Social Security

Social Security benefits are complicated! As a thrifty senior, you must know what your benefits will be if you are not already receiving your benefits.  It is your responsibility to learn your benefits and how to maximize them.  The Social Security will give you answers if you ask, but they will not tell you how to maximize your Social Security.  Many an individual has started taking benefits at age 62 since it seemed like a good idea at the time only to realize later that it was a bad decision because your benefits are and will always be 20% lower than waiting until your full retirement age.  Once you do it, there is no "do over" to revoke the decision and take higher benefits at a later date.

The best place to find the amount of your SS benefit at retirement is on your my Social Security account or on your Social Security Statement.  Your statement is mailed to you according to these SS rules:

In September 2014, we began mailing Social Security Statements (Statements) to workers attaining ages 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60 and over, who aren’t receiving Social Security benefits and do not yet have a my Social Security account. We mail the Statements three months prior to your birthday. We issue Statements by mail in English (or in Spanish if you live in Puerto Rico). If you receive your Statement in English and would like to receive it in Spanish, or vice versa, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or visit your local Social Security office.

Here is a picture of the first page of a sample Statement.

Social Security Statement Page 1

If you have contributed to the SS program and earned 40 credits, you can start drawing benefits at age 62.  However, your benefits will be reduced 20% below full retirement benefits.

If you were born in 1938 or later, you have to work to age 66 or 67 to get full retirement benefits depending on the year of birth.

Here is the table to calculate when you will be able to receive full retirement benefits:

Year of Birth* Full Retirement Age
1937 or earlier 65
1938 65 and 2 months
1939 65 and 4 months
1940 65 and 6 months
1941 65 and 8 months
1942 65 and 10 months
1943 - 1954 66
1955 66 and 2 months
1956 66 and 4 months
1957 66 and 6 months
1958 66 and 8 months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 or later 67
*Refer to the previous year if you were born on January 1.

Your monthly payment amount is on Page 2 of the Statement.

Social Security Statement Page 2

If you cannot find your statement or do not have a my Social Security account, don't worry, SS provides several calculators at Benefit Calculators to help you estimate your benefits. Be sure to look at the links in the top right of the page for all the available calculators, estimators, or planners.

Your Social Security statement does not tell you the various benefit combinations that are available in the SS program.  Read more about how to maximize Social Security benefits.

I recommend that you spend some time reading and learning about the various benefits that are available.  My wife and I almost lost $33,552 in benefits because we did not do our homework.

Read our story at Maximize Social Security.