Know Your Social Security Full Retirement Age
First things first:Determine your Social Security full retirement age. For people born between 1943 and 1954, full retirement age is 66. If your birthday falls between 1955 and 1959, it gradually climbs to 67. If you are born in 1960 or later, your full retirement age is 67.
You can claim your Social Security benefits a few years before or after your full retirement age, and your monthly benefit amount will vary as a result. More on that in a moment.
Fact #: Most Elderly Beneficiaries Rely On Social Security For The Majority Of Their Income
Social Security provides the majority of income to most elderly Americans. For about half of seniors, it provides at least 50 percent of their income, and for about 1 in 4 seniors, it provides at least 90 percent of income, across multiple surveys and the study that matches survey and administrative data.
Social Security Benefits For Children
More than four million children receive Social Security benefits each month because one or both of their parents are disabled, deceased or retired.
These funds help stabilize families and children at a critical time in their lives, helping them to complete high school and give them a good start toward college or being able to work full time with a high school diploma.
Biological, adopted and dependent step-children are eligible to get benefits if they meet certain criteria:
- At least one parent who is disabled or retired and eligible for Social Security benefits.
- A parent who passed away after attaining enough work credits in a job where he or she paid Social Security taxes.
- The child must be unmarried and under age 18, or
- 18-19 years old and a full-time student who is in no higher than grade 12. College students are excluded.
- 18 years or older and disabled.
When a child meets these criteria and a parent begins receiving Social Security retirement benefits, the child may be eligible for up to half of the parents full benefit amount or 75 percent if the parent is deceased. However, there is a maximum amount per family that ranges from 150 to 180 percent of the parents full benefit amount. When payments exceed this threshold, each family members benefit is reduced proportionally until the total is equal to the maximum amount allowed for the family.
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Who Is Eligible To Receive The Benefits
If you have divorced from your partner you can still file for spousal Social Security benefits. The requirements for claiming benefits based on your ex-spouses work record include:
- You must have been married at least 10 years.
- You must have been divorced from the spouse for at least two consecutive years.
- You are unmarried.
- Your ex-spouse must be entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.
- The benefit you would receive from your work record would be less than this spousal benefit.
How to calculate what your spouse could receive
A formula based on the number of months before retirement age of a spouse is used to calculate the total amount that will be received. The formula begins by cutting the PIA in half. Then, the SSA states that the spousal benefit is reduced by seven-tenths of one percent for each month before full retirement age, up to 36 months. Should the number exceed thirty-six months, the benefit will be reduced by four-tenths of one percent.
The SSA provides an online tool that can help you calculate this.
How To Get A Social Security Card
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Lost Or Stolen Federal Payments
Report your lost, missing, or stolen federal check to the agency that issued the payment. It’s usually one of these paying agencies. If your documentation indicates it’s a different agency, and you need its contact information, look in the A-Z Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies.
To get an update on your claim, contact the Treasury Department Philadelphia Financial Center at 1-855-868-0151, option 1.
Is My Spouse Eligible To Receive Social Security Spousal Benefits
Spouses are eligible to receive 50 percent of their spouses full retirement benefit if they wait until they reach full retirement age. If they apply for a spousal retirement benefit before that time, the amount is pro-rated, depending on the age at which the spouse applies. For example:
If a spouse applies for a spousal retirement benefit at age 62 and the full retirement benefit is age 67, the applicant will get 32.5 percent of the spousal benefit.
If a spouse applies for a spousal retirement benefit at age 62 and the full retirement benefit is age 65, the applicant will get 37.5 percent of the spousal benefit.
The benefit increases as ages go up, to a maximum of 50 percent at full retirement age. It should also be noted that only one spouse can apply for a spouses benefit when a couple is married.
In cases of divorce, the divorced spouse can get retirement benefits on the spouses record if the marriage lasted for at least 10 years. To collect this benefit, the spouse must be at least 62 years old and not married. That benefit does not impact the amount a spouse and their current married partner can get.
Social Security Phone Number
You can contact Social Security by phone by calling their toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, their TTY phone number is 1-800-325-0778. You can use their automated telephone services to obtain recorded information and to conduct some business 24 hours a day. You can speak with a Social Security representative if you call between 7am and 7pm Monday through Friday. You can also reach their TTY number if you call between 7am and 7pm Monday through Friday. For instructions on their Automated services click here.
