Calculate The Best Time To Start Social Security
If you are confused about when to start, you can use the Social Security Explorer part of the NewRetirement Retirement Planner to compare your monthly income and maximum lifetime payout at different ages.
Or, you might consider the following rules of thumb:
- Take Early: The only people who should consider taking their Social Security early are those who absolutely need the money immediately, or those who do not expect to live for very long, due to illness
- Take at Full Retirement Age: Should you have reason to believe that you will not live past the age of 80, then generally speaking you will maximize your social security benefits if you take them when you reach your Full Retirement Age.
- Wait as Long as Possible: On the other hand, if you are confident that you will live past the age of 80 or 85, then most experts recommend that you defer your social security for as long as you can , so as to maximize the benefits you receive from it.
- Other: If you have dependent children, the additional benefits you receive for them might make filing when you are younger worthwhile.
It can also be a very good idea to have an overall retirement plan before you decide when to start your Social Security benefits. The NewRetirement Retirement Planner can help you assess all of your sources of retirement income and whether or not you will have enough to cover your expenses. This tool was recently named a best retirement calculator by the American Association of Individual Investors .
How Do I Apply For Social Security Benefits For My Child
Unfortunately, you can’t apply for child benefits online. Instead, you can call the Social Security office at 1-800-772-1213 or visit your local Social Security office. Make sure you have the following documents on hand.
- Your child’s birth certificate or other proof of birth or adoption.
- Proof of marriage to the child’s natural or adoptive parent, if they are your stepchild.
- Proof of the child’s US citizenship or lawful alien status if the child was not born in the US.
- W-2 forms and/or self-employment tax returns if the child had earnings last year.
- If the parent is deceased, you may need proof of the parent’s death.
You’ll have to apply for benefits for your child at the Social Security office or over the phone.
Eligible Family Members Include:
- Ex-spouses, if the marriage lasted for at least 10 years and they have not remarried
- Children under 18, or up to 19 if still enrolled in high school
- Children of any age who were disabled before 22 — that is, not earning more than $1,260 per month in 2020, having a medical condition that results in severe functional limitations and that is expected to last 12 months or longer or result in death
Spouses and ex-spouses must be at least 62 in order to claim benefits, and spouses and children must wait for the worker to begin claiming benefits themselves before they can claim family benefits on their record.
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Fact #: Social Security Is Particularly Important For People Of Color
Social Security is a particularly important source of income for groups with low earnings and less opportunity to save and earn pensions, including Black and Latino workers and their families, who face higher poverty rates during their working lives and in old age. The poverty rate among Black and Latino older adults is roughly 2.5 times as high as for white seniors. There is a significant racial retirement wealth gap, leading older adults of color to face more retirement insecurity than their white counterparts. Black and Latino workers are less likely to be offered workplace retirement plans, and they are likelier to work in low-wage jobs with little margin for savings. Social Security helps reduce the economic disparities between older white adults and older adults of color.
How To Apply Apply For Ssdi Or Ssi Benefits
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Documents You Will Need
Whether you apply online or in person, you will need the following information when you apply for your Social Security benefits:
- Your Social Security number
- Your W-2 forms or self-employment tax return for the last year you worked
- Your military discharge papers if you served in any branch of the military
If you choose to have your benefits paid through direct deposit, you will also need your bank’s name, your account number and your bank’s routing number as shown on the bottom of your checks.
Social Security Benefits For Surviving Spouses
If your spouse was receiving Social Security benefits upon their death, you must report the death as soon as possible. You can call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays or visit your local Social Security office in person.
You are eligible for a one-time, lump-sum death benefit of $255 from Social Security if:
- You were receiving benefits on your spouses record at the time of death, or
- If you were living in the same household as your spouse at the time of death.
Any benefits received in the name of your spouse during the month of death or later must be returned to the Social Security Administration as soon as possible.
If your spouse worked long enough under Social Security, you may be eligible for Social Security benefits. You must be age 60 or older or disabled and 50 or older to qualify.
How much youll receive depends on the percentage of your spouses benefit as well as your age and the type of benefit youre eligible for.
You must apply for survivor benefits in person. You can call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 to request an appointment.
Calculate Your Life Expectancy
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How Much Am I Eligible To Receive
Your Social Security retirement benefit will be determined based on a combination of your earnings record and the age at which you claim benefits. For 2021, the average Social Security retirement benefit was $1,555. For 2022, the maximum possible retirement benefit is $4,194. To maximize your benefit, youll have to claim your benefits at age 70 and max out your earnings throughout your career.
What If I Take Benefits Early
If you choose to take your own Social Security benefit before your full retirement age, be aware that the benefit is permanently reduced by five-ninths of 1% for each month. If you start more than 36 months before your full retirement age, the worker benefit is further reduced by five-twelfths of 1% per month for the rest of retirement.
For example, let’s assume you stop working at age 62. If your full retirement age is 67 and you elect to start benefits at age 62, the reduced benefit calculation is based on 60 months. So, the reduction for the first 36 months is 20% and then another 10% for the remaining 24 months. Overall, your benefits would be permanently reduced by 30%.
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Working While Collecting Social Security Retirement
Many people choose or need, to keep working after claiming Social Security retirement benefits. However, if you continue work after claiming early retirement benefits your Social Security benefits may be reduced until you reach your full retirement age.
If you retire at age 62, Social Security will deduct money from your retirement check if you exceed a certain amount of earned income for the calendar year. For example, the income limit in 2018 was $17,040 or $1,420 per month. The income limit increases annually. Until you reach your full retirement age, Security will reduce your benefit by $1 for every $2 you earn over the income limit. Once you reach your full retirement age, you will receive your full Social Security retirement benefit with no limitation on how much income you earn from working.
