Minimum Insurance Period
A pension entitlement can only exist if a qualifying period is fulfilled, among other things. A qualifying period is defined as a certain minimum insurance period for statutory pension insurance. This minimum insurance period is measured by the number of pension-relevant periods, in particular, the number of contributions paid.
According to the type of pension, the qualifying period for pension entitlement can be 5 years, 20 years, 25 years, 35 years or 45 years.
The assessment of whether the respective qualifying period is fulfilled takes place in months, not in years. Months are the smallest unit of calculation, i.e., the pension is not calculated in days. 12 months are taken as the basis for each year. A calendar month for which you have only partly paid pension-relevant contributions, counts as a complete month.
Qualifying Period of 5 Years
The fulfilment of the general qualifying period of 5 years is the requirement for
- the regular old-age pension,
- pensions owning to full or partial reduction in earning capacity and
- bereavement pensions.
Calendar months with contribution periods and substitute periods (for example, periods of political persecution in the former East Germany) count towards the general five-year qualifying period.
Qualifying Period of 20 Years
The qualifying period of 20 years is a requirement for pension owing to full reduction in earning capacity, if the full reduction in earning capacity started before the general qualifying period and has existed uninterrupted since then. Calendar months with contribution periods and substitute period (for example, periods of political persecution in the former East Germany) count towards it.
Qualifying Period of 25 Years
The fulfilment of the general qualifying period of 25 years is the requirement for
- an old-age pension for miners employed long-term underground and
- the pension for miners from the age of 50.
Calendar months with contribution periods for an occupation with continuous work underground and miners’ association-related substitute periods count towards the qualifying period of 25 years.
Qualifying Period of 35 Years
The qualifying period of 35 is the requirement for
- the old-age pension for long-term insured persons and
- the old-age pension for severely disabled persons.
All pension-relevant periods count towards the qualifying period of 35 years. As well as contribution periods and substitute periods (for example periods of political persecution in the former East Germany), pension-relevant periods also include creditable periods and periods taken into consideration. The creditable periods can be times in which you were sick, pregnant, unemployed, or also times when you were in school education or were a student. The periods taken into consideration can be times when you were bringing up a child until the age of 10.
Qualifying Period of 45 Years
The qualifying period of 45 is the requirement for the old-age pension for the especially long-term insured. Calendar months with compulsory contributions for an insurable occupation or activity as well as for child-raising (maximum for the first three years of the child’s life), substitute period (for example periods of political persecution in the former East Germany) and periods taken into consideration (for example time spent raising a child who is not yet 10 years old) will count towards the qualifying period of 45 years.
Since 01.07.2014, periods when you received social security benefits to promote employment, payments in cases of sickness and transition payments (in so far as they are creditable periods) as well as calendar months with voluntary contributions, for example, will also count. It is important to note that voluntary contributions can only be counted if you have at least 18 years of compulsory contributions for an insurable occupation or activity.
The following periods, among others, cannot count towards the qualifying period of 45 years:
- compulsory contribution periods and creditable periods owing to receiving a social security benefit to promote employment during the last two years before commencement of pension payment, unless receiving this benefit was caused by an insolvency or your employer completely closing down his business,
- calendar months with voluntary contributions during the last two years before commencement of pension payment, if at the same time there are creditable periods owning to you being unemployed,
- periods when you received Arbeitslosenhilfe (former social payment following on from unemployment benefit I) or Arbeitslosengeld II (unemployment benefit II, also known as Harz IV).
In order to receive an invalidity pension, you need to have fulfilled the so-called general five-year qualifying period. This qualifying period is fulfilled for example by contribution periods. In addition, you must have paid compulsory contributions for at least three years out of the last five years before the reduction in earning capacity occurred. These can include not only your contributions as an employee but also times spend raising a child, and when you were receiving sick pay or unemployment benefit.
Your pension insurance fund will establish if and to what degree you are still able to work or to find a job despite your reduction in earning capacity. This decision is made on the basis of assessments or medical documents (for example, hospital reports or documents from your health insurance company).
