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World Association of International Studies

Post My US Social Security
Created by John Eipper on 10/04/19 12:27 PM

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My US Social Security (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 10/04/19 12:27 pm)

John E asked about my pension from the US. It is Social Security only. I just missed qualifying for an Amoco pension because I worked in the main office in the States for 8 years only, not the minimum of 10 to get the company pension. This has been unfortunate, but for my wife the Chicago winters were too cold, even if she enjoyed Chicago for so many other reasons, especially in her profession as an artist.

In a future post, I will try to explain the pension system in Italy. Over the years it has been a mess with various systems but from a republic--lay, democratic, and antifascist--what can you expect?

JE comments:  Something I've been meaning to ask Eugenio for a long time:  I like my republics to be lay, democratic, and antifascist.  Does that make me too mainstream?  Banal?

Be that as it may, I'd like to hear more experiences of "non-traditional" pensioners in the WAIS ranks.  How may live in a country other than the one paying their retirement?  What are the challenges?

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  • Social Security and US Expats in Mexico; from Joan Nagelkirk (John Eipper, USA 10/07/19 3:10 AM)
    Joan Nagelkirk writes:

    Greetings from the Sequoia National Forest, where am am taking a break from my Mexican life to spend a little time with my two daughters and my grandson.

    In response to Eugenio Battaglia's pension comment, my US Social security payment is automatically deposited into my US bank account. Whenever I need cash I simply write a check in dollars to my Mexican bank and they convert it same day into a deposit in pesos. It is seamless, with no fees.

    But of course that is not a pension, though it seems to me that the same system should work for pension payments.

    And how are you? I enjoy reading the WAIS dialogues.

    JE comments: Doing well, Joan, thanks!  So good to hear from you.

    I first met Joan Nagelkirk at the WAIS '13 conference in Adrian. Formerly of Chicago, she has lived in San Miguel Allende, Mexico, for the last couple of years.  Joan, I'd love to know more about your daily life.  San Miguel can only be described as "cute as a button," and I think every visitor dreams of settling down there.  But at the same time, there are questions of practicality:  when every store in town sells art or tchotchkes, where do you go for your weekly shopping?  And an even more general curiosity:  does it ever get "old" to reside permanently in a tourist Mecca?

    Next up:  Eugenio Battaglia on the pension system in Italy.

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    • The Practicalities of Living in a Tourist Mecca: San Miguel Allende (from Joan Nagelkirk) (John Eipper, USA 10/11/19 4:59 AM)
      Joan Nagelkirk writes:

      John E asked about the practicalities of living in San Miguel Allende.  I stopped the US practice of weekly shopping 18 years ago when I moved to Switzerland. In the central square near my apartment there was a wonderful food market full of locally grown produce every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. I still remember my shock at being asked if the tomatoes were for today or tomorrow. Heaven!

      Similarly in San Miguel, I shop for fresh food at the mercados, which are open every day. The fresh fruit, avocados, tomatoes are at peak ripeness and full of flavor. The main mercado is a 10-minute walk from my house. I also have my favorite pollería, cheese shop, butcher shop, etc. I take much delight in this communal style of shopping with local vendors. The only time I go to La Comer, an American-style supermarket, is when I need to load up on beer, wine, and/or cleaning supplies.

      As to your question about living in a tourist Mecca, at least this one has retained its colonial charm and is not full of high-rises like Cancún or Puerto Vallarta. About 9 months of the year the tourists are not really all that noticeable, but in January, February and March it's a different story. Most of us who live here full time stay out of the tourist areas as much as possible during those months, similar to staying out of European vacation spots during the school vacation months.

      What is somewhat unique here is the rich cultural life supported by full-time expats as well as middle-class Mexicans. For example one of my neighbors, originally from New York, produces bilingual plays and musicals at the San Miguel Playhouse. Likewise for the ProMusica concerts performed by high-quality chamber music groups imported from other cities around the world. And then there is the annual Writers Conference with related Literary Sala events through the year. I am slowly making my way into the Spanish literary scene, thanks to a tennis friend whose husband is a writer. His recent book introduction was my first fully Spanish event. Certainly I missed all the nuances, but I understood enough to grasp what they were talking about, and even caught a few jokes. I hope to do much more of this in the future as my Spanish improves.

      So no, I am not growing tired of living here where people are incredibly warm and welcoming, the weather is perfect, and the cost of living is much less than in Chicago. Quite the contrary actually--I see no reason to go back.

      JE comments:  Joan, where do I sign?  I first visited San Miguel in (gasp) 1984.  Even then I wanted to retire there, although I had yet to start actually working.

      This Latin Americanist wants to know more about the literary scene in San Miguel.  Is there a lot of interaction between the Spanish- and English-language literati?

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      • Language and the Literary Scene in San Miguel de Allende (from Joan Nagelkirk) (John Eipper, USA 10/21/19 3:08 AM)
        Joan Nagelkirk writes:

        When John E commented on my post of October 11th, he asked if there was much interaction between the English- and Spanish-speaking literati of San Miguel de Allende.

