Retiring in Germany

Hello everyone,

Why did you choose to retire in Germany? What are the advantages compared with your home country?

What were your main considerations when deciding to move? For example, taxes, ease of transferring your pension, etc..

Are there any specific formalities you had to go through as a retiree moving to Germany (for example, is there a particular retirement visa)?

What is Germany's healthcare like? Have you had any good or bad experiences dealing with healthcare professionals?

Do you have any tips for other retirees in Germany?

Thank you for sharing your experience.

Priscilla

I tried to retire in Germany. I had worked as a civilian for DoD, had a home and loved my community there. If you are hoping to retire in Germany, please consider the problems in obtaining long term health insurance. It is relatively easy to obtain an expat policy up to age 74, but I was unable to find insurance at an affordable rate (less than $500 monthly) once I reached 74, and had to return to the States. Medicare is not available outside the US, even at military facilities and certainly not for expats.

I would have remained in Germany if I could have obtained health care insurance.

There is no simple answer to this question. Healthcare is a huge issue. If you have been working in Germany prior to retirement chances are that, as an expat, you took private insurance, because you were told it was better and in many cases cheaper. Taking German public health cover and adding private coverage for hospital if needed would have enabled you to remain in the German system which as a pensioner is much cheaper than private insurance. Unfortunately no insurance salesman especially the ones that offer expat packages will tell you this. Other issues are Pension rights both within and outside the EU and how they are taxed is another issue.

I was working for the U.S. military, so not eligible for German public insurance.

trufflelily wrote:

I tried to retire in Germany. I had worked as a civilian for DoD, had a home and loved my community there. If you are hoping to retire in Germany, please consider the problems in obtaining long term health insurance. It is relatively easy to obtain an expat policy up to age 74, but I was unable to find insurance at an affordable rate (less than $500 monthly) once I reached 74, and had to return to the States. Medicare is not available outside the US, even at military facilities and certainly not for expats.

I would have remained in Germany if I could have obtained health care insurance.


There seems to be some confusion by trufflelily since her status changed with her no longer working for the US military. There might be a special exception for non-military people actively associated with the US military but in general,  expat health insurance is NOT allowed in Germany. If one has residency in Germany, and is not associated with the military, then they HAVE to get a German policy.  If one had previously paid into the German public system then this coverage would continue as a retiree. Since trufflelily didn't, then she would have to get a private German policy. And the companies would have been required to sell her one, the question is the cost?

As far as I understand her situation, she would not automatically be eligible to retire in Germany but having lived there and (hopefully) having learned some of the language it would seem highly likely that she would get a retirement visa. One thing to verify would be paying of retirement benefits due. Normally, there is a provision that the retirement benefits (but not Medicare) she is due from the States would be transferred to the Germany system which would then support her. Otherwise, she would have to make sure she gets the benefits directly from the States - although living overseas, something I don't know about specifically but know this is often a problem in many countries.

What I did not find out by my research is the cost of private health coverage for retirees in Germany but on one site I found the following:

“If you are a pensioner not covered by compulsory health insurance, but are insured voluntarily in the statutory system or under a private plan, you are entitled upon application to receive a supplement from your pension insurance institution in respect of your health insurance contributions.”

As I understand this, if someone like Trufflelily would get residency in Germany and have her benefits transferred to be paid out by the German system, then they would give an additional supplement to help cover the healthcare coverage. But again, all or just part of it? I can't say.

Anyway, here are a number of sites with helpful information about the subject although none of them provided all of the answers.

http://www.expatica.com/de/finance/A-gu … 00909.htmlhttp://www.howtogermany.com/pages/healthinsurance.htmlhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0078017/

If you worked for DoD and retired, were you not eligible for Federal Employee Health Benefits? I am retired and have FEHB, so can I use that in Germany? It's a Blue Cross plan.

SilverTraveler wrote:

If you worked for DoD and retired, were you not eligible for Federal Employee Health Benefits? I am retired and have FEHB, so can I use that in Germany? It's a Blue Cross plan.


