When can a someone get Social Security spousal benefits based on the record of their spouse?

A person may be eligible for a monthly benefit up to one half (½) of their spouse’s retirement or Social Security disability amounts. This spousal benefit is subject to limitations as to the total amount that can be paid to an entire family

A person who is sixty-two (62) years or older may be eligible for spousal benefits if the other spouse is drawing a retirement or Social Security disability.

Further, a person who is any age, may be eligible for spousal benefits if that person is caring for a child if the other spouse is drawing a retirement or Social Security disability benefit. That child must be younger than sixteen (16) years of age or disabled and that child must be entitled to benefits on the other spouse’s record.

Kent DeJean

 

 

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7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Deciding to Retire

Few Americans save enough for retirement. Whether due to financial issues or a lack of foresight, a lot of people either don’t give much thought to retirement or are unable to save up enough to help them fund their elder years.

In fact, only 13 percent of people who haven’t retired yet say they’ve given a lot of thought to financial planning for retirement, according to a survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Board. Nearly 40 percent say they have given little to no thought to retirement planning.

Mapping out your retirement takes more than asking yourself, “When should I retire?” Consider these seven questions to help you better plan for financial and personal obstacles in retirement.

Read: What Retirement Without Savings Looks Like

1. What kind of lifestyle do I want?

Before figuring out how much money you need to retire, you need to consider what sort of lifestyle you want to have in retirement, said John Sweeney, Executive Vice President of Retirement and Investing Strategies at Fidelity.

Do you want to stay in your current home or downsize? Will you want to move to a bigger city or someplace warmer? Maybe you want to travel the world.

No matter how you envision your retirement, you’ll need to plan ahead to fund it. Depending on your goals, you might need to save more than you originally planned. If you’re married, you’ll need to speak with your spouse to make sure your retirement plans are aligned.

2. What will my expenses in retirement be?

Sweeney said most people can expect to spend about 85 cents in retirement for every dollar spent before retirement. Depending on your health, however, you might need to save more to cover medical expenses. If you have a chronic condition or mobility issues, over time you might end up needing to spend more money to maintain your quality of living.

To help you project rough estimates of your retirement costs, you can use an online retirement income calculator. With a financial planner, you can get a detailed cash-flow analysis and help managing taxes.

3. Will I have enough savings to cover my expenses?

Less than half of all workers say they’ve ever tried to calculate how much money they will need to save to live comfortably in retirement, according to The 2015 Retirement Confidence Survey conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Scott Bishop, Director of Financial Planning at STA Wealth Advisors in Houston, recommends comparing your current monthly expenses with how much income you’ll have in retirement.

If your retirement savings can’t sustain your mortgage, insurance and other typical costs, you might want to reconsider your current savings plan. You will also want to calculate your Social Security benefit to determine how it will affect your monthly budget. When considering whether you’ll have enough income in retirement, assume you’ll be in retirement for 25 years and have access to four percent of your savings annually.

In retirement, you’ll want to revisit your withdrawal percentage, adjusting for your actual spending, said Bishop. Your retirement portfolio, which should include numerous asset types, should also be structured to outpace inflation. Sweeney recommends you have a mix of stocks — about 55 percent — in your early years of retirement to maintain growth, and fixed income, such as bonds, to guard against market volatility.

4. What impact will taxes have on my retirement income?

Taxes don’t disappear when you stop working. In fact, your tax bill can take a big bite out of your retirement income.

Up to 85% of your Social Security benefits might be taxable if you have income in addition to your benefits. Withdrawals from tax-deferred retirement accounts, such as traditional IRAs and 401(k)s, are also taxed. So, if you need $5,000 a month to cover expenses in retirement, you might need to withdraw up to $6,000, said Bishop.

Higher-income taxpayers will have to pay taxes on profits from the sale of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other investments not held in tax-deferred retirement accounts. States have their own rules for taxing retirement income, so depending on where you live, you could be hit with an above-average tax bill.

The states that impose the highest taxes on retirees include California, Connecticut, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont, according to a 2014 analysis of state taxes conducted by Kiplinger, a publisher of business forecasts and personal finance advice. A financial planner can help you figure out how taxes will impact you in retirement and what strategies you can use to minimize your tax bill.

5. Where will I get my health care?

Chances are your employer won’t continue providing health care coverage for you in retirement. Only 28 percent of companies with 200 or more employees offer retiree health coverage, according to the 2013 Kaiser/HRET Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Benefits.

