Living and Working in Spain

Retirement Age in Spain

Living and Working in Spain Michael Macdonald

The word retirement is defined as “the period of one's life after ceasing to work”, or “withdrawal from one's occupation or active working life”. Most people dream of this moment and automatically think of reaching the age of 65, subconsciously working out how many years they have left until they reach that ‘golden’ number.

But what is the age of retirement in Spain? And what benefits can you take advantage of once you reach that age?

It is firstly important to recognise that there are three “pillars” of pensions:

  1. The state pension, based on social security contributions made by working residents or non-contributory pensions for those with disabilities or from low-income situations.
  2. Company pensions, which may have been offered to employees by their employer.
  3. Private pension plans which individuals can volunteer to pay into independently.

This means that the retirement age in Spain and benefits you can reap can be quite confusing as they are essentially bespoke to each individual, depending on contributions made to the public system or additional pension plans you may have paid into during employment or in the private pensions sector.

In terms of the state pension, as in many countries, the stereotype of automatically hitting retirement at 65 years of age is no longer the case. Fairly recent reforms to pension legislation, sparked in 2013, mean that the retirement age in Spain, or more specifically, the age at which you are eligible to receive a state pension, is gradually increasing from 65 to 67. From the beginning of 2022, if you want to retire in Spain and claim a state pension, you need to be a little bit older than 65, that is, 66 years and 2 months to be exact!

However, there are some situations when it may be possible to retire earlier, for example, if you are 65 and have paid 37.5years of social security contributions. In addition, working people with disabilities, and those working in specific job roles, such as those in the fire or police service, may be eligible to claim a full pension before their 65th birthday (some from the age of 52!) if they have paid sufficient contributions.

Depending on your situation there may also be the opportunity to opt for voluntary early retirement, partial retirement, or flexible retirement. You can visit the Spanish social security web portal to find out more of the official details related to each of the options, and you can also download a comparison document which outlines the different types of retirement and associated requisites.

So, that’s the lowdown on the number of candles you need on your birthday cake before you can start claiming your state pension and fully enjoy the benefits that come with being the retirement age in Spain.

two people of retirement age in spain

But what are these benefits and who can claim them?

1. Money – in the form of state pension payments

As I mentioned earlier, to qualify for a full state pension you must have been paying social security contributions for 37+ years (either through contracted employment or as a registered self-employed worker). However, to qualify for the minimum state pension you must have been paying these contributions for at least 15 years. If you are from a low-income household and don’t meet this minimum, you may be able to claim the non-contributory pension.

For non-Spanish citizens, your claim depends on how long you have been resident and working in Spain and contributing to the system (as above). If you haven’t been here long enough to make enough contributions, you won´t be eligible for any state pension benefits. If you are an expat in Spain, it is best to fully investigate the pension agreements that your country of citizenship has with Spain, as you may be able to transfer previous public contributions from your home country to Spain. I would suggest you seek advice from the relevant government office or a financial advisor in your native language so that you can explore all the different options in terms of any state or private pensions schemes you have paid into before moving to Spain.

If you qualify for a state pension in Spain, the good news is that the contributory pension rate is one of the highest in Europe. You receive 14 payments per year and the amount received is based on your previous earnings, years’ service, and contributions. The minimum state pension payment is approximately 650€ and a maximum amount is approximately 2600€, with the average being around 1200€ for men and 750€ for women. These average payments work out as 16,800€ and 10,500€ per year respectively, with those qualifying for the maximum pension receiving 36,000€ per annum. To get a better idea of what you personally would be able to claim you can find more information on how to calculate it here.

2. Healthcare and charities

Ensuring you have adequate healthcare is an important consideration for everyone as they get older. The state health service is available to both Spanish nationals, and foreigners who are resident in Spain. You either have to be working and actively contributing to the social security system or have qualified to receive a state pension through contributions to the state system or transferral of contributions made in your home country. Some countries have a governmental treaty to reciprocate healthcare to their citizens when in Spain. For example, UK citizens of the retirement age in Spain are entitled to the same healthcare services as Spanish citizens, by possessing an S1 form, which can be sought from the Department of Work and Pensions.