I doubt anyone  here will know about such things which are American Federal benefits. Maybe one can still get retirement income while overseas but I don't think the insurance coverage will work since it is not allowed in Germany. Again one must be covered under German insurance. The exception would be people who have access to American military medical services that are independent from the German health system. If one is under such a system then they should ask there not here. I am including a US government site that gives general information about this system but does not mention benefits for people overseas.

https://www.opm.gov/healthcare-insurance/

TominStuttgart wrote:
SilverTraveler wrote:

If you worked for DoD and retired, were you not eligible for Federal Employee Health Benefits? I am retired and have FEHB, so can I use that in Germany? It's a Blue Cross plan.


I doubt anyone  here will know about such things which are American Federal benefits. Maybe one can still get retirement income while overseas but I don't think the insurance coverage will work since it is not allowed in Germany. Again one must be covered under German insurance. The exception would be people who have access to American military medical services that are independent from the German health system. If one is under such a system then they should ask there not here. I am including a US government site that gives general information about this system but does not mention benefits for people overseas.

https://www.opm.gov/healthcare-insurance/


Blue Cross Federal Employee Program is valid overseas, including Germany.  There are a large number of providers in Germany which accept this plan.

romaniac wrote:
TominStuttgart wrote:
SilverTraveler wrote:

If you worked for DoD and retired, were you not eligible for Federal Employee Health Benefits? I am retired and have FEHB, so can I use that in Germany? It's a Blue Cross plan.


I doubt anyone  here will know about such things which are American Federal benefits. Maybe one can still get retirement income while overseas but I don't think the insurance coverage will work since it is not allowed in Germany. Again one must be covered under German insurance. The exception would be people who have access to American military medical services that are independent from the German health system. If one is under such a system then they should ask there not here. I am including a US government site that gives general information about this system but does not mention benefits for people overseas.

https://www.opm.gov/healthcare-insurance/


Blue Cross Federal Employee Program is valid overseas, including Germany.  There are a large number of providers in Germany which accept this plan.


Thanks for this link. I stand corrected that this program is valid overseas. They have a page where one can look for services in different cities in each country.

https://webcorpsf.secure.force.com/WS/B … hProvider2

Stuttgart for example, there are 3 of the major hospitals listed but also just 3 dentists in  a city of 700,000 people. And some cities like Tübingen, a city of 90,000 people 40 Kilometers to the south also has some providers (hospital but no denstist) but cities like Ludwigsburg, 20 KM to the north with a population of 80,000 doesn't.

If one already has this coverage it is not likely they would want to pay again for further coverage yet the coverage is really limited to large and middle sized cities. Slightly smaller ones and in rural areas there are no providers at all. Sounds manageable for someone living in a big city but otherwise difficult, especially for retirees who might have to frequently travel long distances for covered services. If there are special German plans available that would supplement this without charging the same as if one had no coverage is an open question. The site above shows the plan is run by Blue Cross Blue Shield but the AXA insurance logo is also on the site so maybe they are a partner and possibly would know best about supplemental plans.

Foreign health insurances are only accepted if they offer the same coverage as the German public scheme, or more. Very few fulfill this, and if not, you'd have to get a full German health insurance on top (or instead) of the foreign one. According to what I heard, the biggest obstacle for foreign insurances seems to be that Germany does not accept maximum limits of coverage (over a year, or lifetime) for any kind of treatment.

beppi wrote:

Foreign health insurances are only accepted if they offer the same coverage as the German public scheme, or more. Very few fulfill this, and if not, you'd have to get a full German health insurance on top (or instead) of the foreign one. According to what I heard, the biggest obstacle for foreign insurances seems to be that Germany does not accept maximum limits of coverage (over a year, or lifetime) for any kind of treatment.


Yes, but supposedly this plan DOES meet the requirements and is valid in Germany. But like mentioned only at specific providers.

Thank you!  That's great news.  I am sure there will not be a problem in Berlin finding providers.

I had the same problem with the health insurance.  I was moving to Germany at age 63 to take care of my Mom.  The year before I checked with the foreign office whether my FEP Blue Cross Blue Shield, a worldwide policy would be acceptable, and I was told yes.  The year I applied for a 2 year visa, I was told NO, the policy now has to be underwritten by a German Insurance company. I did some internet research and found only 2 offices that will issue  an acceptable insurance plus verification for the foreign office that you have insurance  (no regular German insurance co will touch a 63 year old.  So I went for one office.  It turned out that the actual insurance was issued through a LONDON office, however, was underwritten by a German insurance company.  The policy started with Euro 460 a month with a Euro 5000 deductible.  After 4 years the insurance was up to almost Euro 700.  I finally gave up and decided to go back to USA.  The insurance payments increased with every year.
Also watch the taxes.  You will be taxed on your social security income  and interest income. There is a treaty between US and Germany re taxes.  The first thing the German Foreign office does when they give you a 2 year visa, they report you to the German IRS.  So, you have to file a German tax return and a US tax return.   Hopefully, you have enough savings and money to sustain yourself because the paper work requires you show all your assets and bank statements and retirement income, investment income etc., to guarantee that you won't be a burden to the government.
The foreign office has a calculation of your expenses in Germany and your income to see if you are able to make it there.
I also advise to register with the US embassy, just in case.

