I’m going to assume you’ve all heard of the kids’ game “20 Questions.” Well, I’m going to do my own version of that today. I’m going to try to squeeze 20 questions into this column. To do that, my answers must be short and sweet. 

Q: I just inherited some property that is worth $40,000. If I sell that property, will I lose my Social Security widows benefits?

A: No. Social Security is not welfare. You could sell a million dollars’ worth of property, and you will continue to get your widows benefits.


Q: My husband had $175,000 in gambling winnings last year, and now our Social Security check went down. Why?

A: Your Social Security benefits were not cut. But your Medicare Part B premium (that is deducted from your check) went up. To learn more, go to https://www.socialsecurity.gov, and do a search for the pamphlet, “Medicare Premiums for Higher Income Beneficiaries.” 


Q: Can I take my husband’s benefits at 62 and then at 66, switch to my own Social Security?

A: No. You must file for your own benefits first.


Q: My husband died. Can I take widows benefits at 62 and save my own until age 66?

A: Yes, you can. The difference between your case and the one discussed in the prior question is that your husband is deceased. Widows have the option of filing for reduced benefits on one record and later switching to higher benefits on another record. 


Q: If I take my own Social Security at 62, will that reduce the amount of widows benefits I will get when my husband dies?

A: No. Your widows rate essentially depends on one thing only: your age when your husband dies. Assuming you are over 66 when that happens, you will get your own benefit supplemented up to 100% of what he was getting.


Q: What is the maximum Social Security benefit?

A: The listed maximum benefit is $3,011. But that is for someone turning 66 this year who always had very high earnings. But many people work until age 70 or even well beyond that age, and their benefit can continue to increase each year with no maximum limit on how much they can get.


Q: I went to www.socialsecurity.com, and I couldn’t figure out how to file for benefits. What did I do wrong?

A: The Social Security Administration website is www.socialsecurity.gov.


Q: I need to file for widows benefits. I tried calling the SSA at their toll-free number and was told there would be a two-hour wait. I can’t wait that long. What can I do?

A: During this coronavirus crisis, there is not much else you can do. Widows claims can’t be done online, so call again. And remember: Patience is a virtue! 


Q: When my mom died, we didn’t get the $255 death benefit. How come?

A: That benefit is only paid to a surviving spouse. 


Q: Does Social Security pay benefits to widowers?

A: Sure. But generally, only if the guy has a smaller Social Security benefit than his deceased wife.


Q: My wife and I were both high-wage earners. Is there a limit on how much we can get in combined Social Security benefits?

A: Nope. No limit.


Q: A retired neighbor with a teenage daughter gets Social Security benefits for her. I thought those benefits were only paid when a parent dies.

A: No. Although it is rare for retirees to have minor children, if they do, the kids will get Social Security checks, usually until age 18.


Q: I didn’t get my stimulus check. Can you help me?

A: Sorry, but I can’t. It’s not a Social Security issue. Just Google “I didn’t get my stimulus check,” and you’ll find all kinds of ways to help you resolve that.


Q: I took benefits at 66 and get $1,245. My husband started his at 70 and gets $2,750. Shouldn’t I get half of his?

A: You are due half of his age-66 rate, not his age-70 rate. I’m guessing his age-66 rate was about $2,100. Half of that is $1,050. So, your own benefit is higher. 


Q: I am about to turn 62. I recently retired because I had a heart attack. Should I apply for Social Security retirement or disability? 

A: You should apply for both. They will pay your retirement checks right away. If your disability claim is approved, they will switch you to higher disability benefits.


Q: I want benefits to start when I am 66. I turn 66 on June 5. I know Social Security checks are one month behind. So, do I tell them I want benefits to begin in July?

A: No. You tell them you want your benefits to begin in June — and the June check will be sent to you in July.


Dang! I ran out of room — and only 16 questions answered. Oh, well. I tried! 

If you have a Social Security question, Tom Margenau has the answer. Contact him at thomas.margenau@comcast.net. To find out more about Tom Margenau and to read past columns and see features from other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.