Today’s Social Security column addresses questions about how continued work might increase retirement benefit rates, how survivor benefits are calculated, and how a non-US citizen might be eligible for US Social Security benefits. Larry Kotlikoff is a professor of economics at Boston University and founder and president of Economic Security Planning, Inc.
see more Ask Larry answers here.
Have your own Social Security questions you’d like answered? Ask Larry about Social Security here.
Why hasn’t my Social Security retirement benefit rate increased yet?
Hi Larry, I have worked part time since I retired at age 65 and my Social Security benefit has not been recalculated. I was not earning over the limit and paid SSA taxes for about seven years. I left this part time job two years ago due to covid and have yet to receive a recalculation. thanks Jorge
Hi George, Social Security retirement benefits are based on an average of a person’s highest 35 years of wage-indexed earnings covered by Social Security, so the income you had after you started receiving benefits they will only increase your benefit rate if you earned more in a year. what he made in one or more of the 35 years currently used to calculate his benefit rate.
If you think you earned enough to receive a benefit increase, you can submit a signed, written request to Social Security to have your benefit rate recalculated. The preferred form to use for this purpose is Form SSA-795, and you can mail it to the nearest Social Security office.
You may want to consider using my company’s software: Maximize my Social Security either MaxiFi Planner — to ensure your household receives the highest benefits for life. Social Security calculators provided by other companies or nonprofit organizations can provide adequate suggestions if they are carefully constructed. Our software can also confirm your correct benefit amount, making sure you don’t get paid too much or too little, which could lead to potential recoveries due to overpayment by Social Security. best, larry
What portion of our spouse’s amount will we receive when one of us dies?
Both my husband and I receive full Social Security retirement benefits. In the event of one of our deaths, what part of our spouse’s benefit rate do we receive and continue to receive our own full benefit? thank you raphael
Hi Ralph, based on your description, the surviving spouse would receive the higher of your two benefit rates. If the spouse with the lower benefit amount dies first, the surviving spouse will only receive their own higher benefit amount. In that case, the only survivor benefit that could be paid is the one-time death benefit of $255.
However, if the spouse with the higher benefit amount dies first, the surviving spouse will continue to receive their own benefit plus a survivor benefit equal to the difference in their two benefit rates. The result would be that the surviving spouse would end up with a combined benefit equal to the full amount of the older spouse. best, larry
Do I qualify for US Social Security benefits?
Hi Larry, I am a Canadian First Nations citizen with a US Social Security number from my time in California many years ago. Do I qualify for US Social Security benefits? I am 66 years old. Thank you, Nimi.
Hi Niimi, You may only qualify for US Social Security retirement benefits if you worked and paid US Social Security taxes long enough to be insured for benefits. Typically, you need at least 40 quarters of coverage (QC), or about 10 years of Social Security-covered work, to be insured.
However, if you have at least six US QCs, you may qualify for a aggregation benefit if you also worked and paid into the Canada Pension Program long enough to be insured based on the combined credits of the two countries. .
However, if you have fewer than six US QCs, the only way you could qualify for US Social Security benefits is if you are eligible for ancillary or survivor benefits based on the insured status of the U.S. Social Security of a deceased spouse, former spouse, parent, or child. best, larry