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Social Security

You become eligible for Social Security by working in a covered job earning 40 credits (generally 10 years). You can earn up to four credits a year by earning a minimum dollar amount.

The exact amount of your Social Security benefit is not computed until you turn 62. At that time, all of your annual earnings are indexed to account for wage inflation. After this adjustment, your highest 35 years of earnings are tallied.

Full retirement age (FRA) for people born between 1943 and 1954 is 66. This is the age at which you may begin receiving your full, unreduced Primary Insurance Amount (PIA). Early eligibility begins at age 62 for a reduced benefit (75%). For each year you delay the start of benefits, your benefit will increase by 8% per year up to age 70.

A married person who has little or no earnings history can receive a spousal benefit equal to half the working spouse’s PIA. If the non-working spouse chooses to take the spousal benefit before their FRA, further reductions will apply. Also, two high earners can make use of spousal benefits to allow one of the spouses to earn delayed credits for the potential of greater overall lifetime income. Coordinating spousal benefits is complex and care must be taken to follow the rules precisely. Likewise, you can receive spousal benefits based on an ex-spouse’s work record if the marriage lasted at least 10 years and you are currently unmarried.

Working while collecting benefits could reduce your benefits before your FRA. Also, how your Social Security is taxed may be impacted by other income that you receive.

If your spouse dies, you can apply for survivor benefits as early as age 60 (or 50 if you are disabled). The survivor benefit equals 100% of your spouse’s benefit and will be subject to the actuarial reduction if you apply before you reach your FRA. If your own benefit is higher, you are eligible to receive that amount instead of the survivor benefit. It is important to note that your survivor benefit will equal your deceased spouse’s actual benefit, not their PIA. Therefore, delaying the higher-income spouse’s benefit should be considered as this is the benefit that will prevail in the event of either spouse’s death. If you remarry, your survivor benefits will stop unless you are age 60 or older when you remarry (50 if disabled).

For more complete information about Social Security, visit www.socialsecurity.gov. 


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