What Are the Most Common Retirement Questions You Receive about Social Security?

Suze OrmanThere are two big questions I hear plenty.

  1. My husband wants to retire at 62 and start taking Social Security. Is that okay?

This typically comes up because husbands are often a few years older than their wives, and figure they want to “get their money’s worth” by taking Social Security as early as possible. I think that can be a bad move. Unless you have oodles of money to live on in retirement, you — as a couple — want to maximize your Social Security payout for the longest surviving spouse. It’s important to understand that when one spouse dies, the other spouse is entitled to just one Social Security payment. So you want the surviving spouse to have the biggest possible benefit. Here’s how: Whichever spouse is the higher earner (and thus eligible for a bigger Social Security benefit) should  delay taking Social Security at least until their Full Retirement Age (FRA), which is between age 66 and 67, depending on the year you were born.

Your FRA benefit is 25 to 30 percent higher than the benefit you can get at age 62. Even better is to have the high earner wait all the way until age 70. The benefit if you start then is more than 65 percent higher than the benefit you are entitled to at age 62. While the high-earner should wait as long as possible, the other spouse can start earlier, but I always encourage both spouses to delay as long as possible.

  1. I am getting divorced and haven’t worked full time. Am I going to be able to get Social Security?

If you were married at least 10 years you will be eligible for Social Security based on your ex-spouse’s earnings record. Your receiving a benefit will have no impact on the benefit your ex is eligible for.

There are a few caveats to understand about how this works. Most important, you can’t make a claim on an ex-spouse’s record if you remarry. (It doesn’t matter if your ex remarried.) You also need to be at least 62 years old. You can learn more about that here.

 

SSA does not endorse any particular financial advisory product or service.

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383 thoughts on “What Are the Most Common Retirement Questions You Receive about Social Security?

  1. Both my ex husband and I retired from the same institution. He retired first, I was eligible, and took a portion of his pension under a qildro agreement. I have been retired a full year. On Saturday, I received a notice that I must pay SS back $6,468.00. Could this be a result of both tax returns came from the University showing that they were pension payments?

    • Hi Doris, thanks for using our blog. After you retire, you may get payments for work you did before you started getting Social Security benefits. Some special payments to employees include bonuses, accumulated vacation or sick pay, severance pay, back pay, standby pay, sales commissions and retirement payments. Or, you might get deferred compensation reported on a W-2 form for one year, but earned in a previous year. Check out our factsheet on Special Payments After Retirement for more details.

      If you received a special payment after retirement, call us at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance or you can contact your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

  2. Hi..in the event that I will be given by my Employer a bonus after retirement and after I have been approved to receive my retirement this coming September, can I postpone the start of receiving my benefit? And how will I process it?

    What is the limit of an extra income I can earn once I will start receiving my retirement benefit without penalty?

    • Hi Edna, thanks for using our blog. If you already applied for Social Security benefits and you change your mind about when they should start, you may be able to withdraw your Social Security claim and re-apply at a future date. However, if you change your mind 12 months or more after you became entitled to retirement benefits, you cannot withdraw your application. Also, keep in mind that you must repay all the benefits that you and your family received. For more information, go to our web page If You Change Your Mind.

      Keep in mind that your bonus may be considered a special payment. If you received the bonus after you retired but it was for work you did before you started getting Social Security benefits, it may not count in the annual earnings limit. Some special payments to employees include bonuses, accumulated vacation or sick pay, severance pay, back pay, standby pay, sales commissions and retirement payments. Or, you might get deferred compensation reported on a W-2 form for one year, but earned in a previous year. Check out our factsheet on Special Payments After Retirement for more details.

      If you received a special payment after retirement, call us at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance or you can contact your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

  3. I met my ex husband on oct 1985 we got together on December 1985. I had got pregnant for. Our first daughter in or on October 1986 he had I listed in the national guard we were fixing to go down and get married in a couple of days when he got a phone call that he had 48 hours to report so we went to the hospital I had planned to have our baby and had papers motorized so she could carry his last name so it delayed us getting married until November 23 rd 1987. Everything was going great it was my life he was my everything long story short he got called to active duty and was gone a year so when he came home he left me and the 2 girls for Tracy a girl in his unit anyway we got divorced around June 1996 is there any abjection common law marriage back then so I woul be intitled to his social Security And. Or veterans benefits

    • Hello Kimberly, thank you for your question.

      You can receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record if:
      • You are age 62 or older;
      • You were legally married to your ex-spouse for at least 10 years;
      • You are unmarried;
      • Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits and,
      • The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work.

      In cases where a common-law marriage may be involved, Social Security follows the state laws. So, check the laws in your state. For more information, please visit our Retirement Planner: If You Are Divorced.

    • Hi Petryl, thank you for your question. Unemployment benefits do not affect or reduce Social Security retirement and disability benefits. State unemployment compensation payments are not wages because they are paid due to unemployment rather than employment. However, income from Social Security may reduce your unemployment compensation. Contact your state unemployment office for information on how your state applies the reduction.

  4. Hello,
    I am 64 years old and divorced after 20 years of marriage. I will be filing for SS benefits in December to begin in Jan 2021. I have resigned from my full time position and is currently working part time. Are the only earnings SS limits are the earnings from actually working for an employer? Where can I find the guidelines for earning prior to FRA?

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