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FAQs-2

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Retirement FAQ's

Yes. You can work while receiving Social Security Retirement benefits. However, if you are younger than your Full Retirement Age (FRA), there is a limit to how much you can earn in each calendar year and still receive your benefit amount. This is known as the “Earnings Test Exempt Amount.”

If you are younger than your FRA, $1 will be deducted from your benefits for each $2 you earn over the Annual Exempt Amount allowed by the Social Security Administration. In the year you reach your FRA, $1 will be deducted from benefits for each $3 you earned over the Annual Exempt Amount in the months prior to your FRA.

Keep in mind, the “Earnings Test Exempt Amount,” can be adjusted higher for any calendar year. For more information, click our Resources tab then click Helpful SSA.Gov Links.

Delayed Retirement Credits increase your Social Security benefits when you wait until after your Full Retirement Age (FRA) to claim your benefits. Your birth year helps determine how much of an increase you will receive.

For example, if you were born in 1943 or after, you’ll receive a monthly credit of 2/3rds of 1% (or .0066667) which adds up to an 8-percent increase in benefits for each year you delay retirement beyond your FRA. Keep in mind, your Delayed Retirement Credits only accrue up to the date you turn age 70. For more information, go to our Resources section and click Helpful SSA.Gov Links.

You can start your Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62 but the amount of your monthly benefit will be less than you would have received if you had waited until your Full Retirement age (FRA). Your benefit is reduced because you will be receiving benefits during the years prior to your FRA.

If your FRA is 66, the reduction of your benefit at age 62 is 25 percent. At age 63, it’s about 20 percent. At age 64, it’s about 13.3 percent. And at age 65, it’s about 6.7 percent.

If your FRA is age 67, the reduction of your benefit at age 62 is 30 percent. At age 63 it’s about 25 percent. At age 64 it’s about 20 percent. At Age 65 it’s about 13.3 percent. And at age 66 it’s about 6.7 percent.

Keep in mind, when you apply for benefits before your FRA you will receive the same reduced benefit for the entire time you collect Social Security.

Your earnings determine the number of Social Security work credits you receive each year with a maximum of four credits per year. These credits remain on your record even if you change jobs or stop working for a while.

If you were born in 1929 or after, you need a total of 40 credits (10 years of work) in order to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits. The amount of earnings needed for one credit is determined by the Social Security Administration and usually increases each year. (In 2016 the amount of earnings needed for one credit is $1,260.)

No. If you do not have the required total of work credits based on your own earnings record, you are not considered “fully insured.” This means you are not eligible for Social Security Retirement Benefits. However, if you are married, widowed, or divorced, you may qualify for Spousal or Survivors benefits based on the earnings of a “fully insured” spouse.

Spousal FAQ's

Spousal benefits allow a husband or wife to receive a benefit of up to 50 percent of their spouse’s Social Security benefit.

You may qualify for spousal retirement benefits if you are at least 62 years of age and your spouse is receiving Social Security retirement benefits or disability benefits. This applies even if you have never worked under Social Security.

Keep in mind, you will not be eligible for spousal benefits if you are entitled to a retirement benefit under your own work record that equals or exceeds one-half of your spouse’s Social Security benefits.

In cases of divorce, the lower earning ex-spouse is eligible for spousal benefits under the higher earning ex-spouse’s work record. This also applies if you have insufficient work credits based on your own earnings or no work credits at all. In general, you are eligible to receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s work record if:

  • Your marriage lasted 10 years or longer before you divorced;
  • You are unmarried;
  • You age 62 or older;
  • Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security benefits (or Disability benefits) and
  • The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work record is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work.

Keep in mind, the above is an overview. For complete details and applicable conditions for receiving benefits on your ex-spouse’s record go to: www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/divspouse.html

Yes. This is known as Restricted Application. However, under The Bipartisan Balanced Budget Act of 2015, Restricted Application will be phased out by the year 2020.

Restricted Application allows a spouse who has reached Full Retirement Age (FRA), and is eligible for his or her own retirement benefit, to collect only their spousal benefit based on the spouse’s earning record.

This enables the spouse’s own retirement benefit to grow by earning Delayed Retirement Credits. At a later date, or by age 70, the spouse can then switch to his or her own maximized retirement benefit.

For those who turned age 62 prior to 2016 (people born on January 1, 1954 or earlier), it is still possible to file a Restricted Application before it’s phased out by year 2020.

Yes. On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, holding that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in all states and have their marriage recognized by other states. This decision made it possible for more same-sex couples and their families to benefit from Social Security programs including eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Add to this, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is now processing some retirement, surviving spouse, and lump-sum death payment claims, for same-sex couples in non-marital legal relationships such as civil unions and domestic partnerships.

For complete information, you can download the SSA’s booklet: “What Same-Sex Couples Need To Know.”

When Social Security retirement benefits are elected before Full Retirement Age (FRA), your  benefit is reduced by a certain percentage for each month before your FRA, up to 36 months (and further for the number of months that exceeds 35). This also applies to Spousal Benefits. However, the percentages used to calculate benefit reductions for the first 36 months of an early election differ.

The following chart shows the percentages used to calculate a Spousal Benefit compared to a Retirement Benefit.

Firsts 36 Months Months in Excess of 36
Spousal Benefit 25/36 of 1% per month 5/12 of 1% per month
Retirement Benefits 5/9 of 1% per month 5/12 of 1% per month

Two Spousal Benefit Married Couple Scenarios

Scenario 1: When a spouse does not have a retirement benefit of his or her own and the primary worker qualifies for $2,000 in retirement benefits. If the spouse waits until age 66, he or she would be eligible for 50% of the primary worker’s benefit which would be $1,000. However, if the spouse elects to retire at age 62 instead of 66, the spousal benefit would be reduced by 30% as shown in the chart below:

Spousal Benefit at age 66 No. of reduction months Percent reduction* Spousal benefit at 62
$1,000 48 30% $700

*$1,000 is reduced by 25/36 of 1% per month for the first 36 months and 5/12 of 1% for each additional month.

Scenario 2: When a spouse is eligible for his or her own retirement benefit of $500 if taken at age 66 and the primary worker qualifies for $2,000 in retirement benefits. In this scenario, the spouse would be eligible to receive his or her own $500 benefit, plus a $500 spousal excess – this is the difference between the spouse’s retirement benefit and 50% of the primary worker’s benefit.

However, if the spouse chooses to retire at age 62, his or her own $500 retirement benefit would be reduced by approximately 25% and the $500 spousal benefit would be reduced by approximately 30% as shown in the charts below:

Retirement Benefit at age 66 No. of reduction months Percent reduction* Spousal benefit at 62
$500 48 25% $375

*$500 is reduced by 5/9 of 1% per month for the first 36 months and 5/12 of 1% for each additional month.

Spousal Benefit at age 66 No. of reduction months Percent reduction* Spousal benefit at 62
$500 48 30% $350

*$500 is reduced by 25/36 of 1% per month for the first 36 months and 5/12 of 1% for each additional month.