You receive a pension owing to reduced earning capacity for a maximum of three years (temporary pension). You will be able to see the duration on your pension notification letter. A temporary pension can also be extended if the requirements are fulfilled as previously.
A pension for partial reduction in earning capacity is half as high as the pension for full reduction in earning capacity. Its purpose is to maintain your living standards. With your remaining ability to work, you should be able to take on a (part-time) job and earn money towards your pension.
Please note: You are allowed to have a job while receiving the pension. But you must tell the pension insurance fund about this in advance. The pension insurance fund then checks if your pension entitlement remains and if the earnings have an influence on the amount of pension. There have been new regulations for additional earnings since 1 July 2017. Please ask your pension insurance fund for more information about this.
Pension for Miners by Reduced Capacity for Work
The requirements for this pension are equivalent to the invalidity pension. However here, instead of checking if there is reduction in earning capacity, the pension fund will check if there is reduced capacity for working in the mining industry.
Regular Old-age Pensions
These old-age pensions can be claimed after you have achieved the regular pension age. You need to have fulfilled the general five-year qualifying period with contribution periods. For insured persons who were born before 1947, regular pension age begins on reaching your 66th birthday.
For insured persons who were born after 1947, the regular pension age has been raised in stage since 2012. If you were born in 1947, the age limit is 65 years and one month. If the insured person is born in 1948, the regular pension age is 65 years and two months. For the following years of birth, the regular pension age increases initially by one further month; later the pensionable age is raised in steps of two months per year. For those born in 1964 and later, the regular pension age will then be 67.
Old-age Pension for the Long-term Insured
You can take receive your old-age pension – with deductions – from your 63th birthday if you have accrued a minimum insurance period (qualifying period) of 35 years. These include compulsory contribution periods, voluntary contributions, school, college and university periods as well as periods spend raising children (pension-relevant periods).
The minimum age for receiving this old-age pension without deductions is being raised in stages since 2012. The deductions of maximum 7.2 percent for early receipt are raised by 0.3 percent for every month of the increase. This affects insured persons who were born in 1949. For those born in January 1949, the age limit is raised by one month; for those born in February 1949, by two months and for those born from March to December 1949, by three months. By raising the age limits in the case of earlier old-age pensions more quickly, the increase for the years 1947 and 1948, which had been previously omitted, is being rectified from 2012 onwards and accordance with the raising of the regular pension age is being achieved. For insured persons who were born after March 1949, the raise will also take place parallel to the raising of the regular pension age. For insured persons who were born in 1964 and later, the age limit of 67 applies.
Old-age Pension for the Especially Long-term Insured
Since 2012 there has been an old-age pension for the especially long-term insured which can be drawn under easier conditions from 1 July 2014 onwards. If you have paid at least 45 years of compulsory contributions, for example for an insured occupation, self-employed work, long-term care, unemployment, illness or including time spent bringing up children, you can draw a pension from the age of 63 without deductions.
From the year of birth 1953 onwards, the age limit for this deduction-free pension will gradually increase. For all those born in 1964 or later, the age limit is 65 years.
The old-age pension for the especially long-term insured cannot be drawn at an earlier time, even with deductions.
Old-age Pension for Severely Disabled Persons
You are able to draw this pension – with deductions – after completing your 60th year. A qualifying period of 35 years is also necessary here, which you can fulfil with all pension-relevant periods. Furthermore, your disability level (Grad der Behinderung or GdB) has to be at least 50. Since 2012, the age limit for drawing the pension earlier and for receiving a deduction-free pension is being raised. Persons born in the year 1952 are affected by this. The increase will be taking place in an accelerated way. The age limit has therefore been raised by a total of 6 months for those persons born between January and June 1952. For insured persons who were born after June 1952, the increase will then take place parallel to the raising of the regular pension age. For insured persons who were born in 1964 and later, the age limit of 65 applies. The old-age pension for severely disabled persons can be drawn up to three years earlier, with deductions.