Life in Germany can be a lot of fun, entertaining, however, also expensive.  Rent and groceries can be up to double what it costs in US.  Taxes are higher.  Rent is quite expensive and many times difficult to find.

It takes a lot of planning and preparing to make a successful move.  I was told it is easier to apply for a visa while in Germany than from the US, although I don't know how the influx of refugees is affecting the visa applications.

ChristelChristiana wrote:

I had the same problem with the health insurance.  I was moving to Germany at age 63 to take care of my Mom.  The year before I checked with the foreign office whether my FEP Blue Cross Blue Shield, a worldwide policy would be acceptable, and I was told yes.  The year I applied for a 2 year visa, I was told NO, the policy now has to be underwritten by a German Insurance company. I did some internet research and found only 2 offices that will issue  an acceptable insurance plus verification for the foreign office that you have insurance  (no regular German insurance co will touch a 63 year old.  So I went for one office.  It turned out that the actual insurance was issued through a LONDON office, however, was underwritten by a German insurance company.  The policy started with Euro 460 a month with a Euro 5000 deductible.  After 4 years the insurance was up to almost Euro 700.  I finally gave up and decided to go back to USA.  The insurance payments increased with every year.
Also watch the taxes.  You will be taxed on your social security income  and interest income. There is a treaty between US and Germany re taxes.  The first thing the German Foreign office does when they give you a 2 year visa, they report you to the German IRS.  So, you have to file a German tax return and a US tax return.   Hopefully, you have enough savings and money to sustain yourself because the paper work requires you show all your assets and bank statements and retirement income, investment income etc., to guarantee that you won't be a burden to the government.
The foreign office has a calculation of your expenses in Germany and your income to see if you are able to make it there.
I also advise to register with the US embassy, just in case.

Life in Germany can be a lot of fun, entertaining, however, also expensive.  Rent and groceries can be up to double what it costs in US.  Taxes are higher.  Rent is quite expensive and many times difficult to find.

It takes a lot of planning and preparing to make a successful move.  I was told it is easier to apply for a visa while in Germany than from the US, although I don't know how the influx of refugees is affecting the visa applications.


For a foreign insurance plan to be allowed it has to pass requirements that it meets mandatory minimums of coverage comparable to the German public insurance coverage.  That the FEB Blue Shield coverage is underwritten by a German company, if true, is not a problem. It does NOT mean it is invalid, on the contrary this makes it valid - but like previously mentioned ,  only for certain providers.
And yes, everyone residing in Germany has to file and pay their taxes there – like everywhere in the world.
And American Social Security benefits are also now taxed when above 25,000 dollars a year for an individual or 32,000 dollars on a joint return. Then 50% of it is taxable. Above 34,000 dollars individual or 44,000 dollars joint return then 85% of the benefits are taxed.

In Germany they have a lower amount untaxed but also then figure in healthcare and some other costs so that depending on individual circumstances a single person could end up with up to around 14,200 Euros tax free retirement income. Above this amount 30% of the income is tax free. And yes, interest income is taxed in Germany  - like it is everywhere. And of course Germany requires residents to be open about their income and assets, again like every country . But only America has strong armed banks and foreign tax authorities across the world to report information about its citizens living abroad. If a German gets American residency, they are under the American tax system and do not have to file in Germany and the German government does not demand financial information about them from American banks or the IRS.

The fact that one must file both German and American taxes while living in Germany, whether one is retired or not, is solely the fault of America since it is one of only 2 countries in the world that tax their foreign residing citizens. The biggest problem with this requirement is that it is a pain in the ass. Once one has paid their German taxes they will almost never owe anything to America due to exemptions and tax credits. The problem is that one HAS to file to take these exemptions and tax credits – even if one always ends up with no tax due. 

