How Do Benefits Work And How Can I Qualify
While you work, you pay Social Security taxes. This tax money goes into a trust fund that pays benefits to:
Those who are currently retired
To people with disabilities
To the surviving spouses and children of workers who have died
Each year you work, youll get credits to help you become eligible for benefits when its time for you to retire. Find all the benefits Social Security Administration offers.
There are four main types of benefits that the SSA offers:
Learn about earning limits if you plan to work while receiving Social Security benefits
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
Theres A Social Security Spousal Benefit
Marriage brings couples an advantage when it comes to Social Security. Namely, one spouse can take what’s called a spousal benefit, worth up to 50% of the other spouse’s Social Security benefit. Put simply, if your monthly Social Security benefit is worth $2,000 but your spouse’s own benefit is only worth $500, your spouse can collect a spousal benefit worth $1,000 — bringing in $500 more in income per month. Just as the benefit based on your own work history is reduced if you claim it early, the same is true for a spousal benefit. That 50% figure is the maximum amount that only a spouse who is at least full retirement age is eligible for. Taking the spousal benefit early at, say, age 62, reduces the amount to as little as 32.5% of the higher earners benefit. If you take your own benefit early and then later switch to a spousal benefit, your spousal benefit will still be reduced.
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Do You Automatically Get Medicare With Social Security
Both federal initiatives are linked, meaning that many individuals receiving Social Security payments may automatically receive Medicare benefits once they qualify for Medicare based on age or disability.
In this article we review how people can receive Medicare health insurance coverage alongside their Social Security benefits.
What If The Social Security Administration Finds That My Disability Has Ceased But Im Still Not Able To Work
The notice, which you will receive from the Social Security Administration following a continuing disability review, will explain your appeal rights. Read this notice carefully. If you appeal within ten days of the date you receive the notice your benefits will continue during your appeal. So be sure to act quickly.
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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.
How Direct Express Card Works
Each month, on your benefits deposit date, your federal payment will be sent directly into
Your monthly funds will be available on your payment day ontime, every time.
You can use the Direct Express card to make purchases, pay bills, or get cash atthousands of locations.
Also, most transactions are free, including a wide ATM network to get cash at no cost.
Additionally, with the Direct Express card, you no longer have to wait for the mail or worryabout lost or stolen checks.
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To Qualify For Medicare You Need To Get Disability Benefits From:
- Social Security
- Railroad Retirement Board
If you or your spouse worked for a railroad, call the Railroad Retirement Board at 1-877-772-5772.
If you live in Puerto Rico or outside the U.S.
D You Can Stop Working And Not Begin Receiving Your Retirement Benefits
We calculate your benefits based on your highest 35 years of earnings. If you stop working before you have 35 years of earnings, or you have low earnings for some years, this will affect your benefit calculation. However, if you wait to start benefits after you reach full retirement age, your benefits will increase for each month you do not receive them until you reach age 70. There is no incentive to delay filing for your benefits after age 70.
If you are not receiving your Social Security benefits when you turn 65, you will need to apply for Original Medicare three months before you turn 65. If you dont sign up for Medicare Part B when youre first eligible at age 65, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Medicare coverage.
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How Payments Are Paid
There are two primary ways to receive your Social Security benefit checks:
To set up a direct deposit you have three options:
- Configure through My profile tab in your online Social Security account
- Ask your bank to do it
If you choose to receive through a Direct Express debit card, your benefits will be placed directly onto the card. From there, you can withdraw cash, make purchases or pay bills. To sign up, call Direct Express at 800-333-1795.
Is There Anything I Can Do To Make Dealing With The Social Security Administration Easier
You shouldnt expect as many problems dealing with the Social Security Administration while receiving benefits as you had trying to get benefits in the first place. Sometimes, though, some people have problems. Here are some things you can do to try to minimize the hassle:
- Keep all decisions, letters, and notices you receive from SSA in a safe place.
- Read everything you get from the Social Security Administration. The booklets that come with award letters and notices are well written and informative.
- When reading the booklets you receive from the Social Security Administration, pay special attention to the kind of information you are required to report to the Social Security Administration. Report promptly and in writing and keep a copy with your Social Security papers.
- Dont necessarily believe everything they tell you at the Social Security Administration 800 number. If you have an important issue to take up with the Social Security Administration, sometimes it is better to go to your local Social Security Office.
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How Much Can You Expect To Get
Your Social Security retirement benefit payment is based on how much you made during your working years. The more you earned, the more you’ll get when you retire.
Your Social Security retirement benefit payment is also affected by the age at which you decide to retire. You can retire as early as age 62, but if you retire before your full retirement age, your benefits will be permanently reduced, based on your age. For example, if you retire at age 62, your benefit would be about 25 percent lower than what it would be if you waited until you reach full retirement age.
You also need to remember that monthly premiums for Medicare Part B are usually deducted from monthly Social Security benefits. Retirement is a great time to look into the pros and cons of a private Medicare Advantage plan.
Retirement benefits are based on the recipients lifetime earnings in work in which they paid Social Security taxes. Higher income translates to a bigger benefit, up to a point. The amount to which retirees are entitled is modified by other factors, most crucially the age at which they first claim benefits.
For reference, the estimated average Social Security retirement benefit in 2021 is $1,543 a month. The maximum benefitthe most an individual retiree can getis $3,148 a month for someone who files for Social Security in 2021 at their full retirement age.
A Reader Poses A Question Thats Trickier Than It Seems
One of the things I think Im pretty good at is answering questions about federal retirement, but a recent email about Social Security left me stumpedtwice.
