Q. I am retired and receiving Social Security benefits and am planning on getting married. My fiancée is still employed. What effect will this have on my Social Security benefits? Also I am wondering if I should be having taxes taken from my benefits.
A. Marriage or remarriage never affects a wage earner’s own Social Security benefit. Your Social Security benefit will continue unchanged. After one year of marriage, assuming they have reached retirement age, your spouse could be eligible for a spouse benefit. Death benefits would be payable if the marriage lasted at least nine months before ending in death — even less if death was accidental. With regard to having taxes taken from your Social Security benefits that can be done if you have determined you need to do so. The Social Security Administration allows withholding at four possible rates: 7, 10, 12 or 22 percent of your benefit.
Q. If I apply for disability and become approved, will this affect my husband’s check and what about our son’s check?
A. Your eligibility for a Social Security benefit based on your own Social Security earnings record cannot affect your husband’s benefit in any way. If you each meet the law’s eligibility criteria, each of you is entitled to your full, earned benefit. Your son will continue to be entitled to a benefit based on his father’s Social Security earnings record unless a benefit payable on your earnings record or on your combined records would be a greater amount.
Q. I’m 5 years older than my wife. We’re both still working and planning to continue for 3 or 4 more years. I’ve worked continuously and have a higher income. I want to ensure my wife receives the largest monthly payment if I die before we both reach 70. If I never claim, could she claim my “70-year-old” benefit when she reaches 70?
A. Should you predecease your wife, she would have the option of which benefit to begin first — her own benefit or her widow benefit. She would maximize her widow benefit by waiting until she reached full retirement age to apply for widow benefits. Under current law, she would gain no increase by deferring benefits beyond her full retirement age. Should you die before reaching full retirement age, your wife’s widow benefit would be calculated as if you had reached your full retirement age. If your death occurred between ages 66 and 70 (but before you begin benefits) your wife’s widow benefit would be calculated as of your last full month of life.
Q. I started taking Social Security in February of this year and now realize it may not have been the best decision. Once Social Security monthly benefits are started is there any way for me to change my mind and delay receiving benefits and if so what do I need to do to accomplish that?
A. Since it is less than a year since you began benefits, you are entitled to withdraw your original application for benefits. To exercise that option you must repay the benefits received thus far. When you again want to receive benefits, you would submit a new application.
Q. My husband and I both worked full time for many years and individually will qualify for close to a maximum benefit. Will we each be able to do that, or is there a maximum payment to married persons that is less than the total they would receive if they were not married?
A. There is no maximum benefit for a married couple when both have participated in the workforce. In the situation you describe, each of you will receive his or her own benefit. In survivorship cases, the survivor receives whichever of their two benefits is the greater.
Q. I am being penalized under Medicare Part B by paying 20 percent more per month in premiums than I would have paid had I applied for Medicare at 65 instead of 68, even though I was covered by my employer’s health insurance. This doesn’t seem right to me. Comments?
A. You should not be paying a Medicare Part B premium penalty if you had employer-provided health insurance from age 65 until you retired from the workforce. The law grants an exemption from the penalty for any month an over-age-65 worker is covered by their current employer’s health insurance plan or by their spouse’s current employer’s health insurance plan. If you are being erroneously penalized, obtain a statement from your former employer or from the former employer’s insurance company certifying that you were insured by your employer’s plan for months after age 65. Present that statement to your local Social Security office with a request for premium relief. Future premiums will be at the lower rate and all excess premiums paid to date will be refunded.
Q. Our Social Security checks are deposited the 3rd of the month. Are they for the month of deposit, or the previous month?
A. Social Security benefits are always received in the month following the month for which they are due. For example, the benefit you will receive in July is for the month of June.
Q. Your “Social Security Primer” reads: “What workers may not realize is that their payroll taxes entitle their families to survivor’s benefits, providing life insurance protection worth over $400,000.” Can you please explain this?
A. Since 1940, the Social Security Act has provided survivor benefits to widows and young children upon the death of a wage earner. Benefits also are provided to retirement age widows. Since Social Security is gender neutral, widowers also are protected. Dependent children receive Social Security survivor benefits until the child reaches age 18, age 19 if still in high school. A widow (or widower) caring for a dependent child receives a benefit until the youngest child reaches age 16. In 2011, the average Social Security survivor benefit to a widow with two dependent children was $2,403 per month. The value of this survivor protection is estimated as equivalent to a $433,000 life insurance policy. You can read about the full extent of survivor benefit protection at http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10035.html#family.