Pension for Miners Working Underground Long-term
Miners who have worked underground for many years are eligible for this old-age pension if they have reached the age of 61 and have accrued a qualifying period of 25 years.
Your deceased spouse or registered civil partner must have fulfilled the general five-year qualifying period (i.e., minimum insurance period) of five years with his/her own contribution periods. Furthermore, at the time of his/her death, you must have been married to the spouse/registered civil partner for at least a year or have lived for at least a year in a registered civil partnership.
In addition you must not have remarried or, as the surviving partner, have formed a new civil partnership. There are differences in the large and the minor survivor’s pension regarding pension entitlement and amount of pension. You receive the major survivor’s pension if you
- are over the age of 47 or
- are raising a child or
- unable to work.
You are eligible to receive the minor widow’s/widower’s pension for a maximum of 24 calendar months; however the major survivor’s pension is paid indefinitely. The pension-relevant is made up of the pension-relevant periods of the deceased person and the amount can vary. The minor widow’s/widower’s pension is calculated at 25% and the major survivor’s pension at 55% of the pension of the deceased person (in some cases, 60%).
You are eligible for a child-raising pension, if
- your marriage was dissolved before 30 June 1977,
- your divorced spouse has died,
- you haven’t remarried,
- you are raising a child and
- the general five-year qualifying period of five years were fulfilled at the time of your spouse’s death by your own pension-relevant periods (for example, from contribution periods).
You are also eligible for a child-raising pension under the requirements listed, if you were in a registered civil partnership, when instead of divorce or marriage, the dissolution or foundation of a civil partnership applies.
Your own income is taken into account when calculating your widow’s/widower’s pension and also your child-raising pension. During the application procedure, Deutsche Rentenversicherung requests the relevant information from surviving dependents such as income from employment, self-employed work, pensions, sick pay etc. Everyone who receives a surviving dependent or child-raising pension also receives an exemption allowance and income earned up to this level will not affect your pension. Income earned in excess of this exemption allowance is charged at 40% when calculating your pension.
As the child of a deceased insured person, you can receive an orphan’s pension (either a half-pension for having lost one parent or full pension for having lost both parents), if the deceased person has fulfilled the general five-year qualifying period with contribution periods. You are eligible to receive orphan’s pension until the end of your 18th year of age. As an orphan you can continue to receive this pension up to maximal the end of your 27th year of age if you
- are at school or in vocational training or
- are doing your voluntary social or ecological service year or the federal voluntary service (Bundesfreiwilligendienst) or
- are unable to support yourself owing to physical, mental or emotional disability.
If you are doing voluntary military service (freiwilliger Wehrdienst), you are not eligible to receive orphan’s pension. In the case of training, your eligibility for orphan’s pension can be extended beyond the age of 27 if you were obliged to undergo military or civilian alternative service before 1 July 2011. An orphan’s pension can also be paid for transition periods of maximal four months, for example between two training courses or between military service and beginning training. Please ask your pension fund.
Lump-sum Settlement of Widows/Widowers Pension
If as a widow or widower you remarry or form a new registered civil partnership, you are no longer eligible for a widow’s/widower’s pension. However you are eligible for a lump-sum settlement in the amount of 24-times the average pension payment in the last twelve months. This applies however only for the first time you remarry or form a registered partnership.
Basic pension ("Grundrente")
Anyone who has worked for many years and earned below average should receive a basic pension (‘Grundrente’) in future. This was agreed on by the Deutsche Bundestag in early July 2020. The basic pension is not a separate benefit but a top up to an already existing pension. The amount is determined individually. The Basic Pension Act (Grundrentengesetz) will enter into force on 1 January 2021.
In order to qualify for this supplement at least 33 years of insurance periods known as basic pension periods must have been completed. These include, for example, periods of compulsory contributions from employment, child raising periods, and periods of nursing care, as well as periods of receipt of benefits because of illness or rehabilitation. Periods completed abroad can also count towards the 33-year period provided that these periods are to be taken into account for pension purposes under European law or a social security agreement. The average income during professional life may not have exceeded 80 per cent of the average earnings.
