Un­der­stand­ing how your fi­nances af­fect you, spouse can help in fu­ture

The Palm Beach Post - - YOUR MONEY - By Maria Ortega Maria Ortega is a pub­lic af­fairs spe­cial­ist for the So­cial Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion. If you have So­cial Se­cu­rity ques­tions, call 800-7721213.

Mar­riage is a cul­tural in­sti­tu­tion that ex­ists all over the world. Hav­ing a part­ner means shar­ing many things in­clud­ing a home and other prop­erty. Un­der­stand­ing how your fu­ture re­tire­ment might af­fect your spouse is im­por­tant. When you’re plan­ning for your fun and vi­brant golden years, here are a few things to re­mem­ber:

If a spouse ac­cepts re­duced re­tire­ment ben­e­fits be­fore start­ing spouse’s ben­e­fits (his or her spouse is younger), the spouse will not re­ceive 50 per­cent of the worker’s ben­e­fit amount.

Your full spouse’s ben­e­fit could be up to 50 per­cent of your spouse’s full re­tire­ment age amount if you are full re­tire­ment age when you take it. If you qual­ify for your own re­tire­ment ben­e­fit and a spouse’s ben­e­fit, we al­ways pay your own ben­e­fit first. (For ex­am­ple, you are el­i­gi­ble for $400 from your own re­tire­ment and $150 as a spouse for a to­tal of $550.) The re­duc­tion rates for re­tire­ment and spouses ben­e­fits are dif­fer­ent. If your spouse is younger, you can­not re­ceive ben­e­fits un­less he or she is re­ceiv­ing ben­e­fits (ex­cept for di­vorced spouses). If you took your re­duced re­tire­ment first while wait­ing for your spouse to reach re­tire­ment age, when you add spouse’s ben­e­fits later, your own re­tire­ment por­tion re­mains re­duced which causes the to­tal re­tire­ment and spouses ben­e­fit to­gether to to­tal less than 50 per­cent of the worker’s amount. You can find out more on at www.so­cialse­cu­rity. gov/OACT/quick­calc/spouse.html.

On the other hand, if your spouse’s re­tire­ment ben­e­fit is higher than your re­tire­ment ben­e­fit, and he or she chooses to take re­duced ben­e­fits and dies first, your sur­vivor ben­e­fit will be re­duced, but may be higher than what your spouse re­ceived.

If the de­ceased worker started re­ceiv­ing re­duced re­tire­ment ben­e­fits be­fore their full re­tire­ment age, a spe­cial rule called the re­tire­ment in­sur­ance ben­e­fit limit may ap­ply to the sur­viv­ing spouse. The re­tire­ment in­sur­ance ben­e­fit limit is the max­i­mum sur­vivor ben­e­fit you may re­ceive. Gen­er­ally, the limit is the higher of:

■ The re­duced monthly re­tire­ment ben­e­fit to which the de­ceased spouse would have been en­ti­tled if they had lived, or

■ 82.5 per­cent of the unre­duced de­ceased spouse’s monthly ben­e­fit if they had started re­ceiv­ing ben­e­fits at their full re­tire­ment age (rather than choos­ing to re­ceive a re­duced re­tire­ment ben­e­fit early).

Know­ing how your fi­nances af­fect your spouse’s can help both of you avoid fu­ture im­pacts on your in­comes. When it comes to in­for­ma­tion, we have over 80 years of ex­pe­ri­ence. Ac­cess a wealth of use­ful in­for­ma­tion as well as our ben­e­fits plan­ners at www.so­cialse­cu­rity.gov/plan­ners.

Ap­ply­ing on­line is the fastest way to get So­cial Se­cu­rity ben­e­fits. Here are some of the types of ben­e­fits you can ap­ply for:

■ Re­tire­ment or Spouse’s Ben­e­fits – You must be at least 61 years and 9 months old and want your ben­e­fits to start no more than four months in the fu­ture. Ap­ply at www.so­cialse­cu­rity.gov/ re­tire­on­line.

■ Dis­abil­ity – You can ap­ply on­line for dis­abil­ity ben­e­fits or con­tinue an ap­pli­ca­tion you al­ready started. Ap­ply for Dis­abil­ity at www.so­cialse­cu­rity. gov/dis­abil­i­ty­on­line.

■ Ex­tra Help with Medi­care Pre­scrip­tion Drug Costs – Many peo­ple need as­sis­tance with the cost of med­i­ca­tions. Ap­ply for Ex­tra Help at www.so­cialse­cu­rity. gov/i1020.

■ Medi­care – Medi­care is a na­tional health in­sur­ance pro­gram ad­min­is­tered by the U.S. fed­eral gov­ern­ment that be­gan in 1966. You can ap­ply on­line or con­tinue an ap­pli­ca­tion you al­ready started at www.so­cialse­cu­rity. gov/re­tire­on­line.

■ Sup­ple­men­tal Se­cu­rity In­come (SSI) – SSI is a fed­eral in­come pro­gram funded by gen­eral tax rev­enues de­signed to help aged, blind, and dis­abled peo­ple who have lit­tle or no in­come. You may be able to ap­ply on­line if you meet cer­tain re­quire­ments. See if you can ap­ply on­line for SSI at www.so­cialse­cu­rity.gov/ ben­e­fits/ssi.


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