When it comes to something as important as Social Security, it's good to know you're getting as much from it as possible. Here are five key facts to remember:
You can start taking Social Security payments as soon as you turn 62, but your benefits will be reduced 20 to 30%. That's a big chunk, especially if you expect to spend many years in retirement. You might consider working a bit longer or relying on your retirement savings to help cover your living expenses until you can receive full benefits.
As long as you're 62, you have the option to take Social Security. If you earn more than $13,560 a year between age 62 and your full retirement age, your benefit payments will be temporarily lowered, based on how much you earn. Say you earn $10,000 over the limit. Your benefits would be reduced by $5,000. If you make $20,000 over the limit, they would be reduced by $10,000. (The limit gets updated each year.)
The good news is that you don't actually lose out on those benefits. Instead, your payment amount is recalculated so that you receive more money later on. It's another way working in retirement can help stretch out your income over time.
The two rules above mean it makes the most sense for you to tell the Social Security Administration when you're ready to start receiving monthly benefits. You can do that over the phone (1-800-772-1213), in person, or through the Social Security online application.
Only a third of Social Security beneficiaries end up paying taxes on their benefits. It all depends on the earnings listed on your income tax return. If you file with more than $25,000 as an individual (or $32,000 jointly), you’ll have to pay federal income taxes on your benefits. The rules for state income taxes vary from state to state.
Let's say your monthly benefits turn out to be three times as much as your spouse's. (It's a common scenario, especially in families where one spouse paused their career to stay home with the kids.) If she waits until her full retirement age to start getting benefits, her payments will be raised so they equal half of yours.
After you die, your spouse will get either your monthly benefit check or hers—whichever is more. And if you have disabled children, kids under age 19, or elderly parents who depend on you for at least half their income, they could receive "survivor benefits."
Read more on the Social Security Administration’s website.
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