10 Things you may not know about Social Security

Several months ago I posted about collecting Social Security early (at 62) and how long it would take for others starting at full retirement age or at 70 to catch up in payments. Several people have pointed out that while my assumptions may make sense for individuals (especially those who may not be in great health) early collection may not be that straight forward for couples.

I decided to dig around for other information related to Social Security that some might not be aware of and found the following:

Military Service Earnings

Since 1957, if you had military service earnings for active duty (including active duty for training), you paid Social Security taxes on those earnings. Since 1988, inactive duty service in the Armed Forces reserves (such as weekend drills) has also been covered by Social Security.

Under certain circumstances, special extra earnings for your military service from 1957 through 2001 can be credited to your record for Social Security purposes.

If your active military service occurred

  • From 1957 through 1967, Social Security will add the extra credits to your record when you apply for Social Security benefits.
  • From 1968 through 2001, you do not need to do anything to receive these extra credits. The credits were automatically added to your record.
  • After 2001, there are no special extra earnings credits for military service.

Marriage and Social Security Benefits

Social Security calculates a married couple’s lifetime earnings independently. Spouses get monthly benefits based on their individual earnings. Therefore, each spouse receives a monthly benefit amount based on his or her own earnings. Furthermore, if one person earned lower wages than the other, or did not earn enough Social Security credits to be insured for retirement benefits, he or she may be eligible to receive benefits as a spouse.

Common in Law marriage and Social Security Benefits

Social Security follows the state laws. So, check the laws in your state. To get survivors or spouses benefits you generally must live in a state that recognizes common-law marriage. However, most states (even those that do not recognize in-state common-law marriage) will recognize a common-law marriage entered into in another state that does.

A spouse’s benefit amount

A spouse receives one-half of the retired worker’s full benefit unless the spouse begins collecting benefits before full retirement age. If the spouse begins collecting benefits before full retirement age, the amount of the spouse’s benefit is reduced by a percentage based on the number of months before he/she reaches full retirement age.

For example, based on the full retirement age of 66, if a spouse begins collecting benefits:

  • At age 65, the benefit amount would be about 46 percent of the retired worker’s full benefit;
  • At age 64, it would be about 42 percent;
  • At age 63, 37.5 percent; and
  • At age 62, 35 percent.

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  1. You might also want to mention the Survivor Benefits for those who are widowed.

  2. You explained that a divorced spouse can apply for spousal benefits even if the former spouse has not yet applied for benefits.

    Is that the same if a married spouse files for spousal benefits of a spouse who is over 65 but who has put off filing for benefits until she is 70?

    My husband is 5 years younger than I. WHen I turn 70, he will be 65. The plan is for me to apply for SS benefits when I turn 70, while he files for spousal benefits until he is 70.

    My question is, what if I die before I turn 70 and apply for benefits? Will my spouse be able to apply for spousal benefits when he is 65 even if I didn’t live long enough to apply at 70 (but am over 65 of course)?

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