Will marriage change my Social Security?

Q: Will marriage change my Social Security benefits?

A: Remember that these articles provide general information and the answer to such a broad question varies with the type of Social Security benefits received. To learn about your actual benefits, contact Social Security and have a representative check your record.

Marriage will not change Social Security retirement or disability benefits from your own work record because they are based largely on your personal work history over many years and age when starting retirement or becoming disabled. Amounts received by husband or wife through their personal work records do not affect what the other receives.

Do you receive Social Security benefits as a divorced spouse? If a divorced spouse remarries, he or she generally cannot collect benefits on the record of the former spouse unless the later marriage ends.

If you receive Social Security survivors benefits as a widow or widower, your age at remarriage makes a difference in the answer. Widow or widowers of many ages receive Social Security survivor benefits. In general, if you remarry after you reach age 60 (age 50 if disabled), remarriage will not affect your eligibility for survivors benefits. For example, remarriage could end Social Security survivors benefits to a widow at age 40 but not to the same person at age 61. Social Security benefits to a surviving divorced spouse follow this age difference too.

Children can receive Social Security benefits through the work record of a parent. With rare exception, these Social Security benefits end if the child marries.

In addition to Social Security retirement, survivors and disability benefits, the Social Security Administration is also responsible for the very different, need based, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Since household income is used to compute SSI amounts, marriage could change monthly amounts.

Bad things only happen to other people

Of course you have heard the saying “Bad things only happen to other people.” However, we are all “other people” to everyone else.

This brings me to the reminder that Social Security is much more than retirement. Nationally, about 10 percent of SSA monthly benefits go to survivors of all ages due to a death in the family and about 19 percent go to disabled workers and their families.

You can obtain both survivor and disability estimates on your record by creating a personal, pin and password protected, my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount/ and viewing your Social Security Statement.

Hoping that you never need this information is different from planning in case you, or your family, do.

Learn more about Social Security disability and survivors benefits now. Make that information part of your family financial planning.

Then you can tell other people about them.

Social Security benefits by state and county

The annual publication “OASDI Beneficiaries by State and County” was recently released with information as of December 2014. OASDI is the Social Security retirement, survivors and disability benefits.

From the preface:

This annual publication focuses on the Social Security beneficiary population—people receiving Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) benefits—at the local level. It presents basic program data on the number and type of beneficiaries and the amount of benefits paid in each state and county. It also shows the numbers of men and women aged 65 or older receiving benefits. … “ 

As of December 2014, approximately 18.5 percent of the United States population received a monthly Social Security benefit with about 91 percent of people aged 65 or older receiving benefits.

How many people receive Social Security benefits in your state?

In your county?

How much money does that involve?

Find out here. For a specific state and county as of December 2014, click on the state information. Then scroll down to Table 4 to seen the number of beneficiaries in that state, with individual county data. Scroll down to Table 5 for the amount of benefits involved. Note that amounts are shown in thousands of dollars. 2014-SSA-state&county

The start of Social Security disability benefits

The original Social Security disability benefits did not provide monthly payments.

As signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Social Security Amendments of 1954, originally disability benefits provided for a “freeze” to a person’s record during the years when they were unable to work. This was to help prevent periods of disability from reducing or wiping out retirement and survivor benefits due to reduced earnings.

On August 1, 1956, the Social Security Act was amended to provide monthly cash benefits to permanently and totally disabled workers aged 50-64 and to pay child’s benefits to disabled children aged 18 or over of retired or deceased workers, if their disability began before age 18.

More changes came later.

Learn about today’s Social Security disability program here.



Popular baby names of 2014 by state

Following up my earlier post about the popular baby names of 2014, the Social Security Administration has provided the most popular 2014 baby names by individual state.  You can look up the top 100 names for your state here.

In addition to each state’s top baby names, Social Security’s website has a list of the 1,000 most popular boys’ and girls’ names for 2014 and offers lists of baby names for each year since 1880.

Different spellings of similar names are not combined. For example, the names Caitlin, Caitlyn, Kaitlin, Kaitlyn, Kaitlynn, Katelyn, and Katelynn are considered separate names and each has its own rank.

The birth of a child is a special time for families. While having fun with the baby names list, Social Security Acting Commissioner Colvin encourages everyone to visit the agency’s website and create a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov.

For estimates and to see your work record, my Social Security is a personalized online account that you can use beginning in your working years and continuing throughout the time your receive Social Security benefits.

