Walter and Gina, or the story of some charming neighbors, three dollar wines and a house overlooking the sea.
By Viviana Echeverria
Published in Case Study
Former employees of a multinational corporation in Seattle, Walter and Gina began at some point in their working lives to consider retiring outside the U.S. Their options were varied: Ecuador, Thailand, Mexico, Italy or France. But, for one reason or another, none of them were quite suited to what they were looking for.
Each year, as the time for retirement approached, Gina and Walter read more and more articles in different publications, and their list of countries in which to spend a retirement increased. As the days went by, once the problems began to surface, it got smaller again. No one place met all their expectations. Not even most of them. Until Spain came along.
They only needed a few weeks, in principle for a vacation. After a few nights in the cool of the Mediterranean and a few walks through the villages on the coast of Malaga, they knew they had found the perfect place to retire, invest and enjoy a full life.
The moment that changed everything
Gina and Walter's first vacation in Spain took place in 2018. From the beginning, everything went according to plan, on wheels. And just a few days after landing, there was a situation that marked them forever: sitting on the terrace of the restaurant "La Barra de Zapata", very close to the cathedral of Malaga, Walter was eating a Brie cheese salad, well accompanied by a beer. Meanwhile, Gina was tasting a chicken salad and a local red wine. Note: a glass of house wine, delicious from a restaurant in Spain, is equivalent to the price of a bottle of water in the USA. Even less.
As if sensing the situation, Gina looked up from her salad and said to Walter, "You know what? I think I could get used to this. And that was all Walter needed to hear. Almost without realizing it, they had made one of the decisions of their lives, even though later, among the formalities and preparations that were to come, Gina would end up confessing that she came to regret, at some moments, those words.
The road to new life
Walter and Gina had fallen in love with Malaga, but during their next trip to Spain in March 2019 they decided to buy a house in the province of Alicante, Valencia. After several months thinking about it, they decided to settle in Jávea o Xàbia, the town that the Spanish painter Sorolla fell in love with.
There were many factors that played in Jávea's favor when Walter and Gina had to decide where to settle. Of course, they took into account the variety of its landscapes, a very pleasant climate throughout the year and the great offer of cultural and gastronomic activities. But also, of course, the proximity to cities like Valencia, Alicante and Ibiza. But perhaps the most important point in choosing Jávea, as well as Spain in general, was the cost of living.
The couple would never have been able to retire as comfortably in the U.S. as they did in Spain. With their savings, the income from a public and private pension plan, and the money from selling their Seattle home, Gina and Walter bought a 130m2, newly built duplex apartment in Javea, near the Arenal beach, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, with a swimming pool included. Almost nothing.
And the truth is that they could have spent much less if they wanted to. In Spain, for about 70,000 euros (80,000 dollars) you can get a house in the interior of the country. But not with a swimming pool, new and in the sea, of course.
Day-to-day expenses on the Costa Blanca
Then, the most pleasant of surprises came the first day that the American couple went to their first purchase of the day by the locals of Javea. To make sure they hadn't made a mistake in their favor somewhere, Gina and Walter had to check the receipts several times. "But they had even bought a good wine at $4 a bottle," she remembered talking to her children a few weeks later.
But the truth is that, in the end, a large bag of food costs them about $18, something unthinkable in the United States. For example, fruits and vegetables, although of better quality, are much cheaper than in America, and now they can enjoy their natural fruit juice every morning. And the reduction in the cost of living doesn't end there. Walter and Gina each pay $23 for a fairly acceptable cell phone plan. And what about the utilities, which work just as well as they do in the United States and are completely free.
Your new life as a resident in Spain
Apart from economic issues, if anything impressed Walter, it was the kindness of his new neighbors. And Gina, on the other hand, the fact that she never lacks good restaurants and fascinating places to visit. Overall, they couldn't be happier with their new life. Of course they miss their grandchildren. Of course, this year, with so many travel restrictions, has not been the best of times to live apart from your own. But for whom has 2020 been a good year?
That's why Gina and Walter look to the future with hope, with a desire to take advantage of their Mediterranean life full of sun, beach, wine and good food. Furthermore, although it is always a cumbersome procedure, both are happy to have obtained their visas before the Spanish government offices closed due to the health crisis created by the Covid-19 (preventing entry for tourist visits).
In Spain, the process of obtaining a visa and subsequent permanent residence is a complex bureaucratic process, requiring a long list of paperwork. In addition, the economic requirements are very strict. But all this is possible if you have the right legal advice. And that's what Gina and Walter did, whose visa and residency process took only one year (four months while in the U.S. and another eight months while in Spain), before receiving authorization. A success to celebrate with some good wines.
That's why, from here, I encourage anyone who is looking at Spain and its lifestyle as an option to retire well abroad, to start the process right now instead of waiting for everything to return to normal. Why? Because you should at least start by defining a plan to start the legal process, just like Walter and Gina did. You'll see that it's worth it.
Declaimer: What is described in this work is based on real facts. Names have been changed for reasons of privacy and confidentiality.
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Abogada especializada en Derecho de Extranjería Español. Es el equilibrio del despacho y la piedra angular. Es una trabajadora en estado puro y gran compañera. Y… ¿sabéis qué? En sus ratos libres deja la seriedad sentada en el despacho y baila como los demás.