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 Ernest Hemingway Message Boards : General Questions
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Shine KW and Me
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Posted: 02 July 2006 at 11:57pm | IP Logged Quote Shine KW and Me

I recently read "HIJO'S" response regarding the post "Wrong Hemingway birthyear on the 5 peso coins" It got me thinking about the correct date, so I checked the Social Security Death Index or (SSDI) on I was trying to see what was filed for EH's birthdate and when the death benefit was paid.

Apparently, Ernest Miller Hemingway may not have been registered with Social Security, as his name did not come up on the SSDI search engine and I used many combinations in the search engine. OR no one filed for the "Death Benefit" leaving his SS account still active, which does happen occasionally. With his complicated estate I can't imagine the lawyers or a widow missing that pension $. 

My question is this. If Ernest Miller Hemingway did not participate in Social security, how did he make it from 1935 until his death in 1961 without it and if he did elect not to participate, would he have had a social/political reason for not doing so. (FDR and Social security 1935/Depression/"Lost Generation"/Expatriate)

Any thoughts?

Shine kw and me


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Posted: 03 July 2006 at 11:43am | IP Logged Quote RobbieJor

Hello there "Shine kw and me,"

The database, Social Security Death Index (SSDI), you were checking may not be all that inclusive.  I checked to see if my own father was listed in it.  He died in 1964.  He was not.  I personally filed for, and we received, the SS death benefit.  I checked for a couple of other relatives, too, and they were not listed.

I think it's safe to say that Ernie had a SS number and paid SS taxes and filed U.S. Federal income tax returns.  Numerous letters of his reference his battles in keeping one step ahead of the IRS often having to "sell a story" to meet his tax liability.  Many of his letters to Max Perkins reference money matters and I think it is safe to assume that his publisher took care of most of his money management matters.

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Posted: 05 July 2006 at 8:11pm | IP Logged Quote Didi

Hello everyone,
While I do not know, whether the source you have named is complete or
not, I'd suggest, that the idea of adding such a memorable personality as
Papa Hemingway must have crossed the minds of those who run the site
in question.
As things are, there might be a very logical interpretation of why
Hemingway may not have participated in social security. In fact he was
living abroad most of the time, since he left for WW1. I am not sure, how
US social security works (or worked back then), but I hardly see any
reason for someone who spends most of his life in Paris, Spain, Cuba,
Toronto, etc to participate in US social security. Income tax is (and I again
stress the point, that I am far from knowlegable about the US system)
another cup of tea. He sold his books through Scribner, thus "making his
money" in the US. - Therefore he had to pay income tax in the US. (That's
at least what I assume.

Have a nice time,
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Posted: 25 August 2006 at 10:20pm | IP Logged Quote hijo

Shine: another interesting question.

We just had another death - my father-in-law - and it turns out the "death benefit" is just for the surviving spouse or minor children. As no spouse survives, and there are no minor children, no benefit. The benefit actually isn't that much - there is a spousal entitlement to some of the Social Security earned (payed into) by the surviving spouse which can on occassion amount to more.

However, as Social Security benefits are based on how much is paid in, which in turn is based on how much tax is paid, it's hard to say what kind of benefit Mary might have been entitled to.

Then there's also the question of wealthy people drawing Social Security, which I guess they aren't required to do.

The Reynolds book (last volume) suggested at one point EH was paying about 80% of his rather large income to the IRS, as certain graduated tax rates hadn't quite been worked out yet.

As a self-employed writer/artist, he currently would have had to pay more than the average person making a check from a corporation in to Social Security in hopes of getting some back - but again, he managed to leave behind enough unpublished stuff and his reputation after winning the Nobel to assist in Mary's income (as well as, eventually, his sons').

I suspect he paid in. I also suspect he did not see the need to draw it out.

It was originally intended during the Great Depression (FDR, 1935) to be a "safety-net," to help the otherwise destitute and severely impoverished elderly of the time who had no retirement savings nor pension, nor family to assist with their living expenses - not to mention health costs.

It was never really intended to become a national retirement savings, and certainly not for the extremely wealthy.

Among the ideas for helping maintain it currently has been one rarely discussed - raising the "cap" for the income of those required to pay into it, which currently is $90,000. I believe at one time EH's income was considered around $500,000. Raising the cap is estimated to help save the system - it's just that people with income above the cap seem largely uninterested in contributing to it since they won't need it.

Never mind that it's intention was to support those who do with money from those who don't.

I'll bet, assuming he contributed, EH didn't draw it - though if he really needed to, he might have.

Other suggestions for saving the current system include raising the retirement age, as if people 75 or older might remain employed. EH shot himself at 61 - unless he declared early retirement, he'd never have drawn on his Social Security himself anyway.

Also, it's been a question that may not have an answer - when officially does a writer retire? My hope is there is no such thing as retirement for writers. We just keep writing.

You're not really supposed to be earning much in income to qualify to draw all your Social Security benefits as well - so that may have been another reason for EH not to draw on it.

And he was born in 1899 - prior to the 1913 enactment of the income tax.

As stated, an interesting question. Only again maybe Patrick Hemingway could answer it, if anyone knows the answer.

I'll say this though: taking a part of it and giving it back to people to invest in the stock market doesn't seem to me to be the wisest idea. Especially when the same companies to invest in are laying off people prior to retirement age, and those who do retire from them - who were hired with the promise of a pension for their years of service and loyalty to a company - see their former employers doing everything possible to get out of the pension promise, not to mention increasing health care costs, to boost "earnings" for shareholders.

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