Nationally for 2014, the 10 most popular male and female names are:


For states in my immediate area, here are the top 10 male and female baby names of 2014. See the complete list of 100 names for each state here.






Popular Baby Names for 2014 & more

Here is the Social Security press release announcing the most popular baby names of 2014 along with other information.

Noah and Emma Top Social Security’s List of Most Popular Baby Names for 2014

Agency Adds to Its Family with New Blog


Emma and Noah are America’s most popular baby names for 2014. Emma returns to the top spot she held in 2008 and hangs out in first place with Noah. There are a few new names in the top 10 this year—James (a former #1 from the ‘40s and ‘50s) on the blue side and Charlotte on the pink side, her first time ever in the top 10. Makes you wonder if the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge got a sneak peak at the list, since naming their baby girl Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte (which lands at #10) Elizabeth (which fell from the top 10 to #14) Diana (#297) of Cambridge. Social Security has a new addition this year too, Social Security Matters, the agency’s newborn interactive blog located at http://blog.socialsecurity.gov.

Here are the top 10 boys and girls names for 2014:

Boys: 1.) Noah Girls: 1.) Emma
2.) Liam 2.) Olivia
3.) Mason 3.) Sophia
4.) Jacob 4.) Isabella
5.) William 5.) Ava
6.) Ethan 6.) Mia
7.) Michael 7.) Emily
8.) Alexander 8.) Abigail
9.) James 9.) Madison
10.) Daniel 10.) Charlotte

For all the top baby names of 2014, go to Social Security’s website, www.socialsecurity.gov/oact/babynames/.

Social Security Matters, the agency’s new bundle of joy, launches as we celebrate 80 years of serving the American public, and is an addition to our communications family where people can find information on retirement, disability, Supplemental Security Income, online services, and much more. It also is a place where the public can engage in conversations with the agency about what matters most. The blog encourages discussion and offers important solutions. Much like being a new parent, making benefit decisions can be overwhelming. The blog is the latest in a long line of tools Social Security offers to help educate the public about their benefits and how to access agency services.

The birth of a child is a special time for families. While having fun with the baby names list, Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin encourages everyone to visit the agency’s website and create a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount/.

my Social Security is a personalized online account that people can use beginning in their working years and continuing throughout the time they receive Social Security benefits. Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries can have instant access to their benefit verification letter, payment history, and complete earnings record by establishing a my Social Security account. Beneficiaries also can change their address, start or change direct deposit information, and print a replacement SSA-1099 online.

Individuals age 18 and older who are not receiving benefits can also sign up for a my Social Security account to get their personalized online Social Security Statement. The online Statement provides workers with secure and convenient access to their Social Security earnings and benefit information, and estimates of future benefits they can use to plan for their retirement.

The agency began compiling the baby name list in 1997, with names dating to back to 1880. At the time of a child’s birth, parents supply the name to the agency when applying for a child’s Social Security card, thus making Social Security America’s source for the most popular baby names.

Each year, the list reveals the effect of pop-culture on naming trends. This year’s winners for biggest jump in popularity in the Top 1,000 are Aranza and Bode.

Aranza jumped an amazing 3,625 spots on the girls’ side to number 607, from number 4,232 in 2013. The Latin soap opera “Por siempre mi amor” was aired on Univision from 2013 to 2015. The show featured a young lead character named Aranza, and obviously had its effect on naming trends last year.

Bode raced ahead 645 spots, from number 1,428 in 2013 to number 783 in 2014. This might have had something to do with the Winter Olympics in early 2014, where Bode Miller continued his outstanding alpine skiing career by collecting his sixth Olympic medal. Not only is he the most successful male American alpine skier of all time, he is considered by many to be an American hero.

The second fastest riser for boys was Axl, a nod to both rock legend Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses and Axl Jack Duhamel, son of Stacy Ann “Fergie” Ferguson and Josh Duhamel. For girls, Montserrat, the lead character in a very popular Latin soap opera, was number two, joined by another Monserrat (spelled just one letter differently) at number three.

Popular baby names by state will be available at www.socialsecurity.gov/oact/babynames/ on May 14.


Average Social Security and SSI amounts in February 2015

For February 2015, following are three easily understood tables providing Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) information. These tables are online here.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a separate, low-income program for the aged over 65, disabled or blind children, and disabled or blind adults that is administered by the Social Security Administration. Since SSI is completely different from Social Security, a person meeting the individual rules for each could become eligible for both programs. Income from Social Security reduces SSI amounts.

