Patrick Talcott of People's United Bank discusses optimizing your Social Security benefits.
Q. Patrick, most of our viewers are either paying into or have paid into social security. How do we make sure we take full advantage of our benefit at retirement?
A. There are multiple ways to be eligible to receive retirement benefits, but I think you need to understand how to maximize your own benefit first. A couple of things everyone should know is that while you can begin drawing benefits as early as age 62, it often makes sense to delay until full retirement age or even later. Generally every year you delay receiving a benefit up to age 70 will increase your monthly benefit by roughly 8%. This means a 30% higher monthly benefit for someone who files at full retirement age instead of age 62.
Q. How do we avoid losing benefits if we are still working?
A. If you are planning to continue to work after 62, you might consider delaying your benefits. If you are under full retirement age, $1 in benefits will be deducted for every $2 you earn above $15,120. Once you are beyond full retirement age, you can earn as much as you'd like and not worry about losing benefits.
Q. Do benefit options differ if you are married?
A. Yes. There are some attractive options for married couples that allow them to take advantage of spousal benefits while delaying their own retirement benefits. The spouse is entitled to a benefit that could be as high as 50% of the worker's benefit. This is attractive option for a spouse who might have been a stay at home parent and therefore didn't pay as much into social security as their partner.
Q. Is there anything else people should consider if they are eligible for benefits?
A. Absolutely. There are a lot of nuances with social security that make retirement benefits available to other family members. Dependent children with a disability qualify at any age. If you had a child later in life, and they are still in high school when you file for benefits, your child qualifies for benefits also. Lastly, keep in mind that you qualify for a divorced spouse's retirement benefit if you were married to that person for at least 10 years.
Q. And how do we get help to get started?
A. Well most of us no longer receive paper statements so go to www.ssa.gov to view your most recent statement or visit your local social security office if you are considering filing for benefits.