Is Social Security Fair to Women? Q: In a recent column explaining why most women usually get less from Social Security than men do, you said that Social Security rules are gender neutral and fair. You went on to say that society hasn't been fair, pointing out that women earn less …Read more. The Top 10 Social Security Myths If I had the space, I probably could write a column called "The Top 100 Social Security Myths." I see examples of them almost every day in the emails I get from my readers. Alas, I'll barely have room to cover the top 10. With Social Security, there …Read more. No Way to Run a Disability Program I think even my most anti-big government readers would admit there are some things that are best run by the federal government. For example, it's best to have national military services to fight our wars as opposed to a hodgepodge of state and local …Read more. When Faced With the Facts, What Do You Do? Someone once said, "You are entitled to your own set of opinions, but you are not entitled to your own set of facts." In other words, once you have all the facts about a situation, you certainly can come to your own conclusions about how you view …Read more.more articles
Retirement Benefits and Social Security Work Together Sometimes
Q: I am 58 years old and about to retire after 30 years of work for a county government in California. I was told that certain county employees in California, Texas, and a few other states could collect Social Security retirement benefits before the age of 62. Is this true?
A: No, you can't draw Social Security retirement benefits before age 62. And that's a fact whether you live and work in California, or Texas, or Timbuktu! Social Security is a federal program and the laws apply equally in all states.
But many state and county pension plans, and some private plans for that matter, offer to pay their early retirees a temporary benefit in lieu of Social Security until their real Social Security kicks in. In other words, if you are able to retire at age 58 with 30 years of service and collect a pension from the county you worked for, the county might provide you an extra benefit that's intended to supplement your pension until you reach Social Security age. Then at age 62, you apply for and get your Social Security payments, and your employer stops paying you that extra benefit.
Some pensioners, and even some pension plan managers, mistakenly refer to this as "temporary Social Security." But it is not a Social Security payment. It is just an extra benefit your employer provides. So you will have to check with your employer to find out if they offer this special benefit.
Q: I am about to turn 62 and plan to apply for my Social Security. Then, when I turn 65, I will get a pension from my former employer. I was told that when that happens, my Social Security benefits would be reduced. Is this true?
A: No, it's not true. Social Security retirement benefits are never reduced by any other pension you might receive.
On the other hand, the opposite is often true. Many public and private pensions are reduced when Social Security benefits kick in. But that almost always happens when the other pension is paid first.
And by the way, even though I said that Social Security retirement benefits are never reduced by any other pension you might receive, the same is not always true for Social Security disability benefits. There is a law that says the combination of a Social Security disability benefit and a worker's compensation payment cannot exceed 80 percent of the average income a person had before becoming disabled. If the two payments combined exceed that rate, one or the other benefit must be cut. In some states, the worker's compensation payment is adjusted. In other states, the Social Security disability benefit is reduced.
Q: I am about to turn 66 years old. I have been getting widow's benefits since I was 60. When I applied for those benefits, I was told that I might be able to switch to a higher amount on my own retirement account at age 66. When I recently went to my local Social Security office to inquire about this, I was handed the attached computer printout. (Note to my readers: I'm not reprinting it here because it's gibberish.) I was given this piece of paper with no explanation other than to "check out the numbers and make a decision." I have no idea what this printout is telling me. Can you help?
A: You unfortunately got stuck with one of the laziest Social Security Administration employees I ever heard of! What you were given is an internal SSA document that the representative was supposed to use to interpret your various options with respect to when to switch to your own retirement benefits. Based on the limited information I was able to get from the printout, it looks like your best option is to wait until age 70 and then switch from widow's benefits to retirement benefits. But please don't take my word for it. Go back to your local SSA office and demand to speak to a supervisor or manager who should give you better service.
To find out more about Tom Margenau and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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