If you have worked for pay throughout your life, you will most likely be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits.
When Do I Become Eligible?
Were you born in 1944 or earlier? You’re already eligible for your full Social Security benefit.
If you were born from 1943 to 1960 (or beyond), the age at which you will qualify for full retirement benefits is increasing gradually to age 67.
You will still be able to get some Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62. However, you’ll receive a reduced benefit if you retire before your full retirement age. For example, if you retire at age 62, your benefit will be about 25% lower than it would be if you waited until you reach full retirement age.
You should apply for benefits approximately three months before the date when you want your benefits to start.
Can I Continue to Work and Still Get Benefits?
You can continue to work and still receive retirement benefits. If you have reached full retirement age, your earnings will not reduce your Social Security benefits. However, if you have not yet reached full retirement age, your benefits will be reduced if your earnings exceed certain limits.
Here’s how it works: If you are younger than full retirement age, one dollar in benefits will be deducted for each two dollars in earnings you make above the annual limit. That lasts until the year you reach your full retirement age, when one dollar in benefits will be deducted for every three dollars you make above the annual limit, up until the month you reach full retirement age.
Once you reach full retirement age, however, you can keep working and your Social Security benefit will not be reduced, no matter how much you earn.
Working Past Full Retirement Age
If you do keep working past full retirement age, you can increase your future Social Security benefits in two ways:
- Each additional year you work adds another year of earnings to your Social Security record. Higher lifetime earnings may mean higher benefits when you retire.
- Second, your benefit will increase automatically by a certain percentage from the time you reach your full retirement age until you start receiving your benefits, or until you reach age 70. The percentage varies depending on the year of your birth. It is important to remember to sign up for Medicare at age 65, even if you decide to delay your retirement.
The Limits of Social Security
Remember that financial experts say you’ll need 70% to 80% of your pre-retirement income to have a comfortable retirement.
However, Social Security only replaces about 40% of pre-retirement income for the average worker. You’re going to need other sources of resource or income for your retirement, such as pensions, savings and investments.
Widows and widowers can begin receiving the Social Security benefits from a deceased spouse at age 60, or at age 50 if they are disabled.
The following people can also claim Social Security benefits as survivors of someone who has died:
- Spouses who are age 62 or older
- Spouses who are younger than 62, if they are taking care of a child who is younger than age 16 or disabled
- Former spouses, if they are age 62 or older
- Children up to age 18, or up to 19 if they are full-time students who have not yet graduated from high school
- Disabled children, if they are age 18 or older