Claiming Social Security Benefits At The Right Time Means More Money In Your Pocket Here’s A Guide To Everything From Knowing Your Full Retirement Age To Taking Social Security Spousal Benefits
For many Americans, Social Security benefits are the bedrock of retirement income. Maximizing that stream of income is critical to funding your retirement dreams.
The rules for claiming Social Security benefits can be complex, but this guide will help you wade through the details. By educating yourself about Social Security, you can ensure that you claim the maximum amount to which you are entitled.
Here are 12 essential details you need to know.
What Is Full Retirement Age
In addition to how much youve earned over the years, the size of your monthly Social Security benefit depends on when you were born and the age when you start claimingdown to the month.
Youll receive your full monthly benefit if you start claiming when you reach what Social Security considers your full retirement age , sometimes also referred to as normal retirement age. FRA was 65 when Social Security began, but it has been raised to 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later. To find your FRA, see the chart below.
|Finding Your Full Retirement Age|
Make Payments To The Federal Government
Learn how to use Pay.gov to make secure, electronic payments to government agencies from your checking or savings account. You can use the online service for VA medical care copayments, U.S. district court tickets, U.S. Coast Guard;merchant mariner user fee payments, and more.
If you need help, contact Pay.gov customer service.;
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If You’re Not Sure Why You Received A Payment
Contact the authorizing agency directly to find out why they sent the payment. You may be able to find the authorizing agency in the memo line of the check. View this diagram of a sample Treasury check to help you locate the authorizing agency contact information on your own check. Scroll about half way down the page to see the diagram.;
If you’re unable to find which;agency authorized the payment, .;They;can help you determine which government agency you need to contact. To find which;RFC;you need to call, look for its city and state at the top;center of the check.;
Use the Treasury Check Verification System to verify that;the check is legitmate and issued by the;;government. ;
Congress Must Act Sooner Rather Than Later
In theory, the AWI problem could be fixed anytime before 2022, when, for example, workers who turn 60 this year are first eligible to retire at the age of 62. But that delay would cause significant anxiety for these workers, whose future benefits would be at risk. Moreover, people decide when to retire based on projections of their incomes in their initial year of retirement and in the remainder of their lives. It would be most unfair to workers decision-making processes to have the expectations of their future incomes be uncertain for some period of time while they are trying to make such an important decision.
Congress needs to act sooner rather than later to ameliorate this problem. One possibility would be to include a fix in the stimulus legislation to cope with the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that Congress is currently considering.
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Beware The Social Security Earnings Test
Bringing in too much money in earned income can cost you if you continue to work after claiming Social Security benefits early. With what is commonly known as the Social Security earnings test, you will forfeit $1 in benefits for every $2 you make over the earnings limit, which in 2021 is $18,960. Once you are past full retirement age, the earnings test disappears, and you can make as much money as you want with no impact on benefits.
Any Social Security benefits forfeited to the earnings test are not lost forever. At your full retirement age, the Social Security Administration will recalculate your benefits to take into account benefits lost to the test. For example, if you claim benefits at 62 and over the next four years lose one full years worth of benefits to the earnings test, at a full retirement age of 66 your benefits will be recomputed and increased as if you had taken benefits three years early, instead of four. That basically means the lifetime reduction in benefits would be 20% rather than 25%.
Social Security Benefits For Workers Turning 60 In 2020 Will Very Likely Drop Due To The Coronavirus Pandemic
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, about 3 million retired workers who turn 60 years old in 2020 will very likely have much lower lifetime Social Security benefits than previously expected. Without legislative changes, the average earner stands to lose nearly $1,500 per year for the rest of their life. Fortunately, there is a simple legislative changeexplored in detail belowthat would fix these problems without lowering the benefits of any other cohort of retirees. Chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee, Rep. John Larson , has introduced such legislation*and Congress should fix this situation as soon as possible.
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Social Security Retirement Age : If You Are A Widow/widower
If you are a widow or widower, you can receive Social Security retirement benefits as early as 60. If you;have not reached your full retirement age, and you are still working and earn more than the earnings limit, your;benefits will be reduced. Once you reach full retirement age, no more reductions will apply, regardless of how much you work and earn. Those working will want to consider waiting until their full retirement age to begin widow/widower benefits.
