What Are the Most Common Retirement Questions You Receive about Social Security?

Suze OrmanThere are two big questions I hear plenty.

  1. My husband wants to retire at 62 and start taking Social Security. Is that okay?

This typically comes up because husbands are often a few years older than their wives, and figure they want to “get their money’s worth” by taking Social Security as early as possible. I think that can be a bad move. Unless you have oodles of money to live on in retirement, you — as a couple — want to maximize your Social Security payout for the longest surviving spouse. It’s important to understand that when one spouse dies, the other spouse is entitled to just one Social Security payment. So you want the surviving spouse to have the biggest possible benefit. Here’s how: Whichever spouse is the higher earner (and thus eligible for a bigger Social Security benefit) should  delay taking Social Security at least until their Full Retirement Age (FRA), which is between age 66 and 67, depending on the year you were born.

Your FRA benefit is 25 to 30 percent higher than the benefit you can get at age 62. Even better is to have the high earner wait all the way until age 70. The benefit if you start then is more than 65 percent higher than the benefit you are entitled to at age 62. While the high-earner should wait as long as possible, the other spouse can start earlier, but I always encourage both spouses to delay as long as possible.

  1. I am getting divorced and haven’t worked full time. Am I going to be able to get Social Security?

If you were married at least 10 years you will be eligible for Social Security based on your ex-spouse’s earnings record. Your receiving a benefit will have no impact on the benefit your ex is eligible for.

There are a few caveats to understand about how this works. Most important, you can’t make a claim on an ex-spouse’s record if you remarry. (It doesn’t matter if your ex remarried.) You also need to be at least 62 years old. You can learn more about that here.


SSA does not endorse any particular financial advisory product or service.


69 thoughts on “What Are the Most Common Retirement Questions You Receive about Social Security?

  1. My parents were married for ten years before divorcing. My father passed away in 1991. My mother receives a STERS teachers pension. She receives Medicare Benefits through my fathers Social Security. Is she also eligible to receive Social Security monetary benefits? If so, how does she go about applying?
    Thank you

      • Yes, but it will be limited by the government pension offset rule. https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/gpo.html

        Many state retirees & spouses/widow(er)s get a small benefit. The money is helpful, but the inflation protection on Medicare premiums because they are paid directly from a SS benefit is golden over time.

        Just apply at Social Security.

    • Hi Patricia. Generally, during the initial interview, when individuals apply for Social Security benefits or Medicare, we also check for any or other entitlement the claimant may be eligible for. If your mother is receiving Medicare benefits under your father’s record, and was/is eligible for divorced spouse benefits, we should have established those benefits at that time. Keep in mind, that if your mother receives a pension from a federal, state, or local government based on work for which she didn’t pay Social Security taxes, some or all of her Social Security divorced spouse’s benefit may be offset due to receipt of that pension. This offset is referred to as the Government Pension Offset, or GPO. Your mother can call us at 1-800-772-1213 and one of our representatives will provide a thorough explanation. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Thanks.

      • Sorry, not always the case. My local office , reps, caused me to become over paid, on my own account! and now I have to pay the ‘highest’ medicare premium because the SS I am due is going towards the over payment so they said I am ‘not’ getting ‘paid’, thus, I have to pay the higher medicare premium. Watch out because who your dealing with, even on the federal level, do not know what they are doing. But expect you to know? It’s a shame

  2. If a qualified ex-spouse and current spouse both draw upon the same member’s social security, is there a reduction in the benefit?

  3. My Stépfather dièd in 2010, he received social security and my Stépmother is teacher retire. Does she quality to receive SS BY HIM?

    • Gustavo,
      Your stepmother is a teacher and you can’t speak English very well, at least grammatically correct English, unless “quality” was meant to be “qualify”. Aren’t she and you ashamed. If she was a teacher, she should know how to research questions like that. The very least of which is to go to the SS office.

        • Somebody should be ashamed of their behavior! My mother said, “If you can’t say something nice…”

          The answer is, it depends upon the length of the marriage. The benefit would be limited by the government pension offset rule, but she should apply.

      • Susan, really? You are rude and ignorant and should be ashamed. He is trying to help. We have no idea of his circumstances. Did he grow up in another country? Does he have a learning disability? If you can’t answer the question, then just be quiet.

