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13 Jun 2021

A Comprehensive Guide to Social Security Benefits

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We’ve heard it for years. Social security is going broke.

Good luck getting your social security benefits when you retire, young pup. You aren’t going to ever see that money. Social security will be bankrupt.

What does this even mean? What exactly is social security, and how do you garner the benefits from it? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about social security benefits.

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What is Social Security?

Social security is the American federal government’s retirement plan for all American citizens.

In 1929, America had an unemployment rate in the low single digits. Within a few years of the stock market crash in October 1929, that rate jumped to nearly 25 percent. Many of those unemployed Americans were near retirement, but their pensions were worth nothing, and they had no financial way of retiring.

The American government stepped in and created the Social Security program. This program took a percentage of a person’s wages from his check and put it into savings. When an individual retires, he or she can receive a Social Security check, which is that retirement fund plus interest.

That is the social security fund. The fund is used for more than just retirement benefits, though. The term “social security benefits” actually covers a variety of benefits.

Social Security Disability

If you have worked long enough, the federal government considers you “insured” with their social security fund. This means you and certain family members can receive benefits from the Social Security Disability insurance program.

You need to have had a job covered by Social Security and a condition that meets Social Security’s definition of a disability. If you meet these two qualifications, you can apply for disability benefits and receive monthly benefits. Your medical condition must be one that either result in death or that you are expected to have for at least 12 months.

Survivor Benefits

If you are a widow, widower, or dependent of someone who paid into the Social Security fund, then you’re eligible for survivor benefits. These benefits make sense since the person who paid into the system does not receive the benefits directly as he or she died before retirement.

Survivor benefits are essential to specifically for families with young children.

The amount of money you receive depends on how much the deceased person earned and how long the individual worked. The deceased person must have worked long enough to put money into the fund in order for their beneficiaries to receive benefits.

Often, when an individual dies, the funeral home reports the individual’s death to the federal government. Survivors should give the funeral home the deceased’s social security number to get the ball rolling on benefits.

If you are not getting benefits and have a loved one who has died, begin asking at your local social security office. You may be due to retroactive benefits.

Retirement Benefits

Social security benefits are most known for their retirement benefits. The number of benefits will vary depending on your age and how much you made and thus put into the social security pot.

In the past, anyone who retired at age 65 received full benefits. However, this number has changed. Your full retirement age today depends on what year you were born.

For example, if you were born in 1937 or earlier, you can retire with full Social Security benefits at age 65. Here’s a breakdown of when you can retire with full benefits:

  • Born in 1938, retire at 65 years and 2 months
  • Born in 1939, retire at 65 years and 4 months
  • Born in 1940, retire at 65 years and 6 months
  • Born in 1941, retire at 65 years and 8 months
  • Born in 1942, retire at 65 years and 10 months
  • Born from 1943 to 1954, retire at age 66
  • Born in 1955, retire at age 66 and 2 months
  • Born in 1956, retire at age 66 and 4 months
  • Born in 1957, retire at age 66 and 6 months
  • Born in 1958, retire at age 66 and 8 months
  • Born in 1959, retire at age 66 and 10 months
  • Born in 1960 or later, retire at age 67

Thus, as you can see, the majority of the working population today will retire somewhere between ages 66 and 67. If you want, you can begin collecting benefits as early as your 62nd birthday. You can delay benefits as late on your 70th birthday.

If you begin to claim your benefits earlier than your retirement listed above, then you can expect a smaller check. If you delay receiving benefits, you will have a bigger check.

For example, if you do not qualify for full benefits until age 67 but choose to begin collecting at your 62nd birthday, you will only receive 70 percent of the amount you would have received had you waited another five years.

If you wait until you’re 70, your checks are actually 24 percent bigger than if you begin collecting at age 67.

Checking Your Benefits

Percentages do not really tell you how much your Social Security check will be. What good does it do to know you’ll receive 70 percent of what you could get if you do not know what you could get in the first place?

You can actually check your retirement estimation by going to My Social Security. The Social Security Administration can give you an estimate of your future earnings when you’re nearing retirement if you create a “my Social Security” account.

At this account, you can see a record of our earnings and the amount you should expect to receive when you retire. You can also make essential changes such as address changes or direct deposit information.

You’ll find that your retirement checks from your Social Security account really aren’t enough to live off of. However, if you have retirement savings already in place, then social security checks are a nice supplement to your monthly retirement checks.

How Do I Collect Social Security?

Collecting social security can be as simple as filling out an application with the local Social Security office. You can also apply online for whatever benefits you believe are due to you.

Simple Security

The current federal retirement plan isn’t perfect. However, life before social security created a much more dim picture for retired persons than life today.

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