There are a few decisions that have a profound impact on your retirement. When you apply for your Social Security benefits is one of them. These benefits will be an important source of your retirement funds, and they can be alone source guaranteed to last a lifetime.
Unfortunately, many people don’t really understand how to decide when to claim Social Security, or even why it matters. To make sure you don’t end up with regrets about when to start your checks, answer these three questions before you apply for benefits.
1. How much of your income will social security replace?
First things first: you’ll want to make sure you have a realistic picture of the role your benefits will play in retirement.
You see, most experts recommend that you replace around 70% to 80% of your pre-retirement income if you don’t want your quality of life to diminish. But social security is designed to replace only about 40% of early retirement income.
Understanding this is essential before claiming benefits because you don’t want to rely too heavily on your retirement checks and end up with insufficient money to live on.
2. How does your age affect your Social Security checks?
You first become eligible to start your social security checks at 62. But before you file, make sure you understand the rules for how your claim age affects the payments you receive.
Theoretically, Social Security is designed so that a person who claims later in life should get the same amount of lifetime benefits as someone who starts their checks as soon as possible at age 62. If you claim your benefits when you are younger, your checks are smaller. For every year you delay past age 62, your checks get bigger until age 70.
You need to know if your age at the time you consider applying is your ‘full retirement age’, in which case you will get your standard benefit – is before this (which would result in a reduction in the benefit) , or after (which would result in an increased benefit).
Answering this question is especially important, as it will affect both your monthly checks and your lifetime benefits. Many people are more successful while waiting to claim their benefits until age 70, but if you are in poor health you may want to start yours earlier.
3. How long do you have to work to avoid reducing your benefits?
The Social Security administration gives you benefits equal to a percentage of your average salary during your top 35 earning years (after adjusting your career wages for inflation). Although you usually become eligible to get Social Security checks on your own work history after just 10 years of work, you must work for at least 35 years to avoid reducing your checks.
For those whose earnings have increased over time, a longer work history might actually be beneficial. If you work a few extra years at a higher income level, those years will be part of the 35 years used to determine your benefits, and some lower income years will be removed from the calculation.
By making sure you are working for at least 35 years, making an informed choice about the age at which you apply for benefits, and realistically assessing how much income your benefits can provide you with, you can decide whether to start your Social Security checks now. is the right approach.
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