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Retirement in Belgium: Sorting out your pension
To qualify for a Belgian state pension, you must have worked in Belgium for an employer who paid contributions to the Belgian National Office for Social Security. The self-employed can also claim a pension if they have made their due contributions to the system.
The current retirement age triggering a state pension is 65, with the maximum possible pension payable after 45 years of employment.
But the Belgian government is planning to raise the pension-payable retirement age to 66 in 2025 and to 67 in 2030 for men and women.
Want to take early retirement? You still qualify for a pension if you stop work early at:
- 60 with 44 years of service;
- 61 with 43 years of service;
- 63 with 42 years of service.
But be warned: retiring at 60 means paying a pension tax rate of 20%, 3.5% higher than someone working until the full retirement age of 65.
The rules on pensions and retirement age are subject to adjustment, affecting pension planning and potential tax liabilities.
If you live in Belgium, you do not have to apply for your pension if you don’t take early retirement: the National Pension Office will contact you one year before your retirement begins. The other good news: Pensioners in Belgium receive a holiday allowance, paid each year in May.
More pensions advice, i.e. in case of divorce or the death of your spouse, can be found at the National Pensions Office website and at “My Pension Belgium”, including a calculation of your likely state and supplementary pension entitlement. Both websites are in French or Dutch only.
Opting for retirement...
Having decided that Belgium offers everything you want for retirement, it’s time to sort out the finances for a comfortable older age. It’s quite likely that you have worked and paid pension and social security contributions in another country, or maybe more than one. In which case you must provide your entire career record to the National Pensions Office, which arranges for each country’s pensions office to pay its part directly to you.
... or carrying on working
If the sudden switch from worker to pensioner is too abrupt, or if you need more income, you can ease the transition by getting another job, subject to conditions.
After 65, you can postpone taking your pension and take on fresh work. If you have a supplementary pension plan, it will continue to grow. You may be able to cash in your pension plan even if you continue working, but check the rules of your supplementary plan in detail, as this is not always possible.
Moreover, not everyone can do this indefinitely without affecting his or her pension.
Earning extra after retirement can be fiscally disadvantageous. It is important to have the pros and cons calculated correctly. Ask your tax advisor for advice in good time.
Furthermore, you have several options to earn extra when you are already retired, each with its own rules and conditions. Earning extra income does not mean increased pension rights, either for a statutory or supplementary pension.
You can earn an extra income without limitations only if:
- you are 65 and have a retirement pension or a retirement and survival pension;
- you have worked for at least 45 years when your pension starts;
- you are receiving a transitional allowance, that is the temporary allowance after the death of the marriage partner for those who are too young for a survivor’s pension.
If you are receiving social benefits, you cannot earn extra income.
This article appears in Golden years in Belgium: an expat guide to life after retirement, produced by the King Baudouin Foundation and the Federation of Notaries, available to download for free.