Social Security: What to know before claiming benefits

SSA-image-3My Comments: This is pretty basic stuff but for many of you who have yet to seriously think about where the money is going to come from when you retire, this is a must read. I also encourage you to go to the web site and register yourself.

by Diane Archer June 30, 2016

The National Academy of Social Insurance has a new toolkit on Social Security. If you’re thinking about when to claim Social Security benefits, it explains what to know and ask.

When to claim Social Security benefits is an important decision. If you need the benefits in order to meet your daily needs, you should claim them as soon as possible. But, if you can wait to claim them, you will receive higher Social Security income. As it is, on average Social Security replaces only 40 percent of a person’s pre-retirement income.

If you were born between 1943 and 1954, your full retirement age (FRA) is 66, though you may claim benefits any time between age 62 and 70. If you claim them at 62, you get 25 percent a month less each month for your lifetime than you would if you waited to claim until you are 66. To learn about how claiming benefits early disproportionately hurts people with low incomes, click here.

If your full retirement age (FRA) is 66 and you wait until 70, you get 32 percent more in monthly benefits for your lifetime than you would if you claim benefits at 66. You get 8 percent more for each year you delay claiming benefits after age 66 up to age 70.

Of course many factors go into when you should claim benefits. If you’re in good health and can wait, you will ensure a higher monthly income throughout your life. Moreover, if you’re married and earn more than your spouse, delaying your receipt of benefits, will ensure increased Social Security income for your spouse after you pass. On the other hand, if you’re in poor health, it might be wise to claim benefits early so you are able to get back as much as possible from Social Security.

It’s wise to confirm that Social Security has correct information about your income. You can check online by creating a “my Social Security account” at Once you do that, you will get a Social Security Statement that shows the income information Social Security has on file. Let Social Security know right away if you find a mistake.

What benefits does your spouse get? Because Social Security is insurance designed to protect families, your spouse, even your divorced spouse if you were married at least ten years, is entitled to Social Security benefits based on your income. The spousal benefit amount is half of the amount of your benefit if that amount is larger than what your spouse would receive based on his or her own income. And, after you pass, your surviving spouse or divorced spouse if you were married at least ten years, is entitled to your full Social Security benefits if that is larger than the amount your spouse would otherwise get based on his or her own income.

The NASI toolkit provides questions to ask based on a range of situations in which you might find yourself, including whether you should keep working and claim benefits. To read the toolkit, click here.