      • Your own English leaves a lot to be desired. “Aren’t” for example is disfavored. Your last sentence is incomplete and “which” is the wrong term to refer back to “how to research”. Get off your high horse!

        • JKII get off your high horse, aren’t is disfavored by you because you are an elitist. Aren’t is not disfavored unless you are submitting something in a formal situation. It is a shame the educational system has gone down the tubes and no one seems to care. These people are in charge of your benefits and they will treat them the same way they benefitted from the educational system. They don’t care and can’t think creatively or constructively. They only have rote memorization at best, but lack the ability to think or research or begin to know where to go unless they are told to and where by someone else. It is a shame of which we all should be ashamed.

          • Our blog — Social Security Matters — gives readers information about a variety of topics, including our programs, online services, current events, and human-interest stories, usually in greater detail than typically shared on our other social media platforms. Our blog encourages discussion and offers important retirement and disability-related solutions. While we welcome general participation from all of our followers, we ask all participants to please be considerate and polite to others when posting comments. Thank you for your support and for using our blog.

  4. I will retire at age 62 and do not plan to work after age 62. According to SSA, I will receive approximately $1900 per month if I claim at age 62. If I do not work after age 62, but use my 401K savings to fill the gap and wait to apply for social security at full retirement age (i.e., 66 and 2 months), approximately how much should the SSA amount increase above $1900 per month? Thank you.

    • David G.
      You can wait until age 70 if you wish, the longer you wait, the more there will be. Except the SS system is supposed to be bankrupt by 2025. Get your while you can.

      • The only reason it would be bankrupt would be because the wage cap only goes up to about $118,000. We all need to demand an increase in the cap to at least $250,000.

        • *Highly* unlikely that Social Security will be allowed to go broke & not pay benefits, and in no case as early as 2025.

          In specific answer to the question, the benefit will not rise as much as if you keep working, but it will rise. Very complex calculation based on 35+ years’ earnings. Website calculators are very helpful.

      • David G. The Social Security website will calculate how much more you will receive. Sounds like you and I might be in the same range. If I retire at 62 I’d get $1900 and then for every year I don’t retire it’s about $150 more a month for each year.

    • Hi David. The best way to start planning for your future is by creating a my Social Security account online. With my Social Security, you can verify your earnings, get your Social Security Statement, and much more. Also, we have a variety of benefit-calculators to help you plan for the future. Which calculator you choose depends on what you want to do. Hope this helps!

  5. I read your comment regarding “My husband wants to retire at 62 and start taking Social Security.” However, my spouse is 9 years older and she has been receiving SS for 2 years. Is that okay for me (the husband) to start taking SS at 62?

    • I would consider it….if your spouses payment is more than yours then it may be smart since you will probably out live her since she is older and when she dies you can step up to her payment amount which is larger. If her amount is smaller than yours you may want to wait until your full retirement age or even longer before taking yours since yours will increase by close to 8% for each year you wait past your age 62 amount….if you can afford it and you think you will live past age 83 that makes total sense. After age 83 you are money ahead.

    • Hi Rafael. The earliest age you can apply for reduced retirement benefits is 62. In addition, you may be able to get spouse’s retirement benefits if you are at least 62 years of age and your spouse is receiving retirement or disability benefits. If you qualify and apply for your own retirement benefits and for benefits as a spouse, we always pay your own benefits first. If your benefits as a spouse are higher than your own retirement benefits, you will get a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse benefit. Keep in mind that if you begin receiving benefits between age 62 and your full retirement age, the amount will be permanently reduced. We hope this information helps.

  6. I am 75 years old and am retired and have been receiving S.S. for several years. I need to find a job to supplement my S.S. income and need to know if there is a limit to how much income that I can receive without affecting my S.S. benefit.

    • If you are over 66 years old you can work and earn as much money as you want and you will still receive 100% of your Social security payment. There is no earnings limit if you are at full retirement age.

  7. I am 63. If I start collecting SS at 66 but I continue to work, will my SS check amount increase or is it locked into when I start collecting?

    • Your retirement is figured by dropping out your lowest 5 years from your average. If the work after 66 replaces one of those years your payment could go up.

