Today’s column includes a note from a reader who was able to resist pressure to take lower benefits early and addresses Medicare Part B premiums, garnishing an ex’s benefits, self-employment income after retiring and potential effects of remarriage on available benefits. Larry Kotlikoff is a Professor of Economics at Boston University and the founder and president of Economic Security Planning, a company that markets Maximize My Social Security and MaxiFi Planner. Both tools maximize lifetime Social Security benefits. MaxiFi also finds retirement account withdrawal strategies and other ways to lower your lifetime taxes and raise your lifetime spending. Most important, it suggests how much to spend and save each year to enjoy a stable living standard through time.
See more Ask Larry answers here.
Ask Larry about Social Security:
Thanks For Help Resisting Pressure To Take Lower Social Security Retirement Benefits
Hi Larry, Thank you for writing this very important book, Get What’s Yours, and the update on Social Security claiming. I wish it was required reading prior to filing a claim for Social Security benefits. The book breaks down the complex items into bite size pieces that a regular person can understand. This is an amazing service for very little outlay of cash or time.
I went to SSA and filed for retirement benefits to begin at age 70. The rep indicated I was making a good choice when I declined the six month retroactive benefit. I am drawing survivor benefits on my husband’s work record since age 60.
When I went prior to my 60th birthday the rep tried to coerce me into leaving and returning at 62 for my retirement benefits. Later she advised me to apply for survivor’s benefits at FRA, age 66. She was forceful and paged another rep to assist her. They were upsetting people. I was still grieving. Taking my husband’s death certificate there was difficult. They all but showed me the door until I would be 62.
I knew nothing of deeming or any of the other tricks used to minimize benefits. My survivor’s benefit at 60 was $1,600 and my retirement benefit at 62 would have been $1,425. This was the least favorable claiming for me. Oh, they also tried to avoid paying the death benefit $255 by questioning if my husband and I were living together at the time of his death. His checks came to this address. His Social Security benefit application had this address on it.
I am so grateful to you and your team for your book, the update and the columns. You fortified me when I was waiting to claim retirement benefits. The benefit at age 70 will be considerably higher than any of the other claiming options. I kept spreadsheets for ten years on the options because you explained things well. I was only off $0.25 on the 70 with delayed retirement credits (DRCs) increasing my benefit. I know you discourage break even analysis but it was helpful for me as well. I have funds to supplement the benefit until then. If I die before I won’t need money! Living too long would be the problem. Age 70 retirement with DRCs is a very good thing for me.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You and your team are true advocates for Social Security beneficiaries. Please keep beating the drum until this is no longer an issue for claimants. Thanks, Claire
When Will My Part B Premiums Start Being Deducted From My Social Security Checks?
Hi Larry, I am already collecting my Social Security retirement benefit and I turn 65 in December. I understand that I will be automatically enrolled in Medicare, with coverage starting in December. When will my Part B premium start being deducted from my monthly Social Security check? Thanks, Jeannette
Hi Jeannette, Assuming that you weren’t born on December 1, your Part B Medicare premiums will be withheld from your benefit payments starting in December. The Social Security payment that you receive in December is actually for the month of November, but Medicare premiums are withheld in the month that the premium covers.
Your Medicare coverage will begin on the first day of December, regardless of what day in December you were born. However, if you were born on December 1, your Medicare coverage would begin November 1 and your premiums would be withheld starting with the benefit payment you receive in November. Best, Larry
Can I Have A Judge Order My Ex-Husband To Start Drawing His Benefits At Age 62 So That They Can Be Garnished?
Hi Larry, I just won a sizeable judgment against my ex-husband for his violations of the terms of the divorce. He was determined to be voluntarily impoverished, and has refused to cooperate with child support. The court modified the support amount monthly to $1,600 + $200 toward arrears. As he is 60, it will be necessary to garnish his Social Security to recoup what’s owed. Is it possible to have the judge order that he start drawing benefits at 62 instead of waiting three more years? Best, Laurie
Hi Laurie, Nothing in the Social Security law would force your ex to file for his benefits in order to satisfy a debt, but I’m not a lawyer so I’m not sure whether or not a court order could force him to do so. I’ve never heard of that happening, though, so I’m doubtful. Furthermore, your ex would have to be eligible for benefit payments in the first place in order for a portion of them to be garnished, and depending on his earnings he may not be able to draw benefits at age 62.
By the way, if you were married to your ex for at least 10 years and are currently unmarried, you wouldn’t necessarily need to wait until he files for his benefits in order to potentially qualify for divorced spousal benefits. As long as both you and your ex are at least age 62 and have been divorced for at least 2 years, you could potentially qualify for divorced spousal benefits if you meet the other requirements. Your benefits would be reduced for age, though, if you start drawing them prior to your full retirement age. Best, Larry
Am I Limited To The 15 Hour Rule Or The 45 Hour Per Month Rule?
Hi Larry, I’m taking my Social Security retirement benefit at 62. I’m a licensed insurance agent but have not been active in several years. I’ve been offered an independent contractor job with a company, but all earnings are counted as self-employment. Am I limited to the 15 hour rule or 45 hours per month rule? Is this occupation considered “substantial services”? Thanks, Brett
Hi Brett, I believe that Social Security would allow you to devote up to 45 hours per month to your self-employment without classifying it as substantial services. The 15 hour limit is only used for highly skilled and highly remunerated occupations like medical doctors. The number of hours that you work won’t matter, though, as long as your net earnings for the calendar year are below the annual earnings test exempt amount, which is set at $17,640 in 2019. As long as you don’t earn more than this amount, you wouldn’t lose any benefits to the earnings test no matter how many hours you work.
Social Security would only care about the number of hours you work for purposes of the special monthly earnings test. The monthly test can only be used in one calendar year and would only be used if it was more advantageous than the calendar year earnings test.
Before filing at age 62 and locking yourself into a substantially reduced monthly benefit rate, you may want to use one of my company’s two tools — Maximize My Social Security and MaxiFi Planner — to help maximize your lifetime Social Security benefits. As I noted in another answer, Social Security calculators provided by other companies or non-profits may provide proper suggestions if they were built with extreme care. Best, Larry
Can I Collect On A Previous Spouse’s Record If I Remarried At 58?
Hi Larry, Can I collect Social Security from a prior spouse’s record after remarrying when I was 58? Also, can Social Security collect student debt from my Social Security benefits? Thanks, Jim
Hi Jim, You couldn’t qualify for either divorced spousal benefits or surviving divorced spousal benefits if you remarried at age 58 and your marriage is continuing. However, if you were already drawing disability benefits as a surviving divorced spouse when you remarried at age 58, the remarriage wouldn’t terminate your benefits. And yes, Social Security benefits can potentially be garnished in order to collect a federal student loan debt. Best, Larry
To learn more about your Social Security options, visit Economic Security Planning, Inc.