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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. Kathleen

    I wanted to know my maximum earnings amount I can make before can be penalized

    • Luis A.

      Hi Kathleen. In 2019, if you are under your full retirement age, and your earnings are more than $17,640 a year, or $1,470 a month, we withhold $1 of benefits for every $2. In 2020, the earnings limits are $18,240 a year, or $1,520 a month. Again, if your earnings are above these limits, we withhold $1 of benefits for every $2. You can find more information about the earnings limits here. You can also read out publication titled “How Work Affects Your Benefits.” We hope this helps.

    • Luis A.

      Hi Kathleen. In 2019, if you are under your full retirement age, and your earnings are more than $17,640 a year, or $1,470 a month, we withhold $1 of benefits for every $2. In 2020, the earnings limits are $18,240 a year, or $1,520 a month. Again, if your earnings are above these limits, we withhold $1 of benefits for every $2. You can find more information about the earnings limits here. You can also read out publication titled “How Work Affects Your Benefits.” We hope this helps.

  2. Eileen T.

    My ex spouse is on his 4th marriage. I was the first and married over 10 years. I will be 62 and in 2 years the ex will be 62. The 3rd wife also was married over 10 years. She is about 10 years younger. The fourth wife has a small child with him. Question is can both I and the 3rd wife collect off of his social security?

    • Luis A.

      Hi Eileen. It may be possible for more than one ex-spouse to receive benefits. Keep in mind that to be eligible for divorced spouse benefits, all parties must have been married for at least ten years, as well as all must be at least age 62, and all ex-spouses cannot be eligible for a higher benefit on their own record. For more information about divorced spouse’s benefits, please visit our Benefits Planner: If You Are Divorced. For specific questions about your case, please call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday, between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. We hope this information helps.

    • Luis A.

      Hi Eileen. You can receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record (even if they have remarried) if: you are unmarried, your marriage lasted for at least ten years, you are age 62 or older, your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits, and you are not eligible for a higher benefit on your own record. The amount of benefits you get has no effect on the amount of benefits your ex-spouse or their current spouse may receive. For more information about divorced spouse’s benefits, please visit our Benefits Planner: If You Are Divorced. For specific questions about your case, please call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday, between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. We hope this information helps.

  3. Dara V.

    I will turn 62 in Dec. 2019. I filed in Sep 2019 & will start receiving benefits in Feb 2020. Do I receive retroactive pymt for Sept thru Jan.?

    • Luis A.

      Hi Dara. Thank you for your question. The law generally allows retroactive payments, only after the applicant has reached his or her full retirement age. No retroactive benefits are payable for any month before individuals reach their full retirement age. Unfortunately, but for your security, we do not have access to personal information in this forum. For specific questions about your case, please call our toll-free telephone number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday, between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. We hope this helps.

  4. vergie e.

    why do you get penlylizerd for going over 17000 dollards if you are 65 already

    • Luis A.

      Hi, Vergie. Good news! When you reach full retirement age, your earnings no longer reduce your benefits, no matter how much you earn. If you are younger than full retirement age during all of 2019, we must deduct $1 from your benefits for each $2 you earn above $17,640. For more information, visit our Getting Benefits While Working web page. We hope this helps.

  5. GUADALUPE R.

    born in 1960 when am gone be able to retire

  6. martha r.

    Im born in 1958 when ken i ask for returement

  7. ismara

    my dad he did not make all the point , he is 70 year old can he get S S he still marriage and my mom still working

  8. Markus

    I have a question: What is the highest payout allowed by the SSB? I am 65 and am merely wondering if there is a cap put on the benefits amount of a wealthy retiree or if the payout is based on an eligible persons lifetime earnings.

  9. Leslie M.

    I retired at age 62 on a Boeing pension and social security. Now, I have been married to a Panamanian woman for 7 years and lived with her for 17 years.
    She will be 60 next January. Can she qualify to receive partial payment on my social security account?
    Thanks for a reply

  10. ann

    can I claim social security now at 63 from ex spouse and when I reitre at 67 can I claim mine?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Ann. Thanks for question. Thanks for your comment. To be eligible for divorced spouse benefits, you had to be married to your former spouse for at least 10 years, and you cannot be eligible for a higher benefit on your own record. For more information on how to qualify for divorced spouse benefits, visit here. We hope this helps.

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