Monday, June 13, 2005

Japanese Lesson

Japanese isn’t hard. It’s a language like any other. There are words and they have meaning.

Let me give you a little Japanese lesson.
  1. Here’s a little word. nen. Nen ( 年)means year.
  2. Here’s another little world. kin. Kin (金)means money.
  3. Put nen and kin together and you’ve got nenkin, (年金)which means pension.
That wasn’t hard, was it?

OK. Let’s do a little more.
  1. Koku  (国)means country.
  2. Min (民)means people.
  3. Put koku and min together and you’ve got kokumin, (国民)which means national.
  4. Put kokumin and nenkin together and you’ve got kokumin nenkin, (国民年金)which means National Pension.
I wasn’t kidding. The language is logical as any other, and therefore learnable, right?

OK, so you’re ready for the next level.
  1. Kou means thick. (厚)
  2. Sei means life. (生)
  3. Kousei means public welfare.
  4. Kousei nenkin (厚生年金)means public welfare pension, right? Well, kind of. Actually it refers to the pension given to employees of a large corporation.
OK. That was a little harder. But you’re still riding with me, right?

Just two more little words, and then I’m going to tell you a story. A nice about money and security in your old age and happiness and freedom from want. The kind of story that makes us all glad we live in modern civilization and not some jungle where the words don’t mean anything, for example.
  • Kousei nenkin is generally translated Employees Pension.
  • Kiso means basic.
  • Put these together with the words you now know and you can say things like tokubetsu nenkin (special pension) and kiso nenkin (basic pension). See? Cooking with gas here.
Now, armed with this vocabulary, if you should someday out of the blue get a letter which says to you…

  • You are a person who up till now has been receiving a tokubetsu shikyuu (special grant) no rourei (old person) kousei nenkin
  • Starting at 65, this tokubetsu shikyuu no rourei kousei nenkin (Special grant old person Employee Pension) will become a rourei (old person) kiso (basic) nenkin (pension) (Old person basic pension)…

“Keep talking. It’s your nickel,” you’d say, right?

That’s what I said.

But wait a minute. I haven’t been receiving any pension, no special grant. What are they talking about?

There’s more to the story, but it’s all too much for a Japanese lesson, so I’ll summarize in the English tongue, since I sense your eyes glazing over.

This letter is scolding me for not obeying the law. According to the law, by the end of the month in which I turned 65 (i.e., May 31st just past) I was supposed to have informed the Shakai Hoken Gyomu Sentaa (Social Insurance Management Center) whether I would like to receive this tokubetsu (special) pension now that it is no longer going to be called a special pension and is going to start being called a kiso (basic) pension. ("Just circle either wish or don’t wish, please.")

OK. It’s clear to me now that it’s time for a little help from my friends.

I have a couple questions, you see:
  1. What is the difference among the four pensions: national, employees, special and basic?
  2. What is this pension that I have been receiving since age 60 that will now go from “special” to “basic”?
And the answer is/answers are …
  1. There aren’t four pensions; there are only two: National and Employees. From 60 I became eligible for the National Pension and they started paying me. But since I continued working and collecting a salary, they reduced the payment level to zero. So they have been paying me; they have simply been paying me zero. That’s why when they said “Since 60 you have been collecting a special grant pension,” they weren’t lying. I was collecting a pension; it just happened to be zero. Special grant means it amounts to zero. Otherwise it wouldn’t be special.
  2. Now that I am 65, they can’t give me zero any more. Now they actually have to give me something more than zero. They can’t tell me what it is, because that would be too complicated. They’d have to calculate it all depending on my income, the length of time I’ve been paying in, and other criteria that only dogs can hear on a clear day, and so I just have to trust them. But do I want to postpone payments? Because if I do, they can do that. I just have to tell them. That’s what I didn’t do, and because I didn’t do that, now I will have to go to my city hall and get the mayor (no kidding – it says “mayor” even though somebody with a much lower salary actually stamps the form) to put his stamp on my card saying that I’ve been to the city hall – which has nothing whatsoever to do with the nenkin management office, of course. It’s just there to put stamps on people’s documents who don’t do as they’re told.
  3. This “ basic” pension, being the “national” pension used to be “special” but now it will just be “basic,” and has nothing to do with the Employees Pension, which I will start collecting once I actually retire and even though the letter said I had been receiving a special version of the Employees Pension, I hadn’t. It was a special version of the National Pension that I had been receiving (in the amount of zero). I had not actually been receiving any of my Employees Pension, but I had been receiving the “eligibility” of the Employees Pension, and that’s what they meant when they told me that up to age 64 I was receiving the “special” version of the Employees Pension.
Honjou to yukichiga to natta baai goyousha kudasai.
If our letters have crossed, please forgive us.

I forgive you. It's the least I could do.

July 13, 2005

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