Q: At what age can I begin to collect Social Security? I thought it was age 65, but now I am told anytime after age 62. Which is correct?
A: I have gotten this question a number of times lately, so I will try to answer this as clearly as I can. There are a number of different issues in this question.
To collect Social Security you must ''file a claim'' with Social Security Administration (SSA). At your meeting (or phone call) with SSA; staff they will determine when you are eligible to begin collecting Social Security and inform you of how much you will be receiving.
You are eligible to begin collecting Social Security at age 62 for early retirement benefits. Those of us that were born between 1937 and now, reach Full Retirement Age (FRA) somewhere between 65 and 67 years old. The chart is as follows:
Year of BirthFRA
1937 or earlier65
As individuals retire or age into Medicare, their insurance situation can change dramatically. There are a multitude of options open to those with Medicare. The terms are different, the prices are different, the products offered are dramatically different each year.
The purpose of this column is to give those who are eligible for Medicare, or soon to be eligible for Medicare, some understanding of their insurance options and how it could impact their health and finances.
These questions and answers are meant as a guide to help you understand the complex questions you are now thinking about. Each individual's specific situation may create a different solution. You shouldn't necessarily do what your friends, family and neighbors do.
1938 65 and 2 months
1939 65 and 4 months
1940 65 and 6 months
1941 65 and 8 months
1942 65 and 10 months
1955 66 and 2 months
1956 66 and 4 months
1957 66 and 6 months
1958 66 and 8 months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 and later67
This chart illustrates when you receive Full Retirement Benefit, it does not tell you how much you will receive. How much you receive is based on your work history. As you are working throughout your life, your wages and taxes are put into the Social Security Administrations System. Your employer also pays into this system. The SSA keeps track of what you and your employer have paid in. This record is then used to determine the amount you receive each month. If you begin collecting early retirement benefits (beginning at age 62) you will receive less of a payment each month, but more months of payments. If you wait until Full Retirement Age (FRA) you will collect the determined amount based on your work history. If you don't collect until sometimes after FRA you will collect a higher monthly payment.
An example of this is if Joe begins collecting Social Security at age 62, he will receive $1,000 per month. If he waits until age 66 (his FRA) he will collect $1,300 a month. If he waits until age 72, he will collect $1,600 a month.
So many people look at this example and say, ''I should wait to collect Social Security for as long as I can.'' I don't always agree. I say this because you only collect Social Security for the months you are alive. If you begin collecting at age 63 and live to be 83 you have collected the lesser amount for a longer time. If you waited and started to collect at age 72 and live to be 83 you have collected a higher monthly amount, but for fewer months. So if we do this mathematically (with no COLA adjustment to make the math easy), in the first example, early retirement, is $1,000 x 12 months x 21 years = $252,000 over the 20 years. In the second example, FRA, $1,300 x 12 months x 17 years = $265,200. The last, age 72, $1,600 x 12 months x 11 years = $211,200. Although I have made up these dollar figures for use in this example, the numbers you would use for your decision are completely different.
So you see, waiting longer versus retiring early is not necessary better or worse. The other factor that is important to remember is that not everyone lives to be 83. We do not have any guarantees when it comes to how long we can live. If you never make it to 72 and you tried to wait until then for the maximum monthly benefit you haven't collected any Social Security.
I often advise individuals go to Social Security Administration at age 62 and periodically after that to determine when it is best to begin collecting Social Security. The staff that work at SSA are very good at explaining how your numbers impact your filing for benefits decision.
If you are younger than 62, you can keep track of your situation with SSA. Be sure to check your work history against that of SSA. If some of your wages were not collected into their system or collected in the wrong amounts it can adversely influence your monthly benefit amount. SSA will send you a report call "Your Social Security Statement" if you request this from them. SSA historically had mailed these to everyone periodically, but now only sends them when they are requested. This multi-paged report includes general information on Social Security. Your report will include individual information on Your Estimated Benefits, Your Earnings Record and Social Security & Medicare Taxes paid by your and your employer.
To contact Social Security Administration, you can call their national number at 800-772-1213 or the local number at 877-319-9182, or visit them in person at 321 Hazeltine Ave. Jamestown or on the web at www.ssa.gov.
Janell Sluga is a geriatric care manager certified and works for Senior Life Matters, a program of Lutheran Senior Housing, and has worked in Chautauqua County with seniors for more than 18 years. She is HIICAP (Health Insurance Information, Counseling & Assistance Program) counselor-trained by Office for the Aging. She does not sell insurance or represent any insurance company. She is an unbiased source of insurance and education to help seniors choose the best option for them.
You may submit questions to be answered in later columns to Janell Sluga at Senior Life Matters, 737 Falconer St., Jamestown, NY 14701, or call 716-720-9797, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please remember that not all questions can be answered in this format, but as many as can be, will be.