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Answers to 46 Frequently Asked Retirement Questions

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Making correct decisions can mean tens of thousands in extra retirement dollars
Can you afford to be wrong?

According to a recent study, although the proportion of people signing up for Social Security at age 62 (the earliest age you become eligible for benefits) has steadily declined since the mid-1990s, more than 40% of men and women still choose to claim their benefits as soon as they become eligible. While no single age or method is appropriate for everyone when it comes to claiming Social Security benefits, certain strategies can be employed to optimize your benefits, boosting your income in retirement and potentially reducing the risk of outliving your savings.

– Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

Considers All Major Social Security Benefits

  • Retirement Insurance Benefits
  • Spouse’s Insurance Benefits
  • Divorced Spouse’s Insurance Benefits
  • Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits
  • Child In-Care Spouse’s Insurance Benefits
  • Widow(er)’s Insurance Benefits
  • Divorced Widow(er)’s Insurance Benefits
  • Child’s Insurance Benefits
  • Childhood Disability Benefits
  • Surviving Child’s Insurance Benefits
  • Father’s and Mother’s Insurance Benefits

Cover All Major Social Security Benefits Rules

  • New Social Security law and grandfathering rules
  • Early benefit reductions
  • Delayed retirement credits
  • The earnings test
  • Adjustment of the reduction factor
  • Re-computation of benefits
  • Option to suspend and reinstate retirement benefits
  • Family maximum
  • Combined family maximum
  • Disabled family benefit maximum
  • RIB LIM on widow(er) benefits when deceased spouse claimed early
  • Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP)
  • Government Pension Offset (GPO)
  • Restricted application and deeming rules
  • Alternate widow(er)’s benefits when the deceased spouse died before age 62

Planning for retirement
doesn’t end when you retire

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In 2019, approximately 64 million Americans are expected to receive more than $1 trillion in Social Security benefits – primarily retirement benefits. Calculating Social Security retirement benefits can be complicated, as it depends on factors including your average lifetime earnings and the age when you first start taking benefits. If you want to maximize your own payout, here’s what you need to know. Before you can strategize how to maximize your benefits, you need to know what the ceiling is. In 2019, the maximum Social Security benefit is $2,861 each month. There’s no way to earn more than that amount, but there are many factors that could result in you earning less.

Proper planning for retirement is essential to maximizing your Social Security payments

How and when you choose to collect your Social Security benefits ultimately depends on your unique circumstances, including your financial situation and family dynamics, health, longevity expectations and retirement savings. Social Security can be a meaningful component of your income during retirement, and understanding the various claiming strategies can help maximize the benefits you have earned. Because there are many nuances to claiming Social Security, reviewing these strategies within the context of your overall retirement plan with your financial advisor is essential and can make a significant difference in the income you collect during your retirement years.

Find the best strategy to maximize Social Security

Free Retirement Guide

In 2019, approximately 64 million Americans are expected to receive more than $1 trillion in Social Security benefits – primarily retirement benefits. Calculating Social Security retirement benefits can be complicated, as it depends on factors including your average lifetime earnings and the age when you first start taking benefits. If you want to maximize your own payout, here’s what you need to know.

Maximum Social Security Benefit

In 2019, approximately 64 million Americans are expected to receive more than $1 trillion in Social Security benefits – primarily retirement benefits. Calculating Social Security retirement benefits can be complicated, as it depends on factors including your average lifetime earnings and the age when you first start taking benefits. If you want to maximize your own payout, here’s what you need to know.

What Is the Maximum Social Security Benefit?

Before you can strategize how to maximize your benefits, you need to know what the ceiling is. In 2019, the maximum Social Security benefit is $2,861 each month. There’s no way to earn more than that amount, but there are many factors that could result in you earning less. We’ll go through each of these factors in turn and discuss how you can maximize your benefit amount with each of them.

Work For At Least 35 Years

The federal government calculates your final benefit amount based on your lifetime earnings, averaging your salary over the course of the 35 years when you made the most. Since salaries change over time, the Social Security Administration (SSA) refers to the Average Wage Indexing Series — a calculation of wage inflation year-after-year — for its formula.

Be forewarned: the SSA factors zeros into the equation for every year you are short of the 35-year mark. So even though you only need to work for a decade to qualify for benefits, it’s crucial to put in at least 35 years to avoid bringing down your average. It’s also a good idea to check with your company’s Human Resources department if you think there’s a problem with your Social Security withholding. That way, you can be sure that your working years are actually properly paying you into the system.

Work Until Full Retirement Age

Want your maximum Social Security benefits? You’ll need to work until your full retirement age. Here lies a sticky situation as the determined age for full retirement continues to creep up. For a long time, you had to be 65 years old to receive full benefits, until U.S. Congress pushed through the Social Security Amendments of 1983 (H.R. 1900, Public Law 98-21).

It decreed that, starting in 2000, the full retirement age would increase from 65 to 67, incrementally, over a 22-year period beginning in 2000. Congress reasoned that overall health, health care and life expectancy has increased over the decades. For example, the further life expectancy of a 65-year-old used to be nearly 14 years, compared to almost 20 years today.

The SSA clearly indicates that, aside from extenuating circumstances, the earliest anyone can retire to start receiving Social Security is 62 years old, and they lose 30% of the benefits for that year. Each year leading up to the age of 66, the amount deducted is lowered, based on an individual’s year of birth.

…Or Go All the Way and Work Until 70

Maximum Social Security Benefit

Your benefits at age 62, 66 or 67 are not your maximum benefits. The longer you hold off from activating your Social Security the greater your return. The maximum Social Security retirement benefit kicks in at age 70. Each year after full retirement, your payout increases by a certain percentage based on certain criteria. To maximize on this strategy, you’ll want to hold off until you are 70 years of age. Payments will be the highest possible then,  increasing by 8% each year. However, there are no addition increases after this age. So, you are best off cashing out as soon as your birthday hits.

Of course, working until 70 isn’t for everyone, so there’s wronging with claiming before 70 if you stop work earlier and need the benefits. It’s also not a sure thing that waiting until 70 maximizes your lifetime benefit; if you pass away in your 70s, then waiting that long might mean that you received less total benefits than if you’d claimed it sooner. So consider your life expectancy as you make this decision.

Earn More at Your Place(s) of Employment

Since your Social Security disbursement is based on the amount of money you make over the course of 35 years, you will increase your entitlement by earning as high a salary as possible. Not only will this boost the final amount you receive, it will also give you a chance to eliminate low-wage earning years from the 35-year pool.