Tina's story

Few people have the foresight to start planning their retirement in their 30s. But Tina began to lay the foundations for her current life more than 20 years ago.

“While we were working [in the UK], we bought a property in Spain,” she says. “It was a struggle at first, but I’m reaping the benefits now.”

The reality of retiring abroad

Two decades ago, Tina and her husband bought their first property, a two-bedroom house in a village near Alicante and just five minutes from the beach. Perfect for renting out and for their own holidays, after a few years they decided it was too small and bought a bigger villa – but its 59 steps to the front door and remote location meant they swapped that for a property in Benidorm itself.

“We decided we’d like a bit more life as we’re getting older,” she says.

The couple have made friends among their neighbours on the development, which is about 40 houses with a mix of nationalities. 

On one side is a Spanish neighbour (“we’ve seen his children grow up, get married and have children of their own”) and on the other, two German brothers. “We don’t see them so often – they’re a bit noisy but they’re OK!” she says.

“There’s a lot of different nationalities here, and their cultures are quite different from yours, so you have to be a bit lenient. But people come here for a holiday, they come to have a good time, so their attitude is always pleasant, you don’t get any trouble or hassle and everyone is happy.”

Learning the local language

The biggest problem for Tina is the language. “You can pick up phrases and I bumble along, but it is a big barrier. I would recommend anyone who is thinking of coming to Spain to think about learning the language,” she says.

She also warns against the idea that retiring to Spain is a way of making the money go further. “I think the cost of living is more expensive here, and I didn’t really think about healthcare, but that’s not cheap. And people come thinking they’re going to get sunshine 365 days a year, but it gets cold in the winter – we had thunder and lightning on 1 June.”

She advises people to do their research carefully, to make sure they buy a property that suits not only now, but 20 years in the future, and to understand the difference in culture between the UK and Spain.

“You need a lot of patience, but the more time I spend here the more I feel it’s right for me,” she says. “In the UK no-one has any time; if you’re in a queue you feel the person behind you wants to stand in your space. Here, there isn’t that rush-rush mentality. I feel a lot better, I’m a lot healthier, a lot less stressed, and if I wanted to go down to the beach the clouds wouldn’t matter.”

It may have taken 20 years, but Tina’s long-term planning for her place in the sun is really paying off now.

You can hear more about Tina’s retirement story in her podcast episode, Relocation, relocation, relocation .