Life Changes Can Boost Social Security Benefits Payments
Inflation these days has definitely been reflected in annual increases in benefits. This year alone, the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) jumped by 5.9% this year – bringing the average Social Security benefit to $1,657.
Workers across the country feed the Social Security fund by way of their payroll taxes through the duration of work. What many individuals do not realize is that there are ways to take advantage and make the most of your benefits. To do this you can use a combination of strategies in order to maximize your Social Security retirement benefits. Social Security is the only retirement income that is guaranteed for life and backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government.
Here are some methods for getting the most out of your benefits:
1. Work for 35 years
By the time most individuals hit 60, they have successfully worked at least 35 years. The Social Security Administration (SSA) calculates your highest-earning years to figure out your primary insurance amount (PIA), or the monthly benefit amount you receive as of your full retirement age. Social Security will factor in zeroes in the calculation for the non-earning years if you’ve worked fewer than 35 years, and thus lowering benefits.
2. Delay claiming Social Security benefits
At 62 Americans can technically start receiving Social Security benefits; however, this will most likely reduce your monthly paycheck payment. For every month you delay Social Security checks, over the years you will see a significant increase to your benefits. Your benefits grow by 8%, up until the age of 70.
3. Wait until full retirement age
Typically, full retirement age averages at 66 or 67, depending what year you were born. By starting retirement early, you could be missing out on potentially 30% of the monthly payment you’d be entitled to. For example, ff you receive a monthly benefit of $1,500 at your full retirement age of 67, starting benefits early at age 62 would reduce that amount to $1,050.
4. Sign up for spousal benefits
In order to qualify for spousal benefits, you must lack sufficient work history to claim Social Security on your own, or your spousal benefit has to be larger than the benefit you are entitled to. You must be at least 62 years of age to claim this benefit. Half of the amount your spouse qualifies for at retirement is the most you are able to claim in spousal benefits. You could also have a qualifying child under your care, a minor child under the age of 16 or any child who is collecting Social Security disability payments. If you are divorced, both of you may also be eligible if the marriage lasted more than 10 years and the ex-spouse applying for the benefits never got remarried.
5. Make sure you’re receiving dependent benefits
Children younger than 18 may qualify for Social Security benefits. If still in high school, those age 18-19 can also qualify. According to the Social Security Administration, others who are 18 or older only qualify to get benefits if they were diagnosed with a disability before 22. Children generally receive up to 50% of their entitled parent’s Social Security benefits.
6. Apply for survivor benefits
Increase your monthly retirement paycheck through Social Security survivor benefits. If your deceased spouse qualified for higher Social Security payments than you are, you are probably eligible for that higher survivor benefit. This may also be the case if your spouse died before actually applying for benefits. Survivor benefits are determined by the earnings the spouse truly received before they pass away.
According to Eric D. Brotman, CEO of BFG Financial Advisors, “When a couple is collecting benefits and one spouse dies, the surviving spouse typically receives the higher of the two benefit payments moving forward—but not both. That means you’ll want to consider age disparity, life expectancy, the health of each spouse and the benefit amounts available for each spouse to try to maximize your benefits, both while you’re both living and when one of you is widowed.”
7. Plan for Social Security Tax
Most people are required to pay some taxes on benefits, so to get ahead of the game plan to owe these taxes on your benefits. The Social Security Administration looks at your combined income to calculate what percentage of your benefits are taxable. This becomes your adjusted gross income plus your non-taxable interest (such as municipal bonds or income-producing Roth accounts) and half of Social Security Benefit income.
8. Check for mistakes
Never assume that Social Security statement you get every year is accurate. Always take a minute to check the numbers and then report an error immediately to the Social Security Administration. Any miscalculation could severely impact your benefits for the rest of your life. Remember your benefits are based on those 35 years of your highest earning income.
9. Fix it now
Maybe you realized you took your Social Security benefits too early, and you are regretting your decision. If it’s been less than a year, you may be able to suspend claim. You will have to pay back the money already received, nevertheless you will get to start over without any penalties at a later age. One reason to do this would be if you inherit money that you can get by with for a while, or if you get another job after you initially retire. Waiting until an older age will significantly increase your future benefits.
If a year has passed and you recognize you’ve missed the previous window opportunity, you still have the option to suspend your benefits to increase your forthcoming payments. But there’s a catch, which is that you must be of full retirement age.
Start taking the time today to plan for your crucial future Social Security benefits. Now that you see the variety of ways you can increase these benefits, you just might be able to get more than you originally thought.
Contact Lowery Law Group at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (843) 991-0733. There is no fee for a free consultation regarding your claim. Lowery Law Group is experienced in handling cases in South Carolina as well as Georgia.