Currently, Deutsche Rentenversicherung assumes that about 1.3 million people in Germany will benefit from the basic pension. The supplement will probably amount to an average of around 75 euros per month.
The pension insurance offices automatically establish the relevant periods and also check the other requirements for all pensioners. This means that no one needs to contact a pension office and submit an application in order to receive the new benefit. Also pensioners who live abroad are automatically contacted by Deutsche Rentenversicherung if they are eligible for a basic pension supplement. Since around 26 million pension accounts have to be checked it will probably take until mid-2021 before the first Grundrente decisions can be sent. In all cases the amounts payable from January 2021 onwards will be paid in arrears.
The Deutsche Rentenversicherung offices cannot answer questions about personal entitlements and individual amounts of the basic pension supplement at the moment. Deutsche Rentenversicherung takes care of everything and will pay out the basic pension to anyone who is entitled to it as quickly as possible.
Drawing an Old-age Pension Early and Additional Earnings
Since 1 July 2017, pensioners drawing out an early old-age pension can earn 6300 EUR extra per year without paying any deductions. This regulation applies both to western parts of Germany and parts of the former East Germany. The monthly limit of 450 EUR which was valid until then, no longer applies.
Earnings in excess of the allowance of 6300 EUR are charged at 40% against your pension. However there will also be an upper limit for your additional earnings. If you add up the reduced pension and the additional earnings, and if this amount is greater than your highest income during the last 15 years, the amount by which it exceeds this income is charged at 100% of your remaining partial pension.
If you know in advance that you will earn more than 6300 EUR per year in additional earnings on your old-age pension, you can set the level of your partial pension and therefore also the additional earnings ceiling yourself. Your partial pension must amount to at least ten percent of your full pension. You can reset the level of your future partial pension and therefore also your future additional earnings ceiling at any time.
Voluntary Insurance for Pensioners Drawing a Full Pension
Instead of additional earnings, you can also increase your pension by making voluntary contributions. If you draw your old-age pension early, you can pay voluntary contributions until you reach regular old-age pension age, which will then raise the regular old-age pension you receive earlier. This regulation previously only applied to people drawing partial pensions and reduction in earning capacity pensions. Since January 2017, also people who draw out a regular old-age pension early have been able to pay voluntary insurance contributions. You can find out if it is worth you paying voluntary contributions from your pension insurance fund.
Working Past Regular Pension Age
If you want to keep working and would like to draw your regular old-age pension at a later date, this has advantages for you: for each month that your work beyond the regular pension age and do not draw a pension, you will receive a pension supplement of 0.5 percent. Therefore, if you delay taking your pension for one year, you will receive a supplement of 6 percent simply for doing this.
Your pension will also be increased because you are continuing to pay contributions to your pension insurance. Now you will not have to pay contributions to unemployment insurance any more.
Working While Drawing Your Regular Old-age Pension
If you have reached the regular pension age, you can earn without limit from the following month. Your additional earnings fundamentally have no influence any more on the level of your old-age pension because you are no longer subject to compulsory pension insurance and therefore do not have to pay any pension contributions yourself any more.
However you are now able to tell your employer that you wish to waive this insurance exemption and would like to continue to pay your individual contributions to pension insurance. You can only do this for the future; it cannot be backdated. Once a year, your pension will be increased owning to the contributions paid by you and your employer.
Offsetting Pension Deductions
If you already draw an old-age pension before reaching regular pension age, you usually have to accept a deduction of 0.3 percent for every month that you draw the pension early. However you can offset these deductions either fully or partially by making a one-off payment, and you can do this from the age of 50. If you have made a one-off payment and then you do not retire early, these contributions increase the pensions you will later receive. They cannot be reimbursed to you.
Would you like to know the amount you would have to pay, in order to offset your pension deductions? Then apply for special pension information from your pension insurance fund. This will inform you about the amount of pension you would receive if you retire when you are planning to, the level of reduced pension you would receive and the amount that you voluntarily able to pay to offset the reduced pension.
