Will I get more social security if I get married?

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    Dear Penny,

    My friend wants me to marry him so that I can get his social security benefits. I’m 64 and he is 74. I currently make about $ 5,000 a month. He receives $ 1,700 in benefits.

    Can he ask me for more social security benefits if we’re married? Will it help my social security to marry him? I plan to work until I really can’t work anymore.

    My job is in healthcare so it’s not easy to work. Right now I’m paying the mortgage and a lot of expenses.

    -E.

    Dear E.,

    Increasing your social security is not as easy as walking down the aisle. If that were the case, we would likely be inundated with wedding invitations from the 60 and 70 year old people in our lives.

    I don’t think any of you would get any more social security pension benefits if you got married. The rules surrounding social security and marriage can get complicated. But basically, you need to know that you will receive a maximum of 50% of your spouse’s benefit while he is still alive. The same rule applies when applying for social security from a former spouse.

    Double diving is not allowed. So you can claim your own benefits or claim up to 50% of your spouse’s benefits, provided you have been married for at least a year. You are not entitled to your own benefit plus half that of a spouse’s benefit. (The 50% cap also applies if you are claiming a former spouse’s social security benefit.)

    Entitlement to spousal allowance often makes sense if a spouse has spent a significant part of their adult life outside of working life. But you make $ 5,000 a month. You probably didn’t just stumble into a job that made you $ 60,000 overnight. I suspect you have a decent job record of your own. So, putting Social Security on your own income will almost certainly bring you more benefits than the maximum $ 850 you could get based on your friend’s record.


    If you both get married, your boyfriend could switch to your benefit after one year of marriage if you so request. But remember: the maximum he can get is 50% of your performance. If you didn’t expect to get at least double the $ 1,700 a month, he wouldn’t get an extra penny from Social Security.

    All in all, marriage could result in more social security for the widowed spouse if one of you dies, as survivor benefits pay off up to 100% of the higher benefit. But it sounds like you’re worrying more about how to increase your retirement budget for the life you’ve built together.

    Unfortunately, there are no easy ways to increase your social security benefits. Unless you’re marrying someone who has drastically outdone you, the solutions are basically: work longer. To earn more money. Wait as long as you can.

    But working forever and postponing social security until age 70 is just not an option for many people. You are undoubtedly aware of this fact, especially since you have a difficult job.

    Marriage likely isn’t going to offer quick fixes, but I wonder if there is something your boyfriend could do to make your life easier. It sounds like you’re under a lot of pressure between working and carrying so many expenses.

    Does he have enough savings to add a little more? Any extra cash that you could set aside for your own retirement so that you don’t feel like you have to work into old age would be a huge win for you. Even if his budget is on the limit, does he help you with things like cooking and housework? Or is he ready to talk about strategies like budget cuts or downsizing so that you can cut back on your work at some point? The answers may not be easy, but the pressure to take care of everything shouldn’t be on you.

    Ultimately, many decisions related to love and marriage are inextricably linked to money. But it doesn’t sound like this is one of them. Marry him if you think it will make you happier. But if you’re just thinking about getting married because you want more social security, don’t bother sending save-the-dates.

    Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].


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