As my longtime readers know, I usually answer only one or two questions in each column. That’s because most Social Security rules are so complicated, and I try to cover as many “ifs, ands, or buts” as possible in my answers. That inevitably limits the number of topics I can handle in any one column. But today, I’m going to give quick-and-dirty answers to as many questions as possible.
Q: My husband is 72. I’m turning 62. Can I take benefits as a wife on his record now and switch to my own full Social Security at age 66?
A: No. If you take reduced Social Security benefits on any record, that reduction carries over to any other benefits you might be due. (FYI: that rule does not apply to widows.) So at 62, you will probably just get reduced benefits on your own Social Security account. However, if you wait until age 66, then you can take benefits as a dependent wife on your husband’s record and later, at age 70, switch to full benefits on your own — benefits that would come with an extra 32 percent delayed retirement bonus.
Q: In a prior column, you wrote that only people who have worked and paid taxes into Social Security can get benefits. But my mother is getting Social Security widow’s benefits, and she never worked a day in her life! Please explain.
A: In that prior column, I should have written: You get Social Security benefits only if you have worked and paid taxes into the system, or if you are the dependent spouse or child of someone who has.
Q: In a recent column, a woman who wrote that she was getting about $850 per month from Social Security said she could get an extra $100 per month from SSI. I get only about $800 per month in Social Security, I checked with my Social Security office, and they said I don’t qualify for SSI, because my income is too high. What’s going on?
A: The woman who asked me about her eligibility for Supplemental Security Income lives in a different state than you do. SSI is a welfare program, and the eligibility rules vary from one state to another. You live in a cheap state with very low income-eligibility rules. The other woman simply lives in a more generous state. I guess you could either move or try to talk your very conservative governor and state legislators to pony up more money for folks like you. Good luck with that one!
Q: I’m 65 years old. I was married to my first husband for 27 years. I’ve been married to my second husband for 10 years. My first husband just died. Can I get any of his Social Security?
A: As long as you’re married to your second husband, you aren’t due any Social Security benefits from husband number one. But if your second marriage ends (by either death or divorce), then you would become eligible for divorced widow’s benefits from your first husband. Or you could get widow’s benefits from your second husband. Or you could get your own Social Security. Of those three options, you would be paid from the record that gives you the highest rate.
Q: I’m getting widow’s benefits from Social Security. I’m 71 years old. I’ve been seeing a man for a couple of years, and he wants to get married. I told him no, because I would lose my Social Security. Was this the right answer?
A: I have no idea if “yes” or “no” was the right answer to his marriage proposal. But I can tell you that the “no” you gave him was based on incorrect information. You will not lose your Social Security widow’s benefits if you remarry. A woman who remarries after age 60 can keep her widow’s benefits from her first husband, even though she’s married to another man.
Q: My current husband and I have been married for eight years. We’re both in our 70s. He’s in very poor health. I was told that if he dies, I won’t get any of his Social Security, because we haven’t been married for at least 10 years. Is this true?
A: No, it’s not true. The 10-year-duration-of-marriage rule applies only to divorced women. A woman who is divorced must have been married to her ex-husband for at least 10 years to claim any kind of benefits on his Social Security record. But because you are currently married to your husband, that 10-year rule doesn’t apply. There is a one-year-duration-of-marriage rule, but you’re already seven years beyond that, so you’re OK.
Q: I plan to retire at age 58. I know I can’t take my Social Security until I’m 62. My current annual statement that I get from Social Security says my age-62 benefit will be about $1,500 per month. Can I count on getting that four years from now?
A: Not quite that much. That estimate assumes you’re going to keep working until age 62. But you’ll be retiring at 58. In other words, there will be four fewer years of recent earnings on your Social Security record — which in turn means your monthly benefit won’t be quite as high as currently anticipated. You can go to SocialSecurity.gov and click on the benefit calculators. Indicate there that you’ll be retiring at age 58, and you’ll get a revised retirement estimate.
Wow — seven questions and answers in one column. That’s a new record for me!
If you have a Social Security question, Tom Margenau has the answer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 www.creators.com.
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