Spending your sunset years after working in Belgium: what are your options?
Does living and working abroad affect your sunset years? It’s a fair question. After all, you wouldn’t want your expat time to undercut your retirement rights. Find out all about the Belgian pension system and learn what you’re entitled to as an expat to prepare in advance.
Pension schemes are usually complex, even when you haven’t worked in a foreign country. For expats reaching pensionable age, it can be a bit of a puzzle. It’s important to inform yourself ahead of time.
The Belgian pension system: state, occupational and private pensions
As the Belgian population ages, the minimum retirement age has gone up as well. In 2020, people need to be 65 to be eligible for a state pension, but it’s likely that this number will increase. To receive your pension, you must pay a contribution on your salary throughout your career.
This public scheme is supplemented with occupational and private pensions. The first are provided by the company or industry that you work for and heavily depend on the terms of your contract or agreements within the industry. Mind you that not every company or sector provides these. In any case, it is possible to sign up for your own private pension plan, an option that many people use.
When are you eligible for a full pension?
As an employee or civil servant, you are already eligible for a Belgian pension when you have worked for one day. For the self-employed, this is one trimester. When you reach the age of 65 and have worked for at least 45 years, you are entitled to get the maximum state pension. Yet, there are talks to raise the retirement age to 66 in 2025 and even 67 in 2030. Conversely, the minimum years worked would then increase to 42 years. But this remains to be seen.
If you do not meet the criteria and only receive a partial pension, you can apply for an additional allowance through the Income Guarantee for the Elderly scheme, or via a private pension plan at any large bank.
How much do you receive?
The actual amount you will receive upon retirement depends whether you were employed in the private sector, as a civil servant or were self-employed. Your monthly income will be a decisive factor as well: the higher your salary, the higher your pension.
In 2020, the maximum state pension for employees who have worked 45 years is approximately €2,500 gross per month. For civil servants, this amount rises to €6,700 and down to €1,800 for the self-employed.
Pensions for expats
If you are entitled to a pension in your country of residence, you have to submit your Belgian pension claim to the pension institution of that country. Within the European Union, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, this process is very well organised: the authorities in your home country will contact the Belgian pension service to calculate your pension benefit. Be aware that it can take some time to get all the data sorted. Therefore, you should submit your application no later than the month before the effective date of your pension.
If you reside in a country outside the EU, but one that has closed a bilateral agreement with the Belgian government, you can transfer your existing pensions to Belgium. This is the case for residents from Algeria, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Democratic Republic Congo, Croatia, India, Israel, Japan, Macedonia, the Philippines, South Korea, Morocco, San Marino, Tunisia, Turkey, the United States, Uruguay, and Yugoslavia.
Make sure you get all the facts about retirement in Belgium well in advance. Here at Link2Europe, we are happy to help.