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Help! They're trying to cut my Social Security

Social Security is a simple concept, but the execution can be complicated. One example is the Windfall Elimination Provision. Does it apply to you?

By MSN Money Partner Jun 13, 2013 7:00PM

This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News. 

MSN money partnerI recently received this question from a reader who's afraid her golden years are about to get tarnished:

What is with the "Windfall Elimination Provision?" We have an appointment with the Social Security office in our area and they want bank statements, assets and more. Do they have the right to ask for this information? My husband is 66 and has been receiving Social Security since age 62. We needed the money to live on. Now Social Security says they overpaid him … confused. Thanks. -- Joyce

Here's your answer, Joyce.

What's the Windfall Elimination Provision?

The Windfall Elimination Provision is complicated in execution, but simple in theory: It's supposed to prevent Social Security recipients from "double dipping" -- getting a full pension from both Social Security and an employer that didn’t participate in Social Security, like a government agency or non-U.S. employer. WEP eliminates this "windfall" by reducing your Social Security payments. You can read more about it in this publication (.pdf file).

If you worked your entire career in jobs subject to Social Security withholding, you can stop reading. WEP won't apply to you. It also won't apply if you were a federal worker hired after Dec. 31, 1983, or if you paid into Social Security for 30 years and had "substantial" income.

What they deem "substantial" changes yearly. You can see the amount for every year in the PDF publication mentioned above. For example, in 1955 it was $1,050. For 2013 it was $21,075.

There are other exceptions to WEP. If you think you might be subject to it, visit the link above to read them all.

If WEP does apply to you, it will reduce your monthly Social Security payments. There's a chart on this page of the Social Security website explaining how much, but the maximum possible reduction for 2013 is $395.50 per month.

Because Joyce didn't provide details about her husband's former employers and earnings, I can't say if her husband is subject to WEP. As for whether the government can request information about "bank statements, assets and more," probably. Agencies like the IRS do it routinely.

Good luck with your upcoming appointment, Joyce. Let me know what happens.

Now let's move on with some additional advice for those readers still working.

How to get more Social Security

Here are a few important tips:

1. Work at least 35 years

Social Security benefits are calculated based on your 35 highest-earning working years. If you work fewer years, you’ll have years with zero income averaged in -- which will lower your payout.

2. Ask for a raise

If you experience a jump in salary, you'll likely boost your future earning potential and may see an increase in your Social Security payments down the road, because, as we just explained, Social Security takes into account the 35 top-earning years of your career. Can't get a raise? Take a second job to earn more.

3. Wait until full retirement age to claim Social Security

You can begin collecting Social Security benefits as early as age 62, but you might not want to: Your benefit will be reduced by 25% for life. To get your full payment, wait until you reach full retirement age -- currently 66 for anyone born between 1943 and 1954. For those born between 1955 and 1959, the age gradually rises toward 67. For those born in 1960, it's 67.

4. Better yet, wait until age 70

If you can afford to wait until age 70 to claim Social Security benefits, it'll pay off. Thanks to what the Social Security Administration calls "delayed retirement credits," benefits increase 8% each year you delay tapping into Social Security -- up till age 70. So waiting until you reach 70 means about a third more income for life.

When considering this strategy, it's particularly beneficial for the higher-earning spouse in a marriage to hold out until age 70 to increase the total benefits the couple will receive throughout their lifetime. In the event that the spouse with the higher benefit passes away, the surviving spouse will receive the higher payment.

If you took benefits early and regret the move, it might not be too late to fix it. You may be able to repay all the benefits you received so far and restart them at a higher level based on your age. But this policy isn't as flexible as it used to be. For more details, check out this page on the SSA site.

5. Do your due diligence

Always read your Social Security statements (either received as paper statements in the mail or online at to be sure everything has been reported correctly. Although inaccuracies are uncommon, some scenarios lend themselves to a greater chance of error -- such as a name change your employer failed to update on company records.

6. Clear your debts

Your Social Security benefits are protected from most debt collections, but they can be taken to collect unpaid federal taxes, federal student loan balances, and child support or alimony. Clearing these debts will leave your Social Security benefits untouched.

More on Money Talks News:

Jun 14, 2013 10:41AM

That advice to wait until you are 70 is BS.

What if you die at 72,the Govt. pockets the rest,unless you have a spouse that continues

to draw on you.

Better advice is to start at 62 and get a part time job(you can earn over $13000 without penalty.)

That way you can enjoy your so called golden years and not work until you drop.

Jun 13, 2013 9:34PM
Don't let the corrupt politicians in Washington make cuts to your Social Security, they have been crying the sky is falling the sky is falling for the past 75 years. most Republicans and a few Democrats would like to make drastic cuts or privatize it so Wall Street can churn some hefty commissions. Its your money people you have paid into it your whole life, its not an entitlement. An entitlement is what members of congress receive after catering to the needs and wants of the wealthy elite. 
Jun 14, 2013 10:32AM

According to the people who write these articles...Just wait till you DIE to

collect.The money You Paid into Your SS Fund..

Started drawing mine at 62 and glad I did..!  Your mileage may vary...!

I have lost trust in our Government..They only want to line their Own pockets with money.

