Author: Russell Gloor

Social Security: Ask Rusty About the Mystery of Spousal Benefits

Yes, the spousal benefit formula is complicated, especially when both of you are entitled to your own Social Security benefits. And there’s never a simple answer to whether it is a good idea for the lower earning spouse to start benefits first at age 62. For one thing, it depends upon whether they are still working, but it also depends upon health, life expectancy and need for the money early.

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Personal Finance: Ask Rusty: Should We Get Married or Just Live Together?

Your own Social Security benefit will not be affected in any way if you get married, unless your potential new bride is a very high earner and her Social Security entitlement at her full retirement age (which is 66 years and 8 months) is more than twice the full benefit amount you were entitled to at your full retirement age (even though you claimed your SS earlier). In that case, you would become eligible for a spousal benefit from your new wife after you are married for one year. 

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Ask Rusty: Do Joint Tax Filings Alter Social Security Earning Limits?

If you collect Social Security before you reach your full retirement age (FRA), your wife’s earnings from working will not be counted toward your personal earnings limit. The earnings test looks only at your personal earnings and, if you exceed the limit, Social Security will take back some of your benefits. But only your personal earnings — as reported on your W-2 or Self-Employment tax return — count.

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