Social Security and You: 12 Questions ... 12 Answers


By Tom Margenau

I usually devote an entire column to just one subject so that I can thoroughly cover all the nuances. But today I’m going to go for a record. I will see if I can answer a dozen questions in the limited space I have. Obviously, the answers will be short and to the point.

Q: If I wait until 70 to file for Social Security, will my wife’s eventual widow’s benefit include the delayed retirement credits I will earn?

Yes. Her spousal rate while you are alive is based on your age 66 amount. But her widow’s benefit is based on your age 70 rate.

Q: I am almost 65 and still working and covered by my employer’s insurance. Do I need to file for Medicare?

You probably should file for Part A Medicare (hospital insurance) because it’s free. But you won’t need to take Part B Medicare (doctor’s insurance), which usually costs about $140 per month, until you retire and lose your employer’s coverage.

Q: My wife took her Social Security at 62. Will that reduce the widow’s benefit she will get on my record someday?

No. Her widow’s rate is really based on one thing only: her age when you die. Assuming she is 66 or older when that happens, she will get a 100 percent widow’s benefit on your record — no matter when she took her own Social Security.

Q: Do all Social Security retirement claims come with the option of taking retroactive benefits?

No. Only claims filed after full retirement age come with that option. And then there is a maximum of six months’ worth of retroactive benefits that can be paid.

Q: Do you recommend filing for benefits online or in person at a Social Security office?

If you have a simple retirement claim, then use the Social Security website. It’s a piece of cake. But if you have a potentially complicated claim (for example, if you want to use a “maximizing” strategy), then do it in person by calling SSA at 800-772-1213 to set up an appointment.

Q: My age 66 benefit is $2,749. My age 70 rate is projected to be $3,628. My wife’s age 66 rate is $2,228. Her age 70 benefit will be $2,940. We both wanted to wait until we are 70 to start our benefits. But someone told us there is a cap on what a married couple can get. What’s the cap?

There is no cap. If you both wait until 70 to start your Social Security, you each will get the full benefits you are due. There is something called the “family maximum,” but it sets a limit on benefits payable to Social Security claims involving dependent children.

Q: I am 62 and retired. I wanted to wait until 66 to start my Social Security. But I have a 32-year-old son who with Down syndrome. Can he get benefits on my account now while I wait until 66?

No. You must be signed up for Social Security before your son can get benefits on your record. Because he would be due an amount equal to 50 percent of your full retirement rate, that might be an incentive for you to file for your Social Security now.

Q: I just paid a whopping tax bill on my Social Security benefits. Can I have taxes withheld from my Social Security checks so I’m not hit with a big bill when I file my tax return?

Yes, you can. Call Social Security at 800-772-1213 to set that up.

Q: If I move to Costa Rica, can I get my Social Security checks there?

Assuming you are a U.S. citizen and are getting your own Social Security benefits, then you can have your checks sent to almost any place in the world. If you are not a U.S. citizen, or if you are getting benefits as a dependent on someone else’s Social Security account, the rules get a little messier. Go to the Social Security website and type in “payments outside the U.S.” in the “Search” box and read the publication that pops up.

Q: I turn 66 in August and want to start my Social Security then. When should I file for benefits?

I’d suggest you start the ball rolling two months ahead of time.

Q: I am 72 and still working. I have no intention of retiring anytime soon. How long can I delay starting my Social Security to get the maximum benefit?

You’re well past the deadline. Once you are older than 70, extra credits are no longer added to your Social Security check. So you are gaining nothing by not filing for Social Security. Do it tomorrow. At least you can claim 6 months’ worth of retroactive benefits.

Q: I am 62 and am ashamed to admit I fathered a child out of wedlock. He is now 6 years old. Will he get any of my Social Security?

Yes. He will get an amount equal to 50 percent of your full retirement rate while you are alive, and 75 percent after you die — until he is 18 years old.

If you have a Social Security question, Tom Margenau has the answer. Contact him at To find out more about Tom Margenau and to read past columns and see features from other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at