Financial Focus: Here are some questions to ask before taking Social Security (column)
Social Security can be an important part of your retirement income. So, before you start making decisions about your payments, you’ll want to know what questions to ask.
Here are a few to consider:
• How soon can I start collecting Social Security? You can begin receiving Social Security as early as age 62. However, your payments, as well as the survivor benefits payable to your spouse, will be significantly lower than if you wait until your full retirement age, which is likely to be between 66 and 67.
• Can I wait until I’m past full retirement age to begin collecting payments? Yes. Your monthly benefits will continue to rise until you reach 70, at which point they will max out.
• Which is better: taking smaller payments for more years, or larger payments for fewer years? There’s no simple answer to this question. If you are in good health and have a family history of longevity, you may decide it’s worth your while to wait as long as possible before collecting benefits. Also, if you enjoy working and don’t immediately need the Social Security payments, you may choose to wait. On the other hand, if your health is questionable, or if you would rather retire than continue working, you might want to start taking payments earlier. And, of course, if you simply need the money to help support yourself, you may not be able to wait. Additionally, don’t forget potential implications for your spouse. Since the survivor benefit is based on the size of your retirement benefit, it may make sense to delay and maximize your retirement benefit, which could help provide the maximum benefit for your surviving spouse.
• If I’m still employed when I begin taking Social Security, will my monthly checks be reduced? If you’re working, and you start collecting benefits before you reach full retirement age, your payments could be reduced if you earn more than the Social Security earnings limits, which are adjusted each year. Once you pass your full retirement age, though, you can earn as much as you like without having your payments reduced (although they could still be taxed).
• Will I be taxed on my Social Security benefits? Social Security benefits can be taxable at any age, whether you’re employed or not. To understand your tax liability, consult with your tax adviser.
Can I claim Social Security benefits based on my spouse’s earnings? Yes, you may be eligible for Social Security benefits based on your spouse’s earnings and Social Security record. This benefit is available if your full retirement benefit is less than half of your spouse’s full retirement benefit. The spousal benefit is only available if your spouse has already filed for benefits.
These aren’t all the questions you may need to ask about Social Security, but they can give you a good idea of what you should know before taking action. So, take your time, get the professional advice you need, and make the right choices. You’ve contributed to Social Security your entire working life, so you’ve earned the right to maximize your benefits.
This article was written for use by local Edward Jones financial advisors. Edward Jones and its associates and financial advisors do not provide tax or legal advice. Chuck Smallwood, Kevin Brubeck, Tina DeWitt, Charlie Wick and Bret Hooper are financial advisors with Edward Jones Investments and can be reached in Edwards at 970-926-1728, in Eagle at 970-328-4959 or in Avon at 970-688-5420.