I did not have to think too hard or for too long about the word pension. In fact if I could meet you all face to face you I would go into a massive spaz about the Polish inept pension and social security system. It actually makes me mad. And aggressive. If I cave into this mood about this topic, this post might result in extreme violent sentence structures and would therefore have to be censored. So I won’t go into it that much. Let me just leave you with this image of what is in store for me if I adhere to the premiums and monthly expectations of my national superannuation and pension fund system – over the course of my working life, some seventy per cent of my paid premiums will get ‘lost in the system’ meaning once I retire I will have a lot less owing to me than I otherwise should receive per month, I will be on a measly monthly retirement payment that I will never be able to withdraw as a lump sum if the need arises (similarly if I kick the bucket early all that accumulated money will not be available for my inheritors) and if I am in actual receipt of this pension, it will be just enough to cover my monthly food bill, some vitamins and maybe a bit of heating in the winter time. So really my working life is spent on supporting one of the largest bureaucratic and inefficient government institutions in Poland – ZUS, the Polish Social Security System, which, in Krakow alone has an impressive amount of seven grand buildings in a city that does not even have a million inhabitants. In summary, I cannot rely on the Polish government to manage my pension fund. If I want a dignified and retired golden age, I must take things into my own hands and I must do it five years ago.
Both Michal and I are self-employed and we are obliged to pay our monthly social insurance premiums that are managed by the state and regardless of our earning power we pay a monthly flat rate. Meaning if you’re a successful city multi-million entrepreneur technically you are paying the same premiums as a local self-employed seamstress in a tiny provincial town. From the onset this makes life unfair. And many small business owners quickly enter what is colloquially known in Poland as the ‘grey sphere’, where your business still functions, you still make a liveable wage, but you declare nothing and in return are not medically covered. And you have no retirement fund to dream of. The asking premium is just under 1000 zl per month, which for your understanding roughly constitutes half of the average earnings of an average Pole. Meaning it’s not actually worth your while to even be self-employed (workers on full time contracts have their pension premiums paid for by their employer on top of their wages). So those seamstresses or builders or foreign language teachers work but never invoice and never pay their premiums. But they can only function normally if they are married and their spouse has full social security insurance (under social security law in Poland if your spouse has full social security cover, he/she also covers his/her entire immediate family). But you have to be married. De facto relationships are not legally recognised in Poland, not in tax, not in inheritance, not in property law (and yes, that includes gay couples). Welcome to 2012. Happy New Year by the way.
So not being able to rely on our wonderful state in any way or form Michal and I decided a while ago that we have to rely on ourselves. We are hoping to be relatively secure in our old age as we have bought some investment property, some land and Michal dabbles a bit in the stock exchange. These moves have seriously been made in an attempt to ‘secure our future’ knowing full well that if we did not make ‘adult’ moves now and if we continued to live here, we would really be up shit’s creek.
My dream though is to own at small studio apartment in Sydney so that I or my family can escape to the land of sanity and rationality whenever we feel like it, or just to avoid a prolonged Polish winter. Like Karen I want the freedom to travel, but I also want not to worry about hip replacement surgery if something happens to pop out uninvited.