A woman sitting at a table

Will Stay-at-Home Mom be Eligible for Social Security?

Dear Mary: I’m a stay-at-home mom and haven’t had a paycheck since I was a teenager. Will I be eligible for Social Security benefits? — Emily, Oregon

A woman sitting at a table
Dear Emily: If you are married, you will be eligible. Your Social Security retirement benefits are tied to your husband’s. You can file when he does, provided you’re at least 62 at that time.

Your monthly check will be equal to 50 percent of his, if he waits until “full retirement age” to begin collecting benefits (66 or 67 depending on the year he was born). If he opts to begin drawing early at 62, then your benefit will be reduced to 37.5 percent of his monthly check. (If you’re now single, divorced or widowed, the amounts vary.)

We’re not talking a lot of money here under the very best of circumstances, so my advice is that you plan on it as a supplement, not enough to live on.

To get help, go to the Social Security Administration website, ssa.gov, and check out the FAQs. This site is remarkably user-friendly.

To get help, go to the Social Security Administration website, ssa.gov, and check out the FAQs. This site is remarkably user-friendly.

Dear Mary: If my parents die with a lot of debt, will I be responsible for paying it? — Jeb, email

Dear Jeb: Generally, you will not be responsible for their debts, unless you cosigned for a loan with them or you are a joint account holder on their credit card accounts. Your parents’ debts will be paid out of their estate (everything they own, including real estate).

Anyone they owe has to get in line to be paid with secured creditors like their mortgage lender in the first position. Then come their unsecured creditors like credit card companies. Once all their debts are paid from their assets, anything that remains is divided up amongst their heirs. If your parents die with few to no assets, their creditors eat the loss. They cannot come after you.

Dear Mary: I’m recently divorced. My husband handled the finances; now I’m on my own. Where do I start? —Betty, email

Dear Betty: You need a budget. This just means “pre-spending” your money on paper first, before you deposit your check.

Make two lists: Income and Expenses. Under Income, list the sources (paycheck, child support, alimony, savings, settlements, etc.) and the amounts.

Under Expenses, list all of your bills and obligations, starting with your rent or mortgage payment, food, car payment, utilities, clothes, etc.

Add up each list, then subtract your expenses from your income. If your expenses are more than your income, start crossing out things that are optional. Carefully weigh the expenses you believe are essential. Cable TV isn’t essential. Food is vital, of course, but try shopping at discount markets, rather than going out to restaurants. You need a car, but not a gas guzzler with big payments.

Once your expenses and income are in line with each other, use your budget as your monthly financial road map. Consult it often and you’ll find yourself in control of your money, instead of the other way around. To get help, type “budget worksheet” into an Internet search engine, and you’ll find many free forms and Excel spreadsheets to develop a spending plan.

More from Mary's Everyday Cheapskate

bed with heated mattress pad and dual controls
You Have Been Hacked Sign illustration design over white
keychain with tools
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
11 replies
  1. DianaB says:

    Jeb with the question about being responsible for a parent’s debts, it is true that you are not unless you did co-sign. I had written each creditor (medical bills, utilities, credit card, etc.) informing them of my mom’s death and that there was no money, no assets, and in her case no estate. However, that won’t stop the creditors from contacting you and asking how you would LIKE TO PAY OFF THE DEBT the parent owed. They finally quit trying to collect from me, but it was a pain in the neck for a while. In some instances, I had to send them proof of her passing, i.e. copy of the death certificate.

  2. GMcK says:

    I use YNAB (You Need A Budget). You pay for the software but it resides on your computer with no monthly fees. It has marvelous help with free webinars and blogs. I was never able to budget and stick to it but YNAB is very easy to use and set up. There are also updates and reduced cost when a new version comes out.Jesse Meachem, the founder of YNAB follows Mary’s principals of saving money. YNAB has been a God send.

  3. kaetra says:

    Since 2003 I’ve use the now-defunct Microsoft Money and I LOVE it. I especially appreciate the Cash Flow view that gives me an accurate estimate of how all my account balances will look in the future. It’s very motivating to see how much money I’ll have a year from now, and helps me stick to my budget. I was very sad they discontinued the software. It still works just fine though, even on Windows 7. If anyone has used and likes a newer program that is similar to MS Money I would love to hear about it!

  4. debra says:

    Hi Mary,

    Good Morning! Love to wake up to EC in my mailbox every morning.

    I am still waiting to hear from you on the washer you purchased and recommended. I know the dryer but forgot the washer info. I sent a conact mary through my subscription but haven’t heard.

    Sorry to be so impatient but I am ready to purchase. Also need to know how you got the best possible deal on the two!

    Thanks so much!

    Debra Skvorc

      • Jo in KS says:

        Me too. Each month I start a new handwritten sheet, dated for that month. First number is the net amount of our income then each expense is deducted, one by one, with a remaining total after each entry. I mail each bill 5 days before the due date and then check it off the list. Following a suggestion of Mary’s I worked our budget to include a Freedom Account. Each month I deposit the same amount into it and check it off the list. Then when propane, insurance, etc are due I transfer only the necessary amount from savings to checking.

  5. Beck says:

    I use a basic Microsoft Excel spreadsheet this program was already on my computer so I did not pay for it as far as a service. I put each bill in order of the day of the month it is due so start with the 1st down to the 31st each column has a sum expenses, income and a column for things like real estate taxes, license plates, life insurance and such that are only once or twice a year. Each quarter as retirement statements come I change the amount on the sheet to see how I am progressing in that area as well. It is a total snapshot of my financial life.

    Once a year I go out and look at Social Security and the retirement accounts to figure what my monthly checks will be once we retire.

    Once a year I go through each expense to see if I can cut or reduce it. For example I changed most of the light bulbs in my house, covered open electric outlets to avoid loss of heat/coolness and got an energy efficient fridge to
    reduce my electric bill. We do not have cable and I use a Tracfone you would be surprised what you can really save once you track your expenses.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *