Your joints creak every time you head out the door in the morning in winter. You are tired of regularly getting a hailstorm in your face or braving the inclement northern wind. In short, you would prefer to exchange Belgian capriciousness for the certainty of 320 sunny days a year. A winter temperature that rivals that of a Belgian quack summer. No more hats with flaps, gloves and winter coats.
You are absolutely right! You have worked hard enough all your life, so why should you sit around a stove chilling in your old age? No, now is the time to bask in the sun with your tuxedo, eagerly soak up vitamin D and enjoy your old age with a chilled cava and a jamón sandwich. Well then, the Spanish coasts await you. You damn well deserve it.
Benefits of a pension in Spain
Do you get spontaneously hot from our description? You are not the only one. More and more Flemish retirees are dreaming of a place under the sun. According to Seniorennet, 40,000 Belgians enjoy their retirement abroad, a significant number of them in (southern) Spain. Spain is a very suitable country to retire to. Not only does the pleasant climate attract droves of oldies, but the laid-back lifestyle is a perfect fit for the autumn days of your life. You have spent your entire adult rushing from one meeting to another traffic jam. Now it is time to slow down.
In addition, Spain is relatively cheap compared to Belgium. Of course, it all depends on your lifestyle and the location you want to settle on. Suppose you live in Antwerp and would like to move to Benidorm. If you get by on €2000 a month in the cookie town, on the Costa Blanca you only need €1,437.68 to finance the same lifestyle. A three-course meal for two will cost about €60 in Antwerp, while in Benidorm it will make you only €27.50 lighter. Even fruits and vegetables, bread or beer are a lot cheaper in that earthly paradise called Spain.
Feel free to take the test yourself on Numbeo, the website that compares the cost of living in different countries and cities: enter your current hometown and the one of your dreams. Bet Spain comes out favorably? This soothes your conscience if you feared you would have to make do with less after the end of your career. No, on the Costa Blanca you will not eat one less choco sandwich. Or yet not because of financial constraints. Possibly because you prefer to feast on the delicious local delicacies.
Staying fit and healthy in Spain
Unfortunately, no one escapes physical ailments in old age. The good news: there is nowhere better to be than in Spain. Abundant sunshine lowers the risk of hip fractures, high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks, depression and a host of other discomforts. In other words, vitamin D is the ideal medicine against all kinds of diseases of old age.
Or do you think it is a coincidence that the life expectancy of Spaniards is one of the highest in the world? Even the World Health Organization calls the Mediterranean climate of the Spanish costas one of the most favorable on our planet. And admit it, the Costa Blanca just sounds healthier than, say, the Borinage?
On top of that, as a retiree, you can take advantage of Spanish health care, about which more later in this article.
Not cut off from the world
You may think you miss your grandchildren or your daily round of Home in Spain. Don’t panic! You will not live in a burrow underground on the steppe of Mongolia or in a hut in the Guatemalan rainforest. And the Middle Ages have also been over for half a dozen centuries. The technology allows you to effectively quell homesickness. The Internet, Skype, Facetime, international phone subscriptions and the end of roaming all famously did their bit to make the world significantly smaller. It no longer costs a bomb of money to have a daily chat with your loved ones on the home front. From your balcony overlooking the Mediterranean, that speaks. These days, it hardly makes a difference whether your children live two blocks away or on the other side of the world.
The airspace between Belgium and Spain is well stocked with flights in all price categories. Take it from us: as soon as you pack your bags, you will have a grandchild visiting you every week. Who wouldn’t want to go stay with bomma and bompa Spain? And thanks to the presence of an entire colony of fair-weather-minded compatriots, you can go color-washing weekly without ever having to learn the Spanish version of “cakes is trump. Or how about watching the Belgian Jupiler League? Laugh at Ben Crabbé’s jokes and antics during Blokken? The online offer of many Flemish channels is still barely inferior to that on TV. And if you really miss a program, you can always opt for satellite.
Retiring in Spain: here’s how to do it practically
You may already be looking forward to moving to Spain, but not to the bureaucratic obstacle race you have to successfully complete before you can really settle down in the warm sand. We understand that. You could read earlier on this page that the Spanish administration is not a kitten to be handled without gloves. But above all, don’t let it paralyze you. With our tips, it is definitely not difficult to retire in Spain.
Receiving your statutory pension abroad is much simpler than you may think. Belgium makes no point of that: you worked in our country and are entitled to that money. Furthermore, the government has no business where you spend it. In other words, you can take the high seas and move to any EU country, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein and spend your hard-earned Belgian pension pennies there. Often you can have your pension deposited directly into your bank account in your new home country, but in some cases the pension fund will pay you by wire transfer to your Belgian account or by check.
However, you must send a life certificate to the home office once a year. The word says it all, it is a sign of life to the Belgian state. This measure exists to avoid abuse: for example, your cleaning lady cannot continue to pocket your pension while she fed your body to the street dogs about four years earlier. The life certificate is a two-part form; one half you fill out yourself, the other you have the local government, police or Belgian embassy in Spain fill out. Nowadays, you can also transmit this proof of life digitally with eID.
Frequently asked question: can I take my early retirement pension in Spain?
For supplementary pension, the same rules apply as for statutory pension, but your early retirement pension unfortunately cannot be taken abroad. Bridge pension is officially an unemployment benefit; most benefits are directly tied to a domicile. To your address in Belgium, that is. You must live in our country to receive your early retirement pension. Of course, this should not stop you from spending time in your second residence as long as you do not change your Belgian domicile.
Before you leave for the, er, south with the northern sun, you should stop by the mutual insurance company. If you have never worked in Spain, you should apply for Form S1 there. You then give that piece of paper filled out and signed to the Spanish Social Security Administration. Voilà, you are in regulation and can now enjoy the same health and health insurance as your Hispanic peers. Medical care is free in Spain.
Butrr! Even if you officially live in Spain, you can still pass at the doctor’s office or hospital in Belgium. So if you feel better in a familiar Belgian hospital, you can return for medical procedures – at least if you register (again) with your mutual insurance company. The same applies to treatments that Spanish social security does not reimburse but Belgian social security does. In other words, you can perfectly eat both sides. There is nothing illegal about that at all.
A nice bonus when moving to Spain: you never have to pay another penny of taxes in Belgium. Okay, okay, you do that in Spain from now on, but ’tis the idea that counts. Your old and your new home countries signed an agreement that prevents double taxation. As soon as you settle in Spain, de-register as a resident of your municipality in Belgium and register with the Belgian consulate in Spain. From now on, your Belgian pension is exempt from taxes in Belgium. Plus point: Spain’s tax rate is lower than Belgium’s. Or what were you thinking?
If you move during the current tax year, you do pay tax on the time you still spent in Belgium. You must report this to your tax office with a special tax return form. In Spain, you declare all your income – from Belgium, Spain or elsewhere. Don’t think about cheating the clod: Spain and Belgium exchange tax information, so the chances of success are practically zero.
So, you are now prepared for an old age under a radiant sun. Do you still need help? Or would you like to further discuss the possibilities of buying a house or apartment in Spain? Contact our experts without obligation. It’s our job to find your dream home in the sun.