Your Monthly Social Security Benefits Increase The Longer You Wait To Claim
You can collect Social Security benefits as soon as you turn 62, but taking benefits before your full retirement age means a permanent reduction in your payments of as much as 25% to 30%, depending on your full retirement age.
If you wait until you hit full retirement age to claim Social Security benefits, youll receive 100% of your earned benefits. But you can also get a big bonus by waiting to claim your Social Security benefits at age 70 your monthly Social Security benefit will grow by 8% a year until then. Any cost-of-living adjustments will be included, too, so you don’t forgo those by waiting.
Waiting to claim your Social Security benefits can help your heirs as well. By waiting to take her benefit, a high-earning wife, for example, can ensure that her low-earning husband will receive a much higher survivor benefit in the event she dies before him. That extra income of up to 32% could make a big difference.
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Brief History Of Social Security
The Social Security program was created by the Social Security Act that President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law in 1935. The first checks went out in 1940. Originally it paid benefits only to workers 65 and older, but in the 1970s the government altered it to allow workers to claim benefits as early as 62. It also instituted annual cost-of-living adjustments to help Social Security keep pace with inflation.
The program has worked fairly well so far, but many people fear for the future, when there will be fewer workers to support a greater number of Social Security recipients. The latest Social Security Trustees’ Report indicates the program’s trust funds would be depleted by 2034, after which it would be able to pay out only about 76% of benefits to retirees and about 92% to disabled workers.
The government has proposed several possible solutions for ensuring the long-term sustainability of the program, but at present no plans have been set. There’s no risk of the program disappearing in the next decade or two, but it’s possible future benefits may not go as far as they do today. That’s why today’s workers need to prioritize their personal retirement savings, so they can cover most of their expenses on their own.
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Workers With Too Few Social Security Credits
Can you get Social Security if you never worked? No, because a minimum requirement to collect Social Security retirement benefits is performing enough work. The Social Security Administration defines enough work as earning 40 Social Security credits. More specifically, in 2021, an individual receives one credit for each $1,470 in income, and they can earn a maximum of four credits per year. So, 40 credits are roughly equal to 10 years of work.
If you earn the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, then youll need 202.75 hours of work to receive one . By working just 17 hours a week for 50 weeks at this wage , you can earn the maximum credits per year. That means even those who work part-time so they can attend school or care for a childor those who work part-time because they cannot find full-time workcan amass Social Security credits without too much trouble.
Earned credits are accrued over a person’s lifetime and never expire, so anyone who has left the workforce with close to 40 credits might consider going back and doing the minimum additional work they need to qualify. You can check the number of credits you have so far by opening a Social Security account on the Social Security website and downloading your Social Security statement.
How To Apply For Social Security Benefits
The application process by itself is fairly easy and can be accomplished either online, by telephone or in person at a local Social Security office. Generally, people can apply for Social Security when they turn 62, but in many instances, it makes good financial sense to delay applying for benefits.
Social Security also provides benefits for spouses and children as well. Spouses who have not been high wage earners throughout their lives can actually piggyback off of their spouses earnings and draw as much as 50 percent of a retirement benefit using their spouses Social Security record. Certain rules do apply in this set of circumstances. Divorced spouses may also qualify for benefits if their marriage lasted for at least 10 years and they do not remarry before applying for benefits.
In addition, if children meet requirements, they can also apply for benefits from their parents Social Security work records as well. They may be eligible for funds if a parent passes away and they are under 18 and still in school.
Once a benefit amount has been set, that dollar amount cant go down, but it can go up, based on cost of living increases. Some benefit recipients may experience a temporary reduction based on income from other sources, but the base amount will always remain steady.
For an overview of Social Security and to start applying for retirement benefits, go to www.socialsecurity.gov or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.
Theres An Annual Social Security Cost
One of the best features of Social Security benefits is that the government adjusts the benefits each year based on inflation. This is called a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, and helps your payments keep up with increasing living expenses. The Social Security COLA is quite valuable its the equivalent of buying inflation protection on a private annuity, which can get expensive.