        The visual arts are well integrated, aided by the founding of an art school in the 1950s that still offers a well-respected MFA program. A former textile manufacturing facility now provides art workshops and exhibition spaces, along with numerous smaller galleries around town.

        The literary scene is less well integrated. The annual Writers Conference invites writers from Mexico, the USA, and Canada to participate. Events with Spanish speakers have simultaneous translations, but I'd estimate the attendees to be 90% English speakers. Likewise the Spanish book introduction I attended was about 95% Mexican.

        Maybe we need you, John, to move here and be the catalyst for better literary integration.

        JE comments:  Perhaps, Joan--at least for a visit!  We plan to be in Guadalajara (not terribly far away) in March.  Among other delights, San Miguel is home to the world's best ice cream, with flavors like tequila, corn, and rose.

        ¿Hasta marzo?

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        • An Arts Center in Guanajuato, and Mexico's Best Ice Cream (Patrick Mears, Germany 10/21/19 2:15 PM)
          I read with interest Joan Nagelkirk's remarks about interaction between the two groups of literati in San Miguel de Allende.

          I thought of my brother-in-law and his partner, who live one-half of the year in neighboring Guanajuato. They founded an art center in that city that is going strong. This non-profit foundation place is well worth visiting when in Guanajuato and is located at Positos 81, just up the hill from the Alhóndiga de Granaditas in the Zona Centro. The name of the entity is "Foro Cultural 81." Here is the link to the foundation's website:


          My brother-in-law and his partner purchased what had been a semi-derelict building and, over a period of about six years, invested substantial sums and their own labor into renovating this space and litigating with the owner of an adjoining parcel, but finally accomplished their goal. Notwithstanding that they are both Americans, Guanajuato-area artists and musicians often use this space for exhibitions and performances. You can access on the website linked above many photographs of activities that have taken place in this space.

          Finally, I enjoy the ice cream in San Miguel de Allende, but I think that the ice cream sold on the square in Dolores Hidalgo has it beat, hands down.

          JE comments:  A beautiful arts center (check out the website).  I know the Alhóndiga neighborhood well, but Pat Mears has caught a major goof for this Hispanist:  It's not San Miguel that's famous for the exotic ice cream, but another town in Guanajuato state, Dolores Hidalgo.  Given my shame and embarrassment, all I can do is shake my fist:

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  • Italy's Pension System (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 10/07/19 3:39 AM)
    A couple of days ago our esteemed moderator asked me about the Italian pension system. It is rather complicated as is everything in Italy. We try to make things difficult while the US tries to make things simple. Anyway I will try to present a general overview.

    The first national insurance for invalidity and old age became compulsory in Italy on 21 April 1919, but it was considerably improved by the great social program of the fascist government on 30 December 1929, which included coverage for the widows and orphans, etc. Italy was becoming the most advanced progressive social state in the world (of course the new republic--lay, democratic and antifascist--has cancelled many of the benefits). No wonder that after the 1934 mission of Rexford Tugwell and Raymond Moley and their glowing report on fascist Italy it is possible to find, even if no American will admit it, some genuine fascist ideas in the New Deal.

    After the war the system continued. The age for retirement was generally 55 for women and 60 for men, with a possibility of extending the working time for 5 years or shorten it in the case of a strenuous job. Retired people were entitled to 80% of the average earnings received in the last 5 years and not according to the contributions paid in. Now one's pension is based only on the amount of money contributed during one's working life, while the age for retirement has risen to 67 years.

    A few months ago a temporary reform was enacted, called "quota 100," by which a person 62 years old and with 38 years of contributions can retire. Most probably the new government will cancel that.

    Years ago for some time it was even possible to retire after only 25 years of contributions at any age, but this was later cancelled, as it was certain to bankrupt the system.

    Additionally there are private pensions and for the last few years, a voluntary complementary pension, not attached to the state but to the financial markets.

    People working for some years abroad are covered by international bilateral treaties, with many countries including the US, all of Europe, Australia, etc

    A producer can therefore work in other countries for some years without reaching the minimum period in any single country, but through these treaties the two (or more) countries will accept the total years worked and each one will pay a pension according to the contribution made in each country.

    Of course the combined system, even if excellent, generally pays less than a continuous contribution in a single country.

    One bad thing about US Social Security was (at that time; it may have changed now) a rather low amount that could be paid in.  Let's say if one was earning 100 he or she to contribute only up to 70. Therefore the SS pension is very low.  I never could understood why.

    Finally, taxes are paid in the country where the pension is received. I pay tax on my US SS pension to Italy.

    JE comments:  Pensions worldwide are threatened by the problem of sustainability.  Laws were enacted when people died youngish, and had large families to support them.  I like free stuff as much as the next guy, but imagine having to pay everyone from age 55 (or even 60) 80% of their salary for eternity.

    Hence the move to defined-contribution pensions, instead of the defined-benefit model.  While it's fun to watch your nest egg grow (and we all become a gung-ho capitalists), the underlying theory is this:  you're on your own, Amigo.

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