Thus I have to say that CristelChritianas' complaints about Germany are confusing. One has to pay tax there like everywhere, so I don't know what she expected. Some taxes are higher in Germany but then the services provided by taxes are better. Rents can be expensive but compared to what? New York City? And groceries are pretty cheap in Germany. I have included a link below that gives comparisons with cities and countries around the world as to food costs. As an example, it says the average cost in Germany for a month's worth of food is 219 Euros, in New York City 322 Euros and Dayton, Ohio -as a cheaper example- 293 Euros. Germany is clearly cheaper.


Here is a link to an article about taxes on  Social Security:
http://www.kiplinger.com/article/taxes/ … xable.html

Here is an article about the taxing of retirement incomes in Germany (in German)
http://www.fr.de/wirtschaft/rente-einko … r-a-410933

Site for worldwide comparison of food costs:
www.numbeo.com

Wow,  my only purpose of posting was to describe my experience and create awareness that it won't be easy and that you have to adapt to the country and accept differences. In no way, was my intent to criticise paying taxes in both countries. I was very well informed.  The grocery prices were much more expensive, however, that is my experience and many Germans have their own vegetable gardens.

The change in health insurance requirements came through the EU laws,at least this I was told by the foreign office.

So, no criticism. I love Germany, it's people and I made sure my kids, grandkids and now
The  great grand kids all speak German.

Sorry, it came across as criticism to you,  unfortunately some people just dive in and are not aware what is involved. Some do not speak the language which doesn't  help.
Peace!

ChristelChristiana wrote:

Wow,  my only purpose of posting was to describe my experience and create awareness that it won't be easy and that you have to adapt to the country and accept differences. In no way, was my intent to criticise paying taxes in both countries. I was very well informed.  The grocery prices were much more expensive, however, that is my experience and many Germans have their own vegetable gardens.

The change in health insurance requirements came through the EU laws,at least this I was told by the foreign office.

So, no criticism. I love Germany, it's people and I made sure my kids, grandkids and now
The  great grand kids all speak German.

Sorry, it came across as criticism to you,  unfortunately some people just dive in and are not aware what is involved. Some do not speak the language which doesn't  help.
Peace!


I didn't take it as personal criticism but needed to put things into perspective. No sense in complaining about things like having to pay taxes when it is the same everywhere.

And of course it matters what people buy and where. If one goes out of their way to buy things from America that are only found in specialty shops, or go to the most expensive shops then of course they will spend a lot of money. But Germany has many very good and very cheap supermarket chains including Penny, Aldi, Lidl and Norma found nearly everywhere. And the competition from these stores has forced the more expensive grocery chains to offer cheap house brand alternatives for many products. Eating out in fancy restaurants is not necessarily cheap but general food prices in Germany are one of the lowest in the developed world and significantly cheaper than America. This is a fact. Just look at the link I provided to see the comparisons. And since most Germans live in apartments and few have a house with yard, the majority of them do NOT have gardens unless they live in rural areas or very small communities!

Again, I wrote of my personal experience.  Yes, I know about Aldi and Lidl, etc.  Personally, I found prices more expensive.  I lived in a rural area.  I never said that paying taxes was a bad thing, yes most countries impose taxes  and it is necessary for the roads, schools etc.  Also, if you decide to live in another country, you commit to their life style and have to adjust and should also speak or learn the language

My stay served the purpose to take care of my sick Mom, and I am grateful I had the opportunity.   The point is, you have to be realistic that if you are a senior, you have to have substantial funds to even qualify to get a visa. Rightly so,  the government does not want you to become a burden.

I am not trying to discourage anybody, just inform yourself, speak the language, and enjoy the country .  I did meet a few expatriates who had no idea that taxes were to be paid on their US retirement income and their US interest and also were surprised that they had to pay fees/taxes to the Catholic church (since they had registered Catholic as religion with Foreign office).  Health insurance is definitely an issue with "old age"  and with the few insurances offered, you have to pay up front and then get reimbursed.

So that's my last comment.  If I offended anybody, I apologize.  If somebody doesn't agree, that's fine too.  It is only my experience and in the whole, it was a good experience but for me, the living expenses were increasing and too high.  I am sure that other people had totally different experiences based on their own status.   
I still visit Germany often and love it!

