Archive for February, 2017

Social Security Comes Through Again

February 6, 2017

I starting getting social security payments when I turned sixty because a friend told me I was entitled to them.

“You’re a widow,” she said.

“A widow? No, I’ve been divorced twice, not widowed.”

“How long were you married to Rob?” she asked.

“Twelve years. We divorced in 1982,” I replied.

“And he died,” she said.

“You know that. He died in the plane crash.”

“He’s not alive, so you’re a widow according to the Social Security Administration,” she insisted. “Make an appointment and check it out.”

So I did. After twenty0five years, I was shocked I still remembered his middle name and birthday. When I made the appointment, I was told to bring my marriage certificate, divorce decree and Rob’s death certificate, I had all that in my safety deposit box, which held no valuables, only important papers.

I went to the Social Security office on Tatum in north Phoenix and was shocked to find out that I was entitled to $1300 a month in widow’s benefits! That money enabled me to afford my cabin in Munds Park.

I visited the Social Security Office in Flagstaff a few years ago, as a “walk-in” (without an appointment,) to find out how much I would receive if I switched to benefits from my own account. The fellow told me if I waited until I was seventy, I would get a thousand dollars more a month. Wow!

Last summer I went back to the office in Flagstaff, again as a walk-in, to check on that. The woman told me I would get about five hundred dollars more a year. I was nonplussed. Why did I get such different answers? I told her I was still working part-time and made $15,000 so far, this year. She counseled me not to take my won benefits yet as the money I earned this year would replace years when I earned far less.

In January I decided to look into it further. I couldn’t use the handy dandy device online to figure out my benefits because I was already receiving benefits as a widow. I did the math by hand and to my reckoning I would get almost two hundred dollars a month more if I waited until age seventy. I made an appointment with the office in north Phoenix, just to make sure I was right.

As soon as I signed in my name was called and I was ushered out of the busy room where the walk-ins clustered. A fellow took me back to his space. It wasn’t even a cubicle. I could hear what the other clients were saying and vice versa. Good thing I wasn’t discussing anything embarrassing.

I was glad to hear that my math was correct. I would get almost two hundred dollars more a month if I waited a year.

“I guess I’ll wait,” I said. “I can make up the twenty-four hundred dollars in a short time.”

The fellow went to his keyboard and typed. He turned to me and said, “It will take you until you are seventy-six to make back the money.”

“Seventy-six?” I didn’t think my math skills were that bad.

“That calculation is based on the money you’re losing in the next year by not taking the extra benefit now.”

Aha. The light bulb went on. “Okay, sign me up.”

It took some time for him to enter everything into the computer, but I was patient. I’m going to get my increased benefit starting in February!

So, the moral of the story is, don’t trust information you get as a walk-in to the Social Security office. And even if you get information at an appointment in Flagstaff, it may be worth your while to get a second opinion in Phoenix.