Many healthcare centres also have special provisions for the elderly, not only in the form of access for those with limited mobility or sensory abilities, but also in terms of advisory services for illnesses which affect the older generations more readily or community groups which are in the local area. These are often advertised in the waiting rooms and reception areas of your local health care centre, so it is worth checking out the notice boards in these areas to see if any of these services would be of benefit to you.

You can also ask your doctor about any medical issues which may be affecting your ability to live independently in your home and they can give you advice and contact details of institutions and charities (NGO´s) who focus on supporting the older generation. This may be in the form of occupational therapists who can assess your home for any adaptations you may need, to home help who can help make your living situation as you get older more comfortable and sustainable.

 In addition to the state benefits that you may be eligible for or entitled to, the autonomous community that you live in will also have various schemes in place to help those who are of retirement age in Spain to maximise their new situation, in terms of both their economy and enjoyment of life.

retired couple in spain, retirement age in spain

3. Transport and Travel

Depending on the community you live in, there may be different discounts for public transport which you can take advantage of once you reach the golden age of retirement in Spain. Ask at your local travel information centre as to whether you can buy a senior’s travel card, or how you can maximise your travel needs on a minimum budget, as there may be special tickets that apply best to your personal situation.

If you want to go further afield and enjoy your retirement travelling to different regions and places in Spain then you will be pleased to know that RENFE offers the Tarjeta Dorada or Gold Card for people over the age of 60. You can apply for the card at station ticket offices, travel agencies and some banks using a valid ID document, and it costs only 6 euros for 1 year of discounted travel. It is valid every day for the person named on the card and you can make huge savings on all types of journeys. For example:

  • AVE and Long distance (larga distancia) journeys (including AVE, Alvia, Euromed and Intercity) you get 25% discount for your chosen ticket, any day of the week.
  • For Avant, the mid-distance high-speed trains, you get a 25% discount on weekdays and 40% at the weekend.
  • For Cercanias services (on suburban trains) trips are discounted by 40% every day and Feve give 50% discount

4. Leisure, culture, and activities

As a pensioner, you are entitled to visit all of Spain' national museums, for absolutely free, and many of the regional and local museums will also allow free admission, or good discounts, if you can prove you are over the age of 65. Always make sure you take an official ID document, such as your passport or ID card with you to prove you are of retirement age and ask at the ticket office before buying a ticket.

It is also worth investing in the “tarjetas de descuentos para jubilados o mayores” – free discount cards for retirees or the older community, which offer special reductions or access to activities and facilities in the region. Some are available for those over 60, and some for those over 65 and some are also available for people with disabilities, it depends on the autonomous community you reside in. These can include a range of discounts for health, wellness, food, sport, leisure, and cultural activities.

For example, the Madrid city council offers the madridmayor.escard, and Barcelona has the pink card”. Those in the Valencian Community can get the Tarjeta del Mayor and Andalusian residents can apply for the Andalucía Junta Sesenta y Cincocard. In Castilla y León there is the Club de los 60 membership card, and the Home for the Elderlycard is available in Aragon.

5. Sunshine and Friendship

Last but not least, one of the main benefits of being the retirement age in Spain is that you have more time to get outside and enjoy the sunshine, both in terms of the physical benefits of plenty of Vitamin D and also the mental health benefits too. In every community, as you walk through the streets and parks you will see small groups of pensioners, affectionately referred to as “Abuelos or abuelas” who are hanging out together, chatting, playing cards or chess or other such games and essentially just enjoying life together. These elderly people may have been live-long neighbours, they may have become friends by chance, or through other community activities and clubs, but they not only help keep each other company but also young in spirit. And this has to be one of the greatest benefits of being the retirement age in Spain!

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Michael Macdonald

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