?
Retirees have a common concern regarding their pension and social security before relocating to France or Spain. Many retirees depend entirely on their pension for survival and need to be certain they will keep receiving their monthly income.
You can receive your US pension in France or Spain. If you haven’t retired but wish to retire in Spain or France, you can move your pension to a Qualifying Recognized Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS). If you are retired, you can receive your pension, but you should register the income as a pension.
Before retiring, you need to know the impact that relocation to either Spain or France will have on your pension. Fortunately, pension is only taxed at the country of origin, so you will not pay tax on what you receive in Spain or France.
However, you still have to declare it to avoid double-taxation of the pension. If you transfer your pension pot before retirement, you will pay taxes in France or Spain.
Pros and Cons of Retiring in France or Spain
|Rich culture.Strategically located for easy travel in the EU.Great wine and food.Museums, theaters and arts for recreation.Great health care.||Some cities are expensive.Property rates are high in cities like Paris. Older housing in some parts of the country.Long bureaucracy.|
|Friendly locals.Great cuisine.Warm weather.High standards of living at a lower cost.Slow and easy going lifestyles.Many options on where to live.It is safe.Great public transportation.||Complex bureaucratic system.Spanish is the primary language.Unfavorable tax laws.Strict residence requirements for visas.Complicated inheritance laws.|
This video explains why you should retire in Spain:
Best Places To Retire in Spain
Now that you have decided to retire in Spain, you need to go further and decide where to live. Do you wish to live in the city or the countryside? Do you want views of the Mediterranean? The lifestyle you hope to lead in Spain and your budget will influence where you live.
Here are the best places to retire in Spain:
- Javea is located in Costa Blanca. Javea is traditional, laid-back, has a reasonable English-speaking community, and a cooler climate. It was traditionally a preferred destination for retirees, but more expatriate families choose Javea to raise their children.
- Alicante is another popular retirement location in Costa Blanca because it is small with a low cost of living. It receives sunshine for up to 320 days in the year, has expansive, beautiful beaches, plenty of shops, and vibrant entertainment. It also offers a great nightlife and fine dining experience. The excellent public transport service allows you to get to facilities that are not readily available in Alicante.
- Marbella is in southern Spain and is known for great boating and yachting facilities. It also has great beaches, fine dining, and vibrant nightlife. It is also a short distance from Siena, Nevada, rich in flora and fauna and a snowy mountain range.
- Malaga is a large coastal city offering a glimpse of Spain’s history, an awesome art scene, and beaches. Property prices and cost of living are comparatively lower than in Northern European countries. It also has great transport links.
- Torrevieja is a seaside city with remarkable properties. It has golf courses, stunning beaches, an excellent climate, and a large English-speaking community. Torrevieja is popular with retirees, so you will be in good company if you choose to settle here.
Madrid and Barcelona are the two most expensive cities to live in Spain. However, the high cost of living comes with benefits, such as easy access to various amenities like hospitals, airports, and entertainment. If you easily get bored with the laid-back lifestyle, you can get what you need from Madrid and Barcelona, but at a price.
Best Places To Retire in France
The over 80 million visitors that France receives annually is a testament that its climate, culture, unspoiled countryside, and healthcare are an attraction to many. Retirees have chosen some cities that have become increasingly popular retirement destinations in France over the years.
Here are the best places to retire in France:
- Lyon is located in southeastern France and is the third-largest city in France. It has beautiful buildings dating back to the 18th century, great scenery, parks, museums, theaters, art galleries, and an extensive transport network. Property rates are also lower than most cities in France, both for rent and purchase.
- Sarlat-la-Caneda, commonly known as Sarlat, is a small town with less than 12,000 residents. It was one of the medieval cities in Europe and a delightful destination for retirees interested in a quiet life. Some attractive features are castles at hilltops, rivers, forested valleys, and caves. Several festivals draw people from other cities a few times a year. Property rates are reasonable, especially for restorable structures.
- Bordeaux is another ancient city and a great retirement destination. Most of the city is a protected UNESCO site because of its beauty and history. Bordeaux has at least a dozen sandy beaches, pleasant weather, and properties that offer value for money.
- Pau is a beautiful city a few miles from the Spain border. It has attractive villas and mansions lining the streets and amazing views of snow-capped Pyrenees. It has warm summers and mild, wet winters. If you are active and always looking for adventures, this city is great for hiking, cycling, and climbing recreation activities. The city has excellent hospitals, an airport, and trains plying Paris, Toulouse, and Bordeaux.
- Provence and the French Riviera (Côte-d’Azur) are popular for medieval architecture, seaside resorts, good food, and wine. The picturesque villages and landscapes have been an attraction for visitors and retirees. The downside is the Côte-d’Azur is quite expensive. However, it is one of the best retirement destinations.
- Occitanie is in South France and one of the cheapest retirement destinations. The proximity to the Mediterranean and favorable property rates have attracted several retirees to Occitanie. The downside is the majority of the residents only speak French.
Wills and Inheritance
If you plan to retire in either France or Spain, you need to know the inheritance laws, especially if you intend to buy property and invest in the country. All residents are bound by the France inheritance laws, irrespective of their nationalities.
If you write the will in the US, it will be respected in France. However, if you do not write a will, and you have no surviving family, your property will revert to the State.
In Spain, inheritance laws vary, depending on the laws of where you reside. For example, Catalonia, Aragon, and Navarre have their inheritance laws. Inheritance laws are more complex in Spain, so retirees must follow the law as per their chosen retirement destination.
US citizens can choose to retire in France or Spain, whether they have reached retirement age or are close to retiring. It is best to plan for your retirement early since you will need to make informed decisions on where to retire, whether to rent or buy property, and the lifestyle to adapt when you retire.
If you are still undecided between France and Spain, you can take the time to visit both countries and choose one that most appeals to you.