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This column, prepared by the Social Security Administration, answers some of the most common social security questions.

Q: How can I estimate my retirement benefit at several different ages?
A: It’s easy! You can use our Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator to get a retirement benefit estimate based on current law and real time access to your earnings record. The Retirement Estimator also lets you create additional “what if” retirement scenarios to find out how changes in your situation might change your future benefit amount. It’s also available in Spanish at www.segurosocial.gov/calculador.

Q: If both my spouse and I are entitled to Social Security benefits, is there any reduction in our payments because we are married?
A: No. We calculate lifetime earnings independently to determine each spouse’s Social Security benefit amount. When each member of a married couple meets all other eligibility requirements to receive Social Security retirement benefits, each spouse receives a monthly benefit amount based on his or her own earnings. Couples are not penalized because they are married. If one member of the couple earned low wages or failed to earn enough Social Security credits (40) to be insured for retirement benefits, he or she may be eligible to receive benefits as a spouse based on the spouse’s work record. Learn more about spouse benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/yourspouse.htm.

(c) 2011, McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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