Social Security Your Coverage Options

Social Security: What to know before claiming benefits

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The National Academy of Social Insurance has a new toolkit on Social Security. If you’re thinking about when to claim Social Security benefits, it explains what to know and ask.

When to claim Social Security benefits is an important decision.  If you need the benefits in order to meet your daily needs, you should claim them as soon as possible. But, if you can wait to claim them, you will receive higher Social Security income. As it is, on average Social Security replaces only 40 percent of a person’s pre-retirement income.

If you were born between 1943 and 1954, your full retirement age (FRA) is 66, though you may claim benefits any time between age 62 and 70.  If you claim them at 62, you get 25 percent a month less each month for your lifetime than you would if you waited to claim until you are 66. To learn about how claiming benefits early disproportionately hurts people with low incomes, click here.

If your full retirement age (FRA) is 66 and you wait until 70, you get 32 percent more in monthly benefits for your lifetime than you would if you claim benefits at 66. You get 8 percent more for each year you delay claiming benefits after age 66 up to age 70.

Of course many factors go into when you should claim benefits. If you’re in good health and can wait, you will ensure a higher monthly income throughout your life.  Moreover, if you’re married and earn more than your spouse, delaying your receipt of benefits, will ensure increased Social Security income for your spouse after you pass. On the other hand, if you’re in poor health, it might be wise to claim benefits early so you are able to get back as much as possible from Social Security.

It’s wise to confirm that Social Security has correct information about your income. You can check online by creating a “my Social Security account” at https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/.  Once you do that, you will get a Social Security Statement that shows the income information Social Security has on file. Let Social Security know right away if you find a mistake.

What benefits does your spouse get? Because Social Security is insurance designed to protect families, your spouse, even your divorced spouse if you were married at least ten years, is entitled to Social Security benefits based on your income. The spousal benefit amount is half of the amount of your benefit if that amount is larger than what your spouse would receive based on his or her own income. And, after you pass, your surviving spouse or divorced spouse if you were married at least ten years, is entitled to your full Social Security benefits if that is larger than the amount your spouse would otherwise get based on his or her own income.

The NASI toolkit provides questions to ask based on a range of situations in which you might find yourself, including whether you should keep working and claim benefits. To read the toolkit, click here.

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3 Comments

  • …with ageism in hiring on the increase (particularly in the tech sector) It is difficult for many over 50. At 59, I lost my job in a the tail end of the recession and have been unable to find anything steady save for working in fast food, as a Walmart greeter, or CS call centre. I actually tried the latter and washed out as the I found the pace and demands, as well as the stress of primarily dealing with angry and frustrated customers, were almost impossible to keep up with.

    I still feel I have more to offer than flipping burgers, greeting customers, or taking verbal abuse on a daily basis. I also suffer from sever joint bone and muscle issues which makes standing l for long periods or doing physically demanding work very difficult (and painful). I cannot return to my former occupation (warehousing/shipping) or move to office work as my keyboarding speed has been severely impacted being far below the standards desired. Another factor is rents where I live are skyrocketing out of sight (we have the fastest rising rents in the nation) so I need something that pays well enough to keep a roof over my head without it breaking the budget or forcing me to the outlying burbs where a car is a necessity (I do not drive and haven”t since the 1970s). What little low income housing the area offers is filled with wait lists in excess of 5 years.

    I looked into early retirement but because I worked primarily in low paying jobs as well as spent a couple years self employed (during which there was no Social Security collected), my total “investment” was not as healthy as it could be. Several people who are aware of my physical condition and the difficulty I was experiencing finding steady employment because of my physical condition advised me that I should apply for Disability which would give me close to the same benefit I would receive at waiting until 66 (still below the average rent but I would qualify for other subsidies). Of course as expected, my claim initial claim and first appeal were denied. I am currently in the appeals process now and have an attorney to press my case for me, meanwhile well aware of how complex a process it can be. It is difficult as I have been relying on friends to help me in the meantime, and there are times I feel like chucking it all and just opting for early retirement.

  • I wish these earnings statements provided more explanation of Social Security s complicated claiming rules. But they do at least give you essential earnings information and claims projections that you can use to ask more questions and develop a claiming strategy that will benefit both you and family members who depend on you.

  • In my 6 1st year, I made an informational visit to my local Social Security office to check out all my options. They also told me how my projected SS would interact with many of my state’s elderly low income programs as well. Just one of the benefits of having long term locally based staffers!!
    But who will replace them in 5-10 years when they retire & all the info is online only, due to closing so many of the local offices?
    Most low income seniors don’t have enough assets to keep computers updated, if they even have a system anyway!!

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