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spousal benefits

Social Security Benefits After First Spouse Dies

When your spouse dies there are a few things that happen to your Social Security benefits that you need to be aware of. These things will affect your benefits significantly if your own benefit is less than that of your late spouse’s benefit (or Primary Insurance Amount). These changes to available benefits could also result in increased benefits if your own benefit is the larger of the two. These same impacts are apparent for ex-spouses as well. While reading the below, just replace “your spouse” with “ex-spouse” and all provisions are the same. Spousal Benefits cease When your spouse dies, the spousal benefits that you may have been receiving will cease. This means that your own benefit is the only retirement benefit that you will receive at this point. For example, Jane and John, both age 64, have been receiving Social Security benefits for a couple of years. Jane’s PIA […]

Social Security for Ex-Spouses – Swim with Jim Video

In the video cast above I am talking with Jim Ludwick, of Mainstreet Financial Planning, Inc. about benefits from Social Security for ex-spouses. Let me know if you have any questions! If for some reason the video is not showing up in the article – you can find it on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COy0NtaGRsU

Social Security Spousal Benefits versus Survivor Benefits

I’ve written a lot about Social Security Spousal Benefits and Survivor Benefits on these pages, but oftentimes there is confusion about how they are applied.  There are things about them that are common, but for the most part there are some real differences that you need to understand as you make decisions about applying for one or the other of these benefits. For one thing – Survivor Benefits and Spousal Benefits are benefits that you may be entitled to that are based on someone else’s record: your spouse (or ex-spouse) to be exact.  No matter what your own Social Security benefit might be, you have access to the Spousal Benefit and Survivor Benefit, if, of course, you have or had a spouse with a Social Security retirement benefit available on his or her record. In addition, it is important to note that Spousal Benefits and Survivor Benefits are mutually exclusive.  […]

Important Ages for Social Security

There are many specific important ages to know as you’re planning your Social Security filing strategy. The ages can become quite confusing and jumbled together as you plan.  It’s important to know at what age you can take specific actions, as well as what the consequences can be if you take a particular action earlier than it is appropriate. These ages are pervasive throughout this blog and my book, but I hadn’t compiled all of the important ages into a single place, so listed below are what I have determined to be the most important ages with regard to Social Security, as well as what is important about that age.  Enjoy! Age Description 22-62 This is the forty years during which your monthly earnings are compiled to develop your initial Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME).  This figure is then used to determine your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) which is used […]

Example Using Spousal Benefits and Delayed Retirement Credits for Social Security

(Photo credit: jodigreen) Note: with the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 into law, File & Suspend and Restricted Application have been effectively eliminated for anyone born in 1954 or later. If born before 1954 there are some options still available, but these are limited as well. Please see the article The Death of File & Suspend and Restricted Application for more details. This particular situation was presented to me by a reader.  Since the facts represent a fairly common situation that we haven’t addressed here in the past, I thought I’d present it here for discussion. Here’s the original question (altered a bit for clarity): My wife and I are age 65 & 67 respectively.  We’re both still working part-time, and my wife has now 20 years of earnings on her Social Security record.  At this point her PIA is approximately 45% of my PIA, and increasing […]

The Social Security Survivor Benefit – Part 2

Note: you can find the first part of this discussion of Social Security Survivor Benefits at the link. Part 1 covered the basics of Survivor Benefits, and this article covers other considerations with the Survivor Benefit, including non-spouse survivor’s benefits and coordinating the Survivor Benefit with your own benefit. As mentioned in the prior articles, don’t expect to fully understand these calculations and definitions in the first run-through. Check over the other articles (Part 1 here, Spouse Benefits here and especially the further explanation of Spouse Benefits here) for more information, and post questions in the comment section if they come up.

The Social Security Spousal Benefit – Further Explanation

Image via Wikipedia Note: with the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 into law, File & Suspend and Restricted Application have been effectively eliminated for anyone born in 1954 or later. If born before 1954 there are some options still available, but these are limited as well. Please see the article The Death of File & Suspend and Restricted Application for more details. Following up my article which provided several brief examples of the Social Security Spousal Benefit, I thought I’d provide some further explanation and background for the provision. It appears from some of the feedback I have received that there is a great deal of confusion over this provision, so hopefully the further background explanation that I’m providing here will be of help. I have listed below several additional background details about how the Social Security System works, in order to help you better understand the […]

The Mystery of Social Security

Social Security has become a significant part of many retirees’ sustenance, ever since it was first introduced back in the 1930’s. As the traditional pension plan goes the way of the buggy-whip and common investor behavior leads to poor results in savings plans (if there are any savings at all!), the Social Security benefit becomes more and more important. Unfortunately, the way Social Security works is a mystery for most folks. There’s really not much in the way of guidance for using the system, and relying solely on the phone representatives from the Social Security Administration is bound to lead you to a less-than-optimal result. As with most financial activities, it pays to learn as much as you can about your options, possible strategies, and the pluses and minuses of various choices that you make. A Social Security Owner’s Manual is an attempt at providing you with the groundwork to […]

Spousal Benefits are for One Spouse at a Time

Note: with the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 into law, File & Suspend and Restricted Application have been effectively eliminated for anyone born in 1954 or later. If born before 1954 there are some options still available, but these are limited as well. Please see the article The Death of File & Suspend and Restricted Application for more details. This post intends to clarify a question that comes up repeatedly:  both spouses cannot collect Spousal Benefits at the same time. If you stop and think about the mechanics of Spousal Benefits, it should become clear to you that this isn’t possible.  Below is a recap of the rules that are necessary for Spousal Benefits to work. Image via Wikipedia Rules for Spousal Benefits 1. In order for a spouse to file for Spousal Benefits, the other spouse in the couple must have filed for benefits as well.  […]

Deemed Filing

Many times the question comes up – Since my spouse has filed for Social Security retirement benefits, can I file for only the Spousal Benefit? Image by T a k via Flickr This is certainly available for the individual that is at or over Full Retirement Age (FRA).  This is a common circumstance that many folks employ.  One spouse files for benefits and the other, hoping to achieve the full Delayed Retirement Credits (DRCs), while still receiving a benefit, files for the Spousal Benefit only.  This is a perfectly allowable method.  See this article for more information on filing for the Spousal Benefit only. On the other hand, if you’re under FRA, this option is not available to you.  This is because, prior to FRA, if you file for the Spousal Benefit, you are deemed to have filed for your own benefit as well.  This is known as “deemed filing”, […]

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