Social Security Column
By Erin Thompson
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist, Toledo, OH
Retirement is not one-size-fits-all. It can mean different things to different people. Perhaps you have not applied for Social Security retirement benefits because you’re still working or are delaying applying so you can get the higher benefit. If you’re age 70 or older, you should apply now for the benefits you’re owed. Your benefits will not increase if you continue to delay applying for them because you are 70 or older.
Did you know that you can receive benefits even if you still work? Your earnings can increase your monthly benefit amount – even after you start receiving benefits. Each year that you work, we check your earnings record. It’s possible your latest year of earnings is one of your highest 35 years. If so, we will automatically recalculate your benefit amount and pay you any increase due.
You can claim your retirement benefits now. The best and easiest way to apply is with a personal my Social Security account. You can create your free account at www.ssa.gov/myaccount. Once you create your account, you can get an estimate of how much you might receive each month based on when you want to start receiving benefits and then apply.
In your account, you can also:
- Access our publications – like the fact sheet for workers ages 70 and up.
- Find your Full Retirement Age.
- Learn about benefits for your spouse and family members.
- Apply for benefits.
- Manage your benefits once you start receiving them.
We’re here to help you secure today and tomorrow and we invite you to learn more about applying for retirement benefits at www.ssa.gov/apply on our website. Please share this information with those who need it.
REPRESENTATIVE PAYEES HELP YOU MANAGE YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY
Some people who receive monthly Social Security benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments may need help managing their money. When we receive information that indicates you need help, we’ll work with you to find the most suitable representative payee to manage your benefits. A representative payee is someone who receives your monthly benefit payment on your behalf and must use the money to pay for your current needs, including:
- Personal care items.
- Housing and utilities.
- Medical and dental expenses.
- Rehabilitation expenses (if you have a disability).
If you need help managing your benefits, tell a Social Security representative that there is someone you want to be your representative payee. Your representative payee should be someone you trust and see often, and who clearly understands your needs. Social service agencies, nursing homes, or other organizations are also qualified to be a representative payee. Ask them to contact us.
You can write to us within 60 days of being assigned a representative payee if you don’t agree that you need one or if you want a different representative payee.
We also offer Advance Designation, which allows you to designate someone to be your representative payee in the future. There may come a time when you can no longer make your own financial decisions. You and your family will have peace of mind knowing that someone you trust may be appointed to manage your benefits for you.
You can submit your Advance Designation request when you apply for benefits or after you are already receiving benefits. You may do so through your personal my Social Security account at www.ssa.gov/myaccount or by calling and speaking to a Social Security representative.
You can find more information at www.ssa.gov/payee.
FOUR QUESTIONS ABOUT SOCIAL SECURITY THAT CAN HELP YOU PLAN YOUR RETIREMENT
Social Security benefits are part of the retirement plan of almost every American worker. If you’re among the many people covered under Social Security, you should know what your future benefit may be. Monthly benefit payments will likely be an important part of your retirement income.
We base your benefit payment on how much you earned during your working career. Higher lifetime earnings result in higher benefits. If there were some years you didn’t work or had low earnings, your benefit amount may be lower than if you had worked steadily. If you never worked and did not pay Social Security taxes, you may be eligible for spouse’s retirement benefits. You must be at least 62 years old, and your spouse must already be receiving retirement or disability benefits.
Our retirement page at www.ssa.gov/retirement is a great place to start mapping out your retirement plan. For example, have you considered:
- Which factors may affect your retirement benefits?
- What is the right time for you to start receiving your retirement benefits?
- What you need to do after you apply for retirement benefits?
- What documents you need to provide us for your retirement application?
You can use your personal my Social Security account at www.ssa.gov/myaccount to get an instant estimate of your future retirement benefits. You can also see the effects of starting your retirement benefits at different ages.
You may also wonder about:
- Benefits for a spouse or children.
- How work affects your benefits.
- Whether you will have to pay taxes on your benefits.
You can learn more at www.ssa.gov/retirement. Please share this information with family and friends to help them prepare for their retirement.