My first Social Security deposit was supposed to arrive this week, but when I checked our account yesterday morning there were no deposits pending. I guess I will have to wait until next month.
I filed for retirement online with Social Security back in October of last year, three months before my official retirement date of January 1, and all seemed to have gone well. But, in early November I received an official email from Social Security asking me to call a particular agent at one of the service centers to resolve a couple of issues (and yes, I did verify that the number was legitimate as was the person I would be calling).
So, I called but was sent to the agent’s voicemail. I don’t want to sound like an ageist, but this person sounded like she was 90 years old (seriously!) and her recorded message asked callers to leave so much information that by the time I got done giving it all there was barely any time left to leave a message.
When I didn’t hear anything back from her in two weeks I called again and this time she picked up the phone . . . and still sounded like she was 90 years old. I gave my name and Social Security number and the first thing she said was, “Oh yes, I’ve been trying to reach you but you haven’t gotten back to me.” LIE!! In those two weeks there had not been one voicemail, missed call, or email from this woman – nada. But, I kept my mouth shut because Rule #1 is not to tick off someone who can mess with your income.
The first issue she wanted to cover was trying to find out why the Oregon University System (OUS) had not withheld any FICA from my paychecks back in 1994. As this was more than 20 years ago, it took me a while to even remember what that job might have been. I had no memory of ever working for the Oregon University System, but it eventually came to me: It was a work-study job in the alumni office while I attended Portland State University.
This was how our conversation went:
- Me: That income was from work-study and part of my financial aid when I was an undergraduate at Portland State University. I don’t know why Social Security wasn’t withheld.
- Her: But you also earned money from Portland Community College (PCC) and that was taxed.
- M: Yes, I was an instructor at PCC. I began working there in 2000.
- H: But they didn’t take any FICA deductions when you worked for the OUS.
- M: I don’t know why they didn’t take any deductions, but that income was part of my financial aid award. I was a full-time student and I worked part-time in the alumni office.
- H: But, they took deductions when you were at PCC.
- M: Yes, I was employed there as an instructor. I had graduated from PSU.
- H: But OUS . . .
- M: Has nothing to do with PCC! They are two entirely different systems. They are not connected! I was a student and received work-study for financial aid when I attended PSU. After I received my graduate degree, I began work as an instructor at PCC. It was six years later! I have no idea why OUS didn’t take anything out for Social Security. (Note: I’ve learned FICA taxes are not deducted from work-study income if you are a full-time student and working less than part time (20 hours/week) – I worked in the alumni office around 10 hours/week.)
This entire conversation was repeated four more times!! It got to the point where we both had to sit quietly on the phone for a couple of minutes to calm ourselves down – she was angry at me because I assume she either thought I wasn’t listening to her or lying, and I was angry because she was not listening to me, refused to believe that OUS and PCC were not somehow connected, and kept asking me the same questions over and over.
Then, out of nowhere she suddenly said: “Oh, OK.”
What? Did we really go through all that and then it’s “Oh, OK?” I wanted to go bang my head against a wall!
We moved on to the next issue she had, which was the supplemental dependent payments for the girls. The agent wanted to link their accounts to my retirement instead of Brett’s, but I said no because we had been told when Brett retired that dependent accounts are linked to the highest earner, and Brett receives much more Social Security income than I will. Again, she said “OK.” And that was that, or so I thought.
A couple of weeks later though Brett got a message from the same agent asking about the dependent accounts and asking him to contact her. After two weeks of leaving messages with her voicemail and receiving no replies, he gave up.
Brett and I went down to the local Social Security office on January 2 to see if we could figure out what was going on. The first thing the agent there said to me was, “It says in your file that this other agent had trouble connecting with you.” Again I bit my tongue – Rule #1 again. The local agent was very helpful though, and told us that actually, Brett’s and my Social Security income would most likely be combined and possibly make the girls eligible for a larger dependent payment. My file did thankfully show that I had applied for retirement benefits. The agent arranged a phone interview for the following week to get everything straightened out and set up. That agent called at the appointed time, we talked for a while, then he talked with Brett for a while. When he had to go look up some more information he gave me the time he would call back, and again called on time. He said when we were done that everything would hopefully go through in time for me to get a payment in February, but that it might take 60 days, which it appears is what has happened.
Yes, I am going to officially complain, once everything is settled and my payment starts arriving regularly. We thankfully have enough monthly income that we won’t suffer without my SS income, but it would be nice to have it. I admit though to still being a bit nervous about the whole thing because I have yet to receive any official confirmation that I have applied for retirement benefits. I have my fingers crossed that there will be money in the bank in March, but if not it’s back to the office I go.