My widowed mother is retired and survives on Social Security. After many years of living alone, she met a wonderful man she loves dearly. They want to marry, but because of potential loss of Social Security income, they are thinking of living together instead. Is this OK?
Tell them to schedule a date for the wedding. If your mother is more than 60 years old, she has no need to worry about loss of income from Social Security. Many people still are unaware the so-called remarriage penalty was totally eliminated in 1979. The Social Security Administration and Congress have been addressing the issue that the remarriage penalty created difficulties for widowed spouses, usually women, since at least 1958.
The financial impact of remarriage continues to affect the perceptions of some older Americans, and, in some cases still, actual income as well. I realize the benefits some widows/widowers receive from their spouse’s employers end when the survivor remarries. You need to check with the Social Security Administration or with the benefits department of the spouse’s employer. For more complete and up-to-date information, you can access the Social Security Administration’s website at www.socialsecurity.gov, contact your local Social Security office or call (800) 772-1213.
Your question highlights the tension senior adults face between remarriage and financial security. I encourage you to work with your church, your government representatives and other advocates for senior adults to eliminate all penalties associated with widowed spouses remarrying.
Many older Americans continue to prefer marriage over simply living together. They realize a relationship sealed by marriage offers them something that living together cannot provide. God created man and woman to have a one-flesh relationship with each other (Genesis 2:24).
Many older adults recognize the importance of commitment. They understand marriage is not simply an economic arrangement or an outlet for passion. Marriage is a covenant between a man and woman that opens the door for intimacy. This covenant fosters the community aspect of being created in God’s image. Married couples see more clearly, I believe, that the helper-companion part of relationship is realized most between married partners. Marriage also creates the atmosphere of permanence, whereas living together often carries the connotation that one can easily get out of the arrangement.
I celebrate with you and your mother as you look to the future. I celebrate her commitment to marriage. May she and her wonderful man model for us that relationship God established at creation and seeks today with his creation.
David Morgan, pastor
Trinity Baptist Church
Right or Wrong? is sponsored by the T.B. Maston Chair of Christian Ethics at Hardin-Simmons University’s Logsdon School of Theology. Send your questions about how to apply your faith to email@example.com.