Answers to Seven Common Social Security Questions

By Robert Hanlon on February 23, 2021

Understanding your full Social Security benefits picture can be confusing. To help shed some light on your options, here are answers to seven common questions that the Social Security Administration receives about the retirement benefit program.

1. What is the age for full Social Security benefits?

Individuals are eligible for full Social Security benefits depending upon the year they were born. Full retirement age is currently between 66 and 67. You can begin receiving Social Security benefits as early as age 62 and as late as 70. The age when you start receiving Social Security benefit checks will have a significant impact on your monthly payments and your lifetime benefits.

2. What is the impact of receiving benefits early?

If you start receiving your benefits at the first opportunity, your checks will be reduced to 70% – 75% of the full benefit1. This reduction is permanent. If you live a relatively short life, taking Social Security early could financially benefit you. However, if you take early benefits and live longer, you will collect less over time. It is important to think about timing when you decide to receive your Social Security retirement benefits.

3. What is the impact of delaying benefits?

Individuals who delay the start of Social Security benefits past their full retirement age will see their benefits increase by eight percent per year, up to the age of 70. The delayed Social Security credits are prorated monthly. There is no benefit to waiting past the age of 70 to receive Social Security benefits. When forming your retirement plan, be sure to think about the pros and cons of a delayed retirement credit in terms of your social security income, and how this monthly benefit will supplement your retirement savings. Also be sure to think about your spouse’s benefit options and how their social security check will have an impact on your combined income and overall retirement security.

4. Can I work and still collect Social Security?

If you are working and you start your Social Security payments before your full retirement age kicks in, your Social Security checks could be smaller. An individual could recently earn no more than $18,9602 before benefits were decreased. For every two dollars earned over that amount, one dollar of benefits is reduced.

How much you can receive will increase once you reach full retirement age. The maximum recently was $50,5202. Exceeding that amount impacts the current payment to withhold one Social Security dollar from your social security payment for every three dollars earned. If you are a higher earner, this is something to keep in mind when thinking about your retirement income.

You can find out how working would impact your Social Security payments by using this federal Retirement Earnings Test Calculator.

5. Would a divorce impact my Social Security benefits?

A divorced person can receive spousal benefits based on the ex-spouse’s salary history if the marriage lasted at least 10 years and the individual is not remarried. To get benefits, the ex-spouse must be at least 62 years old (in other words, eligible for payments). The ex-spouse, however, does not have to be collecting payments for the former husband or wife to collect benefits.

6. Is there a maximum wage subject to Social Security tax?

Not all wages are assessed with Social Security taxes. The maximum earnings subject to the tax is currently $142,8003.

7. How can I apply for Social Security benefits?

You can apply for Social Security in the following three ways:

Please note that the Social Security office may call you in some situations but will never threaten you, suspend your Social Security number, demand an immediate payment from you, require payment by cash, gift card, pre-paid debit card, or wire transfer. The aforementioned are common phone scams.
This material is presented for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individual legal, tax, or financial advice. When considering estate planning strategies, the individual should always consult with the individual’s own legal, tax, and financial advisors.
  1. Source: Social Security Administration
  2. Source: Social Security Administration
  3. Source: IRS


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