Q. When I was 17, I signed a form exempting me from paying into Social Security for religious reasons. Now that I’m 50, I can see that was a mistake. Other things such as Medicare are tied to Social Security. What is the best way to start paying into the system?
— Regretting it
A. You can’t undo all the years you didn’t contribute to Social Security, but you can take some steps to secure your future.
First, the decision to opt out of Social Security is often made by those who work in the ministry or other members of the clergy, said Claudia Mott, a certified financial planner with Epona Financial Solutions in Basking Ridge.
However, she said, the decision only relates to pay that is received from a religious organization.
If you now have a job with a non-religious organization, you can get on the path to earning benefits.
“If you were to find employment in a secular organization this would count towards the credits needed to receive a benefit,” Mott said. “To qualify for a benefit at full retirement age, an individual must have at least 40 quarters of income on record with Social Security.”
Given your age, it’s likely that you could achieve the requisite number of quarters before you reach age 67, which is your full retirement age, she said.
Mott said every U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident who has lived in the United States for at least five years and meets the 40 work-credit requirement will be eligible for free Medicare Part A premiums.
For those who do not qualify because they opted out – or because they are delaying the start of their Social Security benefits – Part A can be paid for out of pocket and will cost up to $437 per month in 2019, she said.
Medicare Part B, which covers doctor’s visits, tests, equipment and home health services, carries its own premium and varies based on modified-adjusted gross income, she said. The minimum payment for Part B is $135.50 per month.
Then there’s Medicare Part D prescription coverage, which also has an income-based required premium. The 2019 base cost is $32.50 per month, she said.
“Most individuals also purchase additional insurance to fill in the gaps that exist in Medicare coverage,” Mott said. “There are many options available and a state specific.”
It’s best to look at the Medicare website to learn more about the offerings for you.
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