How to Collect Social Security

Designed to help support you after you’ve stopped working (a minimum of 10 years) and complement your savings account and other investments, Social Security is based on the taxes you’ve paid on the money you’ve earned in your lifetime. Here are some basics about this much-needed asset for your Golden Years.

Who benefits?

Social Security is synonymous with retirement, but it can also benefit those far from retirement age. According to the Social Security Administration, a person connected by marriage or blood to someone receiving benefits can obtain benefits. People with disabilities can apply for Social Security benefits, and an ex-spouse, child, current spouse or dependent parent of a deceased worker who received benefits can be supported by Social Security, as well.

Calculating age of retirement

Although you can rightfully collect Social Security benefits when you blow out 62 candles on your birthday cake, you’ll be sacrificing your bottom line. If you want access to your full Social Security benefits, patience is essential.

For 2019, the “Full retirement age is 67 for those born in 1960 or later. If you were born in 1937 or earlier, your full retirement age is 65. The FRA rises two months every year after that until it caps out at age 67,” reports Bankrate writer Libby Wells. “If you wait until your full retirement age, you can collect 100 percent of your benefit.”

If you’re able to postpone benefits collection past your FRA, your benefit percentage continues to increase, she adds. Social Security eligibility doesn’t mean you have to stop working, either, according to the SSA.

Applying for benefits

There are a lot of people seeking benefits from the SSA, so it’s imperative that you plan ahead if you want your benefits to appear when you need them. Take a look at the calendar and pinpoint the month you want your benefits to start, move back approximately four months and write a note to contact the SSA.

“To file for disability or survivors benefits, you should apply as soon as you’re eligible,” advises the SSA.

When applying, be sure to check the SSA’s website for the list of required documents. Documents may include your birth certificate, Social Security card or evidence of your number, military records if applicable, a tax return or W-2 form and proof of lawful immigration status or U.S. Citizenship. Other paperwork such as a marriage certificate or spouse’s birth certificate is required if applying as or for a dependent. Depending on what benefits you’re seeking will determine the necessary paperwork, and since photocopies are not acceptable, you should build in extra time to your application process to acquire the certified copies or original copies of the documents you need. If you’re having trouble getting any of the required documents, you can still start your application — a representative from the SSA can help you obtain hard-to-get paperwork.

Paying taxes on benefits

If you earn more than $25,000 a year and file an “individual” tax return, the SSA insists you pay taxes on the benefits you receive from Social Security. Taxes will be applicable if the income between you and your spouse is more than $32,000, adds the agency, and you file your return jointly.

The benefits you receive from Social Security can help make your retirement more financially stable for you and your loved ones.

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