Ask Larry: Is There A Limit To How Long I Can Receive My Social Security Spousal Benefit?

Ask Larry: Is There A Limit To How Long I Can Receive My Social Security Spousal Benefit?

Today’s Social Security column addresses questions about whether Social Security spousal benefits can only be paid for a limited time, eligibility for survivor’s benefits and how Social Security taxed wages are reported to Social Security. Larry Kotlikoff is a Professor of Economics at Boston University and the founder and president of Economic Security Planning, Inc.

See more Ask Larry answers here.

Have Social Security questions of your own you’d like answered? Ask Larry about Social Security here.


Is There A Limit To How Long I Can Receive My Social Security Spousal Benefit?

Hi Larry, I’m waiting till I turn 70 later this year to take my Social Security retirement benefit and am now receiving my spousal benefit while I wait. My husband will turn 70 next month. Is there a specific number of years or months I can take my spousal benefit? Can I still get it once my husband turns 70? Thanks, Leslie

Hi Leslie, There is no statutory limit on the length of time that a person can collect any type of Social Security benefit. Benefits can continue for life as long as you continue to meet the eligibility requirements. But if you’re drawing spousal benefits and if you become entitled to a higher retirement benefit on your own account, your spousal benefit would be terminated the first month of your entitlement to your higher retirement benefits on your own record. You can’t be paid both your retirement benefit and a full spousal benefit for the same month(s), regardless of when you apply for benefits.

It sounds like you may want to consider using my company’s software — Maximize My Social Security or MaxiFi Planner — to ensure your household receives the highest lifetime benefits. Social Security calculators provided by other companies or non-profits may provide proper suggestions if they were built with extreme care. Our software can also confirm your correct benefit amount, ensuring you aren’t being paid too little or too much, which could lead to potential clawbacks due to Social Security’s overpayment to you. Best, Larry

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How Can I Find Out What I’m Entitled To From My Deceased Husband’s Account?

Hi Larry, I am 67 and am not working. My husband died in 1993 and his income was substantially more than mine. Should I consider the file and suspend strategy? I have not filed for my retirement benefit yet. He did not collect because he died just shy of 50. How can I find out about my potential widow’s benefits that I would be entitled to?

Also I receive a non-taxable Washington State Labor and Industries monthly payment since his death was accidental. It was under their workman’s comp benefits. Does that count as income for Social Security? I have no other income, but the monthly benefit is substantial. Thanks, Angie

Hi Angie, It sounds like you should call Social Security immediately to make an appointment to apply for benefits. Social Security should be able to tell you how much you can be paid as a widow, and since you’ve already reached your full retirement age (FRA) there would be no reason to delay claiming widow’s benefits. Survivor benefits don’t get any higher if you wait past FRA to claim them.

You can claim widow’s benefits now and let your retirement benefit rate grow until 70. Then at age 70, if your retirement benefit rate would be higher than your widow’s rate, you could switch to drawing your retirement benefits by filing a new application. You definitely don’t want to file and suspend your retirement benefits now, because that would prevent you from being able to collect widow’s benefits while your retirement benefits are suspended.

The survivor benefit you receive from the Washington State Labor & Industries department won’t have any adverse effect on your ability to collect either your Social Security retirement benefits or widow’s benefits. Best, Larry


Who Is Responsible For Reporting My 2021 Earnings To Social Security?

Hi Larry, I am still working full time and haven’t filed for Social Security yet. Can you tell me who is responsible for reporting my earnings to Social Security? Thanks, Peter

Hi Peter, If you work for wages, then your employer is responsible for reporting your Social Security covered earnings to Social Security. However, if you’re self-employed or an independent contractor, then you are responsible for reporting your earnings on Schedule SE of your tax return. The IRS then forwards that information to the Social Security Administration. Best, Larry


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