The Social Security Conundrum

Social Security benefits and the MA pension system interact in troublesome ways for public employees. While each person's situation is different, there are general principles that a MA public employee must understand when evaluating your Social Security benefits. For the sake of convenience, we'll refer to employment as a MA public employee who contributes to a pension system as a "public employee".

1. Being a public employee means that your public employment does not participate in the Social Security system. Generally, you're in one system or the other. If you're contributing to a MA pension system, that job is not contributing to Social Security.

2. If you have Social Security benefits from other employment, a previous non-public employee job, or a subsequent non-public employee job, the federal government has enacted laws that will likely reduce those benefits if you try to collect them while also collecting a MA public pension.

3. If you're eligible for Social Security benefits from your spouse's benefits, the federal government has enacted laws that will likely reduce those benefits if you try to collect them while also collecting a MA public pension.

4. If you do not contribute to the Social Security system, your benefits under that system usually decline. If you do not contribute for a little more than 5 straight years, you will cease to be disability-insured and lose your disability benefits under Social Security. This is a significant problem, since many MA public employees get no pension coverage, even for disability, until they complete 10 years of service.

5. Your Social Security benefits are based on "quarters", or, now, "credits" of work, the maximum of which you can earn is 4 per year. Generally, public employees will have a hard time getting any benefit if they have not earned 40 credits under Social Security.

6. If you work as a public employee for just 10 years, your Social Security retirement benefits will likely be reduced simply because you are eligible to collect a MA public pension. Thus, it is important to decide whether you want to make a long-term career in the MA public sector.

7. Despite what you might have heard, there is no law against "double dipping"! Public employees can collect both a MA pension and Social Security retirement, but the latter is often reduced.
 
Navigating the interaction between Social Security's laws and rules and the intricacies of the MA public pension system is difficult, but worthwhile. CONTACT us today to discuss this tricky interaction and to determine how it is likely to affect you and your family.

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