Social Security Benefits

Social Security benefits: a government program which we talk about all the time. But how much do you know about this program?

Benefits from Social Security can be received as:

  • A retirement benefit
  • Because of a disability
  • A benefit to survivors of workers who have died (spouse, child, or dependent parent)

It was never intended to be the only source of income upon retirement. Social Security benefits replace about 40% of the average wage earner’s income. It is currently suggested that retirees will need 70% or more of their pre-retirement earnings to live comfortably.

In 2015 the average monthly Social Security benefits for a retired worker was $1328, for a retired couple $2176, for a disabled worker $1165, and $1976 a month for a disabled worker with a spouse and child.

Qualifying for Social Security Benefits To qualify for Social Security retirement benefits you must have at least 40 credits (10 years of work). In 2015 you receive 1 credit for every $1,220 in earnings, with a maximum of 4 credits per year.

You can begin receiving your retirement benefits as early as age 62 or delay until age 70. You can work and receive retirement benefits, though there might be adjustments in your benefit amount. There are considerations for married couples who are retiring at different times.

If certain requirements are met, you family might be eligible for a $255 death benefit at the time of your death. If you are divorced with a surviving ex-souse, they may be eligible for survivor benefits at the time of your death.

Social Security Taxes in 2015 are: 6.2% for employees, 6.2% for employers, 12.4% for the self-employed. There is a cap on earnings of $118,500 for social security taxes.

Setting Up An Account To set up a “mySocialSecurity” account, you must:

  • Be 18 ears of age or older
  • Have a Social Security number
  • Have valid email and US mail addresses

Go to www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount to begin this process. You will also need to choose a user name and password.

Once you have set up your account, you can:

  • review your social security statement
  • verify your Social Security earnings
  • print a benefit verification letter, if eligible
  • apply for retirement, disability and Medicare benefits
  • request a replacement Medicare card and much more

Applying for Benefits You should apply for benefits three months before the date you want your benefits to start. You will need original documents as part of the enrollment process; no photocopies will be accepted (birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, etc.). More information is available on the Social Security website.

I encourage you to become familiar with the Social Security program and process well before that. Resources which are available to you from Social Security include:

Retirement planner:                                                                                        www.socialsecurity.gov/retire

www.socialsecurity.gov/applyforbenefits

Based on your Social Security earnings record:                                          www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator

www.socialsecurity.gov/planners

A quick word about Medicare: apply for these benefits three month before your 65th birthday, whether or not you will be retiring.

Take a few minutes and check out the Social Security website and all the resources available to you. Or, if you prefer, call and speak with a representative or make an appointment at your local Social Security office. The more information you have in advance the better prepared you will be to  make decisions regarding your retirement and Social Security benefits.

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