Pension and Income
Invalidity Pension and Additional Earnings
Even if you receive an invalidity pension, you are also allowed to work part-time, if your health allows it. You are only allowed to earn up to a certain level. The amount you earn influences not only the amount of pension you receive. Under certain circumstances, you pension can even be cancelled completely. This applies, for example, if a pension for complete reduction in earning capacity or incapacity for work is paid not exclusively owing to your health condition and if the conditions in the labour market were also taken into account when granting you the pension. Your additional earnings will always have an effect on your pension when they reach a certain limit. This means that your pension will then only be paid at a lower rate as a so-called partial pension or can no longer paid at all. To receive a full invalidity pension, the additional earnings ceiling is currently 450 EUR gross per month. You are allowed to exceed this limit by double the amount, twice a year.
From 1 July 2017, pensioner with a full invalidity pension can earn 6,300 EUR per year without paying any deductions. Earnings in excess of the allowance of 6,300 EUR are charged at 40% against your pension.
Please note that, independent of additional earnings, you may in some circumstances endanger your pension entitlement according to your working time.
Old-age Pension and Additional Earnings
If you have already reached regular pension age, you can fundamentally earn an unlimited amount without it having a negative effect on your pension.
The regular pension age depends on when you were born. For those born before 1947, it is the age of 65. If you were born between the years of 1947 and 1963, the regular pension age is being gradually raised. If you were born in 1964 or later, it is the age of 67. For those born in 1952, the regular pension age is, for example, 65 years and 6 months.
If you already draw an old-age pension before reaching the relevant regular pension age, specific rules apply when you have additional earnings.
Independent of your additional earnings, the old-age pension is paid either completely as a so-called full pension, or it is paid at a reduced rate as a so-called partial pension. In certain circumstances, your pension can even be cancelled completely.
If you want to receive your full pension, your additional earnings ceiling is 450 EUR gross per month. You are allowed to exceed this limit by double the amount, twice a year.
Since 1 July 2017, pensioners drawing out an early old-age pension can earn 6,300 EUR extra per year without paying any deductions. Earnings in excess of the allowance of 6,300 EUR are charged at 40% against your pension.
Bereavement Pensions and Extra Income
In the case of survivor’s pensions and child-raising pensions, your income only has an effect on your pension when it exceeds a predefined allowance. Since 1 July 2015, additional earned income does not affect an orphan’s pension. For the first three calendar months following the death of the deceased insured person (the so-called “death quarter” or “sterbevierteljahr” in German), additional income does not affect your pension.
The goal of rehabilitation is your partial or complete (re-)integration into working life. The fundamental principle applies: Rehabilitation has priority over pension. This means: Before you can receive a pension owning to reduced earning capacity, we will check if rehabilitation can be carried out and if you can regain your earning capacity.
In order to receive rehabilitation benefit, you need to fulfil the requirements under insurance law and the personal requirements. The rehabilitation must be medically necessary. It is a good idea to submit a current medical report or a medical assessment for this. You must also have fulfilled a certain minimum insurance period (qualifying period) in the statutory pension insurance scheme.
You have to apply for every rehabilitation benefit. No exclusion reasons must be present. An exclusion reason would be receiving a full old-age pension, for example.
The statutory pension insurance scheme differentiates between different benefits in relation to rehabilitation.
Prevention helps you to tackle your health problems actively and to manage your (occupational) everyday life better in the future. Healthy nutrition, regular exercise and relaxation exercises can bring your life back into balance. Psychological strategies for self-management help you to keep going and achieve a healthier lifestyle in the long-term. In this way you will avoid long periods of sickness and having to retire from your working life early.
You can receive medical benefits to safeguard your earning capacity (prevention) according to § 14 para.1 SGB VI when the first adverse health effects are present that endanger your professional occupation, for example owing to
- frequently recurring pain,
- beginning of psychological impairments,
- problems with weight, metabolism or respiratory tract.
