Many retirees rely heavily on Social Security for the majority of their retirement income. Some individuals go so far as to derive their entire income from Social Security.
However, despite the program’s critical role in many people’s retirement, it appears as though the public has a disturbing lack of Social Security knowledge. Recently, only 1% of respondents aged 55 to 65 aced a MassMutual quiz on basic Social Security concepts. Meanwhile, 65% of respondents failed or received a D grade, while 18% earned a C.
Whatever role you anticipate Social Security to play in your retirement, it’s critical to have a firm grasp on how the program operates. Three critical points to bear in mind.
1. Benefits are based on earnings
Social Security does not pay the same benefit to all seniors. Rather than that, the monthly benefit to which you are entitled will be determined by your personal earnings history. Social Security benefits are calculated using your 35 highest-paid years of income, so if you do not work the full 35 years, you will have a lower monthly paycheck.
2. Your filing age is significant.
At full retirement age, you are entitled to your full Social Security benefit based on your earnings history. You may, however, file for benefits sooner.
Age 62 is the earliest age at which you can file for Social Security. However, if you take this route, you will permanently reduce your monthly benefit. Technically, you only have one chance in your lifetime to correct an early filing. However, for many seniors, this is not an option. Therefore, if you apply for benefits early, it is prudent to assume that the reduced payment you receive will be the payment you receive throughout your retirement.
Additionally, you can postpone filing until you reach full retirement age. Your benefit is permanently increased by 8% for each year you work up to the age of 70.
3. There is no universal retirement age.
Certain individuals believe they are entitled to their full Social Security benefit at age 65, when Medicare eligibility begins. However, full retirement age for Social Security does not begin until age 66, and it is not uniform for everyone. Rather than that, it is determined by your birth year. You can consult the following table to determine your full retirement age:
If you want to avoid any benefit reductions, it’s critical to know your precise full retirement age. Claiming Social Security at age 66 rather than 67, for example, may result in a 6.67 percent reduction in benefits, which can add up to a significant amount of money over time.
Establish your facts.
Given the likelihood that you will rely on Social Security to some extent once you leave the workforce, it pays to become as knowledgeable about the program as possible. This can help ensure that you receive more Social Security benefits – and avoid filing errors that could leave you cash-strapped throughout your senior years.