Hey, everybody, today I’m sharing a guest post from Buck, the writer behind one of my favorite blogs, Bucking the Trend. One of my favorite things to do on Pretired.org is share interesting stories of pretirement, such as the recent story of my friend Rebecca who gave up her fancy corporate job to move to Mexico.
Buck is planning to pack up his family and move to Spain and is well into the planning and preparation stage. Read on for his story and be sure to share your thoughts and advice for Buck in the comments!
Earlier this summer, Pretired Nick and I were comparing notes. We share a goal of living abroad with our families and he asked if I’d do a guest post. This is the latest on our story.
The tagline on my blog says “Save. Invest. Retire @ 42. Move family to Spain.” If everything were to go exactly as planned, we would reach our goal in the year 2017 or thereabouts. We all know things rarely go “as planned” but it’s good to set goals, right?
This was the plan up until about a month ago when my wife and I decided to turn everything on its ear. The tagline should now read “Save. Invest. Pretire in 2014. Move family to Spain.”
For as long as my wife and I have been married, we’ve had a goal of living abroad. We tried to navigate our careers so that we could live and work in a place other than the U.S. but the stars just never aligned to allow us to do it.
Our plans were put on hold with the birth of our twin boys a little over 8 years ago. Now that they’ve grown and we have some money in the bank, we’ve been able to rekindle our dream to include the entire family.
Our goal is to move and immerse ourselves in a Spanish-speaking country for at least one year starting in June 2014. The following are some of the questions we’ve asked ourselves that have led us to this decision.
I went on my first trip abroad during my sophomore year in college. And while it was only a month-long whirlwind tour through some parts of Western Europe, I returned with a new appreciation of different cultures. It also struck me how most everyone we met that was close to my age was able to speak English – at worst in a conversational way, at best with an authentic British accent.
I learned that many countries teach English at very young ages, most at the start of any sort of formal schooling around age 5. I thought this was wonderful and vowed to give my kids the gift of bilingualism and the time to take in a different culture and all the things that go with that (language, food, people, sites, etc.) I think this experience will go a long way into making our sons more well-rounded.
Like many big decisions in life, there is rarely the perfect time to do something like this. The more relevant question when I first brought it up with the wife was why not now?
As we evaluated our original plan of waiting another 4 years to move, we started seeing bigger issues that would potentially be roadblocks. Two of the bigger considerations were:
- Age of our boys. The twins just started 2nd grade and the thought of waiting until they were nearly teenagers seemed like it would be more impactful both from a schooling and social perspective.
- Age of our boys’ grandparents. We are very fortunate to have both sets of grandparents with us. Everyone is in relatively good health but with ages already in their early-to-mid 70s, no one is getting any younger. To wait another 4 years to make this move would push the elder grandparents closer to their 80s. Besides, I think they are excited to have a new place to visit their kids and grandchildren as well.
Because our twins are in their third year of a Spanish-English dual language immersion program at their school, it’s only logical that we seek out living in a Spanish-speaking country. This experience should cement their fluency in the language.
While we have several target countries in mind (most of which are in South America), Spain remains #1 on our list. I spent some time studying and working in Madrid nearly two decades ago and my wife and I have been back a couple of times since. There is something about the Spanish lifestyle that appeals to us and I suspect it has something to do with siestas, jamón serrano, and the nearly 3,000 hours of sunshine that pours down on southern Spain every year.
You know how most personal finance blogs at one point or another always mention the word ‘freedom’ that financial independence brings?
While we aren’t yet financially independent, we’re taking advantage of the freedom that our savings has enabled. We’ve fully funded our tax-advantaged retirement and are diligently saving almost everything going forward in cash to be able to qualify for the needed visa. More on this in the next section.
To get into some specifics, we have about $90K in taxable investments and another $50K in cash that is more than enough float us for a year or two while abroad.
As long as we don’t end up in one of Spain’s larger cities (Madrid or Barcelona), it appears that living in Spain may actually be cheaper than our current location in the U.S. Rents in Andalucía appear to be reasonable and my goal is to live in a town/city center where we can walk or bike as part of our daily routine without the need for a car.
At this point, we have a lot more questions than answers and are glad to have the better part of 9 months to put a plan in place and make it a reality. The following are the most immediate to-dos at the moment.
- Visas – Figuring out the needed visas is the first priority. We’re leaning toward applying for a non-lucrative visa. This is a one-year visa typically granted to retirees who have ample savings (or passive income) to support themselves. This visa does not allow you to work in Spain. We’ve done our best to save enough money to live on for a period of time that I’m hoping we can qualify.
While I haven’t found it spelled out in black and white, it seems the magic number is around $85K in savings plus an additional $15K needed for each dependent. If my math is correct, that means our family will need to prove a savings of around $130K to be able to qualify for this type of visa.
- Schools – Apparently there are three main options when it comes to schooling in Spain: public, semi-private, and private. We need to determine which option we can afford and which is going to be best for our boys given our goals (to learn the language and culture).
- Immersion – Even though we have the luxury of not working, I still think it is important that my wife and I find ways to become part of the community. To this end, I’ve found several programs that hire native English speakers to be part-time language assistants in schools around the country. I’m thinking this may help us get some immediate contacts in the area that may be more difficult to obtain on our own.
- Stuff – What are we going to do with our house and all the stuff it contains? Since we plan to return back to the U.S. at some point, the current thought is to rent out our house and put anything we want to keep in storage.
As with anything new, we have our list of fears and unknowns. Will we miss our friends? Will we hate it? Will we love it? Will we ever come back? (That last one is my mom’s fear and not necessarily mine).
Admittedly, this prospect “terrifies the bejeezus” out of my wife (her words). But at the same time she is up for the challenge and equates her fear to the nerves and anxiety that our children regularly have to face, but which we avoid as adults. It seems only fair that we should also be put in uncomfortable situations in the name of growth and new experiences.
Thanks for reading. If there is anyone out there who may have a bit of advice for us about Spain or any other Spanish-speaking country that you think should warrant our time in research, please comment or reach out to me directly via the Contact form on my blog. ¡Muchas gracias!
Pretired Nick here again. Well, what do you all think? Is Buck on the right track? Any advice for him as he plans this move? I was in Spain a couple years ago and also fell in love with the country. When I researched a move to Spain I found very challenging visa issues and a barely functioning bureaucracy to complicate matters even further. Buck has a lot of these issues figured out already and I know I can’t wait to read the posts when he packs up and makes his move to Spain!
Also, for anyone else considering a move to Spain, I do highly recommend the book Moon Living Abroad in Spain (affiliate link). I read it from cover-to-cover when I was seriously looking at making the same move. Although my plans to move to Spain are on hold, I still highly recommend this book.