How Social Security Benefits Impact Your Retirement
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Social Security?
Social Security is a federal program that issues benefits to retirees who paid into the program during their working years, people unable to work due to a physical or mental condition, spouses and children of beneficiaries, and surviving family members of beneficiaries. Social Security benefits are administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
How do you apply for Social Security?
There are a few ways you can apply for retirement Social Security benefits: Online at SSA.gov, in person at your local Social Security office, or over the phone by calling 1-800-772-1213.
What is the maximum Social Security benefit?
For 2021, the maximum Social Security benefit you could receive is $3,895 per month. That is the amount you could receive as of 2021 if you worked 35 or more years at the maximum taxable income level, retired at age 70, and then started collecting Social Security.
How does Social Security work?
Social Security is a system that collects tax money from individuals and businesses to fund monthly benefits for people who are retired, disabled, survivors of workers who have died, or dependents of beneficiaries. The money you pay in taxes is used for people getting benefits now, and anything leftover is held in Social Security trust funds.
At what age can you collect Social Security?
You can start collecting Social Security benefits as early as age 62 and as late as age 70.
How do you apply for Social Security disability benefits?
After reviewing the Adult Disability Checklist, you can apply for Social Security disability benefits online at SSA.gov through the online portal. You will need to complete and submit a medical release form, and also provide personal information such as your location and date of birth and Social Security number, as well as information about your medical condition and where you work.
How is Social Security calculated?
How is Social Security taxed?
If your Social Security benefits are your only source of income, you may not have to pay taxes. However, if you receive other income throughout the year, you may need to pay taxes on a portion of your Social Security benefits. First calculate your combined income. If that total comes to a certain amount, you will need to pay taxes, usually on 50% or 85% of your Social Security benefits.
Social Security Trust Fund
The Social Security Trust Fund actually comprises two funds: the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and the Disability Insurance (DI) trust funds. The OASI trust fund provides benefits to retired workers and family members of deceased beneficiaries, while the DI trust fund provides benefits to disabled workers and their dependents. Both accounts are managed by the U.S. Treasury and funded primarily by payroll taxes.
Full Retirement Age
Full retirement age (FRA) is the age at which you are eligible to receive the full amount of Social Security benefits. Your FRA depends on the day and year you were born.
Normal Retirement Age
Normal retirement age is a standard term for the age at which you can retire and receive your full retirement income. In the U.S., this primarily relates to your Social Security benefits.
Retirement Eligibility Age
Your Social Security retirement eligibility age is the age you can start collecting Social Security. The amount you receive varies depending on several factors. For example, the earliest age you can collect your Social Security retirement benefits is 62, but there is an exception for widows and widowers—they can begin benefits as early as 60. The earlier you collect, the less you will get in benefits.
If you take Social Security benefits before you reach your full retirement age, and you earn an annual income in excess of the income limit for that year, your monthly Social Security benefit will be reduced for the remainder of the year in which you exceed the limit. If you will reach full retirement age during that same year, it will be reduced every month until you reach full retirement age.
When a person dies, their current or former spouse can often start getting their Social Security benefits. Even if no one has died, you can collect a Social Security spousal benefit based on your current or former spouse's benefits. This amount will be equal to half of what your spouse gets if that’s higher than what you’d get on your own.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) pays two types of payments to eligible surviving spouses and children. These are known as survivor benefits. Other relatives of insured workers can also receive these payments. The benefits survivors might receive are an ongoing monthly survivor income and a lump-sum death benefit of $255.
Delayed Retirement Credits
Waiting to apply for Social Security benefits allows you to accumulate delayed retirement credits, which are permanent increases in your benefits worth 5% to 8% per year up until your age 70. The amount of the delayed retirement credit depends on the year you were born.
A cost of living adjustment (COLA) is a change in the amount of your Social Security benefit payment that is made to reflect an annual increase in consumer prices.
A restricted application tells the Social Security office that you are not applying for all benefits that you are eligible for at the same time. You might be eligible to use a restricted application to claim a spousal benefit while letting your benefit continue to grow. Spouses are able to restrict their benefits when they are caring for a child under the age of 16.
Government Pension Offset
The Government Pension Offset (GPO) is a Social Security rule that affects workers with government pensions who also receive Social Security spousal or survivor benefits. That is, it applies when a public sector worker opts to claim the benefits earned by their private sector spouse, and then applies to receive those monthly payments. The offset in the rule will reduce the amount of their monthly payment by two-thirds.