By Melanie Hasty-Grant
Strategies Aimed at Maximizing Your Social Security Benefits
In the old days, the Social Security Administration would send you a Social Security statement each year in the mail. It estimated what your benefits would be if you retired at your full retirement age, at age 70, and also at age 62 (which is the earliest you can apply for benefits). You can retire as early as 62 and take benefits at a reduced rate. If you work after your full retirement age, you can receive higher benefits because of additional earnings and credits for delayed retirement. Full retirement age is determined based on what year you were born. If you were born in 1938 or earlier, full retirement age is 65. If you were born between 1943 and 1959, your full retirement age is 66 (plus a few months depending on the exact year of your birth). If you were born 1960 or later, full retirement age is 67. So basically, the age to receive full Social Security benefits is inching upward each year. Before long, who knows? You may have to be 80 years old to retire with full benefits. Hopefully, I’m joking here.
If you are eligible for retirement benefits, your current or divorced spouse (so long as you were married for 10 years or more) and minor children may also receive benefits. Each may qualify for up to about 50 percent of your benefit amount. Social Security statements are no longer delivered to you each year via mail. However, you can easily go online and sign up for an account with the Social Security Administration and check what your estimates would be. Just go to www.socialsecurity.gov. It’s easy and free! Many people believe that Social Security benefits are designed to
replace 100% of your income when you retire. It is not! Social Security benefits are not intended to be your only source of income when you retire. On average, Social Security will replace about 40 percent of your annual pre-retirement earnings. You will need other savings, investments, pensions, or retirement accounts to make sure you have enough money to live comfortably when you retire.
So, if you don’t want to find yourself up a creek without a paddle, you need to start pinching your pennies now and building your retirement savings. The following are questions that my clients often ask about Social Security:
• Will withdrawals from my individual retirement account affect my Social Security benefits?
Social Security does not count pensions payments, annuities, or the interest or dividends from your savings and investments as earnings. They do not lower your Social Security retirement benefits. However, if you take benefits prior to your full retirement age, and you are receiving earned income (from employment) over the yearly earnings limit, your benefit will be reduced. For 2015, that
yearly earnings limit is $15,720. For every $2 over the limit, they will deduct $1 from your benefit payment. After you reach full retirement age, you can receive full benefits with no limit on your earnings.
• When can I apply for Social Security retirement benefits?
You can apply for Social Security retirement benefits when you are at least 61 years and 9 months of age. You should apply three months before you want your benefits to start. Even if you are not ready to retire, you should still sign up for Medicare three months before your 65th birthday.
• If you are already collecting your retirement benefit and are at or over full retirement age, you can tell Social Security you want to suspend further benefits and then ask them to restart your benefits at a later date, like at age 70. Social Security will then apply its Delayed Retirement Credit to your existing benefit once you start collecting again. So, if you are willing to give up your Social Security income for a while, you may be able to collect higher benefits later.
It’s important to have as full a handle of Social Security’s guidelines as possible. For information about more Social Security ideas I’ve learned over the years that you may not know or fully
understand, give us call. We can run a benefits report for you to help you determine when and how to take your benefits to maximize the amount you can draw. For retirement advice and tools, whatever your age, visit us at www.waterstonewealth.com or give us a call at 918.272.1120. Melanie Hasty-Grant, Experienced Licensed Professional Counselor and Managing Principal of Waterstone Private Wealth Management. Securities and Advisory Services offered through Cetera Advisors Network LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC (www.sipc.org). References for
content: ssa.gov, www.forbes.com