One option available to widows/widowers is to file a restricted application, which means you can begin one type of benefit, such as a survivor benefit; then when you reach 70, you can switch over to your retirement benefit amount if it would be larger.
How Your Social Security Benefits Are Calculated
Your Social Security benefits are based on the 35 calendar years in which you earned the most money. If you have fewer than 35 years of earnings, each year with no earnings will be factored in at zero. You can increase your Social Security benefit at any time by replacing a zero or low-income year with a higher-income year.
There is a maximum Social Security benefit amount you can receive, though it depends on the age you retire. For someone at full retirement age in 2021, the maximum monthly benefit is $3,113. For someone filing at age 70, the maximum monthly amount is $3,895.
You can estimate your own benefit by using Social Security’s online Retirement Estimator.
The Age You Retire At Affects The Maximum Monthly Payment You Can Receive But That Doesn’t Necessarily Mean You Should Work As Long As Possible
In terms of pensions, the full retirement age in the US is 62. It would make sense then that you would receive the largest social security payment then, wouldn’t it. In fact, the optimal age is actually 70, where you could receive up to a $1,000 more a month than someone who retired at 62.
Of course, there are few who would choose to work until they are 70-years old, so that is the trade-off to consider.
Social Security Survivor Benefits For Spouses
Surviving spouses can receive benefits based on the benefit amount that the deceased was receiving from Social Security at the time of death.
- A surviving spouse can get reduced benefits as early as age 60. Full benefits are available at full retirement age. Benefits are for life.
- A surviving spouse who has a disability can collect benefits as early as age 50. The benefit begins upon the death of the retiree and continues until the surviving spouse is age 65. At that point, they are eligible for the aged benefit.
- Surviving spouses can get benefits at any age if they take care of their spouses child who is under age 16 or disabled and receives Social Security benefits.
- Surviving divorced spouses who are age 60 or older can get survivor benefits if the marriage lasted at least 10 years. Divorced spouses dont have to meet the length-of-marriage rule if they take care of the former spouses child who is younger than age 16 or disabled.
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When Should You Start Social Security
The Social Security Administration does not have a recommended age to start receiving benefits. The decision is entirely up to you. Youll get a little bit less if you start early, or a bigger benefit if you wait until 70. You can calculate the difference on the SSA website.;You may receive a bigger payout over your lifetime if you wait, but that might not be as important as receiving income now, especially if you can no longer work for health reasons. Ultimately, the right age depends on your financial situation, your work, and your health.
Full Retirement Age Affects The Amount Of Your Benefits And More
Full retirement age is the age at which you can claim your standard Social Security benefit, or your primary insurance amount , from Social Security. Your PIA is the standard amount you can expect to receive based on your inflation-adjusted average wages earned throughout your career. Full retirement age is 66 for those born in 1954 and 67 for those born in 1960 or later it varies depending on your birth year.
It is important to know your full retirement age, as it affects when you can claim Social Security without reducing your benefits, the amount of delayed retirement credits you can earn in order to raise your benefits, and how much you can earn from working while receiving Social Security without forfeiting any of your benefits.;
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Who Misses Out On Social Security Benefits And Why
Does everyone get Social Security? No. Still, American workers who will not qualify for Social Security retirement benefits are relatively rare. If you are one of them, its important to know, so you can secure other sources of income or determine whether its possible for you to become eligible. What follows are the eight most common categories of workers who lack Social Security eligibility and thus are not entitled to benefits.
How To Receive Federal Benefits
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:;
- Direct Express debit card;- a pre-paid debit card. Get help by calling the Go Direct Helpline at .;
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.
Does Working After Full Retirement Age Increase Social Security Benefits
Working after full retirement age could increase your Social Security benefits. Your benefits are based on average wages over your 35 highest-earning years .
Even after you’ve reached full retirement age, and even if you’ve already claimed benefits, the Social Security Administration continues to recalculate your average annual wage to account for new income. If your earnings after FRA are higher than previous years and raise your average wage for your 35 top-earning years, your benefits could rise accordingly.
