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How Do You Have To Be To Get Social Security

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How To Receive Federal Benefits

How Long Do You Have To Be Married To Get Spouses Social Security

To begin receiving your federal benefits, like Social Security or veterans benefits, you must sign up for electronic payments with direct deposit.

If You Have a Bank or Credit Union Account:

  • Call the Go Direct Helpline at .

If You Don’t have a Bank or Credit Union Account:

Make Changes to an Existing Direct Deposit Account:

Learn how to make changes to an existing direct deposit account. You also may contact the federal agency that pays your benefit for help with your enrollment.

Policy Basics: Top Ten Facts About Social Security

Social Security provides a foundation of income on which workers can build to plan for their retirement. It also provides valuable social insurance protection to workers who become disabled and to families whose breadwinner dies.

Eighty-five years after President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935, Social Security remains one of the nations most successful, effective, and popular programs.

Combined Income Base Amounts In 2020

Single filers with combined incomes of less than $25,000 will not pay taxes on Social Security benefits as of tax year 2020.

  • Those with combined incomes between $25,000 and $34,000 will pay taxes on up to 50% of their benefits.
  • Those making more than $34,000 will pay taxes on up to 85% of their benefits.

It works a bit differently for married couples who file joint tax returns. In this case, you must add together the income of both spouses, even if one of you isn’t getting Social Security. Couples with combined incomes of less than $32,000 won’t pay taxes on their benefits.

  • Those with combined incomes between $32,000 and $44,000 will pay taxes on up to 50% of their benefits.
  • Those making more than $44,000 will pay taxes on up to 85% of their benefits.

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Social Security Benefits If Youre Married

Determining Social Security calculations is a bit more complicated if you are married because you have the option to base benefits on your spouses salary history.

If the lesser earning spouses benefits are based on the higher earning spouses, then the limit of those earnings will be 50 percent of the higher earning spouses benefit amount.

To illustrate this, lets talk about A and B, a married couple.

  • A makes significantly more money than B.
  • A makes so much more money that As monthly Social Security benefits are going to be more than twice of Bs, based on Bs salary history.
  • The good news for B is that they can choose to have their Social Security benefits based on As salary history and can receive as much as 50 percent of As monthly benefit. This is the case even if B didnt hold a job outside the home.

On the other hand, if Bs monthly benefit would have been more than half of As, based on Bs salary history, then B can claim that amount.

In short, B can claim the higher of these two possibilities: Bs own Social Security earnings or half of As.

This all assumes that B doesnt begin claiming benefits until B reaches full retirement age. If B begins claiming earlier, then Bs benefits will be less. In addition, if B is claiming benefits based on As earnings, then B does not benefit by waiting later than full retirement age.

B will not be given more monthly benefits if B waits until age 70, for example, based on As earnings.

Taxes On Your Benefits

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Your Social Security benefits may be partially taxable if your combined income exceeds certain thresholds. Regardless of how much you make, the first 15% of your benefits are not taxed.

The SSA defines combined income using this formula:

  • Your adjusted gross income + nontaxable interest + half of your Social Security benefits = your combined income

If you file your federal tax return as an individual and your combined income is $25,000 to $34,000, then you may have to pay income tax on up to 50% of your benefits. If your combined income is more than $34,000, you may have to pay tax on up to 85% of your benefits.

If youre married, filing a joint return, and your combined income is $32,000 to $44,000, then you may have to pay income tax on up to 50% of your benefits. If your combined income is more than $44,000, you may have to pay tax on up to 85% of your benefits.

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Who Qualifies For Social Security Survivor Benefits

Monthly survivor benefits are available to certain family members, including:

  • A widow age 60 or older who has not remarried
  • A widow of any age who is caring for the deceased’s child under age 16 or disabled
  • An unmarried child of the deceased who is younger than age 18 , or 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22
  • A stepchild, grandchild, step-grandchild, or adopted child, under certain circumstances
  • Parents, age 62 or older, who were dependent on the deceased for at least half of their income and whose own Social Security benefit would not be larger than that of the deceased offspring
  • A surviving divorced spouse, if they meet other eligibility requirements

First of all, you have to work a certain number of years and amass the requisite number of “credits” each year for your loved ones to be eligible for benefitswhich you have to do to be eligible yourself. For 2021, you receive one credit for every $1,470 you earn, up to $5,880, for a total of four credits a year. In 2022, it rises to every $1,510 you earn, up to $6,040.

Getting A Social Security Number For A New Baby

The easiest way to get a Social Security number for your child is at the hospital after they are born when you apply for your childs birth certificate. If you wait to apply for a number at a Social Security office, there may be delays while SSA verifies your childs birth certificate.

