I’m marrying my childhood sweetheart. What happens to Social Security?

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Q. My childhood sweetheart just proposed to me after coming back into my life after 45 years. He is 75 and I’m 63. He was married before for more than 30 years and they divorced. I’m currently on Supplemental Security Income (SSI). While the coronavirus is delaying our marriage, we want to know what will happen to my Social Security.
— Soon-to-be-married

A. Congratulations on your engagement!

We wish we had a crystal ball and could tell you how many years you’ll have together, but it’s just not so.

As Yogi Berra is reputed to have said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” That’s even more true of lifespan, said Gene McGovern, a certified financial planner with McGovern Financial Advisors in Westfield.

He said the best we can do is to look at average lifespans and some of the factors that determine how long we live.

For the average man born on your fiancé’s birthday, the Social Security Administration’s Life Expectancy Calculator estimates that he will live another 11.5 years, to age 86.8. However, that’s a broad average across the population.

Similarly, the Society of Actuaries estimates that a man with your fiancé’s birth year has a 61 percent chance of living another 10 years, and a better than one-in-three chance of living to 90, assuming he’s in average health and doesn’t smoke, McGovern said.

Many other factors, however, come into play that influence how long we live.

“These include not only your fiancé’s current state of health but also his genetics, family history, income level, marital status, attention and access to medical care, and lifestyle choices,” he said. “Those choices include such things as exercise habits, smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation.”

Of course, in wondering whether you’ll have 10 years together, you also need to consider your own mortality, which depends on those same factors.

Let’s get to the money.

Getting married may reduce the amount of your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits because the amount of your monthly benefit depends on your income and resources, McGovern said.

“It’s very important that you notify the Social Security Administration when you do get married. The deadline to notify them is 10 days after the month in which you marry,” he said. “If you don’t report the change, and receive too much in SSI benefits because of your married status, you’ll have to repay any excess.”

You can call Social Security toll free at (800) 772-1213 or contact your local Social Security office.

“In the end, your decision to marry is best based on whether you and your fiancé want to spend the remainder of your lives together,” McGovern said.

We wish both all the best.

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This story was originally published on July 1, 202.

NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.