Why You Can Trust Bankrate
Founded in 1976, Bankrate has a long track record of helping people make smart financial choices. Weve maintained this reputation for over four decades by demystifying the financial decision-making process and giving people confidence in which actions to take next.
Bankrate follows a strict editorial policy, so you can trust that were putting your interests first. All of our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts, who ensure everything we publish is objective, accurate and trustworthy.
Our reporters and editors focus on the points consumers care about most how to save for retirement, understanding the types of accounts, how to choose investments and more so you can feel confident when planning for your future.
Tips For A Successful Retirement
- Saving for retirement requires a strong financial plan and smart investing. A financial advisor help you on both fronts. SmartAssets free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If youre ready to be matched with local advisors who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- Dont forget to include Social Security payments in your retirement plans. They may not have a titanic impact on your finances in retirement, but they can line your pockets with some extra cash when you might need it. SmartAssets Social Security calculator can help you get an idea of your future benefits.
- If you are thinking about where to retire, SmartAssets retirement tax-friendliness tool can help you figure out how your Social Security benefits, property taxes, and retirement account and pension withdrawals will be taxed in each state.
What Are Social Security Spousal Benefits
Social Security spousal benefits are a part of a workers retirement or disability benefit given to their spouse. Spousal benefits are based on the income earned during a qualifying workers life, as well as the retirement age of both the worker and their spouse.
If you qualify for Social Security spousal benefits, the size of your benefit can be up to 50% of your spouse or ex-spouses primary insurance amount . PIA is the amount of Social Security benefits that your spouse is entitled to at his or her full retirement age . So if your spouses PIA is $1,000, you could receive a maximum of $500 in spousal benefits.
If youve worked enough to qualify for your own Social Security retirement benefits, you will not get both benefits added together. Instead, you will receive whichever benefit is higher. If the spousal benefit is more than your own, youll get your own earned benefit plus an additional amount to bring you up to that higher spousal benefit amount.
You May Like: When Can I Take My Social Security Benefits
How Do I Apply For Spousal Benefits
You can file for spousal benefits the same way you would earned benefits: on the Social Security Administration website, by phone at 1-800-772-1213, or by visiting your local Social Security field office. Once approved, you will receive monthly payments by check or direct deposit.
When you apply for Social Security spousal benefits, they may ask you to provide the following documents to confirm you are eligible:
- Birth certificate
- Proof of U.S. citizenship. If you were not born in the U.S., you will need to show lawful alien status
- U.S. military discharge papers if you served before 1968
- W-2 forms and/or self-employment tax returns for last year
Applying and ensuring you claim the right benefit at the right time for your personal finances can be confusing. When youre ready to apply, we recommend using a checklist to ensure you take the right steps and have the right documentation.
How To Calculate Social Security Benefits
Lets say your FRA is 66. If you start claiming benefits at age 66 and your full monthly benefit is $2,000, then youll get $2,000 per month. If you start claiming benefits at age 62, which is 48 months early, then your benefit will be reduced to 75% of your full monthly benefitalso called your primary insurance amount. In other words, youll get 25% less per month, and your check will be $1,500.
That reduced benefit wont increase once you reach age 66. Rather, youll continue to receive it for the rest of your life. It may go up over time due to cost-of-living adjustments , but only slightly. You can do the math for your own situation using the Social Security Administration Early or Late Retirement Calculator, one of a number of benefit calculators provided by the SSA that can also help you determine your FRA, the SSAs estimate of your life expectancy for benefit calculations, rough estimates of your retirement benefits, individualized projections of your benefits based on your personal work record, and more.
Although the cost-of-living adjustments announced each year are usually only slight increases, Social Security benefits will increase by 5.9% in 2022, marking the largest increase since 1982.
Also Check: Collecting Social Security Early
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.