    • Thank you for your question Sandie. When you apply for retirement benefits, we base your benefit payment on your highest 35 years of earnings and your age when you start receiving benefits. Higher lifetime earnings result in higher benefits. Generally, if you continue to work while receiving retirement benefits, your monthly benefit amount could increase. Each year we review the records for all working Social Security recipients. If your earnings for the prior year are higher than one of the years we used to compute your retirement benefit, we will recalculate your benefit amount. We hope this information helps!

  8. My husband who is older than me & is collecting disability. I have heard he will be automatically moved over to retirement when he reaches 65. Can he collect retirement from me even if I am still working when this time comes? I am the higher earner in the house and plan to continue working even then.

    • Hi Donna. Yes, for those individuals receiving disability benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, we automatically convert their disability benefits to retirement benefits when they attain their full retirement age (currently age 66). Generally, their benefit amount remains the same. Next, your husband may be able to get “spouse’s benefits” on your record, when you start receiving retirement or disability benefits. However, keep in mind that disability payments are established at the highest rate possible, and that his spouse’s benefit cannot exceed one half of your full retirement amount. Also, if your husband is eligible for benefits on his own record, we always pay that amount first. But if the spouse benefit that is payable on your record is a higher amount, he will get a combination of benefits that equals that higher amount. We will review his record at the time when you apply for your benefits. We hope this helps!

  9. Is it true that at full SS age of 66 , you can wait to collect, in order to earn more, but you can apply to collect 1/2 of your spouses SS in the meantime

    • Thank you for your question Mary. If you were born before January 2, 1954 and apply for Social Security benefits at your full retirement age, you can choose to receive only the spouse’s benefit and delay receiving your retirement benefit until a later date. If your birthday is January 2, 1954 or later, the option to take only one benefit at full retirement age no longer exists. If you file for one benefit, you will be effectively filing for all retirement or spousal benefits. Visit our “Retirement Planner: Benefits For You As A Spouse” for more information.

  10. If I am still working and my husband has chosen not to work for the last 19 years, when he turns 65 this December will his SS be higher than if he had taken it at 62???? His income amounts to rental income from properties he has inherited. He has not contributed to SS in the past 19 years. Can you settle this argument?

    • Thank you for your question Sandie. SSA bases your benefit payment on what is called high 35, which is your highest 35 years of your earnings. SSA taxes are based on your earnings and since he has no reported earnings, he has no SSA taxes and therefore his benefit amount does not increase. So, in a nut shell, because he has not paid any SSA tax over the last 19 years, his benefits will only be higher because of the Cost of Living Adjustments. Therefore, the answer to your question is “Yes” but only due to the COLA increases.

    • Hi Sandie. If you are eligible to retire at age 62, we use the highest 35 years of earnings to compute your benefit amount. If you do not have 35 years of earnings, we will use all of the earnings on your record. We will factor in an annual total of $0.00 earnings for each of the remaining years.
      You can use our Online Retirement Estimator to get estimates on your future retirement benefits. You can also create a my Social Security account to review estimates of your retirement, disability, and survivors benefits, your earnings record, and the estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid.

  11. I have been collecting social security disability benefits for almost 9 yrs due to a stroke and will turn 65 on Aug 31 2017. How do my benefits change? Do I receive more money monthly? Someone told me I will receive 1/3 more income.

    • Hi Pat, when you receive disability benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, we will automatically convert your disability benefits to retirement benefits, when you attain your full retirement age. The benefit amount will generally remain the same.

  12. I need help leaving my direct deposit to a bank and going to Green Dot card,what should I do? Time is not on my side.


  13. My husband died in 1991. When I turned 60 I began drawing on his social security. I will turn 65 next month. Can I draw my social security as well as his?

    • Thank you for your question. If you receive benefits as a widow or widower or as a surviving divorced spouse, you can switch to your own retirement benefit as early as age 62. This assumes you are eligible for retirement benefits and your retirement rate is higher than your rate as a widow, widower or surviving divorced spouse. In many cases, a widow or widower can begin receiving one benefit at a reduced rate and then, at full retirement age, switch to the other benefit at an unreduced rate.

  14. Does the amount you can earn before affecting your social security retirement increase each year between 62, 63, 64, 65 and 66?

  15. hi Suze
    I’m 65 in September and a US national/dual passport holder working in the UK for the past 18 years – I have 39 quarters having worked and paid tax in USA – and will be eligible for a partial UK state pension. Can some of my time working in the UK be considered as part of my missing quarter?