You are eligible for Medicare when you turn 65. You likely won’t need to pay a premium for Medicare Part A, which covers inpatient hospital stays, care at nursing facilities, hospice care and some home health care. If you want extended health benefits, however, you’ll need to pay a monthly premium for Medicare Part B, which covers most doctor and outpatient services. Medicare Part B typically costs around $104.90 each month.

If you retire early, you’ll have to get an insurance policy on your own. Couples who retire at 62 can expect to pay $17,000 a year for health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs until they’re eligible for Medicare, according to Fidelity. A retiree can expect to pay an average of $220,000 in medical expenses over the course of their retirement.

You also need to factor in long-term medical care, which could wipe out your retirement savings if you’re not prepared. The median annual cost of care in an assisted living facility is $43,200, and the average cost of a private nursing home room is more than double that, according to the Genworth 2015 Cost of Care Survey. To curb these types of costs, you can look into long-term care insurance.

6. How much debt do I have?

The more debt you carry into retirement, the more retirement income you’ll need to pay off what you owe. When you’re deciding when to retire, you need to figure out how long it will take to pay off your existing debts. You should pay off any high-interest debts that aren’t tax-deductible first, such as credit card balances, said Bishop. If you have good credit, refinance any high-interest debt that’s tax-deductible, such as a mortgage, to get the lowest rate possible.

7. Am I emotionally ready to retire?

Ask yourself what you will do once you retire. If you don’t know — and most people don’t — you might have a problem, said Bishop. Around 22 percent of people surveyed by the Federal Reserve Board say they plan to stop working entirely in retirement.

You need to figure out before you retire whether you want to continue working in some capacity. If you initially choose not to work in retirement, you might have a harder time becoming employed after being out of the workforce for a while.

Deciding to retire, much less knowing how to map out a retirement plan, takes work and careful thought. Consider meeting with a financial planner to help you determine how to decide when to retire and to create an action plan for retirement. Knowing how and when you will retire will allow you to look forward to retirement.

Find out how ACA affects Employers with 50 or more Employees

Some of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, or health care law, apply only to large employers, which are generally those with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees. These employers are considered applicable large employers – also known as ALEs – and are subject to the employer shared responsibility provisions and the annual employer information return provisions. For example, in 2016 applicable large employers will have annual reporting responsibilities concerning whether and what health insurance they offered in 2015 to their full-time employees.
All employers, regardless of size, that provide self-insured health coverage must file an annual return reporting certain information for individuals they cover. The first returns are due to be filed in 2016 for the year 2015.
Effective for calendar year 2015, ALEs with 100 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees will be subject to the employer shared responsibility provision and therefore may have to make a shared responsibility payment. This applies to employers that do not offer adequate, affordable coverage to their full-time employees and one or more of those employees get a premium tax credit. The employer shared responsibility provisions will be phased in for smaller ALEs from 2015 to 2016.
Calculating the number of employees is especially important for employers that have close to 50 employees or whose workforce fluctuates throughout the year. To determine its workforce size for a year an employer adds its total number of full-time employees for each month of the prior calendar year to the total number of full-time equivalent employees for each calendar month of the prior calendar year and divides that total number by 12.
Employers with more than 50 cannot purchase health insurance coverage for its employees through the Small Business Health Options Program – better known as the SHOP Marketplace. However, Employers that have exactly 50 employees can purchase coverage for their employees through the SHOP.
For more information, visit our Determining if an Employer is an Applicable Large Employer page on IRS.gov/aca.

New Cards for Medicare Recipients Will Omit Social Security Numbers

Concerned about the rising prevalence and sophistication of identity theft, most private health insurance companies have abandoned the use of Social Security numbers to identify individuals. The federal government even forbids private insurers to use the numbers on insurance cards when they provide medical or drug benefits under contract with Medicare.

But Medicare itself has continued the practice, imprinting Social Securitynumbers on more than 50 million benefit cards despite years of warningsfrom government watchdogs that it placed millions of people at risk for financial losses from identity theft.

That is about to change, after President Obama signed a bill last week that will end the use of those numbers on Medicare cards.

“The Social Security number is the key to identity theft, and thieves are having a field day with seniors’ Medicare cards,” said Representative Sam Johnson, Republican of Texas, who pushed for the change with Representative Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat.

The main purpose of the law, adopted with broad bipartisan support, was to overhaul the way doctors are paid for treating Medicare patients. But it makes other changes as well. One section that received little attention says Social Security account numbers must not be “displayed, coded or embedded on the Medicare card.”

