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

April 6, 2017 • By

Last Updated: April 6, 2017

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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About the Author

Suze Orman is an award-winning personal finance expert.

Comments

  1. David R.

    How do I apply for spousal benefits and not hurt my retirement at age 70

  2. Pam G.

    What type of form do you have to fill out to empower you to manage your parent(s) social security if they should become disabled?

    TIA

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Pam. Generally speaking, if we decide the beneficiary is incapable of managing or directing the management of his or her benefits, we will select someone to serve as his or her representative payee. If you are interested in applying to be a representative payee, you should read our publication: A Guide For Representative Payees, to understand a payee’s responsibilities. If you have specific questions, or to make an appointment, please call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to speak to one of our representatives. Or you can contact your local Social Security office. Generally, you’ll have a shorter wait time if you call later in the day. We hope this helps!

  3. Marci M.

    My question is, my late husband was married to his ex wife for 43 years. While me and my husband was married for 8 years then he passed away. I believe the ex wife recieve the benefits. Is there any chance to file benefits for me as a current spouse. Thank you. MM of Seattle

  4. Shirley A.

    If I’m drawing my S.S. will I be able to draw any of my ex husband’s. We were married 22 years. I have been married 2 more times. Once i was divorced and the third one died. Second marriage was only less than 3 years and 3rd one was 11 years but he didn’t draw very much as he was retired military. Thank you

  5. Richard P.

    I asked may times on line to SS before and never received any replies. Question: my wife of 37+ years is not a us citizen nor a green card holder, and only live in the US a total of 3 years, so she can not receive SS in her name. Can she receive SS based on my SS when I past away, we live overseas and she would remain living overseas? I was born in the USA and retired and Started drawing SS payments at age 65 one year before full payments at age 66.

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Richard, thank you for your question. To inquire and file for benefits, you would need to contact your nearest Federal Benefits Unit for assistance.

      We also recommend that individuals that live outside the United States visit our Office of International Operations home page, which provides additional information for our customers living abroad.

  6. Monte S.

    If I die before my wife will she receive any of my SS benefits?

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Monte, thank you for your question. Your wife’s survivor amount would be based on your earnings. The more you paid into Social Security, the higher her benefit will be. If you are already receiving benefits when you die, survivors benefits are based on that amount. The percentage of that amount that your wife would receive depends on how old she is when she files as a widow. We are only going to pay the highest benefit amount from either record, meaning she won’t get both her own retirement and widows benefits but the higher of the two.

      Widows benefit are payable as early as age 60 (for a reduced benefit) or a full widows benefit at full retirement age or older.

      Use our Survivors Planner to look at how your family members are protected if you die.

  7. Eileen B.

    If I accept my benefits now and my husband retires in 5 years, it is my understanding that once my husband retires, my benefits will increase – collecting mind and a portion of his equally spouse benefits. It that correct?

    Also, if we filing our income tax jointly, are my benefits taxed, even if I make only a salary of $8,000.00/yr??

  8. James

    my daughter is a widow age 54 can she apply for ss benefits at age 62 and at age 67 drop her benefits and apply for her husbands benefits and is there a reduction

  9. steven e.

    I start collecting my social security in March, I am still working. How much can I make without penalty and does it count for the first year even if I start collecting in March?

    • Ann C.

      Thanks for your question, Steven. The earnings limit in 2019 for those under their full retirement age is $17,640. If you retire mid-year, we count your earnings for the entire year. We have a special earnings test rule that we apply to annual earnings for one year—usually the first year of retirement. Also, check out our publication, How Work Affects Your Benefits, for more information. We hope this helps!

  10. MARCIA R.

    I am getting ready to sign up to received my SS benefits when I turn 66 on 4/1/2019.
    Can my husband begin taking 1/2 of my benefits at that time? He will be 66 on 1/28/2019
    Thank You, Marcia Reed
    MLReed7@aol.com

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Marcia. Your husband may be eligible to collect benefits on your record when you apply. Remember, if someone is eligible for both, his or her own benefit and for benefits as a spouse, we always pay their own first. If their spousal benefits are higher than their own retirement benefits, he or she will get a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse benefit. Please visit our Retirement Planner: Benefits For Your Spouse for more information. Thanks.

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