For US citizens, Social Security is an essential program as the benefits it pays represent about one-third of all income among senior citizens and a majority of beneficiaries collect Social Security as 50% or more of their income during retirement. This article details how Social Security works from the process itself, how much you can expect to collect, and how to ensure its availability once you retire.
As a working member of society, you pay taxes into the Social Security system. These taxes are most often taken in the form of deductions from your wages and other earnings (this amount should be laid out on your paycheck stub or when you access your direct deposit records).
Once you retire or are unable to work due to disability, you can apply to reap the benefits you’ve earned. The amount of Social Security benefits you get each month is largely dependent upon the following three factors:
The third factor, however, comes with some pretty significant stipulations. If you choose to collect benefits before reaching full retirement age, which is the age at which you qualify for 100% of the benefit calculated from your earnings history, you will receive a permanently reduced benefit. Your monthly benefit will be reduced by a whopping 25-30% if you start collecting at age 62.
If you wait to apply for Social Security benefits until you turn 70, however, you could increase your benefit by 32%. Although 66 is the age at which you will receive 100% of your Social Security benefits, we highly recommend waiting until you turn 70 to receive an increased monthly rate.
As of 2019, the estimated average Social Security retirement benefit is $1,461 a month. The maximum benefit that an individual retiree can receive is $2,861 a month for someone who retires at full retirement age.
The amount you receive is also largely based on the length of time you work. The longer you work, the higher your Social Security benefits will be. Your retirement benefit is based on your lifetime earnings in which you paid Social Security taxes. Higher income means a bigger benefit.
Social Security benefits do not automatically kick in. You must apply for your benefits through an application process. You will only know how much your Social Security benefits will be when you apply, although there are ways to get a rough idea.
Social Security benefits are calculated based on your 35 highest-earning working years. If you continue to work and earn a higher salary well into your 60s than you did earlier in your career, you could boost your Social Security payments even more. Because benefit amounts are calculated based on a worker’s highest 35 earning years, benefits can be increased by landing a job, even if you’ve already started collecting benefits. Higher earning years, even if they take place after retirement, can be used to replace your lower-earning years.
Let’s say you file for Social Security, start receiving your benefits, then get hired for a new job. If you’ve been collecting Social Security for less than a year, you can suspend your benefits and claim them later. This will essentially postpone your benefit so that you can then earn a higher benefit when you do officially retire and start receiving payments again. The catch, however, is that you’ll have to repay all of the benefits you’ve already received.
So again, if you are not in dire need of collecting until you turn 70, we would recommend waiting to apply.
Whether you’re seeking Social Security Disability benefits or Long Term Disability benefits, the lawyers of Montagna Law can help. Our social security disability lawyers have been representing disabled individuals before the Social Security Administration for years. We work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that we don’t get paid unless you win your case.
Give us a call: 877-622-8100.
Jon Montagna received a Bachelor of Arts in Literature from American University in Washington D.C. and graduated Cum Laude from the University of Miami School of Law in 1999. Jon practices law in the Hampton Roads Virginia area.