Due to persistent inflation, many seniors and others who rely on Social Security benefits have felt their purchasing power diminished recently. To keep pace with rising costs, the Social Security Administration (SSA) implemented an 8.7% cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, going into 2023 - the most significant COLA increase since 1981, when the US last faced inflationary pressures of this magnitude.1
This news has many wondering when they should start tapping into their Social Security benefits. But before you decide whether or not to start receiving your monthly checks, there are a few things you may want to know.
What are Social Security Benefits?
Officially known as the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program, Social Security benefits are a monthly payout provided to qualified retirees, disabled workers, and the dependents and survivors of these groups. The program aims to partially replace income lost as a result of reaching retirement age, the death of a spouse, or a disability. While you can start claiming Social Security checks as early as 62 years old, there are some potential advantages to delaying these benefits and planning out your claims more carefully.
How are Social Security Benefits Calculated?
Social Security benefits will differ from person to person, as the amount you receive is based on factors such as the year you were born, the age you start claiming benefits, and your average indexed monthly earnings. Benefits are also adjusted to reflect the trajectory of general wage levels during your 35 highest-earning working years. However, these monthly payments could be reduced if you enter retirement early.2
What to Consider Before Dipping Into Your Benefits
Social Security benefits play a vital role in providing or augmenting income for retirees, dependents, and those with disabilities. But, before you start applying for payments, it’s important to understand the strategies you might consider deploying to help maximize these benefits. That way, you can enjoy your Golden Years in peace knowing that you’ll have a cash flow sufficient to cover your expenses and haven’t left money on the table.
Full Retirement Age
Upon turning 62, it might be tempting to dip into your Social Security as soon as benefits become available, but doing so could mean missing out on the full amount you’re entitled to. To receive 100% of your benefit, think about waiting until full retirement age before applying. The full retirement age for those born after 1960 is currently 67.
Some people choose to continue working even after they’ve started tapping into their Social Security benefits. While this is certainly an option, there is a maximum limit on the amount you can earn if you’re between the minimum retirement age of 62 and the full retirement age of 67. If you earn income in excess of the allowance, you may see a portion of your benefits withheld. But don’t worry – any money withheld will ultimately be returned to you upon reaching full retirement age.
While Social Security regulations allow you to continue to work and maintain other sources of income concurrently, there are potential tax implications associated with this course of action. Federal taxes can apply to anywhere from 50% to 85% of your total benefit payout. For help navigating these Social Security taxes, consider partnering with a financial professional.
How to Maximize Your Benefits Payout
If you’re looking to increase the size of the payouts you receive each month, here are a few steps you can take to get the most out of your Social Security benefits.
Increase Pre-Retirement Income
While some people like to scale back on work in the years leading up to retirement, increasing your pre-retirement income during this period can be a way to boost your overall payout. Because the Social Security Administration calculates your benefits based on average monthly income, earning higher compensation may net you a larger benefit amount – but only up to a certain amount, known as the Social Security earnings limit.
Delay Claiming Benefits
If you were born after 1960, you can begin tapping into your Social Security benefits after turning 62. However, this means you will receive less than you would if you had waited until the full retirement age of 67, at which point you receive 100% of your benefit. The total amount you receive increases by 8% each year between 67 and 70, capped at a maximum payout of roughly 124% of the full benefit.3
Start Financial Planning
There are numerous strategies for claiming Social Security benefits and the one you choose should be based on your own unique circumstances. A financial advisor can help you find the optimal Social Security strategy that suits your individual financial needs.
If you’re looking for help navigating your Social Security benefits, we can help. Schedule a meeting with us here.