Can It Be A Good Idea To Delay Enrollment In Either Social Security Or Medicare
It often pays to delay Social Security past full retirement age, because in doing so, you get to accrue credits that boost your benefits by 8 percent a year up until age 70. Therefore, if you dont need the income from those benefits right away, you could conceivably sign up for Medicare at 65 and then wait another five years before filing for Social Security.
There are also scenarios where it might pay to get on Social Security before enrolling in Medicare. If, for example, youre still working and have access to a heavily or fully subsidized health plan through your job, you may not have a need for Medicare. On the other hand, you might want your Social Security benefits to supplement your income, pay for travel, or help put your grandkids through college.
Remember, health coverage under Medicare doesnt necessarily come cheap. Between premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance, you might find that your out-of-pocket costs are substantially lower under a group health plan, in which case it pays to stick with it as long as you can.
Read Also: How Much Will I Draw From Social Security
Work For At Least 35 Years
Your Social Security benefit is based on your 35 highest years of earnings, so the first thing you need to do to collect the maximum benefit is to work for at least 35 years. If you only work 25 years, the other 10 years will be entered as zeroes when Social Security calculates your average earnings. Falling short of the 35-year mark — even by just a year — will prevent you from collecting the maximum benefit, no matter how much you earned during the other 34 years.
Gaining Back The Reduction In Benefits From Working
The amounts of early retirement benefits you lose as a setoff against your earnings are not necessarily gone forever. When you reach full retirement age, Social Security will recalculate upward the amount of your benefits to take into account the amounts you lost because of the earned income rule. The lost amounts will be made up only partially, however, a little bit each year. It will take up to 15 years to completely recoup your lost benefits. And remember, none of this readjustment will change the permanent percentage reduction in your benefits that was calculated when you claimed early retirement benefits .
Don’t Miss: When Social Security Benefits Are Paid
What If I Change My Mind
If you receive Social Security benefits at a reduced rate, but then change your mind, you have the option of withdrawing your application and paying back to the government what you’ve already received . Then, you could restart benefits at a later date to take advantage of a higher payout. But you are limited to one withdrawal per lifetime.
For example, let’s say you elected to receive early benefits at age 62, but then decided to go back to work at age 63. You could withdraw your Social Security application within the first 12 months of receiving benefits, pay back the years’ worth of benefits you received, go back to work, and then wait until a later age to restart your benefit checks at a higher level.
For important details about repaying benefits please read the SSA publication If You Change Your Mind.
Try This Life Expectancy Calculator For Social Security
Retirement benefit calculations are based on extensive actuarial studies and data. As a service to the public, the Social Security Administration has developed a simple Life Expectancy Calculator that allows you to plug in your gender and date of birth to get a rough estimate of how long you may live.
Knowing this information may help you in deciding when the right time is to apply for retirement benefits.
To use the Calculator, go to
Don’t Miss: When To Take Social Security Retirement
Social Security: Wait Or Take It Early
I got this question recently from a former high school classmate: Should I wait to take Social Security or start at 62?
As with all questions concerning Social Security benefits, the answer is “it depends.”
While you clearly can reap the highest-possible monthly benefit if you wait until 70, you may not be able to if you’re in poor health. My friend falls into the latter category.
Social Security rewards you for delaying your benefits. Your lowest payment will be at 62, when you qualify for “early” payments. Then you get a boost at your “full” retirement age , which, for most people, is 66. Then you max out at 70. Here’s breakdown of how the payments work, according to Fidelity Investments:
— If you claim Social Security at age 62, rather than waiting until your full retirement age , you can expect up to a 30% reduction in monthly benefits.
— For every year you delay past your FRA up to age 70, you get an 8% increase in your benefit. So, if you can afford it, waiting could be the better option.
— Health status, longevity, and retirement lifestyle are three variables that can play a role in your decision on when to claim your Social Security benefits.
Consider Your Health and Longevity
Let’s take the last item and break it down. If you have serious chronic diseases or other life-threatening health conditions, then that’s a good reason to take the early benefit.
Do You Have a Healthy Lifestyle?
