Get to know your Social Security options
Financial security remains one of the top three issues for most Americans. While family and health should always be at the top, fiscal stability should be a priority for all of us.
Social Security becomes an integral part of our lives for all of us at some point. It provides a minimum foundation for us to use in planning for our retirement years. The government established this system with the Social Security Act of 1935, and the payments are based on how much has been paid into the system during a person’s employment career. The more one earns and pays into the system, the more one receives when he reaches retirement age.
Retirement age can begin as early as 62 with reduced benefits, or as late at 70 with maximum benefits. In the United States, more than 90 percent of retirees receive Social Security benefits.
In addition to its retirement plan benefits, Social Security has valuable disability and survivor insurance programs. More than seven million Americans receive disability benefits.
While you weigh your Social Security options, be sure to keep two things in mind. First, a spouse and/or dependents could continue to receive your benefits after you’re gone. Second, a married couple age 65 now has a 50 percent chance that one will live into his nineties.
There are three major Social Security topics every person should consider. For the below scenarios, let’s assume Robert and Suzanne are married and Robert is the primary earner.
1. Social Security benefits according to age
By taking Social Security at full retirement age, benefits are approximately 33 percent higher than they would be if taken at age 62. Since benefits grow with inflation, delaying will provide a larger monthly benefit. If Robert delays Social Security beyond full retirement age, his benefits will increase by 8 percent per year.
If Suzanne takes her spousal benefit at her retirement age, she will receive 50 percent of Robert’s full retirement age benefit. She would receive 43 percent more by doing that, than if she took benefits when she turned 62. If Robert delays spousal benefits beyond his retirement age, Suzanne will still only receive 50 percent of Robert’s full retirement age benefit.
2. File and Suspend
Robert can file for Social Security at full retirement age and suspend his benefits. If Robert files at full retirement age, Suzanne (also at full retirement age) can claim spousal benefits while Robert’s suspension continues to increase his future benefits. This may provide a great benefit to a surviving spouse, since the spousal benefit does not receive added credits after full retirement age.
Additionally, if Suzanne has a job, she can receive the spousal benefit and continue to work, potentially building her primary benefit to surpass her spousal benefit.
3. File and Re-file
Robert can file for Social Security and receive benefit and then repay it at a later date, interest free. Anytime from the time Social Security is filed until age 70, Robert can choose to repay all cumulative benefits received and re-file at the higher benefit rate. This option provides greater flexibility, but can only be exercised by those fortunate enough to have the funds to fully repay all benefits received.
If Robert remains in good health it may make sense to repay the cumulative benefit and receive the higher benefit amount at age 70.
Before choosing which Social Security path to take, always consult with the Social Security Administration and/or a tax professional. Visit socialsecurity.gov or call 1 (800) 772-1213.
Corey Redington is an investment officer with The Trust Company of Oklahoma, the largest and oldest independent trust company in Oklahoma. TCO has locations statewide, including Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Muskogee. The Trust Company of Oklahoma manages over $2 billion in assets for its clients.