Retired on Social Security? You Could Be Losing $Money$ !
Ignorance can be very, very costly...
What we lost and how to benefit from what is rightfully yours....
Being retired, and drawing my social Security retirement income, my wife and I have looked forward to when she could begin to draw hers, too. One of our sons, however, has wisely urged her to wait until she is 70, in order to maximize her retirement benefits. (She is in apparently excellent health, and her family tends to live well into their senior years. This decision to delay might not be possible, or even the best decision, for others who become eligible.)
Some of you already know where this story is headed. If you don't (and I suspect a great many readers do not) then read on. Doing so could put substantially more money in your monthly retirement funds.
As I was still working when I decided to start drawing on my retirement funds at my age 65, our focus soon shifted to the years ahead of us, years when I would be fully retired, years in which our combined retirement incomes from the Social Security Administration (SSA) would be even more important.
In a visit to our local SSA office to discuss my wife's future retirement and Medicare coverages, we were told how much retirement income she would have at age 70, if nothing else changed from the day of that visit. (Make a note here to go to the Social Security website later and read the pamphlet that deals with what every woman should know about Social Security....there are some great pamphlets there for men, too.)
What we were not told is what you can probably benefit from knowing, and it has cost us, over the last two years of my modest Social Security retirement income, almost $9,000!
When we called more recently about Medicare coverage for my wife and checked again on her future retirement benefits, we were given a lower figure for her future income at age 70. That didn't jibe with what we had been told on that earlier visit. The fact that this happens much too often, is reason enough to double check from different sources.
Today, while ordering a replacement Medicare card for me, we asked to receive a written statement of what her actual retirement income would be. That is when a gal at the local Social Security office (probably with an invigorated mind from having just returned from vacation) noticed that we had "missed out" on the $9,000.
What she told us, and what the other personnel had failed to explain to our understanding, was that at age 66 my wife had become eligible for a Social Security benefit equal to half of my retirement income every month, and at no prejudice to what her own benefit would be at age 70!
As my wife is now over 68, and Social Security can only go back a maximum of 6 months of her unclaimed benefit, she had missed out on the $9,000 worth of benefits she has been entitled to since her age 66!
The SSA staffer we spoke to today, felt sorry that our multiple contacts with other staffers in her office had not alerted us earlier to the now lost benefits. She scheduled an appointment for my wife to go six days from now and sign the needed forms to start receiving the benefits (plus the benefits of the previous six months.)
The responsibility is ours. Your responsibility is yours. The question we should have asked, which might have made my wife eligible for that $9,000? "Are there any other benefits that either one of us are eligible for, now and in the future, that we need to be made aware of?" That still doesn't absolutely guarantee you will get the information you want and need, but it's a big step in the right direction. The SSA people work hard, and they need any compliments and inspiration we can give them.
Banks can help in this, especially for couples who have a joint account and where one spouse is, or soon will be, eligible for retirement income from the Social Security Administration.
Such a bank can easily note account holders who are receiving SSA retirement income checks automatically deposited to their accounts, or could potentially be receiving them soon. They can also easily determine the age of that account holder's spouse from the records they required for the spouse when opening the joint account. Then the bank can provide a customer service by insuring that the spouse is aware of the SSA "Spouse Benefit."
Banks that provide that service, even to such spouses who are only approaching age 66, can benefit from potentially increased deposits, improved bank and customer borrowing power, and from customer appreciation.
The rest of us? Perhaps that added income (in our case the added $9,000 in purchasing power) might help spur today's sluggish economy and lagging job opportunities.
I'm all in favor of having green...and I am even in favor of recycling it!
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Contacting the Social Security Administration:
- The United States Social Security Administration
Click above for this main website of the Social Security Administration. It is the right starting point for your contacts with and questions about the SSA.
What Every Woman Should Know
- What Every Woman Should Know
Click above for this very helpful pamphlet for women with questions about Social Security, or who want to know answers to questions they may not have even thought of until they read it.