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Your Guide to What Social Security Numbers Mean

what social security numbers mean

If you’ve ever applied for a job, loan, or credit card, you’ve probably been asked for your Social Security number. In many ways, your Social Security number is as much a part of you as your date of birth—it follows you from birth to death and can serve as a key to your sensitive information.

It’s clear that having one is vital because it’s used in various ways. You probably even know the number by heart. But have you ever wondered what Social Security numbers mean?

In this guide, discover what a Social Security number is, how to decode the numbers, if they’re reused, and what your number says about you.

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Top 7 Questions on the Government Pension Offset (GPO) 

government pension offset questions

Have you ever worked in a government job where you didn’t pay Social Security taxes? If that job also allowed you to earn a pension, then it’s critical that you understand the Government Pension Offset, or GPO.

The Government Pension Offset rule can drastically reduce, or even completely eliminate, your Social Security spousal or survivors’ benefits. That’s why it’s so important that if you ever worked in a public service job and earned a pension from your position, you take the time to learn everything you can about the GPO and how it could impact your Social Security income.

The Government Pension Offset’s mechanics are really simple: Your survivors’ or spousal benefits from Social Security will be reduced by an amount equal to two-thirds of your gross pension.

That’s a nasty surprise for the people who didn’t know about it, or fully understand how to plan for it. To avoid finding yourself in that situation, education is key. I’m sharing the top 7 questions I receive about the Government Pension Offset to help provide just that, so you can better plan for a successful retirement. 

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How Social Security Disability Benefits are Calculated

How Social Security Disability Benefits are Calculated

If you’re faced with a career-ending disability, you may wonder what kind of support the Social Security Administration offers.

In addition to retirement benefits, Social Security covers disability benefits as well to provide an income for disabled individuals who can no longer work. If this applies to your situation, it’s worth understanding how Social Security disability benefits are calculated so you can know what to expect. 

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Are Social Security Offices Open? 

texarkana social security office

On March 17, 2020, the Social Security Administration closed all its offices to the public for in-person services due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

For those who were accustomed to receiving face-to-face service to address issues with or questions about their benefits, this has been a massive shift in how they interact with the federal agency. 

More than one year later, the pandemic is officially still ongoing — but the strict lockdowns and business closures that we saw last spring have eased considerably. With restaurants and retail stores operating mostly as normal, you might wonder, are Social Security offices open too?

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Can You Get Medicare at 62? Why You May Be Able to Soon

can you get medicare at 62

Ever wondered why you can’t get Medicare at 62 but you can get Social Security at 62? 

You would think that these two critical systems for retirees (and those who will soon stop working) would be coordinated to the same age of initial eligibility. 

Sadly, that’s not how the current rules are written. You can’t get Medicare at 62 today, but that could change in the near future if a group of lawmakers gets their way. 

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Survivors’ Benefits: Exceptions to the Marriage Length Requirement

Survivors’ Benefits: Exceptions to the Marriage Length Requirement

There are approximately four million individuals receiving monthly Social Security benefits based on their deceased spouse’s earnings record. These come in the form of survivors’ benefits, which provide the majority of annual income for many of the recipients.

There’s no question that survivors’ benefits are an important lifeline that the Social Security Administration provides to widows and widowers who no longer have a spouse who can help manage household expenses.

Unfortunately, there are cases where a widow or widower is told that they are not eligible for these critical survivors’ benefits because they did not meet the core requirement for eligibility.

There is a strict rule that says in order to receive survivors’ benefits, individuals must meet a marriage length requirement. Social Security requires that your marriage lasted at least 9 months to qualify for benefits. 

While this rule is fairly strict, there are numerous exceptions for individuals who lose a spouse after a marriage that lasted less than 9 months. Here’s what you need to know.

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What is the Minimum Social Security Benefit?

what is the minimum social security benefit

The minimum Social Security benefit provision is an alternative benefit that increases benefits paid to low-income individuals. 

Where the regular Social Security benefit formula bases the benefit amount on an individual’s lifetime earnings, the minimum Social Security benefit formula is based on the number of years a person has worked with earnings at or above a certain threshold. 

The benefit amounts are still calculated through both formulas, but with the minimum Social Security benefit provision, the higher of the two benefits is the amount provided to qualified individuals. 

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Social Security Age of Retirement (specific to birth year)

social security age of retirement

The Social Security age of retirement used to be straightforward and the same for everyone. Not anymore.

From the first Social Security Act back in 1935 through 1983, the full Social Security age of retirement was 65. Then things got a little confusing. Due to the 1983 Amendments to the Social Security Act, the full retirement age began to gradually increase from age 65 to 67. However, it took  22-years to adjust! It slowly increased from 65 to 66, stayed at 66 for 11 years, and then began to move slowly to 67.

Whew! No wonder everyone is confused about their Social Security age of retirement.

Thankfully, these changes have mostly worked themselves through the system and now the full retirement age is based on your year of birth.

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Substantial Earnings for Social Security’s Windfall Elimination Provision

Substantial Earnings for Social Security’s Windfall Elimination Provision

If you will be subject to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), it may be possible to reduce that impact with enough years of substantial earnings. If you are planning for your retirement, you need to understand what’s on your earnings record and know how many years meet the definition of “substantial” as defined by the Social Security Administration

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The Windfall Elimination Provision Repeal: What You Should Know

The-Public-Servants-Protection-and-Fairness-Act-of-2021

In April of 2021, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, (D-Mass.), reintroduced the Public Servants Protection and Fairness Act of 2021. This legislation was originally presented to Congress in 2019, but died without receiving a vote. But now that the balance of power has shifted in both houses of Congress, this proposal has a much higher likelihood of passage. 

The goal of this Act is to provide an equitable Social Security formula for individuals with noncovered employment and to provide relief for individuals currently affected by Social Security’s Windfall Elimination Provision (also known as the WEP). 

Repealing the WEP with a new formula should help ease the difficulty that individuals with noncovered pensions face when planning for retirement. Although it’s not widely known, the annual Social Security benefit estimate does not include the WEP penalty in the estimated benefit. Furthermore, most Social Security technicians – let alone financial advisors – fail to understand the nuances of how the WEP is applied. They cannot explain it adequately, and although they may be trying to help, too often only add to the confusion.

There’s no reason we need to keep going this way. It’s past time for this outdated rule to be reformed.

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