Congress provided $320 million over four years to pay for the change. The money will come from Medicare trust funds that are financed with payroll and other taxes and with beneficiary premiums.

In his budget for 2016, Mr. Obama requested $50 million as a down payment “to support the removal of Social Security numbers from Medicare cards” — a step that federal auditors and investigators had been recommending for more than a decade.

More than 4,500 people a day sign up for Medicare. In the coming decade, 18 million more people are expected to qualify, bringing Medicare enrollment to 74 million people by 2025.

New beneficiaries are often surprised, even shocked, to find that their Medicare cards carry their Social Security numbers. Medicare uses them as the primary means of identifying beneficiaries, placing the numbers on benefit cards along with one or two letters or digits that indicate the basis of a person’s eligibility.

In moving to halt the practice, Congress was motivated by the proliferation of electronic health records and a rash of recent cyberattacks, including adata breach at Anthem, one of the nation’s largest insurers.

Medicare officials have up to four years to start issuing cards with new identifiers. They have four more years to reissue cards held by current beneficiaries. They intend to replace the Social Security number with “a randomly generated Medicare beneficiary identifier,” but the details are still being worked out.

Paula L. Ercolini, a 70-year-old Medicare beneficiary in Sharpsburg, Ga., outside Atlanta, said she wished that her Medicare card did not include her Social Security number.

“The Social Security number has the potential to open up your files, your life to hackers and thieves,” she said. “But you almost have to provide it when you go to new doctors. They won’t see you if you don’t.”

The card itself tells beneficiaries: “Carry your card with you when you are away from home. Let your hospital or doctor see your card when you require hospital, medical or health services under Medicare.”

Ann H. Rossie, 81, of Seattle, said she worried that having Social Security numbers on Medicare cards “makes us all vulnerable if our wallet is stolen.”

“Changing to another number will be a humongous job,” said Ms. Rossie, a former Social Security claims representative. “But Medicare needs to recognize the terrible impact on anybody whose identity is stolen. It destroys your self-esteem, and it can take years to re-establish your identity and credit.”

Members of Congress said the use of Social Security numbers on the cards provided a case study of bureaucratic inertia.

Since 2004, the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, has repeatedly urged officials to curtail the use of Social Security numbers as identifiers. In 2007, the White House Office of Management and Budget told agencies to “eliminate the unnecessary collection and use of Social Security numbers” within two years.

In 2008, the inspector general of Social Security called for immediate action to remove the numbers from Medicare cards, saying their display “unnecessarily places millions of individuals at risk for identity theft.” In that same year, the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs began carrying out elaborate plans to remove Social Security numbers from their identification cards.

But the Department of Health and Human Services, which supervises the agency that administers Medicare, has “lagged behind other federal agencies,” the Government Accountability Office said.

Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and chairwoman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, said she was puzzled by the delays. “This still does not appear to be a priority” for Medicare administrators, she said.

Medicare officials said their top information technology specialists had been preoccupied with efforts to build and repair HealthCare.gov, the online system for buying health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, which was overcome by technical problems soon after it began operating 18 months ago.

An internal report cites concerns about “the budgetary and logistical challenges of removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards.” The agency depends on more than 200 computer systems and pays more than a billion claims a year from 1.5 million health care providers.

AARP, the lobby for older Americans, and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare said they supported the new prohibition.

“Older adults are targeted by fraud artists, who use their Social Security numbers to get loans and credit cards,” said Amy E. Nofziger, manager of the fraud prevention program at AARP.

In one case described by Stephen R. Wigginton, the United States attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, a hospital employee and a former employee were convicted of stealing personal information from the charts of older patients and then using the data to apply for credit cards in the victims’ names.

The former employee was caught on camera at a store using a credit card obtained with the personal information of a 90-year-old woman who had been admitted to the hospital from an assisted living center.

My Application For Social Security Benefits Has Been Denied! What Do I Do?

Appeal as soon as possible! You should appeal your denial of benefits as soon as possible. For unfavorable decisions from the local office and the administrative law judge, you have only sixty (60) days to file an appeal.

If you don’t file an appeal within sixty (60) days, your decision will become final and you will not be able to appeal it. Your only other possible option will be to re-apply with the local office.
By not appealing, you could lose significant back payments for Social Security benefits.

You should also appeal right away because the appeal process already takes a long time before you will receive a decision. Every day, week and month that you delay is adding additional time to what is already a slow process.