ChristelChristiana, I find it good that you share your experiences here. No reason to apologize even if a few of your opinions don't really fit the facts. Again, personal buying habits can skew the results of what the “average” basket of groceries cost.

And if any people are misguided to be surprised that Germany taxes one's world-wide income then they should think again. Virtually all countries do this. It is certainly not a tax paradise by any means but neither is the US. Both countries have eroded the tax benefits once afforded to retirement incomes.

But yes, there is a church tax for Catholics - and Protestants. There is not a clear separation of church and state in Germany like there is supposed to be in the US. Thus people register if they are Catholic or Protestant and are accordingly taxed rather than making voluntary contributions to the local church. I don't like this tax but part of the reasoning behind is that many old churches are historical buildings and much of their upkeep is thus funded by the State. So the State feels it is fair that the parishioners pay in turn. If one registers as having no religion, then one does not have to pay the tax.

Something I have not seen mentioned is public transportation, which tends to be light years better than anywhere in the States. Yet it is not cheap. On the other hand the Deutsche Bahn and most local transportation systems give a large discount to seniors, a classification reached already at the age of 60. My wife turned 60 last year and was able to get a Bahncard 50 which gives 50% off on the trains - for half of the normal price. And even though I am still under 60, I got the same offer for a partner card.

The VVS which is the Stuttgart area public transportation system for example does not sell individual senior tickets but has monthly ones with a senior discount. Again, available from age 60 but only if one is officially receiving retirement benefits.

Lots of places like museums, pools etc. will also offer senior discounts – with varying regulations as to how they determine eligibility. I assume there are many discounts for seniors, for many things, in most countries but it can be a bit of work to get informed about them. And if one doesn't speak good German and/or is not so tech savvy to research well in the internet, then a retiree in Germany might miss out on some of the benefits available.  My motto would be that if in doubt, always ask.

I know this is an old thread, but in case others like me are testing it now.....

Much good info here but one major bad answer. US Federal employee/retiree FEHB plans that include overseas coverage (e.gBCBS, Foreign Service Medical Plan) do NOT require that you see a provider that "accepts" that insurance. Most of the time you see a German doc as a privately insured patient, pay the bill and submit for reimbursement. And these policies treat all overseas providers as "in network" so reimbursement is good. For bigger expenses like hospitalization it is of course better if you can find one that is"in network" and will bill the insurance.

I know this is an old thread, but in case others like me are testing it now.....
Much good info here but one major bad answer. US Federal employee/retiree FEHB plans that include overseas coverage (e.gBCBS, Foreign Service Medical Plan) do NOT require that you see a provider that "accepts" that insurance. Most of the time you see a German doc as a privately insured patient, pay the bill and submit for reimbursement. And these policies treat all overseas providers as "in network" so reimbursement is good. For bigger expenses like hospitalization it is of course better if you can find one that is"in network" and will bill the insurance.
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I think you are conflating 2 separate factors. German laws about insurance coverage and what such American companies might theoretically cover. A tourist to Germany has to pay most health care bills out of pocket and assuming they have a travel insurnce can be reimbursed. I see no significant difference from what you are mentioning here. The problem is that for one with residency in Germany there are strict rules about what insurances are required and I doubt (but am not certain) this doesn't work. One cannot continue on with travel insurance coverage. The same as various polices sold as "expat insurance" which are glorified travel insurance that gets renewed on a yearly basis. If one runs up a huge bill then do they have enough money to pay out of pocket and what happens if there is a problem with reimbursement? Germany doesn't want such situations. Such policies are sold and they might even genuinely reimburse people with bills from Germany but this doesn't mean it meets German requirements unless maybe there is some specific agreement covering this; theoretically possible on a federal government to government level.

Tom: Members of the private health insurance scheme do indeed have to pay any treatment at "normal" doctors first from their own pocket - and can then claim all or part of it back from their insurer. (Only hospitalization and surgery, which costs more than most insured person have on hand, can be billed directly to the insurer.)

But you are absolutely right that such foreign insurances are not normally accepted by the German authorities as equivalent to a German one - in most cases the German requirement for unlimited coverage breaks the deal. If that is the case, they are NOT a replacement for compulsory German health cover, but can be had in addition.

It is best to ask the insurer if they are officially approved by the German authorities!