Senior Living

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Health & Spirit

Social Security and You: Short and Quick

Tom Margenau on

Because Social Security rules can be so confusing to so many people, and because it can take some time to explain those rules, I usually spend an entire column trying to clarify just one topic. But every once in a while, I like to give short and quick answers to as many questions as possible covering a wide array of subjects.

Q: I am turning 66 and am about to file for my Social Security. What documents will I need?

A: Generally, you will need your birth certificate and a copy of your last W-2 form (or tax return if you are self-employed). You need the former to prove you are old enough to qualify for benefits. You need the latter because your benefit is based on your earnings. The Social Security Administration will have a record of all your past earnings, but they may not have the most recent year posted yet.

Q: If I apply for my Social Security at age 62 but still work part time, I understand that I am penalized if I make more than about $16,000 per year. Will those penalties apply to me for the rest of my life?

A: No. Once you reach age 66, those penalties go away. You could make a million dollars per year from age 66 on and you'd still get your Social Security checks.

Q: We have an unusual situation. My wife and I just got married about two years ago. I am 72, and she is 71. And this was a first-time marriage for both of us. But I'm worried that I might die before we hit the 10-year marriage mark and my wife won't get widow's benefits on my record. Are there exceptions to that rule?

A: The 10-year marriage rule only applies to divorced people. So assuming you two lovebirds are still married when you die, and assuming your Social Security benefit rate is higher than hers, your wife will get widow's benefits on your account.

Q: I am getting my own Social Security. My ex-husband is getting a lot more than I am. I wonder if I am due anything on his record. But if I am, I don't want to hurt him. Will his check get cut if I get some of his Social Security?

A: Anything paid to a divorced spouse is just an add-on benefit. In other words, if you are due any extra benefits on his record, it won't take a dime away from what he is getting. Your own benefit can be supplemented up to one third to one half of his, depending on your age.

Q: I have power of attorney for my elderly mother. I called SSA to file a change of address, and they wouldn't talk to me. What gives?

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