Surprising Facts About Social Security
For many Americans, social security benefits are a vital part of their retirement income plan. Therefore, it’s important to understand the rules and stay informed of any changes. Below are a few lesser-known facts about social security that may surprise you.1
- Did you know that unmarried children under the age of 18 can receive benefits? The benefits would be based on their parents’ work record if the parent is receiving either social security retirement or disability benefits. Grandchildren may also be eligible for benefits based on their grandparents’ work record. However, the grandchildren must be dependents without any financial support from a parent.
- In some cases parents can receive survivor benefits based on their children’s work record. This would apply if the parents rely on an adult child for at least half of their financial support and that child dies.
- An error in your earnings record can lead to reduced future benefits, so there’s usually a window of time in which you can fix any mistakes. Typically you get three years, three months, and 15 days after the year that you earned the wages to fix the errors.
- According to a recent AARP article, “Up to 85 percent of your benefits could be taxed, depending on your income.” This is due to the fact that income limits haven’t changed for decades despite the fact that wages keep rising. Therefore, the chances that you’ll owe taxes on benefits have also increased. “Less than 10 percent of beneficiaries paid federal income tax on their benefits in 1984, the first year benefits were taxed. Now about 40 percent do, and, under current law, that’s expected to climb to more than half in three decades.”
- One strategy for increasing your benefit amount is to delay collecting social security benefits. However, if you do start collecting a reduced benefit early, you have the option to change your mind. You have 12 months from when you start your benefits to withdraw your application, assuming you repay all the money you’ve received thus far.
- While private creditors are not able to touch your benefits, the government can garnish your monthly benefits to repay certain debts, such as: back alimony, child support, restitution, federal taxes, and federal student loans. The article cautions you to be aware that “…if your Social Security benefits are deposited in an account with other money, the bank must protect two months’ worth of benefits from creditors. The bank can freeze the rest of the money, leaving it up to a court to decide whether creditors get the cash.”
- The rules state that you must be married for at least nine months in order to qualify for survivor benefits after the passing of your spouse. One exception to this rule is if your spouse dies in the line of duty as a member of the uniformed services.
- There are a few limited circumstances where you can get a new social security number, such as when you’re a victim of domestic violence or identity theft.
- Because each social security number is unique, once a number is used it’s never assigned again. This holds true even if the original owner of that number has died. Despite the fact that Social Security has issued more than 453 million numbers, they have enough numbers to last several more generations.
- For decades, the Social Security Agency would forward letters to missing persons delivering news about a death in the family or unclaimed property. The agency stopped this service as of May 2014, due to all the free services available online these days.
If you’re delaying social security or are running short on retirement funds, a reverse mortgage may be able to help. A Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), commonly known as a reverse mortgage, is a Federal Housing Administration insured loan. A HECM enables seniors to access a portion of their home’s equity to obtain tax free2 funds without having to make monthly mortgage payments.3
If you’d like to learn more about reverse mortgages or want to find out if you’re eligible, please use our Reverse Mortgage Calculator or call us at 800.218.1415.
1 10 Surprising Facts About Social Security – aarp.org, by Eileen Ambrose, 04/2017, http://www.aarp.org/work/social-security/info-2016/10-surprising-facts-about-social-security.html?intcmp=AE-HP-FLXSLDR-SLIDE5.
2 Consult your financial advisor and appropriate government agencies for any effect on taxes or government benefits.
3 You must live in the home as your primary residence, continue to pay required property taxes, homeowners insurance and maintain the home according to Federal Housing Administration requirements.