If You’re Receiving Other Retirement Benefits
The calculation gets a bit more complicated if you are eligible to receive benefits from a government pension or foreign employer that is not covered by Social Security. In that case, you may still be eligible, but the amount will be reduced.
For example, if you have a government pension for which Social Security taxes are not withheld, the amount of your spousal benefit is reduced by two-thirds of the amount of your pension. This is known as a government pension offset.
For example, suppose you are eligible to receive $800 in Social Security spousal benefits and you also get $300 from a government pension each month. Your Social Security payment is reduced by two-thirds of $300, or $200, making your total benefit amount from all sources $900 per month + $300).
Who Is Entitled To Survivors Benefits From Social Security
How Social Security Can Help You When a Family Member Dies SSA.gov/benefits/survivors
Social Security is a key source of financial security to widowed spouses. About 7.8 million individuals aged 60 and older receive Social Security benefits based, at least in part, on a deceased spouses work record. These surviving spouse beneficiaries are overwhelmingly women.
These beneficiaries include 3.6 million people who are eligible only as widowed spouses. Another 4.2 million who are entitled to benefits based on their own work records but whose deceased spouses benefit amounts were higher than their own, will receive higher benefits as individuals .
The Basics Of Social Security
First off, every eligible worker can begin receiving Social Security benefits at age 62, but you’ll get a reduced monthly payment if you don’t wait until you’re at full retirement age. Your monthly payment will depend a few things, including your income throughout your working years, how much you paid into the Social Security system and at what age you claim benefits. Benefits are adjusted yearly based on the cost of living.
Full retirement age depends on the year you were born:
- If you were born between 1943 and 1954, full retirement age is 66
- If you were born between 1955 and 1959, full retirement age is between 66 and 67, depending on your birth year
- If you were born after 1960, full retirement age is 67
The Social Security website provides a calculator to help individuals understand how much their benefit will be reduced if they collect early. For example, if you were born in 1960 and wanted to collect as soon as you hit age 62, you’d receive 70% of your full retirement age payout. But if you waited until age 64 you’d get 80% of the full benefit.
By delaying the receipt of your benefits past full retirement age, you’ll earn even more than the full benefit for every year after full retirement age and before you hit age 70, you’ll collect 8% more each year.
- If you’re full retirement age is 66, you can earn up to 132% of your full benefit by waiting until you’re 70
- If you’re full retirement age is 67, you can earn up to 124% of your full benefit by waiting until you’re 70
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Strategy For Late Claimers
If one partner has little or no earnings history, the best strategy is for the wage earner to postpone applying for Social Security retirement benefits until age 70 to get the highest amount possible. Full retirement age is 66 for most baby boomers and 67 for everyone born in 1960 or later, but by delaying claiming benefits until age 70, the wage-earner will accrue delayed retirement credits that will increase the monthly payments by 8% for each year of delay.
Keep in mind that this won’t affect the spousal benefit amount. Spousal benefits differ from personal benefits when it comes to delaying payments. If you delay claiming for personal retirement benefits past full retirement age, the benefit increases over time, as explained above. However, that will have no impact on your spouse’s benefits, since they max out at full retirement age . In other words, there is no benefit for your spouse in delaying the spousal benefit claim past your full retirement age.
On the other hand, if both partners work, and their earnings are more or less equal, their individual Social Security benefits will each be greater than the spousal benefit, so the best strategy for both is to postpone applying for benefits until age 70.
What Other Factors Should You Consider When Deciding To Collect Social Security
Before you decide to collect Social Security based on your break even point, you should also consider how collecting early or delaying could impact the benefit your spouse receives.
Since the Social Security formula benefit is based on an individual’s 35 highest earning years, women often collect less in benefits than men because of career breaks during motherhood and overall lower lifetime earnings. However, the Social Security spousal benefit erases some of the disparity in Social Security earnings between men and women.
The spousal benefit is available to all spouses, regardless of whether the spouse has a work history or not . The spousal benefit is up to 50% of the higher earner’s benefit and in order for a spouse to receive the benefit, the higher-earner must be collecting their own benefit.
The Social Security administration automatically determines whether an individual would earn more in Social Security benefits if they collected on their own work record versus their partner’s work record.
