Q. I called a local Social Security office yesterday to make an appointment for my wife and me to file for benefits. We have both reached full retirement age. The agent asked me when I wanted to start benefits. I didn’t know we had a choice. What answer should I give when we go to file?
A. You have the right to specify the exact month you want your Social Security benefits to begin. Benefits begun before full retirement age are reduced for each month of early retirement. Benefits begun after full retirement age are increased for each month that a benefit is deferred. This has always been a retiree’s option.
Q. I was always the primary earner. I am also 7 years older than my husband. I started taking Social Security at 66. He will turn 62 this year. His full Social Security benefit will be less than 1/2 of mine. If he files for his reduced benefits at 62, can he switch to half my benefits at full retirement age with no decrease in them? Or does his early reduction for his benefit transfer to mine for him?
A. When your husband files for Social Security, his application will cover both his own benefit and his spouse benefit. Each will be reduced for months of early retirement. In effect, he will receive whichever of the two benefits is the greater amount.
Q. I am a teacher in Texas and am ready to retire. I have the option of my husband receiving my full benefit or half of my benefit if I should die. How would this affect his Social Security benefits when he is eligible? Would you advise this? He does not have this type of pension, and I don’t want our kids to be burdened when they need to take care of us.
A. A survivor public annuity never affects a surviving spouse’s right to his or her own Social Security retirement benefit. The Social Security Act’s anti-windfall provisions cannot affect your husband’s Social Security benefit because he has not personally earned a public annuity.
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. My grandson lost his Social Security card. How do I go about getting him a new card?
A. Your grandson can be issued a new Social Security card at your local Social Security office. He will need to file a new application for a card and provide proof of his identity and U.S. citizenship or legal resident status. If you are applying on his behalf, in addition to proof of his identity and citizenship or legality, you will need proof of your identity. Go to http://www.socialsecurity.gov/ss5doc/ for a detailed listing of the types of documents accepted as proof of identity. You can either download the application form or call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or call or visit your local Social Security office to request an application.
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 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 he or she has 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. To learn more about this service, go to https://www.ssa.gov/planners/taxwithold.html.