I receive hundreds of emails every week from my readers. I try to answer them all, but I probably answer many of the same questions over and over again! I will include these common questions in today’s column. My answers will be short and concrete, just so I can squeeze in as many questions as I can in the limited space I have.
Q: I’m 62. My husband is 67 and gets Social Security. Can I apply for spousal benefits on his record and keep my own until I am 70?
A: No, you can not. You must always apply for your own benefits first. Only after you do that can you look at your husband’s journal to see if you can get additional spouse benefits.
Q: I’m 60 and not working. My husband died recently. Can I apply for widowhood now and save my own until I am 70?
A: Yes, you can. A widow does not have the same restrictions that apply to a spouse with a living husband (as explained in the first question and answer). You can apply for widowhood benefit now and then switch to 100% of your own at full retirement age or wait until 70 and get around 130%.
Q: If I die, what does my wife get then?
A: The answer depends on several factors. But provided you die well after your full retirement age, and assume your wife is over her full retirement age when you die, she will generally receive what you received at the time of death. Quick example: You are 85 and get $ 1,800 a month. Your wife is 82 and earns $ 1,200 a month. When you die, she will continue to receive her $ 1,200, and then she will receive an additional $ 600 in widow benefits.
Question: I took my benefits at 70 so I get 32% extra added to my retirement rate. When I die, will my wife’s widowhood benefit be based on my advanced age of 70 years or on my full retirement rate?
A: It will be based on your age 70 rate. And just to clarify a little more, a benefit paid to a spouse whose husband is still alive is based on his full retirement age. But as I just said, a widow’s benefit is based on the 70-year rate (assuming the man waited until 70 years to claim his benefits).
Question: I have not paid for social security. I get a teacher’s pension from Texas of $ 3,500 a month. My husband gets social security. He gets $ 2,200 a month. When he dies, why do I not get widow benefits on his journal?
A: If you received a social security pension of $ 3,500 a month, you would not receive widow benefits because your own benefit would outweigh everything you would need as a widow. And the same set-off rules apply to non-Social Security pensions as your Texas teacher’s pension check.
Question: I’m already getting my social security, but I’m still working. Will my extra income and the taxes I pay increase my Social Security check?
A: It depends. Your initial benefit was based on your average monthly salary with your highest 35-year inflation-adjusted income. If the earnings you have now are higher than the lowest inflation-adjusted year spent in your original calculation, SSA will drop the lower year, add the new higher year, and adjust your benefit accordingly. But do not expect unexpected. Your benefit can increase by maybe $ 10 to $ 20 a month for a year of good earnings.
Question: When my father died, why should we return his last check?
A: Several rules come into play here. First, social security benefits have never been proportionate. Secondly, the benefits are always paid one month after. And third, the law says you have to live a full month to get a Social Security check for that month.
Here’s a quick example. John dies April 24th. The social security check coming in May (payment for April) must be returned.
That is the disadvantage of the lack of proration. But there are two benefits. One: Let’s say John started his services when he was 66 and that he turned 66 on June 22nd. He would get a check for the entire month of June, even though he was only 66 for eight days a month. Two: If John left a widow, she would receive widow benefits throughout the month of April, even though she was only a widow six days a month.
Q: We would like to talk to you personally about our social security situation. We will be willing to pay you. May we call you to discuss this?
A: I sometimes think I should give up this column writing and go into the industry of doing personal social security consultations. I bet I could make a lot more money on it than sitting here in my basement and making weekly columns! But I’m just too lazy to start a consulting business. So I’m sorry, but I just can not provide personal service or work on individual social security cases.
But for $ 10, I can give you the kind of help that might even be better than a personal consultation. Buy my little social security guide called “Social Security – Simple and Smart.” In that book, you will find 10 fact sheets that cover pretty much any social security situation you may encounter. You can find the book at Amazon or other bookstores.
If you have a question about social security, Tom Margenau has a book with all the answers. It’s called “Social Security – Simple and Smart.” You can find the book at www.creators.com/books or look for it on Amazon or other bookstores. To find out more about Tom Margenau and to read previous columns and see features from other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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