creators home lifestyle web
tom margenau


Extra Earnings Don't Always Translate to Extra Benefits Q: I know my Social Security benefits will be based on my last five years of earnings before I retire. But here is the problem. I am 60 years old and have just been laid off by my employer. I have few if any prospects of getting another job. I plan …Read more. The So-Called 'New' Social Security Rules Are Actually the Old Rules There is just so darn much misinformation out there about new Social Security rules. These rules have to do with the eventual elimination of the maximizing strategies known as "file and restrict" and "file and suspend." Every single day, I get …Read more. How to Deal With the Social Security Earnings Penalties I've gotten more than a few emails recently from Social Security beneficiaries who are under age 66 and still working and who are trapped in the web of Social Security's convoluted earnings penalty rules and the way they are administered. Those …Read more. Long Gone Husband May Mean Extra Social Security to Some I gave a couple women very nice Christmas presents over the recent holiday season. And I'm not talking about the lingerie I got my wife or the coffee maker I got my daughter. I'm talking about the gift of extra Social Security benefits I got for two …Read more.
more articles

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
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right: comments policy
Tom Margenau
Feb. `16
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 1 2 3 4 5
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month