Don't Get Blindsided by Social Security

About 2 million people took advantage of Social Security's online benefit applications last year. People already receiving Social Security benefits can go online to let the administration know about a change of address or phone number, start or change direct deposit, get a proof of income letter or replace a lost Medicare card.

Here are 10 more facts about Social Security so you don't fumble your retirement plans.

  • Social Security benefits do not automatically start coming in the mail the first day of normal retirement age. You must apply for it. You can go to www.socialsecurity.gov, set up an appointment with the local Social Security office or call 1-800-772-1213.
  • To get an official statement of all the earnings recorded in your Social Security account, an estimate of your current disability and death benefits and an estimate of future retirement benefits, fill out Form #7004 Request for Social Security Statement, obtainable at your local office.
  • If you do not find and correct errors in your Social Security record within three years, they become part of your permanent record. Therefore, you might want to check on them every three years or so.
  • You can work during retirement, but if you earn too much it will reduce the size of the benefits you receive from age 62 up to your normal retirement age. Benefits are reduced by $1 for every $2 that you earn over a set amount. After you attain your normal retirement age, you may work as much as you want with no reduction in benefits, although they may become taxable if you earn too much.
  • You can increase the size of your retirement benefit by delaying collecting your benefits and by remaining on the job past full retirement age. This higher benefit comes from extra earnings toward your account and a credit awarded for this patience, ranging from 3 to 8 percent of your benefit depending on your date of birth.
  • For people born after 1937, normal retirement age will increase. For example, if you were born in 1940, full retirement age is 65 and 6 months; born in 1950, it is 66. Anybody born in 1960 or later will be eligible at age 67.
  • Social Security disability benefits do not continue past normal retirement age. The month before you attain normal retirement age, the disability benefits are automatically converted to retirement benefits.
  • There is a limit to the amount of benefits that can be paid on each Social Security record called the Maximum Family Benefit, generally around 150 to 180 percent of the worker's benefit. If this limit is exceeded, the family benefits are reduced.
  • Ex-spouses, widows and divorced widows may all be eligible for benefits on a spouse's record. Provided the requirements are met, they may even all be collecting on the same worker's record.
  • There are two Social Security trust funds: one is used to finance retirement and survivors benefits and the other is used to finance the disability program. Money not used to pay current benefits is invested only in U. S. Government Treasury bonds.

Gary Collier can be reached at (615) 690-1418 or [email protected].

The contents of this website are intended to convey general information only. It does not, and it is not intended to, provide legal, technical or other professional advice. A CPA, attorney, or independent financial adviser should be consulted before any action is taken.