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Answers for Women About Social Security

Tom Margenau on

A: Although each questioner will phrase her inquiry differently, this is probably the most common question a woman will ask me.

A woman will get half of her husband's Social Security (assuming it is more than her own retirement benefit) if she waits until age 66 to claim spousal benefits. My guess is that you started your benefits before you were 66. If you took them at age 62, for example, you should be getting about one-third of your husband's Social Security.

And frankly, I doubt if "every woman" you know is getting half of her husband's Social Security. Statistics show the majority of women start taking benefits before their full retirement age, which means most women are getting less than the 50 percent spousal rate.

Q: I always earned more money than my husband, so now I get a higher Social Security benefit than he receives. Someone told me that if I die first, he won't get anything extra from my account because only women can get widow's benefits. Is this true?

A: Well, technically it's true that only women get "widow's" benefits. But a man, including your husband, would certainly be entitled to "widower's" benefits. The eligibility rules for widows and widowers are the same. So if you die first, your husband will keep getting his own retirement benefit. Then he will get the difference between your rate and his rate in the form of widower's benefits added to his Social Security check.

Q: I just turned 62. My ex-husband says I should take reduced spousal benefits on his record now and then at age 66, switch to 100 percent of my own Social Security. How do I go about doing that?

A: You can't do that. The rules say if you take any Social Security benefits before age 66, you MUST file for your own reduced retirement first. Only after you are getting those benefits will they look to your ex's record to see if you are due any additional divorced spouse benefits.

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If you have a Social Security question, Tom Margenau has the answer. Contact him at thomas.margenau@comcast.net. To find out more about Tom Margenau and to read past columns and see features from other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.


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