Report The Death Of A Social Security Or Medicare Beneficiary
You must report the death of a family member receiving Social Security or Medicare benefits. The Social Security Administration processes death reports for both. Find out how you can report a death and how to cancel benefit payments. In addition to canceling SSA and Medicare benefits, find out what other benefits and accounts you should cancel.;
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How Should I Decide When To Take Benefits
Consider the following factors as you decide when to take Social Security.
Your cash needs: If youre contemplating early retirement and you have sufficient resources , you can be flexible about when to take Social Security benefits.;;
If youll need your Social Security benefits to make ends meet, you may have fewer options. If possible, you may want to consider postponing retirement or work part-time until you reach your full retirement ageor even longer so that you can maximize your benefits.
Your life expectancy and break-even age: Taking Social Security early reduces your benefits, but youll also receive monthly checks for a longer period of time. On the other hand, taking Social Security later results in fewer checks during your lifetime, but the credit for waiting means each check will be larger.
At what age will you break even and begin to come out ahead if you delay Social Security? The break-even age depends on the amount of your benefits and the assumptions you use to account for taxes and the opportunity cost of waiting . The SSA has several handy calculators you can use to estimate your own benefits.
If you think youll beat the average life expectancy, then waiting for a larger monthly check might be a good deal. On the other hand, if youre in poor health or have reason to believe you wont beat the average life expectancy, you might decide to take what you can while you can.
A quick note about life expectancy;
Is It 62 67 Or 70 Three Retirement Experts Weigh In
Seniors have many choices for when to start receiving their Social Security checks. And the decision to claim at a particular age can impact both monthly and lifetime benefits.;
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to choosing the best time. To help you decide when you should file for Social Security benefits, three Motley Fool retirement experts make an argument for claiming them at three of the most common ages: 62, 67, and 70.;
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Spouses And Social Security
You can claim Social Security benefits based on your spouse’s work record. If claiming spousal benefits provides more, claiming before your FRA on a spouse’s record means you’ll lose even more than claiming on your own recordthe benefit reduction for a spouse is up to 35% while the reduction for claiming your own benefit is up to 30%. For instance, if you’re the spouse of Colleen in the above example and you are the same age, you’d be eligible for only $650 a month at age 6235% less than the $1000 a month you would get at your FRA of 67.
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Your decision to take benefits early could outlive you. If you were to die before your spouse, they would be eligible to receive your monthly amount as a survivor benefitif it’s higher than their own amount. But if you take your benefits early, say at age 62 versus waiting until age 70, your spouse’s survivor Social Security benefit could be up to 30% less for the remainder of their lifetime.
Your Social Security Benefits Will Be Taxed
Most people know that you pay tax into the Social Security Trust Fund throughout your career, but did you know that you may also have to pay tax on your Social Security benefits once you start receiving them? Benefits lost their tax-free status in 1984, and the income thresholds for triggering tax on benefits haven’t been increased since then.
As a result, it doesn’t take a lot of income for your Social Security benefits to be pinched by Uncle Sam. For example, a married couple with a combined income of more than $32,000 may have to pay income tax on up to 50% of their Social Security benefits. Higher earners may have to pay income tax on up to 85% of their benefits.
You may also have to pay state income taxes on your Social Security benefits. See our list of the 13 States That Tax Social Security Benefits.
Can A Person Who Is Due A Public Pension Also Collect Social Security Benefits
Two rules could reduce benefits for people who are also entitled to a public pension on earnings not covered by Social Security.
One rule is the windfall elimination provision , which applies to people who worked at jobs covered by Social Security but also worked as noncovered government employees and are due a pension.
When it is time to claim benefits, many people are unprepared for these cuts, Mr. Blair said. Possible W.E.P.-related reductions are not reflected in the workers Social Security statement, which shows the history of annual earnings and estimates of future benefits only for jobs covered by Social Security.
You can have someone who looks at the Social Security statement and it shows a benefit of $1,000 at full retirement age, Mr. Blair said. But the individual a teacher who is due a public pension, for example may be surprised later if the benefit is much lower, he said.
In addition to W.E.P. reductions, a government pensioner who applies for a Social Security spousal or survivor benefit can face reductions. The government pension offset reduces those benefits by two-thirds of the government pension.
Pensioners are exempt from the W.E.P. offset if they paid into Social Security for 30 years or more in jobs with substantial earnings .