Social Security and You

Social Security can be a very confusing topic. There are decisions to be made and facts and figures to sort out. It is also a bit of an emotional topic for some. In this article we will address some of the potential confusion and try to add some clarification.

Applying for Social Security
There are a few different ways in which you can apply for Social Security. You can apply in person at your local Social Security office, online at, or by calling 1-800-772-1213. You can start receiving payments at 62 and can apply at 61 years and 9 months for benefits. Your age of enrollment impacts how much you receive so careful consideration is important.

Social Security Retirement Age
The age at which you can receive Social Security is in transition. It is dependent on the year in which you were born. You can start receiving benefits any time after 62; however, full retirement age is 65 or later. The later you sign up, until age 70, the larger your monthly payment. If you delay taking Social Security from your full retirement age until age 70 your benefit will increase 8 percent each year. For those born in 1937 or earlier the full retirement age is 65, the baby boomers born between 1943 and 1954 reach full retirement age at 66, and for birth years 1960 or later it is 67. Those born between those ranges have more specific retirement ages. For example, if you are born in 1956 your full retirement age is 66 and 4 months. If you start receiving benefits between 62 and your full retirement age you will get smaller monthly payments than you would at full retirement age and beyond.

Estimated Social Security Payments
The Social Security Administration provides personalized estimates of your future Social Security payments. These estimates are available at after you have created a My Social Security account. If you don’t have a My Social Security account, statements are mailed to you if you are 60 or older. Your statements provide estimated amounts you will receive at age 62, full retirement age, and age 70. The statement also tells you what you will qualify for if you become disabled or what your family might receive if you pass away.

Social Security and Taxes
While working we pay taxes into Social Security. Most workers pay 6.2 percent of their earnings into Social Security and their employers pay the same. Those that are self-employed pay 12.4 percent. These taxes apply to earnings up to $132,900.

Your Social Security benefits may be taxed as well. You could owe federal income tax if your adjusted gross income, nontaxable interest and half of your Social Security payments exceed $25,000 or $32,000 for a couple. If the above income exceeds $34,000 or $44,000 for a couple up to 85 percent of your Social Security benefits may be taxable. State taxes may apply as well.

Social Security and Wages
Your Social Security benefits are not impacted after you turn your full retirement age. Your benefits can be impacted between the age of 62 and full retirement age. Earnings in excess of $17,640 bring down your benefits by $1 for each $2 earned. If you turn full retirement age in 2019 your benefits will be brought down by $1 for each $3 you earn in excess of $46,920. Once you turn your full retirement age no money is withheld regardless of your earnings.

Social Security Benefits
Remember, your benefits vary based on what age you start receiving them. To receive the maximum benefit, you must receive a high income for 35 years or more. If you start receiving benefits at full retirement age you could be eligible for up to $2861 per month. An average Social Security payment is $1464 per month. The average spousal payment is $764 per month and widows or widowers receive an average of $1192 monthly.

Social Security Disability
Social Security disability benefits are for those with medical conditions that significantly limit their ability to work. You need to be able to document your condition with medical records and why it prevents you from working. Payments won’t start until six months after the onset of your disability.

Social Security Card Replacements
New Social Security cards are easy to get. Apply for one online on your My Social Security account. You can also mail in a paper application or take it to your local Social Security office.