Social Security Retirement Benefit Basics
Social Security benefits are a major source of retirement income for most people. Your Social Security retirement benefit is based on the number of years you've been working and the amount you've earned. When you begin taking Social Security benefits also greatly affects the size of your benefit.
How do you qualify for retirement benefits?
When you work and pay Social Security taxes (FICA on some pay stubs), you earn Social Security credits. You can earn up to 4 credits each year. If you were born after 1928, you need 40 credits (10 years of work) to be eligible for retirement benefits.
How much will your retirement benefit be?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) calculates your primary insurance amount (PIA), upon which your retirement benefit will be based, using a formula that takes into account your 35 highest earnings years. At your full retirement age, you'll be entitled to receive that amount. This is known as your full retirement benefit. Because your retirement benefit is based on your average earnings over your working career, if you have some years of no earnings or low earnings, your benefit amount may be lower than if you had worked steadily.
Retiring at full retirement age Your full retirement age depends on the year in which you were born. If you retire at full retirement age, you'll receive an unreduced retirement benefit. Your age at the time you start receiving benefits also affects your benefit amount. Although you can retire early at age 62, the longer you wait to begin receiving your benefit (up to age 70), the more you'll receive each month. You can estimate your retirement benefit under current law by using the benefit calculators available on the SSA's website, ssa.gov. You can also sign up for a my Social Security account so that you can view your online Social Security Statement. Your statement contains a detailed record of your earnings, as well as estimates of retirement, survivor, and disability benefits. If you're not registered for an online account and are not yet receiving benefits, you'll receive a statement in the mail every year, starting at age 60.
Are you ready to retire?
Retiring at full retirement age
Your full retirement age depends on the year in which you were born. If you retire at full retirement age, you'll receive an unreduced retirement benefit.
If you were born in:
Your full retirement age is:
66 and 2 months
66 and 4 months
66 and 6 months
66 and 8 months
66 and 10 months
1960 or later
Note: If you were born on Jan. 1 of any year, refer to the previous year to determine your full retirement age.
Retiring early will reduce your benefit
You can begin receiving Social Security benefits before your full retirement age, as early as age 62. However, if you begin receiving benefits early, your Social Security benefit will be less than if you wait until your full retirement age to begin receiving benefits. Your retirement benefit will be reduced by 5/9ths of 1 percent for every month between your retirement date and your full retirement age, up to 36 months, then by 5/12ths of 1% thereafter. For example, if your full retirement age is 66, you'll receive about 25% less if you start benefits at age 62 than if you wait until your full retirement age (30% less if your full retirement age is 67). This reduction is permanent — you won't be eligible for a benefit increase once you reach full retirement age. However, even though your monthly benefit will be less, you might receive the same or more total lifetime benefits as you would have had you waited until full retirement age to start collecting benefits. That's because even though you'll receive less per month, you might receive benefits over a longer period of time.
Delaying retirement will increase your benefit
For each month that you delay receiving Social Security retirement benefits past your full retirement age, your benefit will permanently increase by a certain percentage, up to the maximum age of 70. For anyone born in 1943 or later, the monthly percentage is 2/3 of 1%, so the annual percentage is 8%. So, for example, if your full retirement age is 66 and you delay receiving benefits for 4 years, your benefit at age 70 will be 32% higher than at age 66.
Are you ready to retire?
Monthly benefit example
The following chart illustrates how much a monthly benefit of $1,800 taken at a full retirement age of 66 would be worth if taken earlier or later than full retirement age. For example, as this chart shows, this $1,800 benefit would be worth $1,350 if taken at age 62, and $2,376 if taken at age 70.
Working may affect your retirement benefit
You can work and still receive Social Security retirement benefits, but the income that you earn before you reach full retirement age may temporarily affect your benefit.
Once you reach full retirement age, you can work and earn as much income as you want without reducing your Social Security retirement benefit. And keep in mind that if some of your benefits are withheld prior to your full retirement age, you'll generally receive a higher monthly benefit at full retirement age, because after retirement age the SSA recalculates your benefit every year and gives you credit for those withheld earnings.
Retirement benefits for qualified family members
Even if your spouse has never worked outside your home or in a job covered by Social Security, he or she may be eligible for spousal benefits based on your Social Security earnings record. Other members of your family may also be eligible. Retirement benefits are generally paid to family members who relied on your income for financial support. If you're receiving retirement benefits, the members of your family who may be eligible for family benefits include:
Your eligible family members will receive a monthly benefit that is as much as 50% of your benefit. However, the amount that can be paid each month to a family is limited. To find out more about Social Security Retirement Benefit Basics, contact us for a free consultation.
By: Manley Capital Management, LLC
J. Lawrence Manley, Jr., CFA, CIPM Managing Member
All information disclosed in this statement is accurate and complete to the best of our knowledge. Past performance is no guarantee of future results, and there is no assurance that the firm or client’s investment objectives will be achieved.
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