Because the COLA is calculated based on changes in a federal consumer price index, the size of the COLA depends largely on broad inflation levels determined by the government. In 2021, Social Security beneficiaries saw a 1.3% COLA in their monthly Social Security benefits.
The Kiplinger Letter predicted in September that the COLA for 2022 could be 6%, which would be the largest adjustment since 1982. The final COLA for 2022 will be announced on Oct. 13.
Heres what COLAs have been in other recent years:
- 2009: 5.8%
- 2021: 1.3%
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The Big Question: When Should I Apply For Retirement Benefits
The single biggest decision youll make when it comes to Social Security retirement benefits is when to apply.
Every persons situation is unique and so theres no single right answer. In general terms and based on life expectancies, Social Security retirement benefits are calculated to give you approximately the same total amount of benefits over your lifetime. If you decide to draw benefits earlier in your life, your average monthly amount will be less than if you delay and draw benefits later in life.
The amount you receive can vary widely. For example, if you were born in 1953 or 1954 and you were entitled to draw a $1,000 benefit at your full retirement age of 66, that amount would be $750 if you decided to draw benefits starting at age 62. But in that same scenario, if you delayed benefits until age 70, the amount would jump to $1,350.
There is no exact science when deciding when to apply, but here are some things to consider as you decide whats best for you.
Adjust Your Pia For The Age You Will Begin Benefits
The final amount of Social Security retirement benefit that you receive is based on the age when you begin benefits.
Of course, another complex formula is used to determine how much more you will receive if you wait.
This formula uses your Primary Insurance Amount calculated in the previous step. This is the amount you will get if you start benefits at your full retirement age . Your FRA can vary, depending on the year you were born. For people born between 1943 and 1954, as in our example, the FRA is age 66.
For people born on Jan. 1, the FRA is based on the year prior. Someone born on Jan. 1, 1955, will have an FRA based on 1954.
A reduction is applied to your PIA if you begin benefits before your FRA. A credit, referred to as a “delayed retirement credit,” is applied if you begin to receive benefits after your FRA.
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Paying Taxes On Your Retirement Benefits
Social Security retirement benefit recipients must pay Federal income taxes on their benefits. Due to personal income levels, about one-third of recipients actually have to pay some amount annually.
Each year, the Social Security Administration will mail recipients a Form SSA-1099 that shows the amount of benefits received during the preceding year. This form should be used to complete tax returns and help determine in any taxes are owed.
As a general rule, if you file as an individual and your combined income is between $25,000 and $34,000, you may have to pay taxes on up to 50 percent of your Social Security benefits. If your combined income is more than $34,000 you may be required to pay taxes on up to 85 percent of your benefits.
If you file a joint return and you and your spouses income is between $32,000 and $44,000, then 50 percent of your benefits may be taxed. If your combined income is about $44,000, then up to 85 percent of your benefits may be subject to income tax.
To assist with tax planning, Social Security can withhold Federal taxes throughout the year for benefit recipients which may be preferable to making quarterly estimated tax payments.
Who Is Eligible For Social Security
Typically you need to have worked and paid taxes for at least 10 years to be eligible to apply for Social Security retirement benefits. You may need fewer working years to receive Social Security disability benefits, or survivors benefits.
You will not receive Social Security benefits if you receive Railroad Retirement Board benefits. Additionally, U.S. citizens can still get benefits if they live abroad.
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How Much Are Social Security Benefits
How much of a retirement benefit you receive depends on two things:
How much money you made when you worked
When you choose to receive the benefits.
You receive higher Social Security benefits for working more years or if you have a higher salary, because you pay more in Social Security taxes during your career.
If you receive Social Security Benefits starting at your full retirement age, then you will receive the full benefit. Full retirement age is 67 years old for anyone born in 1960 or later. Use the chart below to find out your full retirement age.
|1960 or later||67|
If you choose to receive benefits before your full retirement age, then you will get a reduced benefit. The earliest age you can get benefits is 62.
If you delay receiving Social Security, then the amount of your benefit will increase. It increases by a certain percentage each month from your full retirement age until you start taking benefits or reach age 70, whichever comes first.