Mary Beth Writes

Two things I have been thinking about lately. Both are related to retirement income and retirement adventure.

1. Last week Len and I went to our Social Security office to sign me up for Spousal Benefits.  It took me several run-throughs to understand what “spousal benefits” are. Since then I have talked to several other people who were also unclear on the concept.

My confusion was this. I was already getting Social Security based on my earnings when I worked (as opposed to what I did when I stayed home and raised kids. But let’s not go there now. Grrrr.)

Len started getting Social Security recently, based on his income in his working life.

So if we are both getting monthly payments, why do I need to sign up for something else?

Social Security is payments you made INTO this system so that at retirement you can back a reasonable monthly income that will support you at around the same economic level you enjoyed while working.

If you are retiring as part of a couple, you are supposed to be able to live on 1 ½ the income of the biggest earner of the two of you.  1935 thinking here; husband made a paycheck, wife kept the family going, two live cheaper than two when they share a household.  But two do NOT live as cheaply as one. Ergo there needs to be that extra half income to help support the non-paycheck earning spouse who did, in fact, contribute to the stability and success of the family they raised together.

2018: So I get payments based on my past incomes. Len gets payments based on his incomes. If these two payments together don’t equal 1 ½ of Len’s payments, then Soc Sec will give me more to bring our combined payments up to that magical 1 ½ amount.   

Which is also why LGBTQ people need legal marriage. These benefits build a more stable retirement.

The spousal benefit I will get is satisfyingly higher than we expected.  Cool!

 

2.  There are a lot of stereotypes about what people “get to” do once they retire. Traveling is a big one; often in relaxed groups of other retired people. Buying a boat. Taking the grandkids camping. Um, there’s jumping out of an airplane on one’s 80th birthday. “Dinner and a play” deals where you get on a bus in your town to be driven to some other town where you will see a non-controversial play while overeating big meals at small tables. Or those busses that take you sparkly places to gamble.

These activities are portrayed because they are appealing visions utilized by companies who want you to buy their products. Think investment and pharmaceutical companies

Lately I have been walking more. I’ve walked an hour so so several times a week for decades. Lately, for a bunch of reasons, I have been trying to walk closer to two hours at a time.

Who knew a person could actually FEEL her lungs enthusiastically puff in and out?  My knees and feet notice when I walk this long; but they don’t hurt and the more I do this, the less crumbly I feel.

Walking two hours some of the days of a week is do-able - but not very easy for a person with a fulltime job.   It IS a feasible adventure for a retired person.  There are lots of activities we can do can make our bodies feel slightly more jaunty.  This doesn’t have to be a grim life-time commitment to any particular scheme. But we can take a week here or there to not drive away to something elaborate, but stay home to walk, dance, swim, ride horses at the riding stable not too far from here, whatever. 

Retirement can offer an opportunity to feel better inside our own skin ... which might be more astounding than Paris. 

I am NEVER jumping out of a plane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

Never say never

I'm saying never. Hah.

As a former employee of SSA, I read your understanding of the spousal benefit with interest -- in the end you got it right. You ask why you had to file. If Len had already been receiving his retirement benefit when you signed up for yours, you would have been deemed to have filed for the spousal benefit and would not have had to file to claim it -- and you would have started receiving it immediately. However, since Len had not yet claimed his retirement benefit, spousal benefits were not yet payable. Does that adequately explain why you had to file for it?

Holy Cow - this is what you did in your career? Had I known we could have bothered you endlessly!! We're good now, but the past year has been a LOT of hours trying to get our ducks in order.

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