Should octogenarians tell Social Security they married?

Question: We were married two years ago at age 78 and 81. Do we need to do anything with Social Security? Signed: Blissfully Happy

Dear Blissfully Happy: Congratulations on your fairly recent marriage and, yes, there are some things you should do. Specifically, you should contact Social Security to inform them of your marriage, see whether any additional benefits are available and to make any changes needed to your contact information. Here are some things to consider:

  • If a name change has occurred for one of you, that person should contact Social Security to report the change. A copy of your marriage certificate (and other ID) will be required, and a new Social Security card will be issued.
  • If a change of address has also occurred for one or both of you, that must be reported. It’s important that Social Security has the correct mailing address, email, and contact phone number for every beneficiary.
  • If there are any other changes to the contact Information on file with the Social Security Administration for either of you (e.g., your banking information), the affected person should inform Social Security of the changes needed.
  • Social Security will evaluate whether any benefit increase is available as a result of your marriage, which may be the case if one of you is entitled to a “spousal boost” (an additional amount from the other now that you’re married). A spousal boost may be available if one has a monthly Social Security payment which is more than twice the other’s benefit. Social Security can answer that question for you when you call.

You can contact either your local Social Security office (find the number at ssa.gov/locator) or call the national number at (800) 772.1213 and tell them you need to inform them of your marriage and update your contact information. If you have (or if you create) an online “my Social Security” account at ssa.gov/myaccount, you can initiate changes to your contact information online, but you will need to call Social Security directly via phone to record your marriage and see if any changes to monthly benefits are available. All of this can likely be done without requiring a visit to your local SS office.

It is very important that Social Security be made aware of your new marital status and to ensure that they have the correct contact information for both of you. Even if the contact information is unchanged for one of you, the other should contact Social Security as described above to update their contact information and to determine if any changes to monthly benefits are appropriate as a result of your marriage. Doing so now will avoid future issues and will make sure you are both getting the correct monthly Social Security payments as a married couple. And if one of you is entitled to a higher spousal amount, you should ask for the increase to be applied retroactively (SS will pay up to six months retroactively). I suggest you call Social Security as soon as possible to inform them of your marriage and make any necessary changes to your contact information.