• October 3, 2023
  • Posted by General Electric Credit Union
  • 5 read

Deep Dive: Answering Your Social Security Questions

One of the top benefits of attending a General Electric Credit Union (GECU) webinar is that you can ask our experts questions at the end of their presentations. During our Social Security webinar, our attendees sent us the questions below to help them make sense of income limits, teacher benefits, and more. Read our answers, then watch “Navigating Social Security: Know your options, plan with confidence” on demand. 

Social Security income limits: What counts as earnings? 

While you can work and receive Social Security benefits at the same time, there are yearly earning limits that impact your benefit amount if you’re younger than full retirement age (67 for people turning 62 in 2023). For these individuals, they must make under $21,240 to receive full benefits. If their income is above this, $1 will be deducted for every $2 they are above the limit. 

But what earnings count toward the $21,240 threshold? Earned income, such as wages and self-employment earnings. Generally, other sources of income are exempt. This includes dividends, IRA earnings, pension payments, and interest, such as interest earned through a certificate or high-yield savings account

Understanding these income sources is crucial for individuals planning their retirement and optimizing their Social Security benefits.

How does divorce affect your ability to take Social Security benefits? 

Divorcees may be entitled to Social Security benefits based on their ex-spouse's work record if they meet certain requirements, including: 

  • Marriage duration. The marriage must have lasted for at least 10 years for the divorced spouse to be eligible for Social Security benefits based on their ex-spouse's record.
  • Age. To claim benefits based on an ex-spouse's record, you must be at least 62 years old. However, if you claim benefits before your full retirement age, the benefit amount may be reduced.
  • Marital status. You must be currently unmarried to claim benefits based on your ex-spouse's record. If you have remarried, you generally cannot claim benefits based on your former spouse's record unless your subsequent marriage ended (by divorce, death, or annulment).
  • Your ex-spouse's eligibility. Your ex-spouse must be eligible for Social Security benefits.

The benefit amount you're entitled to as a divorced spouse is typically based on your ex-spouse's earnings history. You can receive up to 50% of their full retirement benefit amount if you claim benefits at your full retirement age. Claiming benefits as a divorced spouse does not affect your ex-spouse's benefits or their new spouse's benefits.

How does the State Teachers Retirement System affect SS benefits? 

The STRS (State Teachers Retirement System) is a pension program for educators in some U.S. states, offering retirement benefits based on years of service and salary. While STRS provides essential financial security for teachers during retirement, it can affect their (and their spouse’s) eligibility for full Social Security benefits due to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) or the Government Pension Offset (GPO). If you or your spouse is a teacher, consult a financial advisor to gain a better understanding of what you can expect in retirement. 

Are you nearing retirement age? If so, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of Social Security. Use our library of blog content and our selection of retirement webinars to boost your knowledge. Or, schedule a no-cost consultation with Investment Services, available through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. (CFS).

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