Learn more about Social Security and SSI at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Table 1 shows the number of people, in thousands, receiving Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) divided by Social Security only, SSI only, and people receiving both.

The “notes” in table 1 explain the difference in total Social Security beneficiaries shown between table 1 and table 2.

2015-02 table 1

Table 2 shows Social Security benefit information for February 2015, separated by number of beneficiaries receiving specific types of benefits and the average dollar amount of those benefits. The number of beneficiaries is again shown in the thousands, with total benefits shown in the millions and average amounts in dollars.

Social Security was never intended to provide full retirement income and this table emphasizes that fact. In February 2015, the average SSA retirement benefit, for the retiree only and excluding any family benefits, was $1,331.44.

2015-02 table 2

Table 3 shows Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit information for February 2015, separated by number of recipients receiving specific types of benefits and the average dollar amount of those benefits.  As above, the number of recipients are shown in the thousands, total benefits shown in the millions and average amounts in dollars.

In February 2015, the average SSI amount was $539.61. The 2015 maximum payable to an eligible individual is $733 per month. This maximum is reduced by other income, including Social Security benefits.

2015-02 table 3

These tables are online here.

Changing a child’s representative payee

Q: My ex-wife receives Social Security disability benefits for herself plus benefits for our daughter, for whom she has custody. Within the next few months, I will have custody and our daughter will live with me full-time.

Will Social Security start sending benefits for her to me or will they continue going to my ex-wife? Will the amount change when she is living with me?

A: A person receiving benefits on behalf of someone else is their representative payee. As a general guideline, the parent with legal custody is the preferred payee compared to a parent without custody but exceptions exist based on individual situations.

Changing the representative payee for your daughter, or anyone, is not automatic. You will need to request a change by completing an application to be the new payee for your daughter. This is not an online application so contact your Social Security office to do this. Expect to prove that you have custody and that your daughter is living with you.

A worker’s, in this case your ex-wife, own Social Security amount is based on his or her earnings history over many years. Benefits to a child or other family member do not change how much the worker receives for himself or herself.

Assuming you become your daughter’s representative payee, with her benefits sent in your care, the individual Social Security benefit of your ex-wife will not change although she would no longer receive the amount for your daughter.

The Social Security benefit amount for a child is based on the earnings record of the worker and will be the same wherever the child is living.

Representative payees are responsible for using Social Security benefits on behalf of the eligible person. As representative payee, you will have to report how funds for your daughter are used. Other responsibilities include reporting if your daughter is no longer living with you. Details are in the Guide for Representative Payees.

Should I file for early retirement to get benefits for my child?

Q: I am near age 62 and have a daughter, age 16. If I start Social Security retirement, can she receive benefits? Is doing this a good idea?

A: If you start Social Security retirement, at age 16 your daughter should be eligible to receive benefits through your record. Information about benefits to children is at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10085.pdf.

Deciding whether starting your retirement benefits at age 62 in order for her to be eligible is completely up to you. Are you ready to retire? Does this fit your overall retirement planning?

On the plus side, payment to a child or any other family member does not reduce your own amount. Your amount, based on earnings history and age when starting benefits, is the same whether or not other family members receive through your record. In this situation, your retirement plus a separate benefit for her would be payable. On the negative, starting your Social Security retirement at age 62 or anytime younger than full retirement age (FRA), for you age 66, gives you a permanently reduced benefit amount.

Estimate your own retirement amounts at the Retirement Planner section (www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/) of the Social Security website. For the following example, assume that your full retirement age amount is $2,000 per month. Starting your benefits when first eligible at 62 reduces this to 75 percent giving you a monthly amount of $1,500. Future cost-of-living increases will increase this but the 25 percent reduction is permanent.

As the only eligible child, your daughter’s benefit amount is one-half of your full retirement amount, not one-half of your actual benefit amount, so she is eligible for $1,000 per month until age 18, perhaps longer if she is still in high school at age 18.

Ideally, you will be enjoying your retirement for many years. Based on your long-term financial plans, is it wise to choose a permanent twenty-five percent reduction in your SSA retirement in order to have your daughter receive benefits for a year or so? If considered as part of your individual retirement financial planning, either starting now or waiting could be good. The choice is yours.