Could be  they may run out of YOUR Money by age 70...Watchya

Jun 14, 2013 12:47PM
I will be 70 this year. I could still be working, but I was forced to go on Social Security at age 62 to take care of my husband, who's failing health was to a point where he could no longer take care of himself and we didn't qualify for any additional help because they always couple both incomes, even if it is the Social Security office doing the paper work and it would always throw us over the bar set on allowed income. They tell you when you sign up for Social Security payments, that this money is yours, and it is intended for you only, don't let anyone use your money for themselves. But what do they do if you or your spouse needs help? They themselves break that rule by adding the Social Security incomes together. By doing that they are basically saying your money should be being used for "someone else" not your self like they told you.  And  generally in a large number of cases throws your Social Security income over the amount allowed, therefore robbing you of being able to get the help you need, and in my case keeps me from being able to work. By doing this, they have actually bit themselves in the butt, cause I could still be working and paying into the system. So many times our government officials in my thoughts, aren't very smart, and no doubt...they are definitely crooks!
Jun 14, 2013 12:33PM
I agree with lyndo359. Pocket it at 62, 66 at the latest. Yes, it's less at 62 but you would have to live until 80 for the difference to catch up. Your playing 'you bet your life' the longer you wait. That's the idea behind always wanting to raise the age level. A lot of people had no choice in this recession. If your unemployed at 62 and can't get a job, your screwed without it.
Jun 14, 2013 12:18PM
How is it double dipping if you've paid into two different systems?
Jun 14, 2013 12:55PM
I meant to say if you have NOT worked you shouldn't be allowed to draw on it.
Jun 14, 2013 12:24PM
Greedy Bastards only want to line thier own pockets and help the mexicans get here to make them more money.
Jun 14, 2013 12:53PM

They need to eliminate the SS cap for income tax deductions. Those who earn over 110,000/yr. need to be taxed on the whole amount for SS.

THEN, the government needs to keep their greedy little hands off of OUR money. SS is NOT and entitlement and if you have worked and contributed you should not be allowed to draw on it.

Those who against privatizing it need to look at what the government has done to our trust fund.They have raided it for every little project and foreign country they decide needs money. Make it a law that that tax goes directly to an IRA, 401K, or some other retirement account and cannot be touched until retirement or some life circumstance that takes you out of the workplace. This will never happen because the politicians couldn't buy votes by giving away our money to illegals and any other person who didn't earn it.

Jun 14, 2013 1:11PM
If you worked for an employer that didn't participate in Social Security how do you even qualify for Social Security benefits??????????
Jun 14, 2013 1:38PM
Total BS about waiting from age 66 until age 70. Sure it means a higher premium, but it means 4 less years of retirement.
Jun 14, 2013 2:47PM
I retired at 60 (now I'm 64) never had any question about starting to collect at 62, glad I did, at least I feel good about getting SOMETHING.  You never know:  your health, the feds change the system to screw you, etc.
Jun 14, 2013 1:03PM

This wait until you are 70, to file for SS, is just the "politically correct" for the time tested:


                                                      THE CHECK IS IN THE MAIL


Secretly they hold their fingers crossed hopping that you kick the bucket, before you reach that birthday. Wait a few years and they'll be asking you to wait until you are 100  -- translates to: just pay the FICA and shut up-- anyway, only about  7% of the population reaches the age 70 -- after that age, you "better" have a very good health insurance policy. Just plain Medicare will  not do. Most major surgery and transplants require a advance  deposit of at least $100K to $250K


Ironically, most of the "money" that was spent of "research" for these advanced medical procedure actually came from TAXES from "people" that will never be able to afford anyway---if a heart transplant cost an average of $500K plus and maybe 5 years of additional life expectancy (providing you can afford the anti rejection medications --- That equates to $100K ,plus 100K in meds, for each extra year, if you are lucky-- I personally would check in to a "Nevada Ranch" and pay $10K for the ride of my life--Much, like in Soylent Green (Edward G. Robinson, final film).-- and leave the extra $1M to my kids to waste and enjoy!.....Money much better spent than paying for the Surgeons misters and her Porcha that may give you 365 more days to live...

I am a woman who wants to retire at 60 by drawing on my husband's SS benefits.  He made decent money and paid in for over 35 years, but because he died and I want to retire at 60, I will only receive 71.5% of the benefits that would have been paid to him.  He passed away before drawing ANY SS benefits, so why am I giving up 1/4th of the benefits??????  That money he paid in has been drawing SOME type of interest????supposedly, but I probably will never draw out the entire amount paid in, and I too have worked over 35 years, so if you add my payments of SS in with his payments of SS, I'll never draw even 1/2 of that amount out.  What happens with the rest, paid to people who have come into this country and NEVER paid that 1st penny in.  Fair, think not, but what do you suppose we can do about it???????????
Jun 14, 2013 2:41PM
There is nothing tricky about the rule. If you did not pay in to the system, you should not be allowed to draw from it! That is part of the problem of maintaining it. To many people drawing who did not pay into it. Pretty simple elementry math.
Jun 14, 2013 1:27PM

Well I already know that your speaking out your **** DAM MORON!


I Joined the US ARMY in 1973 and have paid Social Security TAX form DAY 1 and at the time was only getting paid $360.00 a month.




NOT every Government job is Social Security tax free almost all have paid taxes for a long time now!


There are jobs that do not take taxes out , they leave that up to you to pay and if you choose not to pay YOU DO NOT GET ANYTHING!

Jun 14, 2013 12:55PM
Best trick of all - don't need Social Security. My 401Ks and rental properties should be more than enough to retire comfortably. Social Security will just be extra.
Jun 14, 2013 1:17PM
I realize that this will not be popular with some people but I think that everyone should have to file a federal tax return.  Even if you don't owe any taxes because of the low income provision it might still help to prevent someone from using your SS number.  I'm aware that fraud in tax returns is a problem that might be reduced if someone who did not have to file a return did so just to let the IRS know that "hey , this is me over here, not me over there". 
Jun 14, 2013 1:29PM

they won't let you draw a pension from a federal job AND your full social security. however, you can draw a full pension from a private sector job and still get 100% of your social security payment. good to know.



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