Millions of Americans will become eligible for Social Security in 2016. And whether you’ve already decided to take your benefits or not, there are a few things you should know about the timing and how to maximize your checks.
When to take Social Security
In the past, it was very common to retire and take Social Security at age 62 — which is the age Americans become eligible. But every year you wait after 62, you have an imputed return of 8% per year on your lifetime benefit. So if you wait from 62 to 70, the amount that Social Security pays you increases dramatically. (Benefits no longer increase after 70.)
So when it comes to deciding on when you should claim Social Security, there are a variety of factors. The good news is that AARP’s interactive calculator allows you to pop in your specifics, and then it will give you a decision tree to help you figure out the optimal time to take Social Security. Check it out to help guide yourself or a parent.
If you are looking for a more comprehensive approach to give you specifics on when it would be best to start drawing on your Social Security, check out Maximize My Social Security. There are different levels of analysis that you can choose, but $40 gives you access to sophisticated software that helps determine the best time to start receiving your checks. They also offer a money-back guarantee if you aren’t satisfied.
Read more: How to maximize your Social Security check
Something else to consider: What you get from Social Security has everything to do with your 35 highest earning years. So you might consider negotiating a raise or taking on a second job, in order to boost your income.
If you’re looking for more ways to make extra money, check out Clark’s Work from Home Guide, which has legitimate ways you can earn some extra money. None of the sites listed on the guide will make you rich, but they will help you supplement your existing income.
What to know about Social Security
How to apply
You can file an application starting at the age of 61 years and nine months. The Social Security Administration suggests you apply three months before you want your benefits to take effect — so your payments can be set up and ready to go. So whatever age you decide is best to take your benefits, make sure to apply three months in advance.
When it comes time to actually apply, you have a few different options:
- SSA’s online retirement application
- Call the SSA toll-free at 800-772-1213 (Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.)
- Visit a local Social Security office
In order to apply, you’ll need some basic information:
- Birth date
- Place of birth
- Names of any current/former spouses
- When you were married
- Names/birth dates of any children who would be eligible for family benefits based on your work history
- Dates/details of any military service
- Employment information from the past three years
- Banking information (for direct deposit of your checks)
Read more: 5 Social Security tips for couples
You may be eligible for Social Security benefits even if you have never worked under Social Security. If your spouse becomes eligible for retirement or disability benefits, and you are at least 62 years old, you may be eligible for spousal benefits. You can also qualify for Medicare at age 65.
And even if you haven’t reached retirement age (62), you still may be able to qualify for spousal benefits if you are caring for a qualified child who is under age 16 or who receives Social Security disability payments.
If your spouse passes away, you can qualify for survivor benefits as early as age 60. Surviving spouses who are disabled can claim benefits as early as age 50.
Get more info about spousal benefits at SSA.gov.