Social Security and Today's Woman, Part 2
- By Milt x_Zall
- Jan 24, 2002
Last week's column began an examination of what women should know about
Social Security coverage whether she works, used to work or has never
worked. The benefits considerations continue this week with some special
Your Own Business
If you and your husband own and operate a business together and you
expect to share in the profits and losses, you may be entitled to receive
Social Security credits as a partner. This may be true even if you and your
husband have no formal partnership agreement.
To receive credit for your share of the business income, you must file
a separate self-employment return (Schedule SE) even if you and your husband
file a joint income tax return. If you don't file a separate Schedule SE,
all the earnings from the business will be reported under your husband's
Social Security number. In that case, your Social Security record will not
show your earnings, and you may not receive Social Security credits for
If you have served in the military on active duty or on inactive duty
for training since 1957, you have paid into Social Security. Inactive duty
service in the Armed Forces Reserves and National Guard weekend drills has
been covered by Social Security since 1988. If you served in the military
before 1957, you did not pay into Social Security directly, but your records
may be credited with special earnings for Social Security purposes that
count toward any benefits you may be entitled to receive.
When you apply for Social Security benefits, the credits you receive
for military service are added to your civilian work credits. The number
of credits you have determines whether you qualify for benefits.
You may be eligible for both Social Security benefits and military retirement.
Generally, there is no offset of Social Security benefits because of your
military retirement. You will get your full Social Security benefit based
on your earnings. Your Social Security benefit may be reduced, however,
if you also receive a pension from a job in which you did not pay Social
Social Security survivors' benefits may affect benefits payable under
the optional Defense Department Survivors Benefit Plan. You should check
with DOD or your military retirement adviser for more information.
When You Retire
You may be able to get Social Security benefits as early as age 62,
but your benefits will be permanently reduced to take account of the longer
time that you will receive benefits. If you wait until age 65 to retire,
you'll be eligible for full retirement benefits. Starting in 2003, the age
at which full benefits are payable will be increased gradually until it
reaches age 66 in 2009 and age 67 in 2027.
If you're married and also eligible for a reduced spouse's benefit at
the time you're eligible for retirement benefits, you must file for both
benefits. The same rule applies to your husband. People who are eligible
for benefits on more than one work record generally receive the larger benefit
amount. (The same rule applies to children who are eligible for benefits
on both parents' records.)
If you've had high earnings, it's likely that your own benefits will
be higher than a spouse's benefit. On the other hand, if you stopped working
for several years or had low earnings, the spouse's benefit may be higher.
At full retirement age, a wife receives 50 percent of what her husband is
entitled to at full retirement age. When you apply for retirement benefits,
a Social Security representative can tell you whether you will get a higher
benefit on your own record or on your husband's.
If you earned your own Social Security credits, you have certain options
at retirement. For example, suppose your husband continues to work past
full retirement age and doesn't collect Social Security benefits. You can
retire and get benefits based on your own record. Then when he retires,
you can receive benefits on his record if they would be higher.
Or, you can take reduced benefits on your wage record before full retirement
age. If you do, your benefits will always be reduced even if you take
reduced benefits on your own record and then take wife's benefits when your
husband retires. The same rules and options apply to a husband who's eligible
for retirement benefits on both his own and his wife's work record.
Your husband may qualify for benefits on your work record at any age
if he is caring for your child who is under age 16 or disabled and entitled
to benefits. When you retire, your children can qualify for benefits on
your record if they meet the same conditions as if they were disabled.
For More Information
It's easy to learn whether you're eligible to receive Social Security
and the amount of monthly benefits you may get. Just call Social Security's
toll-free number, (800) 772-1213 (anytime), to ask for Form SSA-7004, Request
for Social Security Statement.
You also can request the form at the SSA Web site. You can expect to receive your statement within four to
six weeks after Social Security receives your completed request.
Zall is a retired federal employee who since 1987 has written the Bureaucratus
column for Federal Computer Week. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.