By: Vanessa Craddock, Federal Benefits Specialist
Published: June, 2022
Worried about claiming your Social Security (SS) benefits at the wrong time? There are no hard and fast rules about the proper age to draw SS. It often comes down to your individual circumstances at the time you are eligible. However, there are a few tips that may increase the monthly amount you will receive. Let’s look at a few.
1. Waiting for a later age.
Why? Each year you delay your benefits under full retirement age (66 or 67 depending on birth year), your benefit increases anywhere from 5 to 7% higher. If you continue to delay past full retirement age, the increase is about 8% annually up to age 70.
2. Working longer.
Why? SS uses your 35 highest years of earnings to calculate the benefit. If you continue to work and delay collecting your benefits, every additional year replaces years of zero earnings or of lower wages. Those who continue working at their highest earnings until full retirement age should see a significant benefit increase.
3. Stopping and Suspending.
Why? If you begin collecting SS under your full retirement age, and no longer need/want the early payments, you can stop them within 12 months of when they began (called a withdrawal of benefits or “do over”). You are required to pay back what has been paid but may avoid the permanent age reduction.
If you have reached full retirement age, are collecting SS and would like a chance to increase the monthly amount, you may suspend the benefits. For each full year of suspended benefits, the amount will increase 8% higher until age 70, giving a higher monthly payment when resumed.
4. Apply for spousal benefits first (current, ex, widow’s) and delay your own.
Why? If you start collecting SS benefits at full retirement age as a spouse first, you can delay collecting your own earned benefit, and it will earn delayed retirement credits growing larger (called filing a restricted application for those born before 1/2/1954).
However, if you were born 1/2/54 and after, you may only file on your spouse’s record first if it is a widow(er)’s benefit, or you receive spousal benefits because you are caring for a child under age 16 or disabled.
5. Claim benefits while caring for eligible dependents.
Why? When you claim SS and list eligible family members (spouse, ex-spouse, children), SS pays “family” benefits for each eligible individual, in addition to your benefit, until they lose eligibility.
Deciding when to claim SS benefits is a personal choice, but it makes good sense to research your options and maximize what you’ve earned before you apply.
Ms. Craddock has been an instructor with NITP since the year 2000. She started her career with the Social Security Administration before moving to the US Office of Personnel Management. At OPM, she worked as a Certified Federal Benefits Specialist, trainer, course developer and manager, and supervisor of 20 employees for adjudicating retirement claims. After more than 25 years of experience in the Federal Benefits Administration, she retired and now continues her work as an instructor, providing Federal benefits training nationwide, for live events and via webinars.
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