I never paid into Social Security. Can I get benefits anyway?

Photo: pixabay.com

Q. I’m 62 and never paid into Social Security. I am retired and collecting a pension. Someone told me that I am entitled to collect spousal Social Security. If I do, would it affect my husband’s Social Security? What happens when he retires? I don’t want to mess anything up for him. Will it affect my pension?

— Concerned

A. There are several moving parts here.

First, your pension will not be affected by your Social Security benefits.

And, your husband’s Social Security will not be affected by your pension, or your decision to apply for spousal benefits.

However, your Social Security benefits may be affected by several factors, said Nicholas Scheibner, a certified financial planner with Baron Financial Group in Fair Lawn.

Even if you never paid into Social Security, you may be eligible for spousal benefits, he said.

“In your case, since you do not have any Social Security quarters earned, your maximum spousal benefit will be half of your husband’s Full Retirement Benefit,” he said. “You have the option to start taking these benefits as early as 62, but they will be permanently reduced.”

The Social Security Administration has a quick online calculator to help you estimate the reduction of benefits by taking Social Security early.

If you had been paying into Social Security, but your own retirement benefits were less than half of your husband’s, your spousal benefit would equal the difference between your benefit and half of your husband’s benefit, he said.

Social Security explains this as: Under Social Security’s “dual entitlement rule,” a person’s spousal benefit is reduced, dollar-for-dollar, by the amount of his or her own Social Security.

Your application for spousal benefits will not have an effect on your husband’s benefit, Scheibner said.

However, note that your husband needs to be receiving Social Security benefits for you to receive spousal benefits. So if your husband has not begun his Social Security yet, you’ll need to wait until he starts collecting, he said.

Your pension may affect your Social Security benefits paid to you depending on where you previously worked, Scheibner said.

You may find your spousal benefits will be reduced by the Government Pension Offset, or GPO.

Scheibner notes that Social Security says: “If you receive a retirement or disability pension from a federal, state, or local government based on your own work for which you didn’t pay Social Security taxes, we may reduce your Social Security spouses or widows or widowers’ benefits.”

“We’ll reduce your Social Security benefits by two-thirds of your government pension. If two-thirds of your government pension is more than your Social Security benefit, your benefit could be reduced to zero.”

“Your pension will not affect your husband’s Social Security, since the GPO only applies to pension for work based on your own record,” Scheibner said.

Email your questions to .

This story was originally published on May 2, 2022.

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.