Senior Connections Senior Connections Nov. 2018 - Page 3

Downsizing – the journey begins Social Security column: understanding spouses’ benefi ts FROM: BRIAN RUDOLPH AND RHONDA WHITENACK Social Security public aff airs specialists Minnesota and northern Wisconsin Dale Kovar HJ GENERAL MANAGER My wife and I have reached the point of consider- ing downsizing. The government says our “full retirement age” is still several years away – something to pay attention to, but not close enough to get excited about. There are all the statistics about how much money people will need for retirement. Only the most wealthy can say with any certainty that they are set. For the rest of us, it’s a blind target because WE DON’T KNOW HOW LONG IT’S GOING TO BE! If we knew for sure that we only had two more years, then we’d punch out tomorrow and go travel the country, seeing places we’ve heard of but never made it to. On the other hand, it’s possible we’re only two- thirds of the way through this earthly journey, in which case it’s more likely you fellow taxpayers will be needed to help pay for whatever facility becomes our fi nal landing spot. In the meantime, downsizing is on our minds. Maybe you’ve been through it already, are in the process, or similarly have thought that it might be a good idea. Like my other writings for Senior Connections, I claim no professional capacity to advise – just some observations from experience. We believe we can exist with less, so the goal is to potentially fi nd a new (different) home that makes our lives cheaper and easier. Less space, less work, less cost. I have conceded there will be no perfect answer. To have all the specifi c features that fi t our tastes would drive the price out of bounds. There will be compro- mises. We have the usual considerations. We don’t want to have to ever paint again. Small lawn to mow. Short driveway to shovel. For longer term, fewer steps are better. Then there’s the question of where. Which towns would we be most comfortable in? Not too big, not too small, where we already know others, close to our current patterns. Match all that up with prices and it becomes quite a puzzle. There are many attractive options, but we bring that back to the cheaper/easier test vs. what we have now. Fortunately, we have no gun at our heads to make a hasty move, so even if it takes a couple years or more to fi nd the last place we want to call home, so be it. As I said, I offer no magic solutions – just another traveler along life’s path. which the deceased spouse would have been entitled if they had lived, or • 82.5 percent of the unreduced deceased spouse’s monthly benefi t if they had started receiving benefi ts at their full retirement age (rather than choosing to receive a reduced retirement benefi t early). Knowing how your fi nances affect your spouse’s can help both of you avoid future impacts on your incomes. When it comes to information, we have over 80 years of experience. Access a wealth of useful information as well as our benefi ts planners at www. socialsecurity.gov/planners. Marriage is a cultural institution that exists all over the world. Having a partner means sharing many things including a home and other property. Understanding how your future retirement might affect your spouse is important. When you’re planning for your fun and vibrant golden years, here are a few things to remember: If a spouse accepts reduced retirement benefi ts before starting spouse’s benefi ts (his or her spouse is younger), the spouse will not receive 50 percent of the worker’s benefi t amount. Your full spouse’s benefi t could be up to 50 percent of your spouse’s full retirement age amount if you are full retirement age when you take it. If you qualify for your own retirement benefi t and a spouse’s benefi t, we always pay your own benefi t fi rst. (For example, you are eligible for $400 from your own retirement and $150 as a spouse for a total of $550.) The reduction rates for retirement and spouses benefi ts are different. If your spouse is younger, you cannot receive benefi ts unless he or she is receiving benefi ts (except for divorced spouses). If A spouse’s fi nances can aff ect future income. you took your reduced retirement fi rst while waiting for your spouse to reach retirement age, when you add spouse’s benefi ts later, your own retirement portion remains reduced which causes the total retirement and spouses benefi t together to total less than 50 percent of the worker’s amount. You can fi nd out more on at www. socialsecurity.gov/OACT/quickcalc/spouse. html. On the other hand, if your spouse’s retirement benefi t is higher than your retirement benefi t, and he or she chooses to take reduced benefi ts and dies fi rst, your survivor benefi t will be reduced, but may be higher than what your spouse received. If the deceased worker started receiving reduced retirement benefi ts before their full retirement age, a special rule called the retirement insurance benefi t limit may apply to the surviving spouse. The retirement insurance benefi t limit is the maximum survivor benefi t you may receive. Generally, the limit is the higher of: • The reduced monthly retirement benefi t to Senior Connections HJ.COM Senior Connections November 2018 SUBMITTED PHOTO 3