Your child will need their own Social Security number so you can:

  • Claim your child as a dependent on your income tax return
  • Open a bank account in their name
  • Get medical coverage for them
  • Apply for government services for them

Keep your Social Security card in a safe place to protect yourself from identity theft.

Also Check: How To Find Out My Current Social Security Benefits

Why Do You Need To Earn So Much To Max Out Your Social Security Benefits

To understand why your earnings must be so high in order to get the maximum benefit, let’s take a step back and look at how Social Security benefits are calculated. Here’s how the formula works:

  • Social Security calculates your average wages in the 35 years your earnings were the highest .
  • Your benefits equal a percentage of your average wages in those 35 years.

That’s why your earnings need to equal or exceed the wage base limit for a full 35 years or longer. If they don’t, you’ll have an average wage that’s below the maximum, and your benefits will be below it as well.

Social Security Benefits For Surviving Spouses

How Disabled do you Need to be to Receive Social Security Benefits?

If your spouse was receiving Social Security benefits upon their death, you must report the death as soon as possible. You can call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays or visit your local Social Security office in person.

You are eligible for a one-time, lump-sum death benefit of $255 from Social Security if:

  • You were receiving benefits on your spouses record at the time of death, or
  • If you were living in the same household as your spouse at the time of death.

Any benefits received in the name of your spouse during the month of death or later must be returned to the Social Security Administration as soon as possible.

If your spouse worked long enough under Social Security, you may be eligible for Social Security benefits. You must be age 60 or older or disabled and 50 or older to qualify.

How much youll receive depends on the percentage of your spouses benefit as well as your age and the type of benefit youre eligible for.

You must apply for survivor benefits in person. You can call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 to request an appointment.

Also Check: How Old Social Security Benefits

Can I Collect My Ex

You cannot collect your ex-spouses Social Security benefit, but you can collect your own benefits based on their record or earnings if you meet all requirements.

You can file for ex-spouse benefits many different ways:

The earliest you can apply is three months before your 62nd birthday.

If youre already getting Social Security benefits based on your own work record, you can also claim ex-spouse benefits, but you will only receive the higher amount. You will not be paid the combined amount.

How Do You Apply For Survivor Benefits

Because individual circumstances can vary widely, it is not possible to apply for survivor benefits online. However, you can apply over the phone or by appointment at your local Social Security office. Current requirements and contact information are always available on the Social Security Administration website.

Applying for survivor benefits may require you to submit specific documents, such as a death certificate, marriage certificate, proof of citizenship, or a divorce decree, so rounding them up beforehand will help expedite the process.

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Should I File For Divorce Before My Spouse Starts Receiving Benefits

When you begin receiving Social Security benefits, the SSA will calculate your benefits both as a worker and as an ex-spouse or widow.

If your ex-spouse is 62 or older and has not applied for benefits, you may start receiving benefits if you have been divorced for two or more years.

Otherwise, there is no advantage or disadvantage as to when you should file for divorce as it relates to Social Security benefits.

Keep in mind that you must have been married for 10 years or longer, you cant currently be married and must meet other qualifying conditions based on your personal circumstances.

Pro Tip:

What Original Documents Do I Need

You

Citizenship

If you have not already established your U.S. citizenship with us, we need to see proof of U.S. citizenship. We can accept only certain documents as proof of U.S. citizenship. These include:

  • U.S. passport

We require this documentation only if you haveNOT already established U.S. citizenship with us.

Name Change

If you need to change your name on your Social Security card, you must show us proof of your legal name change. Documents Social Security may accept to prove a legal name change include:

  • Certificate of Naturalization showing the new name or
  • Court order approving the name change.

If the document you provide as evidence of a legal name change does not give us enough information to identify you in our records or if you changed your name more than two years ago , you must show us an identity document in your prior name . We will accept an identity document in your old name that has expired.

If you do not have an identity document in your prior name, we may accept an unexpired identity document in your new name as long as we can properly establish your identity in our records.

Identity

We can accept only certain documents as proof of identity. For example, as proof of identity Social Security must see:

  • U.S. driver’s license
  • State-issued non-driver identification card or
  • U.S. passport.
  • Employee identification card
  • Health insurance card or
  • U.S. military identification card.

Note

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When Will You Pay Taxes On Your Benefits

Per the IRS, you would have to pay taxes on your Social Security benefits if your combined income is more than the base amount for your filing status. This base amount can vary from year to year. You can figure out your combined income by adding one-half of the total of your benefits to all your other income. This income includes tax-exempt interest.

For instance, let’s say that you received $17,000 in Social Security benefits in 2020. You reported this on the tax return you filed in 2021. You also kept working part-time, and you had $12,000 in earned income. Your IRA produced $5,000 in tax-exempt income. All told, you had a total income of $34,000.

