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Dhatch writes::

<<This question is posted on this board because it is believed to be of potential interest to those who are considering retirement and who may have the limited ability and flexibility to still make a few modest choices and is addressed to you because you seem to be so knowing about so many retirement topics, but it is really a social security question.

It is my understanding that a spouse of a qualified person (ie., over the age of 65 and with over 40 quarters of coverage) may:

1. Qualify for medicare when age 65;

2. Receive at age 65 one-half as much as the previously retired person would be entitled to receive; and

3 Receive at age 65 100% of what the deceased previously retired person would have been entitled to if that person had not been deceased.

Please do let me know if I am incorrect on any of the three (3) foregoing understandings and please answer the following question:>>

In general, your understanding is correct on all three points. That assumes the spouse is also age 65 (plus some months for those born in 1938 or later based on date of birth).

<<For maximum potential dollar social security benefits to the family as a whole and probably to each person as well, would it not be more beneficial for the older soon-to-be-retired person at age 65 with more than 25, but less than 35 years of coverage, to retire but to go back to work a bit to get closer to 35 years of coverage, rather than for the younger person at less than 65 years of age with less than 40 quarters of coverage to work a bit to increase the younger person's quarters and years of coverage?

In other words, are there not more total social security benefits available to the family if all or most of the social security benefits result from the covered earned income of just one spouse?>>

Yes, going back to work would add additional quarters of coverage that would help offset any zero years used in the Social Security benefit computation. In 1999 you can earn up to $15,500 without forfeiting any Social Security. Beyond that amount you will forfeit $1 of Social Security for every $3 you earn as the excess. The credits paid into Social Security as a result of those wages would then be used to recompute the benefit for the following year. It's conceivable the Social Security payment could go up $5 or so per month as a result, but it won't be a radical change unless you earn some really big $$$. Do that, and you lose the entire Social Security check and you won't be retired anyway.

BTW, if you're thinking of doing this make sure you tell the SSA how much you expect to earn for the coming year so they can ensure you don't get overpaid. If you don't tell them, they'll find out anyway and take the money back the following year when you may not be working.


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