Senior Living



Social Security and You: Virus Means More Work for Me!

Tom Margenau on

Just ask me if I'm getting weary of the coronavirus! And I'm not coming at my dislike for the pandemic for any of the normal reasons: the social distancing, the masks, the confusing signals from Washington, etc. etc. What really makes me dislike the disease is that folks must be getting tired of watching "Tiger King" and "Ozark" and other streaming options and are instead thinking up Social Security questions to send me. Lately, I've been getting about 50 emails every day. And yesterday, you helped me break a record. I got 122 emails from my readers! In just one day!

Oh, I guess I shouldn't complain. I mean, how many games of Scrabble can I play with my wife before we really get on each other's nerves? So, answering your questions gives me something to do to help fill these "stay at home" days.

But before I get to some of these questions, let me make this point. Because of the high volume of emails I get, I simply do not have time to get into complicated issues. Some readers send me emails that go on and on and on. I understand. I know you think you should give me as much background information as possible to preface your question. But remember that your email is just one of hundreds of emails I have to deal with each week. So, please: Keep your questions as short as possible. Now, here are some of the short and sweet emails I got yesterday.

Q: When I was 62, I started getting widows benefits on my husband's Social Security record. But I continued to work part time. And I'm still working. I am about to turn 70, and I checked with Social Security about switching to my own account. But they said my own rate, even with the bonus I get for working until 70, is about $150 less than my widows rate. So, do I have to switch to my own and get less money? What should I do?

A: You do not have to switch to your own benefit. You can just continue to receive the higher widows rate.

In fact, if you are working just to boost your own Social Security benefit rate, it's not worth it. I'd quit tomorrow. Your widows benefit will probably always be more than your own retirement check ever will be.


On the other hand, if you are working because you like your job or you like the extra money it gives you, then go for it! And if you keep working long enough, there is a slim chance that somewhere way down the road, your own retirement benefit will inch past your widows rate, and you could make the switch then.

Q: I am 64. My husband is 59. I only worked a short time outside the home, so I am due a very small Social Security check. Can I get my husband's Social Security instead of my own?

A: You made the same mistake my wife did. You robbed the cradle and married a man who is five years younger than you are. While there may be some advantages to that (although my wife no longer sees any), one of the disadvantages is that you must wait until your husband is getting Social Security before you can get any benefits on his record. So, you can start your own benefits now and then switch to higher spousal benefits on your husband's account once he applies for his own Social Security.

Q: I have been getting my own Social Security since 2003. At the same time, my wife, who never worked, was given what they called a "portion" of my Social Security. My wife died two months ago. Should that spousal portion she was getting be added back into my benefit amount?


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