When the world is experiencing economic uncertainty, it’s easy to overlook the retirement basics. Inflation, stock market fluctuations, and rising interest rates can overshadow risk management (insurance), tax planning, estate planning, and Social Security. It’s understandable. The media is hyper-focused on the economic chaos, and while you don’t want to turn a blind eye to it, it’s still important to pay attention to the basics of your retirement plan, so you don’t make mistakes. Because, unfortunately, when it comes to retirement fundamentals, blunders can be costly ones that can’t always be fixed. Among the most costly errors, Social Security mistakes are the ones we see the most.
Social Security is an integral part of most people’s retirement plans. Ignoring this program by believing it won’t be there by the time you need it or that there’s only one way to claim benefits can damage your financial well-being in retirement. Here’s what you need to know about Social Security Benefits.
There are three types of Social Security benefits:
- Retirement benefits
- Disability benefits
- Survivors’ benefits
Social Security benefits are for workers 62 years or older who earned a minimum of 40 “credits.” Credits are earned when you work and pay Social Security taxes and are used to determine when you are qualified to begin receiving Social Security retirement benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance. This unit of measurement is determined by the Social Security Administration (SSA), and you can earn up to four credits per year. The amount of your benefit checks is defined by your average indexed monthly earnings over your 35 highest-earning years and your age when you file for benefits. In 2022, a credit is $1,470 in earned income.
You can claim Social Security benefits on your own work record (if you have enough credits,) or it may be possible to claim spousal benefits on your current or ex-spouse’s record if that benefit is more than what you are entitled to on your own. (There are eligibility requirements to claim on a current or ex-spouse, so if this is something you want to explore, contact us for a 20-minute “Ask Anything” phone call with an Osiwala Financial Group advisor.)
If you file before you celebrate your Full Retirement Age (FRA), your benefit check will be less than if you waited. That does not mean everyone should wait until their FRA to receive a Social Security check. Your situation will most likely be different than your relatives or neighbors.
How do you determine the best (or worst) time to begin taking benefits? By contacting Osiwala Financial Group, our advisors can run your scenario through our software and show the options available. If you are married, you may be shocked to find out how many possibilities you have. I can’t stress it enough. The difference between taking your benefits at the best or the worst time can equate to tens of thousands of dollars over your retirement lifetime. There’s no cost and no obligation to discover your Social Security opportunities. Don’t leave money on the table that is rightly yours when it comes to your benefits. With the cost of everything at an all-time high, maximizing your Social Security dollars is more important than ever.