So what are the most common mistakes in claiming social security benefits? Let’s find out.
After decades of paying into the Social Security system, many retirees are ready to start collecting that monthly check as soon as possible.
The Social Security program is misunderstood by most people…and this can lead to maintaining mistakes that usually cost single people tens of thousands of dollars in cumulative lifetime benefits; for married couples, the cost usually exceeds $100,000 and often adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s a high price to pay for being poorly informed.
Here are three of the biggest mistakes we make regarding this system when we go to claim our benefits and how this leads to costly errors.
Don’t Know About the Earnings Limit
In case you claim benefits before you reach your full retirement age (which varies by year of birth) and you earn in excess of the earnings limit (which will be adjusted upward along with inflation each year) then your Social Security benefits will be reduced.
People that think they can be fully used and collect their Social Security benefits are often caught off guard when the Social Security office tells them they made too much money and they should repay some of the benefits. Once you reach full retirement age, you’ll be able to bring in as much as you’d like with no reduction in benefits.
Fail To Coordinate Benefits With Their Spouse
Often, married couples don’t realize that they ought to be working together as a team when thinking about when to take their Social Security. Too often couples focus merely on their own Social Security benefit and fail to recognize that they may be eligible for a spousal benefit, which can be up to 50% of their spouse’s benefit while they wait to claim their very own benefits. Missing these benefits often costs a couple $40,000 to $50,000 in lost benefits.
Typically, the higher-earning partner needs to be especially careful about when to claim Social Security benefits on his or her own record. This is because the Social Security benefit of the higher-earning spouse is going to be the benefit that lasts the longest for the couple. Put simply, it is “ inherited” by the surviving partner. For this reason, a significant difference can be made by pursuing a strategy that increases the survivor benefit as much as possible. Most couples miss another $70,000 to $80,000 by failing to maximize survivor benefits.
Neglect To Work For At Least 35 Years
Social Security is based on your highest 35 years of earnings history. Continuing to work in retirement can be one of the best ways to increase your Social Security benefits, notably for couples that are married. Each additional year of current gains from work that replace a lower earning year will increase your (and potentially your spouse’s) Social Security. If you have less than 35 years of earnings, the non-working years will be counted as “ 0, ” lowering your gains.
Married couples have more options
Single individuals can only control at what age they begin receiving their benefits. On the other hand, married couples, along with couples that had divorced but had been married for a minimum of ten years, have a number of different choices to consider. In fact, each of the married partners is usually entitled to three different kinds of advantages – based on their circumstances.
- Spousal benefit – that allows you to get 50% of your partner’s benefits while he/she is still living. However, if you were not at your full retirement age, you would receive only part of these benefits
- A retired worker benefit – the benefits that you gather over your own working years
- Survivor’s gain – this entitles you to a deceased spouse’s full benefits. But when you yourself have not reached your full retirement age, you’ll get only part of those benefits.
What you don’t want to do
While it might be very tempting to try to hold off until age 70 to begin collecting your benefits, the one thing you shouldn’t do is to try to get through those years using credit cards. They might be a way to get the food, clothing, transportation before you begin making higher benefits to those, and so forth you need now but it will come with a price. Most credit cards today have interest rates of 18% or higher. In the event you were to run up $20,000 in credit card debt at 18% during the four years you were waiting for your advantages, your total interest cost would be something in the neighborhood of $8,200, which you could probably ill afford.
Not using online planning tools
There are many online tools that are simple enough for most individuals to use. In order to get the data you have regarding your Social Security benefits, start with the online tools at the Social Security Website, they’re free.
There are also a handful of proprietary on-line tools which might be available for a modest price, such as those at SocialSecuritySolutions.com, SocialSecurityTiming.com, and SocialSecurityChoices.com. The cost is a fair investment considering the potential gain you might understand.
Spending a handful of hours to understand the results of your decisions can add many thousands of dollars to your life Social Security payouts. It’s well worth your time – and your bottom line – to spend a number of afternoons or evenings doing your research and estimating your benefits online.