Appeals sent by mail can be lost and misplaced. I recommend that clients hand deliver their appeal form to the Social Security office. Make sure that the appeal form is stamped with a receipt date and make sure that you have them also stamp the receipt on your own copy. This way if the appeal is lost, you will have proof that you filed your appeal.

You do not have to have an attorney to appeal an unfavorable decision. However, I do recommend that should you obtain an unfavorable decision that you consult with an experienced Social Security attorney. Kent S. DeJean

Social Security Disability Definitions: The Secret Cheat Slips

The laws and regulations governing how to win your Social Security Disability case can be complex and difficult to understand. Claimants are surprised when I tell them that there is a list of Social Security disability definitions.

There is a list for adult disability definitions and a list of definitions for children’s disabilities as well. These definitions are for various kinds of physical and mental disabilities. For example, there is a definition for heart conditions as well as cancer. There are also definitions for disabilities involving mental conditions such as anxiety and personality disorders

If a claimant meets any one of these definitions, the claimant is supposed to be found to be disabled. This short cut or cheat slip can make proving a disability by the claimant easier by knowing exactly what the target is.

If you would like to get a complimentary copy of a particular disability definition, please contact our office. Kent S. DeJean

Online Social Security Services!!!!

The Social Security Administration’s official website is located online at http://www.ssa.gov/

On this website, you can create an account to change your address and manage your Social Security benefits. You can also use this website to estimate your monthly retirement or disability benefits.

You can also use this website to apply for Social Security benefits and appeal a decision. This website will also let you know what benefits you may be eligible to receive and information on obtaining a new or revised Social Security card.

This website can be very useful to potential claimants by avoiding to have to spend the time, money and effort to go to a local Social Security office.

If you have any questions concerning Social Security disability benefits, you should consult with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney. Kent S. DeJean

How Much Monthly Social Security Benefits Will I Get When I Retire Or Am Disabled?

There is a very good online article about how your monthly Social Security Benefits are calculated. The following is the article’s website:

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/how-social-security-benefits-are-calculated-173545005.html?soc_src=mail&soc_trk=ma

The Social Security Administration has a website where you can calculate your own benefits yourself. The following is the Social Security Administration’s website:

http://www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount/

If you have any questions, concerning Social Security benefits, you should consult an experienced Social Security attorney. Kent S. DeJean

Five Key Facts about Unemployment Benefits

If you lose your job, you may qualify for unemployment benefits. The payments may serve as much needed relief. But did you know unemployment benefits are taxable? Here are five key facts about unemployment compensation:

1. Unemployment is taxable.  You must include all unemployment compensation as income for the year. You should receive a Form 1099-G, Certain Government Payments by Jan. 31 of the following year. This form will show the amount paid to you and the amount of any federal income tax withheld.

2. Paid under U.S. or state law.  There are various types of unemployment compensation. Unemployment includes amounts paid under U.S. or state unemployment compensation laws. For more information, see Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income.

3. Union benefits may be taxable.  You must include benefits paid to you from regular union dues in your income. Other rules may apply if you contributed to a special union fund and those contributions are not deductible. In that case, you only include as income any amount that you got that was more than the contributions you made.

4. You may have tax withheld.  You can choose to have federal income tax withheld from your unemployment. You can have this done using Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request. If you choose not to have tax withheld, you may need to make estimated tax payments during the year.

5. Visit IRS.gov for help.  If you’re facing financial difficulties, you should visit the IRS.gov page: “What Ifs” for Struggling Taxpayers. This page explains the tax effect of events such as job loss. For example, if your income decreased, you may be eligible for certain tax credits, like the Earned Income Tax Credit. If you owe federal taxes and can’t pay your bill, contact the IRS. In many cases, the IRS can take steps to help ease your financial burden.

For more details visit IRS.gov and check Publication 525. You can view, download and print Form W-4V at IRS.gov/forms anytime.

If you found this Tax Tip helpful, please share it through your social media platforms. A great way to get tax information is to use IRS Social Media. You can also subscribe to IRS Tax Tips or any of our e-news subscriptions.

Tax Tips for Disabled Spouses

There is an interesting and helpful article concerning tips regarding what benefits are taxable and non-taxable for a disabled spouse as well as what care expenses may be credited. Here is the link:

https://turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/tax-tips/Family/Tax-Tips-for-Caring-for-a-Disabled-Spouse/INF27737.html