Couple with questions about Social SecurityHere are answers to seven common questions that the Social Security Administration receives about the retirement benefit program.

1. The age of full Social Security benefits.

Individuals are eligible for full Social Security benefits depending upon the year they were born. Full retirement age is currently between 66 and 67. You can receive Social Security benefits as early as age 62. The age when you start receiving Social Security checks will have a significant impact on your monthly payments and your lifetime benefits.

2. Impact of receiving benefits early.

If you start receiving your benefits at the first opportunity, your checks will be 70% to 75% of the full benefit. This reduction is permanent. If you live a relatively short life, taking Social Security early could financially benefit you. However, if you take early benefits and live longer, you will collect less over time.

3. Impact of delaying benefits.

Individuals who delay the start of Social Security benefits past their full retirement age will see their benefits increase by eight percent a year, up to the age of 70. The delayed Social Security credits are prorated monthly. There is no benefit to waiting past the age of 70 to receive Social Security benefits.

4. Working and collecting Social Security

If you are working and you start your Social Security payments before your full retirement age kicks in, your Social Security checks could be smaller. An individual could recently earn no more than $16,920 before benefits were decreased. For every two dollars earned over that amount, one dollar of benefits is reduced. 

How much you can make will increase once you reach full retirement age. The maximum recently was $44,880. Exceed that amount and one Social Security dollar will be withheld for every three dollars earned.

You can find out how working would impact your Social Security payments by using this federal Retirement Earnings Test Calculator.

5. Divorce and Social Security

A divorced person can receive spousal benefits that are based on the ex-spouse’s salary history if the marriage lasted at least 10 years and the individual is not married. To get benefits, the ex-spouse must be at least 62 years old (in other words eligible for payments). The ex-spouse, however, does not have to be collecting payments for the former husband or wife to collect benefits.

6. Maximum wages subject to Social Security tax.

Not all wages are hit with Social Security taxes. The maximum earnings subject to the tax is currently $127,200.

7. Applying for Social Security

You can apply for Social Security in the following three ways:

Apply online at www.SocialSecurity.gov.

Call (800) 772-1213.

Visit a Social Security office.

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