Q. My wife will retire from teaching in California next year at age 66. Presently, she is 65 and I am 64. We have been advised by our SS office that she will receive nothing from my SS credits, even after my death, since her retirement is through the state retirement system. First is this correct? Second, if this is correct, is there any reason for me not to start taking my own benefits as soon as possible since she will receive nothing from Social Security whether I am alive or dead?
A. When your wife begins receiving her public annuity, any Social Security spouse benefit she is entitled to receive based on your earnings record will be subject to the Government Pension Offset. That provision of Social Security law requires the reduction of any spouse or widow benefit otherwise payable by two-thirds of the public annuity. See http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10007.html . In countless situations, the Government Pension Offset means no spousal benefits are ever payable. If your wife will face a total offset, deferring your own Social Security benefit offers her no financial protection.