Do You Need the Money?
Will My Social Security Benefits Be Reduced If I Work
A worker who claims benefits before full retirement age may run into the earnings limit, in which Social Security temporarily withholds $1 in benefits for every $2 in earnings above a certain amount in 2021, the limit is $18,960.
And though a person may need benefits to supplement low earnings, the downside of permanently reduced benefits also exists if you claim early, whether or not you exceed the earnings limit, Ms. Floyd said.
A working widow who collects a survivor benefit could also face the earnings limit. A widow can claim a survivor benefit as young as 60, though her benefit will be reduced by claiming before full retirement age. If she is working and exceeds the earnings limit, part of those reduced benefits will be withheld.
The earnings limit also applies to the spousal benefit claimed by a nonworking spouse if the other spouse is working and both are younger than full retirement age. Social Security withholds benefits on total household earnings that exceed the limit.
Withheld benefits are not lost forever, however. At the beneficiarys full retirement age, Social Security will adjust the monthly benefit upward to account for the withheld benefits. The beneficiary will continue to receive the higher payment even after she recoups the withheld benefits, which could take 12 years.
You May Like: How Much I Get From Social Security
At What Age Do I Qualify For Social Security
You can begin collecting Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62. Doing so, however, is often not advisable, since it means lowering your monthly benefits potentially for life.
To collect the full monthly benefit your earnings record entitles you to, you must wait until full retirement age to sign up for Social Security. Depending on your year of birth, that age will fall out somewhere between 66 and 67. For each month you file for Social Security ahead of full retirement age, youll face a reduction in your monthly benefits that will likely remain in effect indefinitely, unless you manage to go through the motions of withdrawing your application soon after filing it.
Should You Count On The Maximum Social Security Benefit
Getting the biggest monthly check out of Social Security is a fine goal. But even if you have a high income, you shouldn’t rely on getting the maximum benefit.
Even having a year or two when your earnings fall short can reduce your payments. Also, many seniors have to leave the workforce earlier than they anticipated. Health problems, layoffs, age discrimination, and caregiving responsibilities often disrupt plans to keep working. In any of these situations, holding out until 70 may not be realistic.
Waiting to start benefits can certainly pay off– but it’s essential that you start saving for retirement early and continue to do so throughout your career. Retirement will be much easier if you’re not counting on squeezing every last penny out of Social Security.
The $16,728 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook
If you’re like most Americans, you’re a few years behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known “Social Security secrets” could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $16,728 more… each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we’re all after. Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.
The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
You May Like: Social Security Max Monthly Payment
No More File And Suspend
Note that the claiming strategy called file and suspend, which allowed married couples who have reached their FRA to receive spousal benefits and delayed retirement credits at the same time, ended as of May 1, 2016. However, spouses born before Jan. 2, 1954, who have attained their FRA may still be able to file a restricted application. It allows them to claim spousal benefits while delaying their own benefits up to age 70.
Social Security benefits can be taxable if your combined income is high enough.
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.
Survivor And Death Benefits
Wage earners depend on Social Security retirement benefits to help meet financial needs when they stop working, but sometimes these earners can pass away early and unexpectedly. When workers pay into Social Security, a majority goes to fund disability and retirement costs, but a portion of their taxes go toward survivors benefits as well.
When a worker passes away, some family members may be eligible for survivors benefits if the worker earned enough credits during their working lifetime. Eligible family members include widowed spouses who are 60 or older, 50 or older if they are disabled, or any age if caring for a child who is under 16 years old. Children of deceased workers are also eligible if they are not married and under 18 years old, or under 19 years old but still in school. If youre divorced and you or your spouse pass away, the surviving spouse could be eligible for a widows benefit as well.
If a worker has enough work credits when they pass away, Social Security will also make a one-time payment of $255. This payment can be made only if the spouse or child meet certain specified requirements.
To apply for survivors benefits, Social Security will need the following, either original copies or certified copies, from the issuing agency.