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Social Security Benefits

Social Security has many benefits available, including retirement, disability, survivor, and family benefits. If you or a family member paid a portion of career earnings into a trust fund by paying Social Security or self-employment taxes, these benefits may be available. The amount you receive depends on several factors, including your average lifetime earnings, date of birth, and the type of benefit you are applying for.

Create Your Personal My Social Security Account:

A Social Security account provides free and secure personalized tools for everyone, whether you receive benefits or not. You can use your account to request a replacement Social Security card, check the status of an application, estimate future benefits, or manage the benefits you already receive. You can sign up for a My Social Security account at www.ssa.gov/myaccount/.

Once complete, you’ll be able to view your online statement, which contains a detailed record of your earnings, as well as estimates of retirement, survivor, and disability benefits. If you’re not registered for an online account and are not yet receiving benefits, you’ll receive a statement in the mail every year, starting at age 60.

Your Retirement Benefits:

Your Social Security retirement benefit is based on your average earnings over your working career. Full retirement age is 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later. If you were born before 1960, you should have an earlier full retirement age. However, you don’t have to wait until full retirement age to begin receiving benefits. No matter your full retirement age, you can begin receiving reduced early retirement benefits as early as age 62. Conversely, you can choose to delay receiving retirement benefits up to age
70. If you delay, the benefit you eventually receive will be as much as 8% higher for each year you wait.

Family Benefits:

Your family members might also be eligible to receive benefits based on your earnings record. These benefits may include disability, spousal, widow(er), child, disabled child, and death.

Applying for Social Security Benefits:

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recommends you apply for benefits online at www.ssa.gov/. You can also apply by calling 800-772-1213 or making an appointment at your local SSA office. The SSA suggests you apply three months before you want your benefits to begin. The SSA will NOT notify you when you become eligible for benefits. If you’re applying for disability or survivor benefits, apply as soon as eligible.

Depending on the type of Social Security benefits you’re applying for, you will be asked to furnish certain records, such as a birth certificate, W-2 forms, and verification of your Social Security number and citizenship. The documents must be original or certified copies. Family members are expected to submit similar documentation. The SSA representative will let you know which documents you need and help you get any documents you don’t already have.

Written by: Kenneth Price, CFP®, CFA®, ChFC®, CLU®, AEP®