Thursday Aug 28 2008
Your Social Security
Retiring? Make an informed decision
By: Angelo Bottoni
It’s never too early to start thinking about your retirement. When you do, one of your first questions may be, “When’s the best time to start receiving retirement benefits?” There’s no one best age for everyone and, ultimately, it is your choice. You should make an informed decision about when to apply for benefits based on your individual and family circumstances. With that in mind, Social Security has published a new fact sheet to help you make the decision that’s best for you. “When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits” is available online at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10147.html. Things to consider are your current cash needs, health, family longevity, whether you plan to work after you retire, future financial needs and obligations, and the amount of your benefit and other income, such as pensions and deductions from retirement funds. Do you have investments to draw from when you need extra money? Will it last as long as you expect to live? Keep in mind that people are living longer than they used to. About one out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past age 90, and one out of 10 will live past age 95. If you decide to retire early, at 62 or any time before your full retirement age, you’ll get your benefits sooner - but you’ll get a reduced benefit for the rest of your life. Your monthly benefit will last as long as you do. So the reduction in monthly payment for taking early retirement can add up to a big difference over the life of your benefits. Your decision can affect your spouse and family too. If you die before your spouse and dependent children, they may be eligible for survivors benefits. But if you took early retirement, their payments would be based on your reduced benefit amount. When you reach your full retirement age, you can work and earn as much as you want and still receive your full Social Security benefit payment. If you are younger than full retirement age and if your earnings exceed certain dollar amounts, some of your benefit payments during the year will be withheld. On the other hand, if you put off retirement benefits until after your full retirement age, your amount will increase. In fact, your benefit amount will continue to go up until you reach age 70 or start receiving benefits, whichever comes first. And when thinking about Social Security, don’t forget Medicare. You should sign up for Medicare three months before reaching age 65, no matter when your full retirement age is-even if you decide to delay retirement benefits. Otherwise, your Medicare medical insurance, as well as prescription drug coverage, could be delayed, and you could be charged higher premiums. Social Security has just made it easier to help you with your retirement decision. Just last month Social Security introduced a new “Retirement Estimator” at www.socialsecurity.gov. Getting a personalized online estimate of your future retirement benefits is now easier than ever before. The online retirement estimator is a convenient, secure and quick financial planning tool that lets workers calculate how much they might expect to receive in Social Security benefits when they retire. The attractive new feature of this calculator is that it eliminates the need to manually key in years of earnings information. It’s so easy to use. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator. To get an estimate, you’ll need to enter your first and last name, date of birth, Social Security number, mother’s maiden name and place of birth. If the information matches our records, then you can enter an expected retirement age and future wages. The estimator combines this information with the information that we have on record, including your yearly earnings, to provide a quick and reliable online benefit estimate. To protect your privacy, only the final retirement estimates are given to you online. The Retirement Estimator does not show your earnings record information on which the final benefit estimate was calculated. And it does not reveal any personal information, such as your address, earnings or other information that could lead to identity theft. The estimator also will let you create “what if” scenarios. You can, for example, change “stop work” dates or expected future earnings to create and compare different retirement options. When you visit our Web site at www.socialsecurity.gov to see the new Retirement Estimator, take a few minutes to become familiar with our many other online services - including applying online for Social Security retirement and disability benefits.