Weekly Update 5/28/13 Ask Bob

Ask Bob

What happens to my Social Security benefits if I get remarried?

Q: If a single woman has already begun taking her Social Security benefits at age 62 and then gets married, do her benefits get reset because she is now a spouse? And two, will she get survivor benefits from the marriage? Or is it smarter for her to just live with the guy and both of them continue to collect their respective benefits?

A: According to a spokesperson for the Social Security Administration (SSA), her marriage will not have any effect on her retirement benefit. Generally, if the marriage lasts for one continuous year, and her new spouse is entitled to retirement or disability benefits, and her primary insurance amount (PIA) is less than 50% of his PIA, she will be eligible for a spouse’s benefit on his record. Here is a link to more information on Spouse benefits.

As for the second question, the SSA spokesperson said the following: Generally, a widow can qualify for a Survivors benefit if she was married to the deceased worker for not less than nine months immediately prior to the day in which he died. Additionally, she can qualify for the one-time Lump Sum Death Burial Payment without meeting the nine-month duration of marriage requirement if they were living in the same residence at the time of his death. Here is a link to Survivors Benefits For a Widow or Widower

Q: How can one find out what the highest possible Social Security benefit (for a husband and wife household) can be?

A: In 2013, the maximum Social Security benefit payable is $2,533 per month for workers retiring at full retirement age (FRA), an SSA spokesperson said. With that said, the maximum benefit payable to a worker and his spouse at their FRA is approximately $3,799 ($2,533 + $1266).

And if he waits until age 70 to claim, the amount is even more impressive: $5,015 ($3,343 + $1,671).

Note: Effective after May 1982, the monthly benefit is rounded to the next lower multiple of $1.00.

Here is a link to a fact sheet listing the 2013 Social Security Changes.

Q: What is the max that someone can get, say for example, if a person had an annual income of $1 million?

A: The maximum monthly benefit payable to a worker retiring at FRA in 2013 who has paid the Taxable maximum earnings for all years that SSA used to compute his or her benefit is $2,533.

Q: Does hitting the earnings cap have some bearing on the limit that someone can get?

A: Working and earning above the annual earnings limit will reduce the amount a beneficiary will receive until he or she reaches full retirement age. SSA uses a formula to determine how much a beneficiary’s benefit must be reduced:

– If you are under full retirement age for the entire year, SSA will deduct $1 from your benefit payments for every $2 you earn above the annual limit. For 2013, that limit is $15,120.

– In the year you reach full retirement age, SSA will deduct $1 in benefits for every $3 you earn above a different limit, but we only count earnings before the month you reach your full retirement age. If you will reach full retirement age in 2013, the limit on your earnings for the months before full retirement age is $40,080. (If you were born in 1947 or 1948, your full retirement age is 66 years.)

– Starting with the month you reach full retirement age, you can get your benefits with no limit on your earnings.

Check out Bob’s featured retirement piece in last week’s Wall Street Journal.

Feel free to submit retirement related questions to askbob@hvsfinancial.com.

Have a productive week.

Ron Mastrogiovanni
HealthView Services, Inc.
150A Andover Street
Danvers, MA 01923

mobile: 617-875-9313
fax: 978-561-1857


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