    • I’ve also been told I need to pay my fica(? – not sure if that’s what it’s called) which would enable me to claim Medicaid and/or Medicaid in the event I was to return to the US to live on a permanent basis

    • Thank you for your question Paul. Under a “Totalization Agreement“, if a worker has some U.S. coverage but not enough to qualify for benefits, SSA will count periods of coverage that the worker has earned under the Social Security program of an agreement country. In the same way, a country party to an agreement with the United States will take into account a worker’s coverage under the U.S. program if it is needed to qualify for that country’s Social Security benefits. Please visit our International Programs webpage to learn more about the Totalization Agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom. If after browsing our site and you still have questions about international Social Security agreements, we encourage you to contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your area. We hope this information helps.

  16. If I collect my ss at 62 can I collect my husband at 70. I was told it would change to his at 66 2 mos. but thought could I wait to 70

    • Hi Lynn. Generally, if you qualify and apply for your own retirement benefits and for benefits as a spouse, we always pay your own benefits first. If your benefits as a spouse are higher than your own retirement benefits, you will get a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse benefit. Please read our “Retirement Planner: Benefits For You As A Spouse” or call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 and speak to one of our agents for further assistance. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Thanks.

  17. Why does the SSA website make it so difficult to access our account if we can’t remember a password. They lock you out for 24-hours if you can’t recall an old phone number or other information in order to establish identity. I understand all the security, however, this is a little over the top and I still can’t access my online information.

    • Hi Dee. We are sorry you are having issues accessing your account. Please call 1-800-772-1213 for assistance. After you hear “Briefly tell me why you are calling,” say “Help Desk” for help with the My Social Security website. Sometimes, it might be best to visit your local Social Security office for further assistance.

  18. I was born and raised in France and worked there for several years before getting married and moving to the U.S. I have been collecting social security for 14 years since I retired when I was 65. In 2004, I applied to the U.S. SS to get French S.S. in Sacramento, CA but they LOST my paperwork with the ORIGINAL documents that, like a fool, I had provided. Ever since, I have been trying to find out how I could reapply to no avail. I am now 79 years old and sure could use the small amount of French S.S. (I have two children, one of whom was born in France). Can you please help me and tell me how to go about it and also if the benefits could be retroactive? Than you so much!

    • Hi, Gina. Thank you for your question. If you work outside the United States, different rules may apply in determining if you can get your benefit checks. The United States has bilateral Social Security agreements with 24 countries. The agreements improve benefit protection for workers who have divided their careers between the United States and another country. For more information about our international agreements, visit our International Programs webpage. For your security, we do not have access to your personal information in this venue. Since you have questions about your individual claim and you are in the United States, please call or visit your local Social Security office. If you are outside the United States, see our list of Contacts for Services outside the United States. We hope this helps.


    • Hi Percy. Our system is set up to take applications three months in advance. You can create a My Social Security account to review your earnings record and get an estimate of your future benefits. When you are ready, you can complete the online application for your Social Security Retirement benefits in as little as 15 minutes. Benefits are paid the month after they are due. If you want to receive your first benefit payment in September, you must select your benefits to begin with the month of August. Please visit our Social Security Retirement Planner for more information.

  20. Some of SS retirees still maintains own IRA and/or 401K accounts as a supplemental mean of income , so they kind of look at SS in a different light than others who lack such supplemental means of income due to low income and high cost of living, etc. My question here is whether the more fortunate retirees are less likely to be concerned with the current plight of SS Fund than others. It is a complicated and subtle issue. My main beef with SS is that they had skipped cost of living increases at least three times in recent years which I think is way too frequent especially during the boom years of recently. Is it more because SS is relatively illiquid due to overweight investments in longer term Treasuries that are not mature yet in order to get the cash out? Treasuries bought way back in late eighties and all of the nineties yield pretty good returns at average of 5 percent more or less. I know that SS Fund is still siitting pretty on at least two to three trillion dollars worth of Treasuries , yet it cut cost of living increases every so often. I view the SS Fund as kind of mismanaged if you compare to other pension funds for state employees for example. Pension funds are allowed to invest in stocks and bonds while SS Fund is restricted to Treasuries.. I think that our stock/bond market is not large enough to support the SS Fund investments in stocks and bonds , pretty much to it.

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