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Sometimes Trying to Maximize Will Minimize Your Social Security I thought I was done, at least for a while, writing columns about Social Security maximizing strategies. But as I've pointed out in past columns, probably 80 percent of the emails I get from my readers have to do with this topic de jour of the baby …Read more. Benefit Checks Are Accurate Q: I am 82 years old. My husband is 85. Based on a recent column you wrote about wives getting benefits from their husband's account, I think I am due more money from Social Security. How do I go about getting what is rightfully mine? A: I probably …Read more. Clarifying Widow's Benefits Q: In past columns, you have said that if a woman is 66 or older when her husband dies, her widow's benefit will equal what the husband was getting at the time of death. But when my husband died several months ago, I started getting slightly more …Read more. Full Retirement Age Going Up Q: You keep saying the full retirement age is 66. But as you know, many of us have to wait longer to get full Social Security benefits. For example, I was born in 1955 and I have to be 66 and 2 months. What I want to know is this: If I want to take …Read more.
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Three Big Social Security Mistakes a Woman Can Make


Mistake No. 1: Letting a man fill out your self-employment tax return:

Q: My ex-husband and I used to run our own business about 20 years ago. We did this for about five years. Now that I am about to turn 62 and am thinking of retiring, I'm paying more attention to my Social Security. And I've noticed that there are no earnings posted to my Social Security record for those five years when we had the business. We made pretty good money on the business and always filed a joint tax return.

Why didn't I get credit for my share of our business income?

A: I'll bet a man was your accountant and filled out your tax returns while you had the business with your husband. Or your ex-husband prepared the taxes himself.

Simply filing a joint tax return has nothing to do with the assignment of earnings and credits for Social Security purposes. The Social Security part of a self-employment tax return is a form called the Schedule SE. And during my 32- year career with the Social Security Administration, I'd guess that on 95 percent of the tax returns I saw involving mom and pop businesses (probably completed by men 99.9 percent of the time), pop's name and pop's Social Security number were listed on the Schedule SE. That means all the earnings and all the credits were posted to pop's Social Security record. And mom got zilch.

Assuming you were jointly running the business, all your accountant (or husband) needed to do was file two Schedule SEs, dividing the net profit from the business between you and your husband — his name and SSN on one and your name and SSN on the other.

You can check with the IRS to find out if there is anything you can do about this. But because it was so long ago, I think you're going to learn the answer is no. And you, like many women who run businesses with their husbands, will be stuck with a big gap in your Social Security record.

Mistake Number 2: Not putting up with the jerk for another few months:

Q: I was married to my husband for just two months shy of 10 years before we divorced.

That was 25 years ago. I never remarried. I always thought I could get part of his Social Security. But now that I'm about to turn 65, I just learned that a divorced wife has to be married for 10 years to collect her ex's Social Security. Is there anything I can do about this?

A: Nothing. You're stuck with a hard and fast rule that says a marriage must last at least 10 years before a divorced woman can be eligible for any benefits on her ex-husband's Social Security record.

I'm sure that 25 years ago, Social Security was the last thing you were thinking about. You just wanted to get rid of the bum. But if you had hung onto the no good, cheating, conniving, lowdown snake for just a couple more months, you'd be able to get some payback by tapping into his Social Security account. Now I'm afraid that tap is dry for you!

Mistake Number 3: Forgetting to read the obits:

Q: My ex-husband and I were married for 25 years before getting a divorce. I never remarried. I pretty much lost touch with him, but I heard he remarried several times. I started getting my own Social Security retirement benefits 10 years ago. I just recently learned that my ex died three years ago, and that I could have been switched to higher divorced widow's benefit way back then. Can I get retroactive benefits?

A: Probably not. Benefits can only be paid retroactively if you can show that the government made some kind of mistake with your Social Security files. But in this case, the ball was in your court. In other words, it was your obligation to file for divorced widow's benefits right after your husband died. That's why I always tell divorced women (especially those who've lost touch with their ex) to read the obituaries and watch for the ex's name — and then hotfoot it down to the nearest Social Security office to claim what's rightfully yours!

To find out more about Tom Margenau and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



3 Comments | Post Comment
I have a question.. can a woman claim her own social security check and her x husbands after he has died? I know someone who is... getting a check for both.
Comment: #1
Posted by: cynthia
Sat Apr 3, 2010 1:11 PM
I am 61; my husband is 77. My ex-husband is 58, and I was married to him for 13 years. Next year I could start getting my social security on my own contributions. If my current husband passes away before I do, and I have not taken any on his contribution, can I then switch over when my ex is 62 or older. He will get more ss than I will or than my current husband is getting.

If I start taking my own ss next year, will that hurt me in any way regarding switching at some point to my ex's ss (when my present husband passes on). P.S. Hope my current one lives a LONG time!!
Comment: #2
Posted by: janny
Sun Oct 31, 2010 11:06 AM
i am 60 years old and my ex husband to be is 64 - my first husband i divorced and he passed away about 10 years old at the age of 48 - do i reaceive social security from my ex now or my first ex? - i was married to my first husband for 22 years - my second husband 13 years - i plan to retire in about 5 years - thanks for your infor
Comment: #3
Posted by: tarcila
Wed Dec 28, 2011 7:56 PM
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