Social Security is a program run by the federal government. The program works by using taxes paid into a trust fund to provide benefits to people who are eligible. While you work, you pay Social Security taxes. This money goes into a trust fund that pays benefits to:
- People who are currently retired
- People with disabilities
- Surviving spouses and children of workers who have died
The amount of Social Security income you’ll receive depends on:
- Your earnings over your lifetime
- The age when you begin getting benefits
- Whether you’ll be eligible to receive a spouse’s benefit instead of your own
A recent article on cnbc.com “These Social Security mistakes could cost you money,” talks about the 4 Social Security mistakes people make.
- Copying what others do
Just because your good friend decides to start claiming Social Security when she’s 62, doesn’t mean that’s the right thing for you to do. People’s situations are different. There are several factors to consider: time when you didn’t work so there was no contribution to Social Security, if you’ll continue to work while collecting Social Security, your marital status, and whether you have minor children or disabled children who are adults.
- Claiming Social Security too early
For people born in 1960 or later, retirement age is considered to be 67 and that’s when you’ll receive 100% of the benefit. If you wait until 70, your benefit goes up to 124%. But if you start your benefits at 62, your benefits will be reduced, so you’ll get less than you would have gotten if you waited until age 67. You definitely want to avoid the Social Security mistake of starting your benefits too soon.
- Not checking your Social Security earnings regularly
Social Security mistakes in your reported earnings do happen. Review your earnings and make sure they’re accurate. If they’re not spot-on at any time, contact Social Security to get them corrected.
- Not planning as a married couple
Look at the expected benefits for both spouses when you consider collecting Social Security. Let’s say one spouse had much higher earnings than the other. If you need some money earlier, the spouse who earned less could start collecting first. Then you could hold off on collecting for the higher-earning spouse so you’ll get those full benefits (more money) later in life.