The worse news is that Social Security does not apply the early retirement work penalty by simply deducting a small amount from each monthly benefit check. Instead, the agency may withhold several months entire checks until the total reduction is paid off. This means your annual budget will have to account for a certain number of months without a benefit check. Complete details on this decidedly complicated process can be found in Social Securitys pamphlet on How Work Affects Your Benefits. You can also use Social Securitys earnings test calculator to see how much your reduction will be and when your checks will be withheld.
Retirement And Spousal Benefits
Youll need to provide an array of personal and work information, including:
- Your date and place of birth.
- Start and stop dates for jobs held in the past two years .
- Military service, if applicable.
- The routing number of the bank where you want Social Security to deposit your payment, and the number and type of your account.
Social Security provides a complete checklist of what youll need for your application.
When you can file: The minimum age to apply for both retirement and spouse benefits is 62, but monthly payments are higher if you wait longer.
Where to file:Online, by phone or in person.
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You Can Claim Social Security Benefits Earned By Your Ex
The end of a marriage doesnt spell the end of being able to get get a Social Security benefit based on your former spouses earnings. You can still receive a benefit based on his or her record instead of a benefit based on your own work record, so long as you were married at least 10 years, you are 62 or older, and you are currently unmarried. And guess what: If you’ve made multiple trips to the altar, you can pick which spouse’s benefits you want to claim, based on what’s most beneficial to you.
Like a regular spousal benefit, you can get up to 50% of an ex-spouses benefitless if you claim before full retirement age. And the beauty of it is that your ex never needs to know because you apply for the benefit directly through the Social Security Administration. Taking a benefit on your ex-spouses record has no effect on his or her benefit or the benefit of your exs new spouse. And unlike a regular spousal benefit, if your ex qualifies for benefits but has yet to apply, you can still start collecting Social Security based on the exs record, though you must have been divorced for at least two years.
Note: Ex-spouses can also take a survivor benefit if their ex died after the divorce, and, like any survivor benefit, it will be worth up to 100% of what the ex-spouse received. If you remarry after age 60, you are still eligible for the survivor benefit.
How To Stop Social Security Check Payments
The SSA can not pay benefits for the month of a recipients death. That means if the person died in July, the check received in August must be returned. Find out how to return a check to the SSA.
If the payment is by direct deposit, notify the financial institution as soon as possible so it can return any payments received after death. For more about the requirement to return benefits for the month of a beneficiarys death, see the top of page 11 of this SSA publication.
Family members may be eligible for Social Security survivors benefits when a person getting benefits dies. Visit the SSA’s Survivors Benefits page to learn more.
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Social Security Disability Insurance
For SSDI, the document requirements are considerably broader and the application is lengthier. Along with the usual personal data , youll need to provide extensive documentation of your medical history and treatment and file an Adult Disability Report.
The SSDI process also includes an interview, in person or by phone. Youll find detailed information in Social Securitys Adult Disability Starter Kit.
Where to file:Online, by phone or in person.
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What Information And Documents Do You Need To Apply
To apply for Social Security, youll have to provide the SSA with basic identifying information, such as your birthdate, Social Security number, number of dependents and citizenship status. Youll also need to provide work information, including your employers name and address and how much money you earned over the past two years. Documents you may need to provide include:
your original birth certificate or other proof of birth
proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States
a copy of your U.S. military service paper and
a copy of your W-2 form and/or self-employment tax return for last year
The Social Security Administration will contact you if you need to provide any additional information.
To Wait Or Not To Wait
Consider taking benefits earlier if . . .
- You are no longer working and can’t make ends meet without your benefits.
- You are in poor health and don’t expect the surviving member of the household to make it to average life expectancy.
- You are the lower-earning spouse, and your higher-earning spouse can wait to file for a higher benefit.
Consider waiting to take benefits if . . .
- You are still working and make enough to impact the taxability of your benefits.
- Either you or your spouse are in good health and expect to exceed average life expectancy.
- You are the higher-earning spouse and want to be sure your surviving spouse receives the highest possible benefit.
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What About Taxes On Social Security
Social Security benefits may be taxable, depending on your “combined income.” Your combined income is equal to your adjusted gross income , plus non-taxable interest payments , plus half of your Social Security benefit.
As your combined income increases above a certain threshold , more of your benefit is subject to income taxâup to a maximum of 85%. For help, talk with a CPA or tax professional.
In any case, if you’re still working, you may want to postpone Social Security either until you reach your full retirement age or until your earned income is less than the annual limit. In no situation should you postpone benefits past age 70.
Fact #: Social Security Is More Than Just A Retirement Program It Also Provides Important Life Insurance And Disability Insurance Protection
Over 65 million people, or more than 1 in every 6 U.S. residents, collected Social Security benefits in January 2022. While older adults make up about 4 in 5 beneficiaries, another one-fifth of beneficiaries received Social Security Disability Insurance or were young survivors of deceased workers.
In addition to Social Securitys retirement benefits, workers earn life insurance and SSDI protection by making Social Security payroll tax contributions:
- About 96 percent of people aged 20-49 who worked in jobs covered by Social Security in 2020 have earned life insurance protection through Social Security.
- For a young worker with average earnings, a spouse, and two children, thats equivalent to a life insurance policy with a face value of nearly $800,000 in 2020, according to Social Securitys actuaries.
- About 89 percent of people aged 21-64 who worked in covered employment in 2020 are insured through Social Security in case of severe disability.
The risk of disability or premature death is greater than many people realize. Some 7 percent of recent entrants to the labor force will die before reaching the full retirement age, and many more will become disabled.
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