You must have fulfilled a certain minimum insurance period (qualifying period) in the statutory pension insurance scheme.
Preventative benefits must be applied for.
Medical rehabilitation lasts an average of three weeks. It can take place in a rehabilitation clinic as an inpatient, but increasingly as an outpatient or semi-inpatient, close to your home. A medical benefit for rehabilitation can be carried out a further time after four years at the earliest. Exception: It is necessary earlier for health reasons.
Integration in Working Life
Benefits for participation in working life are to help you integrate you into working life for as long as possible, despite illness or disability. There are measures to help you retain your job, but also possibilities for training and advanced training that may open completely new professional perspectives to you.
The supplementary benefits include, above all, transitional payments that the pension insurance pays you when your wage or salary payments stop during a rehabilitation measure. You can also receive the necessary travel expenses and, in some cases, costs for help in the home.
Other benefits include rehabilitation after cancer diseases and therapy for the children of insured persons. Therapy for children is intended to prevent early limitation of earning capacity later in life.
Service for Companies
Deutsche Rentenversicherung offers a nationwide service for companies: advice free-of-charge for businesses and companies, interest groups as well as company physicians and occupational health physicians.
As well as classic advice on the topics of pensions, pension plans and collecting contributions, these company services focus on the topic of “healthy employees”. This topic incorporates all benefits relating to rehabilitation and reintegration. This includes information on integration management in companies, developing a company health management programme and advice on preventative services as well as medical and occupational rehabilitation.
The aim is to recognise preventative or rehabilitation needs at an early stage, to take advantage of the pension fund services at an early stage and therefore ensure that the employee is able to return to work in the company affected.
You can have your contributions refunded if you have not fulfilled the general five-year qualifying period (i.e., minimum insurance period) on reaching regular pension age and therefore do not qualify for a pension. This also applies to surviving dependents and surviving civil partners from a registered civil union when the person who has died did not fulfil the general five-year qualifying period.
In exceptional cases, you can also have contributions refunded if your insurance liability permanently stops. For this you need to fulfil certain requirements.
Making an Application
Payments of statutory pension insurance such as pensions, rehabilitation benefits or contribution refunds must be applied for. They are fundamentally not paid “automatically”. Fulfilling the eligibility requirements alone is not enough to receive the respective payment.
In statutory pension insurance, the application can also be made verbally or via email. However in order to ensure that the application is processed correctly, you need to fill and sign in the necessary forms.
Applications may be submitted by persons who are insured or entitled and are aged 16 or over. Your legal representative or a person authorised by you can also make the application. The application for pension insurance benefits can be made at any office that makes social service payments. The office does not have to be responsible for your particular case. Your local city or municipal administrations, as well as German diplomatic missions abroad and insurance offices, are also authorised to receive pension applications.
To keep the processing time as short as possible, it is a good idea to file your pension application directly with the pension fund responsible for you, with one of the regional or local information and advice centres, or via one of the voluntary insurance advisers, and to include the necessary original documents such as your identity card, birth certificate, any relevant death certificate, certificates of insurance and training, etc. Please note: If you make your application late, the start of your pension payments may be delayed.
Applications for rehabilitation benefits and/or integration benefits can also be made at the reciprocal service centres of the rehabilitation agencies and/or rehabilitation advisors.
Health Insurance and Long-term Care Insurance for Pensioners
Together with your pension application, you need to fill in an application for health insurance and long-term care insurance for pensioners. If your health insurance company decides that you are also liable to pay compulsory insurance, your pension fund will be informed and deduct the payment from your monthly pension. If you are not liable to pay compulsory insurance, you can become a voluntary member of a statutory health insurance company or take out private health insurance. As a pensioner liable to pay compulsory insurance, you pay half the contribution towards health insurance and the full contribution towards long-term care insurance. Your pension insurance fund pays the other half of the health insurance contribution. If you cannot be accepted into the pension insurance scheme for pensioners, because you are privately insured for example, you can apply to your pension fund for a supplement to your health insurance contribution.