Make the most out of your Social Security benefits.
Published: July 29, 2021
Category: Educational, Social Security
It’s probably time for you to start thinking about your retirement. And, if you are thinking about your retirement, it’s time to ask yourself the hard questions. What is my income going to look like? How much do I have saved? How is my health?
The great thing about Social Security (SS) is that it’s designed to help you when you retire. But, sometimes, people jump the gun on claiming their benefits as soon as they turn 62, the year you can start receiving these payments. As a result, mistakes are made and many who do this wish that they had delayed getting these benefits.
This article is designed to explain some of the common mistakes that people make with Social Security, and how you can avoid them. We will also delve into the best things you can do to make the most out of your Social Security benefits.
Mistakes you need to avoid
- Exceeding the earnings limit. An earnings limit mainly applies to those who receive Social Security benefits but continue to work. This applies to those who are below the retirement age, or at the full retirement age. Let’s say that the full retirement age is 66. As of 2021, if you are the full retirement age and still working, your benefits will be reduced by $1 for every $3 you earn over $50,520. However, the penalties are much greater if you are younger than 66. As of 2021, if you are younger than the full retirement age and earn over $18,960, your benefits will be reduced by $1 for every $2 you earn over that amount.
- Collecting benefits just because “you can.” Many people opt to receive SS benefits as soon as they can for no reason other than they don’t want to wait to get them. Your circumstances may call for you to receive benefits earlier, based on your health or current income. In that case, talk with a licensed specialist to help you make the best decision going forward. But, if you’re able to delay your benefits, you will want to consider doing that instead. It will help you in the long run.
- Thinking you qualify for Social Security because you’ve turned 62. Although you do need to be 62 before you can begin collecting benefits, not everyone is eligible for these benefits as soon as the hit that age. You must work for at least 40 quarters of your work history in order to be eligible. While working, you’re eligible to receive up to four quarters a year. Assuming you earn all four quarters a year, that means you have to work 10 years before you can earn all 40 quarters required for Social Security. The required minimum of money that you have to earn per quarter is $1,470. Check with the Social Security Administration (SSA) or a specialized agent to discuss your work history and ensure you’ve earned all 40 credits.
- Thinking your benefits will continue to increase when you pass 70. Once you reach the age on 70, delayed retirement benefits cease to increase. If you wait until you are 63 to pull Social Security benefits, your reduction of benefits is around 25%. But, if you pull at age 64, the reduction isn’t as harsh, and is only 20%. When you receive your benefits at 70, you get an 8% increase in your benefits. If you wait until 72, it’s still only 8% and will not rise any further.
- Thinking everyone gets the same payment on Social Security. This simply is not true. Social Security will look at your 35 highest years of work earnings to determine how much you will be receiving in your SS benefits. Think of it this way: the more money you earn, the more money you put toward Social Security. And the more money you put toward SS, the more you will receive on your benefits. Not everyone will get the same payment back from the SSA when they decide to file.
- Failing to understand how Social Security is taxed. How SS is taxed is based upon your provisional income, AKA your adjusted gross income. This means that the SSA evaluates how much you’ve earned excluding your benefits. Social Security can be anywhere between 50% to 85% taxable. And that is from the federal government alone. Thirteen of the 50 states also charge a state income tax in Social Security. These states are:
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- Rhoda Island
- West Virginia
When considering the time to file for your benefits, speak with a specialist to define how your SS may be taxed.
- Not realizing all of the benefits in which you are eligible. You’re eligible for more than you think. For example, if you’re divorced, you can qualify for up to 50% of your ex’s SS benefits. You are only eligible if you were married for more than 10 years, you haven’t remarried, and your divorce was finalized at least two years ago. Benefits can also be paid to your unmarried children, but again, they must meet a certain amount of qualifications. According to the SSA, they must be “younger than 18; between ages 18 and 19 but in elementary or secondary school as full-time students; or age 18 or older and disabled (the disability must have started before age 22).”
- Failing to understand spousal benefits. Yes, it’s possible that you are eligible to receive your significant other’s SS benefits if he or she is the primary earner. But how much you receive in payments is dependent on if the earner files for Social Security, not This means that the primary earner can file earlier or later, but you must be 62 before you start collecting the benefits.
How to get the most out of your Social Security
Now that you’re aware of what some of the common mistakes are, you can now figure out the ways that you can get the most out of your Social Security. This may seem like a difficult task, but trust us, it’s simple.
- Delay, and then delay some more. This is worth repeating again: delay collecting your benefits as much as you can. You will earn more money by doing this.
- Get the maximum social security benefit. Now, we acknowledge that this one may be a little easier said than done. If you wait until you are 70, the highest amount you can claim per month in 2021 is $3,895. If you wait until you are 66, the highest amount you can claim is $3,148 per month. If you claim early, at 62, the highest amount you can claim is $2,324 per month. So, how do you get to be able to claim the maximum amount? You can do it by working for 35 years, or until you are the full retirement age.
- Work at least 35 years, or until you are of full retirement age. We know that there aren’t many people who are jumping for joy at the thought of having to work for 35 years. But there’s a reason why it’s this amount of time. When calculating how much you will receive on Social Security benefits, the SSA evaluates the 35 years in which you’ve earned the most. And, not to mention, these 35 years do not need to be consecutive. If you need a year to take a break from working, then you’ve earned that right.
- Use an online calculator. Let’s say you’ve already worked at least 35 years and you’re thinking about collecting your Social Security now. There are multiple programs online that will demonstrate how you can get the most out of your SS benefits.
- Suspend payments. You can do this between the time you’re at full retirement age between age 70. You can suspend your Social Security payments for as many months as you want, and when they restart, they’ll be higher. However, be careful when doing this. As soon as you suspend your payments, then your spousal and/or child payments will also suspend.
- Understand the ins and outs of Social Security. This seems like a doozy, but don’t let it scare you. It starts with knowing the basics: your SS earnings history. After that, you can research more about how Social Security works by visiting its website or speaking with a specialist.
Keep in mind
If you are also receiving 401(k) or 403(b) payments after your retirement, these payments will not affect your Social Security benefits. However, it’s possible that you will generate enough of an income from the two services that you will be taxed or taxed at a higher rate.
The thought of collecting money just because you’ve met a certain number of requirements in your lifetime is exciting, and it’s understandable why people don’t want to waste time in getting it. However, being too quick to accept Social Security benefits without thinking all of your options through is the worst mistake you can make. Evaluate the circumstances you’re in and how collecting Social Security benefits at your current age would impact you.
The Best Senior Services can help you avoid making unnecessary mistakes with Social Security. We dedicate ourselves to educating you and other seniors so that you make well-informed decisions that are best for you. To get into contact with a licensed agent who shares this same goal, visit our website today or call us at 855.979.8277.