Howard Kossover: Social Security survivor benefits could change if widow goes back to work
Q: I work part-time while receiving Social Security retirement and will earn less this year than originally estimated. Can I change my estimate now?
A: This refers to the annual earnings test. Yes, update your 2013 earnings estimate with Social Security now if your original estimate has changed.
Your own earnings from gross wages or net self-employment can reduce Social Security benefits to you during a year until you reach full retirement age (FRA).
Earnings test amounts for 2013 are at www.ssa.gov/retire2/whileworking.htm and in SSA publication 05-10069, How Work Affects Your Benefits, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10069.pdf. Pensions, investment and other non-employment earnings are not included for earnings test purposes.
If you have not yet reached full retirement age, keeping your estimated amount of calendar year earnings current with Social Security is important.
This is especially so when your original estimate was below the earnings test amount and you will actually earn over the earnings test amount.
If you now expect to earn more than originally planned this year, and the amount will be over the 2013 earnings test amount for your age, then updating your estimate now can help prevent or reduce the chance of your being incorrectly paid and needing to refund money to Social Security.
If your current estimate is lower than originally expected, updating it now can help release any withheld benefits to you faster. Revise your earnings estimate up or down as needed during the year.
Report your actual earnings at the end of the year, if earning over the annual limit for your age.
People receiving disability benefits do not have an earnings test and should contact Social Security to learn about available incentives if returning to work.
Immediately is the best time to report changes to Social Security, including changes to your address, earnings or marital status.
A list of reportable items is in “What you need to know when you get Retirement or Survivors Benefits” (SSA publication 05-10077) at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10077.html.
Based in Grand Forks, Howard I. Kossover is the Social Security Public Affairs Specialist for North Dakota and western Minnesota. Send general interest questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his online articles at socialsecurityinfo.areavoices.com.