Greg, a longtime federal employee, wrote to me:
Social Security benefits max out at age 70, I get that. But filing too soon loses a portion of the maximum amount, and filing too late loses a whole monthly benefit. I have searched all over, and nowhere can I find out exactly what the best date is to request benefits begin. My wife reaches age 70 in the middle of April and we were wondering how to maximize her benefit by selecting the best starting date.
I thought Greg was asking a very common question: When is the best time to file for Social Security retirement? So I replied as follows:
There are a lot of theories about claiming Social Security benefits. Social Security has a fact sheet on this question as well. There are many factors that can influence the best time for you:
- Are you married or single?
- What is the age difference between you and spouse, if married.
- What is the income difference between you and your spouse, if married.
- Do you have children age 18 or younger?
- Are you widowed?
- Are you still working or fully retired?
- Do you have other sources of retirement income that could bridge the time between retirement and a later application for Social Security?
- Do you have good health and family history that shows longevity?
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If Health Problems Force You To Retire Early
Sometimes health problems force people to retire early. If you cannot work because of health problems, you should consider applying for Social Security disability benefits. The amount of the disability benefit is the same as a full, unreduced retirement benefit. If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, those benefits will be converted to retirement benefits.
You Can Undo A Social Security Claiming Decision
There aren’t many times in life you can take a mulligan. But Social Security offers you the chance for a do-over. Say you claimed your benefit, but soon thereafter wish you had waited to take it. Within the first 12 months of claiming Social Security benefits, you can withdraw the application. You will need to pay back all the benefits you received, including any spousal benefits based on your record. But you can later restart your Social Security benefits at the higher amount youll earn by waiting.
Early claimers have another opportunity for a do-over: They can choose to suspend their Social Security benefit at full retirement age. Say you took your benefit at age 62. Once you turn full retirement age, you can suspend your benefit. You don’t have to pay back what you have received, and your benefit will earn delayed retirement credits of 8% a year. Wait to restart your benefit at age 70, and your monthly payment will get up to a 32% boost — which could erase much of the reduction from claiming early.
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Theres An Annual Social Security Cost
One of the most attractive features of Social Security benefits is that every year the government adjusts the benefit for inflation. Known as a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, this inflation protection can help you keep up with rising living expenses during retirement. The Social Security COLA is quite valuable its the equivalent of buying inflation protection on a private annuity, which can cost a pretty penny.
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 will see a 1.3% COLA in their monthly Social Security benefits.
The Kiplinger Letter forecast in March that the 2022 COLA would be 3%, which would be the largest increase since 2012 when Social Security benefits ticked up 3.6%.
Heres what COLAs have been in other recent years:
- 2009: 5.8%
- 2021: 1.3%
Contact Social Security To Sign Up For Medicare
You can either:
Know when to sign up for Part BYou can only sign up for Part B at certain times. If you dont sign up for Part B when you turn 65, you might have to wait to sign up and pay a monthly late enrollment penalty. Find out when you can sign up. How much is the Part B late enrollment penalty?
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Timing And Your Health Coverage
Your health insurance coverage can also play a role in deciding when to claim Social Security benefits. Do you have a health savings account to which you would like to keep contributing? If so, note that if youre age 65 or older, then receiving Social Security benefits requires you to sign up for Medicare Part A, and once you sign up for Medicare Part A, youll no longer be allowed to add funds to your HSA.
The SSA also cautions that even if you delay receiving Social Security benefits until after age 65, you might still need to apply for Medicare benefits within three months of turning 65 to avoid paying higher premiums for life for Medicare Part B and Part D. If you are still receiving health insurance from your or your spouses employer, however, then you might not yet have to enroll in Medicare.
On March 17, 2020, all Social Security offices were closed completely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Aug. 5, 2021, they are only open by appointment, and to get an appointment, you need to be in a limited, critical situation. Most people will have to transact their business online, by phone, or through the mail.
What If I Delay Taking My Benefits
If you retire sometime between your full retirement age and age 70, you typically earn a “delayed retirement” credit . For example, say you were born in 1951 and your full retirement age is 66. If you started your benefits at age 68, you would receive a credit of 8% per year multiplied by two . This makes your benefit 16% higher than the amount you would have received at age 66. .
That higher baseline lasts for the rest of your retirement, and serves as the basis for future increases linked to inflation. While its important to consider your personal circumstancesits not always possible to wait, particularly if you are in poor health or cant afford to delaythe benefits of waiting can be significant.
If you decide to wait past age 65, you may still need to sign up for Medicare. In some circumstancesyour Medicare coverage may be delayed and cost more if you do not sign up at age 65.
To review your situation, your annual Social Security statement will list your projected benefits at age 62, full retirement age, and age 70, assuming you continue to work and earn about the same amount until age 62, full retirement age, or age 70 before retiring. If you need a copy of your annual statement, you can request one from the Social Security Administration .
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There Are Social Security Benefits For Surviving Spouses And Children
If your spouse dies before you, you can take a Social Security survivor benefit, but not in addition to your own benefit. You must choose one or the other. If you are at full retirement age, that benefit is worth 100% of what your spouse was receiving at the time of his or her death .
A widow or widower can start taking a survivor benefit at age 60, but the benefit will be reduced because it’s taken before full retirement age. If you remarry before age 60, you cannot get a survivor benefit. But if you remarry after age 60, you may be eligible to receive a survivor benefit based on your former spouse’s earnings record.
Eligible children who are under age 18 or were disabled before age 22 can also receive a Social Security survivor benefit, worth up to 75% of the deceased’s benefit.