Social Security Is Just One Part Of the Global Economy

Q: I’ll bet you got a lot of hate mail from readers after you printed the column in which you explained that a Canadian citizen could get American Social Security benefits — even if she moves back to Canada. Is it any wonder our Social Security system is in such trouble if we’re sending all of our hard-earned money overseas?

A. Actually, I didn’t get any responses to that column — and certainly no “hate mail” — other than your curious take on the situation.

In that prior column, I answered a question from a woman who was getting Social Security retirement benefits — based on her many years of work in this country. She was a Canadian citizen who had been living in this country for about 30 years. And now that she was about to retire, she was planning to move back to her original home in Victoria, British Columbia. She asked if she would be able to collect her U.S. Social Security benefits in Canada. And the answer is yes.

And despite your assertions to the contrary, we would not be sending our hard-earned money overseas. We would be sending her hard-earned money overseas. After all, she worked and paid U.S. Social Security taxes for almost three decades. And now she’s getting a retirement benefit based on all those taxes she has paid. She should have every right to expect that her benefits will follow her back to her native land.

I think what you fail to comprehend is that Social Security is a worldwide phenomenon and that we are increasingly living — and working — in a global economy.

Just as there are thousands of foreign-born citizens who have worked in the United States and qualify for U.S. Social Security benefits, there are thousands of Americans who have worked in foreign lands and qualify for Social Security benefits from those countries.

As I’ve pointed out many times in this column, almost every country on the planet has a Social Security program. And people around the world are moving to other countries and working in other countries. So they are paying taxes into the Social Security programs of those countries where they live.

Governments around the world recognize this trend, and more and more of them are entering into Social Security treaty agreements with one another. The United States currently has Social Security treaty agreements in place with about 25 countries around the world, with many more in the planning stage. These treaty agreements cover a wide variety of Social Security-related situations that can come up.

Here is just one example: What happens if you spend part of your career working for an American company in the U.S. and part of your career working for a Dutch corporation in Germany? And what if you don’t have enough Social Security credits from any one country to qualify for Social Security benefits? These treaty agreements provide solutions to those kinds of problems.

So, stop trying to build walls around this country and worrying about your “hard-earned money” flowing overseas, and learn to embrace the global economy.

Anyone who wants to learn more about these Social Security treaty agreements can find a pamphlet describing them at At the home page, under “Useful Links,” click on “International Issues.”

If you have a Social Security question, Tom Margenau has the answer. Contact him at To find out more about Tom Margenau and to read past columns and see features from other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at


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