Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe

writing for parents of the bravest hearts

Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe

green writing for parents

First Installment

Sam’s a bona fide taxpaying citizen now. It’s a funny thing to cheer, but cheer we do — because becoming a contributing member of society is the dream of every adult, right?

When Mark died almost 12 years ago, my sister, Karen, took me practically by the hand down to the Social Security office to apply for survivor benefits for the kids. Michael and Paige were both under age 18. And eventually, Sam collected, too, because Mark was supporting him when he died.

Michael and Paige’s benefits ended the summer after they graduated high school. Sam’s benefits continued for years because he never earned enough money until he started at WinCo two years ago.

We were faithful and went back to the Social Security office to tell them that Sam got a good job and would no longer need benefits. We expected them to stop sending checks much sooner than they did.

As the checks continued to arrive, I advised Sam to save as much as he could because eventually Social Security would ask for that money back. This was not our first rodeo. Back when the agency started Sam’s benefits (it took several extra months for his to begin), no one did the math against what was already coming our way for Michael and Paige. I had no idea there were maximums or what they were for our family. And when Social Security figured it out, we owed a lot from the overpayment. It hurt, but we paid it all back.

By the time Social Security figured out earlier this year when they should have stopped sending checks to Sam, the balance due was a stunning amount of money. Sam stresses about it sometimes, but we took this as a learning opportunity.

I helped him make a repayment plan and the whole concept of budgeting is sinking in. Sam has always done a good job with his finances, but it’s not hard to do a good job when you don’t really spend much money. This time, there’s some real pressure on his earnings, and he’s figuring it out. He’s gone several months now without the safety net. And, tonight he wrote a check for his first installment to repay the overpayment.

Yep, a bona fide taxpaying citizen.

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Annette Fuller on March 25, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    Still don’t really get this — how Social Security can let this happen — but it looks like you guys are taking care of it. Good for Sam for budgeting! In doing so, he’s doing better than the majority of Americans.

    • Peggy on March 26, 2019 at 2:26 am

      I suspect that Social Security decided a long time ago that it was far worse to stop paying benefits when they might be owed, rather than the other way around. I went to a workshop decades ago and learned that overpayments happen quite a bit. Getting the money back respects all the taxpayers, and I cannot fault them for that. Taxes, and benefits, need to be fair for people to respect the system.

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