For tax purposes, the IRS would use one-half of your Social Security benefits + your earned income + your IRA distribution . Your base amount would be $25,500.

This is more than the combined income base amount for your filing status if you’re single. That threshold is $25,000 as of the 2020 tax year. You would owe income tax on part of your benefits.

This tax of Social Security benefits is not a decrease in long-term benefits.

The income base shouldn’t be confused with the earnings limit. You might owe some of your benefits back to the government if you’re collecting Social Security before you reach your full retirement age, and you have too much earned income.

Fact #: Social Security Is More Than Just A Retirement Program It Provides Important Life Insurance And Disability Insurance Protection As Well

Over 64 million people, or more than 1 in every 6 U.S. residents, collected Social Security benefits in June 2020. While older Americans make up about 4 in 5 beneficiaries, another one-fifth of beneficiaries received Social Security Disability Insurance or were young survivors of deceased workers.

In addition to Social Securitys retirement benefits, workers earn life insurance and SSDI protection by making Social Security payroll tax contributions:

  • About 96 percent of people aged 20-49 who worked in jobs covered by Social Security in 2019 have earned life insurance protection through Social Security.
  • For a young worker with average earnings, a spouse, and two children, thats equivalent to a life insurance policy with a face value of over $725,000 in 2018, according to Social Securitys actuaries.
  • About 89 percent of people aged 21-64 who worked in covered employment in 2019 are insured through Social Security in case of severe disability.

The risk of disability or premature death is greater than many realize. Some 6 percent of recent entrants to the labor force will die before reaching the full retirement age, and many more will become disabled.

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How Do You Apply For Social Security Benefits

If you are eligible for Social Security benefits, you can apply online, by phone or by appointment at a local Social Security office.

How to Apply for Social Security Benefits

Online
Applying online is the easiest way to apply for Social Security benefits. The Social Security website allows you to apply for retirement, spouses, Medicare and disability benefits at the same site. You can also apply for Supplemental Security Income benefits.
Phone
If you dont have Internet access, you can sign up by phone. You can call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 .
In-person
The Social Security Administration has restrictions on office visits during the COVID-19 pandemic. It does allow in-person visits for certain services. You should check with the SSAs Coronavirus page to see if you can make an in-person appointment at your local office.

How Long Do You Receive Social Security Survivor Benefits

Do you have to pay taxes on your Social Security? (maybe not)

Social Security survivor benefits are payable to the surviving spouse for the remainder of their life. Restrictions apply for divorced spouses eligible to receive benefits.

Benefits for surviving children end at age 18 or age 19 and 2 months if still pursuing their elementary or secondary education. For surviving children who became disabled before age 22, their benefits continue for life.

Also Check: How To Find Out My Current Social Security Benefits

An Example Of Taxed Benefits

Lets say you receive the maximum Social Security benefit for a worker retiring at FRA in 2021: $3,148 per month. Your spouse receives half as much, or $1,574 a month. Together, you receive $4,722 a month, or $56,664 per year. Half of that, or $28,332, counts toward your combined income for determining whether you have to pay tax on part of your Social Security benefits. Lets further assume that you dont have any nontaxable interest, wages, or other income except for your traditional individual retirement accounts required minimum distribution of $10,000 for the year.

Your combined income would be $38,332half of your Social Security income, plus your IRA distributionwhich would make up to 50% of your Social Security benefits taxable because youve exceeded the $32,000 threshold. Now, you may be thinking, 50% of $56,664 is $28,332, and Im in the 12% tax bracket, so the tax on my Social Security benefits will be $3,399.84.

Fortunately, the calculation takes other factors into account, and your tax would be a mere $225. You can read all about the taxation of Social Security benefits in the Internal Revenue Service Publication 915.

What Is The Future Of Social Security

If you’re skeptical about the future of Social Security or wary of potential changes such as means testingwhich could reduce or eliminate benefits for the wealthy, or an increase in the full retirement ageyou may be tempted to start benefits early, under the assumption that it’s better to have something than nothing. The 2021 annual report from the Social Security Trustees, released in August 2021, projects that the Social Security Trust Fund has enough resources to cover all promised benefits until 2034. Then, absent a change from Congress, the trustees project that benefits would need to be cut for all current and future beneficiaries to about 78% of scheduled benefits. The 2021 report includes the trustee’s best estimates of the impact from the pandemic, which were not reported on last year.

Over the longer term, changes such as later benefit dates or means testing may be considered.

In any situation, if you’re particularly concerned about the future prospects for Social Security, that’s a good reason to save more, and earlier, for your retirement.

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