04 January 2011

Starting the year

I'm going out today to start the New Year. I have to go to the pharmacy, so I'll be able to wish a Bonne Année to all the employees there. I've gotten to know the six or seven of them over the past 7½ years — to the point where a few of them always shake my hand when I go in, rather than just say bonjour.

Then I'm going to go over the village of Seigy to buy some wine from the vigneron whose rosé and Gamay red wines we prefer over all the others we've tried in the area. Again, I've gotten to know the man, his wife, and his daughters over the years.

On Saturday I'll go to the morning market in Saint-Aignan to greet the vendors who I buy products from most often. Then I need to go over the the garage one day soon and make an appointment to have the car worked on one more time — before Christmas they couldn't do the front-end alignment because there was a part they needed to order first. That'll be another round of Bonne Année greetings.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to get my U.S. Social Security pension set up. I turn 62 in March, so I should be able to start collecting my pension on April 1. A couple of months ago, I went on line and saw that nowadays you can apply for your SSA pension over the Internet. That seemed easy enough. And then I got a letter from SSA saying I ought to apply three months in advance of the date when I expect to start receiving payments.

So last week I went back to the Social Security Administration's web site and started working through the process. It only took a minute for me to find out that I was not eligible to apply for benefits on line. Why? Because I don't live in the U.S. My primary residence for tax and legal purposes is here in France.

The instructions told me I needed to contact the Federal Benefits Unit at the embassy in my country of residence. The link showed me that I could contact that office, which is in Paris, either by phone or by e-mail. I sent an e-mail. I got a couple of responses from an agent there who said he'd call me. I'm still waiting for that call. I guess I'll have to phone the FBU in Paris this morning if I don't get a call today.

Everything international gets complicated really fast. Straddling two cultures, two legal systems, two tax systems, and two currencies makes nearly everything twice as hard to deal with. You have to get used to that if you come to live here.


  1. Happy New Year Ken.
    I was out and about yesterday running errands and enjoyed how everyone was wishing each other a Bonne Année.

  2. I think it was Michael Wright
    who wrote about needing to
    keep track of who you'd
    wished Bonne Annee. That they
    seemed a bit ticked if you
    repeated the greeting when
    you saw them a few days later.

    That nice check from SS will
    make it worth all the effort.

  3. Bonne Année, Ken!

    The hassle with the SSA is worth it.

  4. Isn't the US great? You're not eligible for benefits, but you're responsible for paying taxes on the money you DON"T earn there. The ONLY country in the world that does that!

  5. Starman, I might have give the wrong impression. I am eligible to collect Social Security benefits, but I can't apply for them using the SSA web site. I have to do it by phone, and the office for France is in Paris. Still no response from them, by the way.

  6. "Hi. We are from your government and we are here to help you." ha! Well a trip to Paris will give the rest of us some fabulous pix from you - cant wait to see!

  7. Hello OhioFG, I finally called the office at the embassy in Paris this morning, and I think I got everything straightened out. The man in charge was helpful and clear about everything, but I wonder if he would ever have actually called me. Being proactive, as we used to say in the high-tech industry, n'est-ce pas?, was the right strategy in this case.

  8. Glad you got your social security benefits sorted. Last month I needed a copy of my birth certificate for French admin reasons. I'd lost original ages ago. Tried the Embassy as 1st port of call. 3 telephone conversations later found I needed to apply direct to vital statistics at Dept of Health in DC where I was born. Several phone calls to DC later I got it sorted and they sent it UPS just before Christmas. Very expensive as if you're international you've got to use a recommended for profit agency the Dept work with but I've got it.

  9. I worked so little in the States (only a few summers as a student) that it's the French retirement bureaucracy that is taking care of getting me US social security credits to count in the French system. Still, I don't have the required trimesters so, even though I'm no longer working, I'll wait to retire with full benefits when I'm 65.


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