For example, if the higher earner receives a $2,000 monthly benefit, the spouse is eligible to receive up to $1,000, depending on whether they choose to wait until full retirement age, says Kiner. For example, if someone collects the spousal benefit four years before full retirement age, their benefit will be 35% of the higher-earner’s benefits.
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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 within the first 12 months of receiving benefits 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. Be aware that you’re 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, pay back the years’ worth of benefits you received, go back to work, and then wait until your full retirement age to restart your benefit checks at a higher level.
Once you reach full retirement age, another option is to voluntarily stop benefits at any point before age 70 to receive delayed retirement credits . Benefits will automatically restart at age 70 at a higher amountâunless you choose to start taking benefits before then. Note that when you withdraw your application or stop your benefits after full retirement age, you must specify if your Medicare coverageâif you have itâshould be included in the withdrawal.
Can I Collect Half Of My Spouse’s Social Security At 62
Not quite. The percentage of your spouse’s Social Security that you receive starts at 32.5% at age 62 and steps up gradually to 50% at your full retirement age, 66 or 67, depending on your year of birth. The amount is based on your spouse’s benefit at full retirement age.
The important point is this: Don’t bother delaying past your full retirement age. The amount you receive won’t grow beyond that age.
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What If You Are Divorced
If you are divorced from a worker who is entitled to a Social Security retirement benefit, and your marriage lasted at least 10 years, you may have the opportunity to claim benefits on your ex-spouse’s recordeven if he or she remarried.
- If you are divorced, you can receive spousal benefits on your ex-spouse’s record if you are unmarried, at least 62 years old, and the benefit you’re entitled to on your ex-spouse’s record is more than what you could get through your own record.
- If your ex-spouse dies, you may be entitled to a survivor’s benefit on his or her record. You can claim as early as age 60 for reduced benefits, or receive full benefits at your full retirement age. And if you remarry after age 60, there’s no impact on your eligibility.
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 your own benefits . For example, say you were born in 1960, and your full retirement age is 67. If you start your benefits at age 69, you would receive a credit of 8% per year multiplied by two . This means your benefit would be 16% higher than the amount you would have received at age 67.
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Effect Of Delaying Retirement Benefits
1Represents Full Retirement Age based on DOB January 2, 1960
2PIA = The primary insurance amount is the basis for benefits that are paid to an individual
That higher baseline would last for the rest of your retirement and serve as the basis for future increases linked to inflation. While it’s important to consider your personal circumstancesâit’s not always possible to wait, particularly if you are in poor health or can’t afford to delayâthe benefits of waiting can be significant.
Be aware that if you decide to wait past age 65, you may still need to sign up for Medicare. In some circumstances your Medicare coverage may be delayed and cost more if you don’t sign up at age 65. If you start Social Security benefits early, you’ll automatically be enrolled into Medicare Parts A and B when you turn age 65.
Your annual Social Security statement will list your projected benefits between age 62 to 70, assuming you continue to work and earn about the same amount through those ages. If you need a copy of your annual statement, you can request one or view it online on the Social Security Administration portal.
Social Security And Medicare Basics
For most of us, Social Security is the bedrock of retirement income. And Medicare is likely to be your primary source of health coverage. But when can you claim Social Security? And exactly what is Medicare? Understanding how and when to start taking advantage of these programs can help you maximize your benefitsand positively impact your retirement lifestyle.
Though the two programs are separate, Social Security works closely with Medicare to enroll people who are 65 and older, provide information and collect premiums.
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Three Common Social Security Strategies
Get the timing right, and you could potentially boost monthly benefits for yourself and a spouse or dependent. Here are three strategies to consider:
1. Delayed retirement: Waiting to claim Social Security benefits based on your own work record provides what are called “delayed retirement credits” for each year you wait past your full retirement age. If you were born in 1943 or later, you can increase your benefit by up to 8% per year for each year you delay your claim after your full retirement age, up to age 70.
Let’s say you were born in 1960 or later. If you delay your Social Security until age 70, your full retirement benefit would be multiplied by 124%. For example: If you were set to receive $2,000 a month at full retirement age, but you delay to age 70, you would get about $2,480 a month instead.
One note: Even if you delay your Social Security claim, make sure you still sign up for Medicare at age 65 if you need coverage.
