Change is inevitable, this we know. But as we age and transition into the next chapter of our lives, we quickly realize that there are a lot of things we don’t know. That’s why groups like the Association of Mature American Citizens are dedicated to addressing the questions and concerns of those 50 and older.
Recently, the AMAC Foundation (an arm of AMAC focused on support and education) put together a weekly social security-centered column called “Ask Rusty,” in which Russel “Rusty” Gloor, a 74-year-old AMAC consultant, answers the most frequently asked social security questions.
Gloor speaks from a place of professional expertise and personal experience. (He retired from IBM 10 years ago.)
“I started social security at the age of 62, and I didn’t need to,” Gloor says. “I did it for the wrong reasons, thinking, ‘If it’s there, I might as well just take it—I don’t know how long I am going to live.’”
Unfortunately, a majority of seniors follow the same line of thought.
In hopes of preventing his 55- to 65-year-old audience from making similar mistakes, Gloor answers questions about retirement age, spousal benefits, survivor benefits and the effect working has on benefits.
In order to determine retirement age, Gloor says everyone needs to answer these three questions: Do you need the money? How is your health? How do you want to plan for survivor benefits?
If you don’t desperately need the money and are in good health, you are best off waiting until you reach what is called full retirement age, which right now is somewhere between 66 and 67.
“Everything is based upon reaching full retirement age,” Gloor says. “Anytime you take benefits before that, your benefit is reduced.”
The same concept applies to spousal benefits.
“The most common misunderstanding is people think that it is as simple as the spouse receiving half of the primary earner’s benefits,” Gloor says. “If the primary earner gets $2,000 per month in benefits, people think the spouse will get $1,000. But if the spouse starts collecting at 62, they will get a reduced benefit.
Survivor benefits are a little more complicated, but a general rule of thumb is if both spouses are old enough to receive social security and one of them passes away, the spouse is entitled to collect up to 100 percent of his or her late spouse’s benefits while forfeiting his or her own.
To be eligible for survivor benefits, applicants must be 60 years old, unless they are disabled, in which case they can be as young as 50 years old. However, those younger than 66 will receive reduced benefits, and if they remarry, they lose those benefits.
Likewise, whether you continue to work affects your social security benefits.
“If you are on social security and also working, if you exceed something called the earnings test, you have to give back up to 50 percent of your benefits until you reach full retirement age,” Gloor says. “After you reach your full retirement age of 66-67, you can earn as much as you want.”
Those with additional social security questions can ask Gloor or another adviser by sending inquiries to email@example.com or calling 888-750-2622.