Q: I was a federal employee and did not pay into Social Security while working for the government. However, I was fully vested and, due to the WEP Act, I only draw a small portion of my Social Security benefits. I filed already at age 66 and am currently drawing social security as well as a pension. I also was married for over 10 years to my ex-husband. Is there anything I can do to maximize and draw more from my Social Security? Can I draw off my ex-husband’s social security if he passes away. I know I cannot ever draw off my husband’s Social Security. Also, my husband has 401(k) that is in Vanguard and is just sitting there. It is not much, but I want to know if we can maximize it without the risk of losing money.
A: In the event of your ex-husband’s passing you may be qualified to receive his social security survivor benefit, since you were married for over 10 years. However, it also depends on when you remarried. If it was after you turned 60 then you would qualify, but if it was before you turned 60 you would be disqualified. Unfortunately, just as with the WEP act, the GPO (Government Pension Offset) would likely reduce that benefit since you were a federal employee.
Here is a link that has information on the GPO and how you could be exempt from the offset: https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/gpo.html. Regarding your husband’s 401(k)– if you want to invest your money and not worry about losing it, you have a few options. You could roll it into a money market account where it would earn a low interest rate, but be readily available. You could buy CDs which would earn a higher rate than the money market, but are less liquid. Or, you could invest in U.S. Treasuries which have maturities ranging anywhere from 4 weeks to 30 years.