2. File and suspend: With this strategy, you could file for Social Security at your full retirement age, but then “suspend” the claim to accrue delayed retirement credits. This strategy used to be more commonly used by married couples, but has been eliminated. However, it may still make sense for individuals in the following situations:
Investigate Divorced Spouse Benefits
If youre currently unmarried but a previous marriage lasted at least 10 years, you could qualify for spousal benefits based on your exs work record. The amount can be up to 50% of the workers benefit at his or her full retirement age. If you remarry, however, the divorced spouse benefit stops. You must be at least 62 to get spousal benefits.
If your ex has died and the marriage lasted at least 10 years, you could qualify for survivor benefits of up to 100% of your exs benefit. You can remarry at 60 or older and still receive divorced survivor benefits. Survivor and divorced survivor benefits can begin at age 60, or at age 50 if the survivor is disabled, or at any age if youre caring for your exs child who is under 16 or disabled . People receiving survivor benefits can switch to their own benefit later if thats larger, and vice versa.
Pro tip: Your ex must be at least 62 for you to receive a divorced spousal benefit, but does not need to be receiving his or her own benefit. Survivor benefits are based on what your ex was receiving or would have received at full retirement age. If you start benefits before your own full retirement age, however, the amount you get will be reduced.
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Social Security And You: Readers Question Aarp Article About Spousal Benefits
Ive gotten quite a few emails from readers who have questions about an article on Social Security benefits for spouses that recently ran in an issue of the AARP Bulletin. Some of you thought the answers they gave were incorrect. But they were not. Lets review some of them in todays column.
And one caveat before I go on: In order to avoid a lot of awkward he/she or him/her pronouns, I am going to assume the person applying for spousal benefits is a woman. Even though Social Security rules are gender neutral, statistics show that 95% of all spousal benefits are paid to women. Having said that, if you happen to be part of a married couple in which the wife earned more money than the husband, just reverse gender references as you read this column.
Anyway, one of the AARP questions asked: Will I get a smaller spousal benefit because my husband retired early? AARP answered: No. But this comment from one reader echoed the thoughts of several others. He said, I thought if I took reduced retirement benefits, my wifes spousal benefit also would be reduced.
Spousal Benefits For Widows And Widowers
A widow or widower can receive up to 100% of a spouse’s benefit amount. That’s if the survivor has reached full retirement age at the time of the application.
The payment is reduced to somewhere between 71% and 99% of the deceased’s entitlement if the widowed person is at least 60 but under full retirement age.
Disabled people can apply as early as age 50. The agency has a streamlined application process to avoid delays in the first payment.
You may be eligible for benefits even if your spouse died long before reaching retirement age. Every employee racks up annual Social Security “credits” for working. If your spouse earned credits for at least 10 years, a spousal benefit has been earned.
It’s important to note that it pays to hold off until you reach your “full” retirement age to maximize the amount you will receive.
Also, if you are receiving spousal benefits and your spouse dies, you need to notify Social Security. Your spousal benefit of 50% of your partner’s benefit will convert to a survivor benefit of 100%.
And do it promptly. It’s not usually retroactive.
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What’s Full Retirement Age
Full retirement age is when you’re eligible to receive full Social Security benefits. Your full retirement age depends on your birth year: For anyone born in 1960 or later, full retirement age is 67. For those born in 1955 through to the end of 1959 , full retirement age ranges between 66 and 2 months and 66 and 10 months. If you were born before 1955, you’ve already reached age 66 and full retirement age.
Strategies For Maximizing Spousal Benefits
Every married couple has to figure out the best way to maximize their benefits depending on their own circumstances.
The three strategies below will help you make the most of your Social Security spousal benefits, depending on your circumstances. However, keep in mind that, regardless of your circumstances, the most a spouse can get is 50% of the amount that the higher-earning partner is entitled to at full retirement age.
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Ways To Increase Social Security Benefits
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Knowing how to increase Social Security benefits is important, since those checks will likely be a major source of your income in retirement.
Unfortunately, many people dont understand how Social Security really works. They claim too early, miss out on important benefits and fail to use strategies that could boost their lifetime income. Their mistakes can cost them as much as $250,000, researchers have estimated.
Here are eight ways to increase your Social Security benefits.