A reminder about the U.S.-Japan social security totalization treaty.

Regular readers know that this is a topic near and dear to my heart.

I noticed in the Japan Times yesterday that somone (“JM”), an American, had written in to Ashley Thompson with a question about whether he would be able to collect Japanese pension even if he didn’t have the 25 years.

She gave a good answer, but there is a point or two that she should have included.

One is that, if the American citizen had had any years of paying into social security, they are added to whatever time he had put into Japan’s system.

The second point is that there is a “kara kikan” (empty time) rule for permanent residents. Even if JM did not have 25 years with a combination of American and Japanese contributions, he might still get credit for any years in which he was not able to pay into Japan because he was not a permanent resident yet. (I think they count from age 20.)

And the most critical point: If you qualify under totalization, then do not seek kara kikan. If you do, you will be subject to something called the Windfall Elimination Provision, and Social Security will haircut your social security check. That’s the current law, and laws change, but there’s no change for that rule on the horizon.

When I came to Japan, I already had 23 or 24 years in with Social Security. So in my first set of months paying to Japan, I vested in their system—sooner than any 40 something my age did in Japan (since I had contributions from age 15, and they could theoretically only start at age 20).

You don’t get anything for being first-to-vest in your age cohort, if I actually was. Maybe bragging rights.