I spend hours each week helping determine the right way for people to file for Social Security.  Determining the why, how, when is crucial to the overall impact of one’s financial plan and how it will affect themselves and their spouse in the long run of life.  Here are some of the most frequently asked questions clients are asking when it comes to their Social Security Benefits. 

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  • What happens if I wait until after my full retirement age to file for retirement benefits?

    By waiting until after your full retirement age to file your benefit will increase by 8% per year regardless of if you are working or not.  For example, if your benefit at age 66 is $2000 and you wait until age 70 to collect, your benefit would have increased to $2720 (a pay increase of $8651 each year). 

  • Now that I’m 62 years old can I file for my benefit?

    You are eligible to file for SS retirement benefits beginning at age 62 but you will not receive your full benefit amount at this time because you are not to full retirement age (FRA) yet.  For each month prior to your FRA that you file, your benefit is reduced.  For example, if your benefit at FRA is $2000 but you file at age 62 you would receive $1500. 

  • How do I know when my full retirement age is? Does it matter if I retire from working before or after?

    Whether you quit working very early or continue working late in life has no impact on what your full retirement age is for Social Security retirement benefits. 

    If you were born between 1943-1954 your full retirement age is 66.  For each year after that the full retirement age increases by 2 months (birth year of 1955 would be 66 years 2 months).  If you were born in 1960 or later your full retirement age is 67 years of age.

  • How do I know how much my benefits will be?

    Your Social Security benefits are calculated based on your highest 35 years of earnings.  Each year you reported wages they were transmitted to the SSA to help determine your SS benefits.  If you had a period of years you did not work, those would be considered as $0s.  The SSA has a formula to make wages from decades ago more comparable to today’s wages.  If you want to see what your estimated benefits are you can login to mySSA.gov to find your numbers.

  • Can I get my Social Security benefits if I’m still working?

    Yes, you can continue working while receiving SS benefits.  However, there are important facts to know about getting both SS and other income at the same time.  If you are collecting SS benefits prior to your full retirement age and have other sources of income at the same time you can make up to $17,640 before $1 for every $2 of benefits will be withheld.  In the year you turn FRA the earnings limit is $46,920 before $1 for every $3 over the limit will be withheld.  This applies until the month you turn your FRA.  After you reach your FRA there are no limits on income and your benefits will not be withheld. 

  • What counts as income when I’m receiving Social Security benefits prior to full retirement age?

    When SSA figures out how much to deduct from your benefits, they only count the wages you make from your job or your net profit if you’re self-employed.  This does include bonuses, commissions, and vacation pay.  However, pensions, annuities, investment income, or veterans or government or military retirement benefits are not included. 

  • What happens to our Social Security benefits when I or my spouse dies?

    Because only one benefit can be received, that means when a person passes away the spouse is left with the higher of the two benefits.  For example, if Susan has a benefit of $1400 and John’s is $2200 and John passes away first, Susan will continue to get John’s benefit but she will no longer receive hers.  If Susan were to pass away first, John would continue receiving his benefit but would not receive Susan’s $1400. 

  • Is there a way I can file on my spouse’s benefit if theirs is higher?

    Yes, if your benefit is smaller than 50% of your spouse’s benefit at their full retirement age you can file on their benefit and receive half.  For example, if Sheryl’s benefit is $2800 at her FRA and Jeff’s is $1000 then when Sheryl files for her benefit Jeff can file for a spousal benefit and receive 50% of Sheryl’s, receiving $1400. 

  • Can I file for benefits now and switch to a higher benefit when I get to age 70?

    If you were born before January 2, 1954 and have already reached full retirement age, you can choose to file on your spouse’s benefit and receive 50% and delay receiving your retirement benefit until a later date. 

  • Can I file on my ex-spouse’s benefit?

    Yes, if you were married for 10 years or longer and did not remarry prior to age 60 you can file on your ex-spouse’s benefit.  This would apply much like a married couple, if 50% of the spouse’s benefit is higher than your own benefit at full retirement age.  However, if you remarried prior to age 60 you are no longer eligible for this.  You can also file on an ex-spouse’s survivorship benefit if they pass away. 

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