; Your AARP Ask the Experts
QI lost my job last summer at age 53. I’m afraid I’ll be fac-
ing mortgage problems within
the next year. Is there any way I
can withdraw money from my
retirement account to pay off
my mortgage without incurring
penalties and taxes?
AYes, but keep in mind that the amount you’d be paying back may be quite large, perhaps even prohibitive. Let’s say you’ve been collecting
$13,250 annually since you were 62. At age 70, you’d have to repay $106,000
to the government. Your annual benefit would increase by almost $10,000,
and you’d recoup your initial outlay by around age 80. To start the process,
you can download a Request for Withdrawal of Application, Form SSA-521,
from the SSA website ( www.ssa.gov) or pick it up at a local office.
QMy husband and I divorced after three years of marriage. We remarried each other, and he died three months later. Can I collect
Social Security based on his work record?
AYes. If you were married when he died, and he had worked long enough to be eligible for Social Security, then you are eligible for benefits as the
surviving spouse. However, if you remarry before age 60, you cannot receive
benefits on his record as long as you remain in the new marriage. But remar-
riage after age 60 (or age 50 if you’re disabled) will not bar you from getting
benefits based on his work record. For more on survivor benefits, go to the
Social Security Administration at www.ssa.gov/ww&os2.htm. —Carole Fleck
Experts: Jean Setzfand of AARP on 401(k) withdrawals, the Social Security Administration on paying back benefits
and spousal benefits. Send your questions to: Ask the Experts, AARP Bulletin, 601 E St. N. W., Washington, DC
20049, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out bulletin.aarp.org for previously asked questions and answers.