Articles Posted in Social Security

There is often a lot of confusion about Social Security benefits, particularly obtaining benefits based on a family member’s work history. While it may be complicated, Texans are able to obtain Social Security benefits from their ex-spouses. Every case is different, but there are general requirements a person must meet in order to qualify for their ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits. Below are explanations that can help a Texan begin the Social Security process, along with important qualifications to keep in mind.

What Are Social Security Benefits?

Social Security benefits are given to qualified retirees, along with their spouses, children, and survivors. Social Security benefits are based on a person’s lifetime earnings—therefore, people who earned more over their working years will receive more in benefits after their retirement. This is why spouses—or even ex-spouses—who earned less income may try to qualify for their partner’s benefits instead.

Social Security benefits can help older individuals in Texas enjoy their retirement without fear of becoming destitute. However, when people claim their benefits at the wrong time, it may leave them cash-strapped. When someone reaches the full retirement age, they can receive their full monthly social security benefits; however, many aging adults will choose to delay their filing for Social Security to receive more per month.

By delaying their filing for Social Security benefits, a senior can grow their benefits by 8% a year, up until age 80. For example, if a senior is entitled to $1,500 per month in Social Security when they reach the full retirement age of 66, they will instead receive $1,860 if they wait until age 70 to file. Many aging individuals wonder if they personally should delay their benefits. While this is a personal decision, below are some common reasons why seniors delay receiving their benefits.

Most common reasons to delay pulling Social Security Benefits

Over 70 million Americans receive Social Security and Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, benefits. Therefore, the changes that happen to Social Security – like a cost of living adjustment – are critical for a significant portion of the population. However, many individuals do not know the specifics about social security and its benefits. Below are commonly asked questions about social security benefits and why an elder law attorney may be useful for those thinking about taking social security benefits.

What Are Social Security Benefits?

Social Security helps older Americans, disabled workers, and families where a spouse or parent has died. For retired Americans who received Social Security, these benefits replace a percentage of their pre-retirement income. Put simplistically, the higher lifetime earnings an individual accrues, the higher benefits they will receive. However, the amount an individual will receive every month depends on their earnings, and when they choose to start taking benefits. If an individual starts to take benefits at retirement age – which is currently 66 years and 2 months – the percentage of their pre-retirement earnings they receive is lower than if they start benefits after retirement age.

12.2.19Benefits for Social Security survivor children’s benefits are generally made out to a parent or guardian. They are taxable income, but most children do not have enough income to owe taxes on the benefits.

According to a recent article “Are Social Security survivor benefits for children considered taxable income?” from Investopedia, the only way the benefits would be taxed if half of the child's benefits in a year, plus other income earned by the child in that year, reached the level that required a tax return to be filed and for taxes to be paid.

If half of the annual benefits plus the child's other income is greater than a base amount set by the IRS, then a portion of the benefits is taxable.

5.10.19Just because you can take Social Security at age 62, doesn’t mean you should. Taking it earlier means that your monthly benefits will be reduced. The longer you can wait, ideally until age 70, the better.

Applying for Social Security benefits is a pretty simple process, according to Investopedia’s recent article, “When To Apply For Social Security Retirement Benefits.” The earliest you can apply is when you are 61 plus nine months, or four months before benefits are scheduled to begin. Your first Social Security payment will occur four months later, which is going to be the month after you celebrate your 62nd birthday. After that, benefit payments arrive after every full month that you are eligible, if you apply as soon as you are eligible.

Applications can be submitted either online, over the phone, or in person at your local Social Security office. A very convenient way to apply is online at the Social Security Administration website. The application itself takes about 15 minutes and can be saved at any point for future completion. This application can also be used to apply for Medicare.

9.11.19Social Security disability benefits are based on average lifetime earnings. How severe the disability is, or what the household income is, has nothing to do with the amount of money that will be paid.

If you have your annual Social Security statement, you can see what you’ll probably get in the Estimated Benefits section. However, this is an estimate and not a final number. The total amount a disabled worker and his or her family can receive is roughly 150% to 180% of the disabled worker's benefit. Eligible family members can include a spouse, divorced spouse, children, a disabled child and/or an adult child disabled prior to age 22.

The estimated Social Security disability benefit amount for a disabled worker receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in January 2019 is $1,234 per month. However, a beneficiary can receive either less than this or up to $2,861, according the article “What are the maximum Social Security disability benefits?” from Investopedia.

3.22.19There was a time when most people had three sources of income in retirement. One was their savings, the second was Social Security and the third was their pension from work. Today, very few workers enjoy the security of a pension, and retirement income is dependent on each person’s ability to save, plus Social Security.

For those remaining workers who have pensions, at some point a decision must be made whether to take their pensions over time or to receive the accrued value as a lump sum. A pension can be a stable stream of income in retirement, or it could be a lump sum that is invested. There are pros and cons to both.

Investopedia’s recent article, “Pension Planning: Lump Sum Versus Monthly Payments,” says that the pension provider takes the risk of both sub-par market returns and the possibility that the retiree will live longer than expected. The article raises several thoughts to consider, when making the decision:

10.25.18If it seems like every time you start to understand Social Security, there’s something else to learn, you’re right. However, this is an important part of your retirement income, so it’s important to understand.

The Social Security earnings test is a way that the agency determines the limit of the amount of money individuals who have not yet reached full retirement age (FRA) can earn, while they are collecting Social Security retirement benefits.

For 2018, for every $2 that a worker who has not yet reached FRA earns over the annual threshold limit of $17,040, Social Security will withhold $1 from your benefits.

10.9.18If you’re living on your retirement savings, while waiting to start taking Social Security benefits to full retirement age or even age 70, you might be costing yourself thousands in taxes.

It’s annoying. There’s no way around it. You’ve worked your whole life, and paid taxes on those earnings. Now you have to pay taxes on your Social Security benefits. However, depending on your asset level, you may want to start getting those benefits earlier, says this article from Kiplinger, “Why Wealthy People May Want to Take Social Security at 62.”

There are many good reasons to wait and take Social Security at full retirement age to get the full benefit amount. In waiting longer to file, the benefit can grow 8% a year from full retirement age to age 70.  However, this one-size-fits-all advice may not be appropriate for everyone, especially for the wealthy.

Consider these twin concepts—opportunity cost and delayed retirement credits—before you decide when to start taking Social Security.

By waiting until age 70, you’ll increase your monthly benefit, but at what cost? A recent article in Forbes, “Social Security Benefits: Getting Paid To Wait,” examines the dilemma. Money managers call it “opportunity risk:” if you take money from retirement accounts that would otherwise be invested and grow, in order to delay taking Social Security, you are risking the potential for that money to grow.

Can you plan for opportunity cost? Start by looking at whether to wait to take Social Security after your “normal” retirement age, which is 66 for most people. If you wait to claim at age 70, you’ll see the largest-possible Social Security benefit. If you’re not working, you’ll probably be withdrawing money from your retirement funds, which means that those funds won’t be able to grow for a period of several years. As a result, you’ll need to weigh the opportunity cost of not having funds growing tax-deferred in your retirement accounts, against the larger Social Security benefit you will eventually get.

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