Married Same-Sex Couples May Now Cash in on Social Security
The Supreme Court’s decision to rule the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, thereby extending federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples, represents an enormous advance for our country.
No one has a monopoly on language, and if same-sex couples wish to use the word “marriage” to solemnize their devotion to one another and legalize their financial commitments, they should have every right in the world to do so.
And after the court’s ruling Wednesday, they have that right in the 13 states and the District of Columbia where same-sex marriage is legal, now including the biggie — California. Amen! Now it’s time for the other 37 states to fall in line.
But there’s more good news for same-sex couples! Unmarried same-sex couples in the 13 states, as well as those who move to those states, can, as of now, cash in on a potentially very large Social Security bonanza.
It may not be widely known, but married folk get treated better — a whole lot better — than single folk by Social Security. Specifically, Social Security provides spousal and survivor benefits to one’s spouse. And you only have to be married one year to get spousal benefits and nine months to get survivor benefits. Moreover, if your partner has a child under age 16, you can collect spousal benefits regardless of your age.
To illustrate the potential financial benefits of same-sex couples tying the knot in one of what will surely be called “The Original 13 States,” I just hopped onto my company’s ESPlannerPLUS financial planning program and ran the case of Jerry and Ken, who are both 55 and live in California. They both earned middle class salaries until now, have a modest home with a mortgage and $500,000 in regular assets. But Ken recently retired because Jerry got a big raise and is now pulling down $200,000 a year. Jerry likes his job and will stick with it until age 65.