Answer: One of the myths about Social Security is that they are broke. This is more political than factual. The recent audited report of Social Security shows a surplus and is expected to run a surplus through 2023 at which time outflows will exceed inflows and the surplus will be drawn down. This is expected to last about 10 years. At that time if nothing was done currently contributions to Social Security would be able to pay 77% of promised benefits. So the real question is not will it run out of money, but would you rather have ¾ of $3000 or ¾ of $2000.
Answer: Good question. It actually depends. There are basically 4 variables that come into play when calculating the optimal benefit from Social Security. It is very complicated as you have to look at your age, your work history, your marital status and how long you think you or your spouse will live. One error that most fail to consider is how long their spouse expects to live and will they need the money to live their lifestyle on the income from Social Security.
Answer: It depends. The spouse is entitled to the greater of half of their spouse’s benefit or all of their own benefit whichever is greatest. If you turned 62 by December 31, 2015, you may be grandfathered in and eligible to use the restricted application for spousal benefits only. This would allow you to get half of your benefit at full retirement age and let your own benefit grow to age 70. If you did not turn age 62 by that date you fall under what is known as deemed filing and you automatically get the greatest of all benefits you are eligible for when you file. This would be the greater of half of your spouse’s benefit or all of your benefit. As a side note, your spouse must have either filed for benefits or if eligible filed and suspended if they were eligible.
This time of year the airwaves are filled with political ads. Without getting into politics one of the favorite punching bags is Social Security. Part of this is because so little is known about Social Security that scaring people has proven to be an effective way of getting people to vote for candidates. The second is that by scaring people they can go on record and say they are trying to solve the problem that everyone knows needs attention but politicians really don’t want to solve.