I recently read an article in the New York Times about the balance between work and family. Specifically, how some women choose to keep their maiden names because they have built a career using it — and how many of those same women change to their married name in order to have the same last name as their children.

I once had a client whose Social Security and Medicare accounts were in her maiden name. She got married for a brief period of time, during which she had started to use her married name. When the marriage dissolved, she went back to using her maiden name once more. She did not, however, legally change her name back.

By not legally switching back to her maiden name, there were unintended consequences:

Her insurance wasn’t accepting her Medicare card because it was under her maiden name and they were billing her under her former married name.

When we tried to fix the name on her Social Security and Medicare accounts to match each other, the full weight of the federal bureaucracy came down on us. Every time we called Social Security with a question we were given conflicting, contradictory and confusing instructions:

  • One person we talked to said we had to come to the office in person;

  • Another person said my client did not need to bring her passport or supporting identification;

  • Another person said she could do it over the phone;

  • And yet another person said my client had to mail them her passport – the genuine article, not a copy.

It was a total nightmare.

So we pressed forward, but the process was so time-consuming and emotionally draining that we hired a company that specializes in complex problems that arise from the healthcare system. This company knows how to navigate Social Security and Medicare, and it still took a whole day to straighten things out.

And issues regarding names are not mutually exclusive to brides…

Women and men alike need to be mindful of pesky middle initials when booking airline reservations. The TSA will not even allow one letter be off on your boarding pass. That’s why it’s vital to make sure that the name on your ticket matches your identification exactly. If it doesn’t, you may well be walking to Hawaii.

So what’s in a name? I suppose it depends on where a person is. Personally, I’m glad that they’re checking names very carefully. Not only is it important for security purposes, it’s also another layer of protection against identity theft.

To read more about identity theft, click here.

Judith Heft, Principal, Judith Heft & Associates is a personal financial concierge with offices in Greenwich and Stamford. She can be contacted via email at [email protected] or by phone 203-978-1858