As inflation has pushed the cost of living higher, those eligible for Social Security retirement benefits may be tempted to claim benefits sooner than they had planned.
Social Security beneficiaries stand to get a record 8.7% cost-of-living adjustment in 2023 that will help them contend with higher costs.
But that COLA adjustment alone is not reason to step forward now. Your benefits will still be adjusted for that increase, whether you claim now or later, experts say.
But you should consider the amount of benefits you may receive based on your age. For most people approaching retirement now, age 67 is when they will receive their full benefits based on their earnings history. And if they delay up to age 70, their monthly checks will be even bigger.
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There are other factors to weigh based on your personal situation, particularly if you have a spouse or children who may also benefit from your claiming decision.
Yet many people who are at or near the age when they face that choice may need to brush up on the program’s many rules before they start those monthly checks.
“There are definite rules, definite deadlines and definite dates that need to be met,” said David Freitag, a financial planning consultant and Social Security expert at MassMutual. “Or you could discover after the fact that that oversight was very costly if you’re not careful.”
MassMutual recently gave a true-or-false quiz of 13 questions to 1,500 people ages 55 through 65.
The result wasn’t encouraging: 65% of people either failed or got a D grade. Only 18% of respondents earned a C, while 12% got a B and 6% earned an A. Just 1% of respondents got a perfect score.
To take the quiz, answer whether each of the following statements is true or false. Then check your responses against the key below.
If you find you need to brush up on Social Security’s rules, the agency’s website is a great place to start, Freitag said. MassMutual also has additional information to help you sort through your options.
True or False?
- In most cases, if I take benefits before my full retirement age, they will be reduced for early filing.
- If I am receiving benefits before my full retirement age and continue to work, my benefits might be reduced based on how much I make.
- If I have a spouse, he or she can receive benefits from my record even if he or she has no individual earnings history.
- If I have a spouse and he or she passes away, I will receive both my full benefit and my deceased spouse’s full benefit.
- Generally, if I am in a same-sex marriage, there are different eligibility requirements when it comes to Social Security retirement benefits.
- The money that comes out of my paycheck for Social Security goes into a specific account for me and remains there, earning interest, until I begin to receive Social Security benefits.
- Under current law, Social Security benefits could be reduced by 20% or more for everyone by 2035.
- If I file for retirement benefits and have dependent children aged 18 or younger, they also may qualify for Social Security benefits.
- If I get divorced, I might be able to collect Social Security benefits based on my ex-spouse’s Social Security earnings history.
- Under current Social Security law, full retirement age is 65 no matter when you were born.
- If I delay taking Social Security benefits past the age of 70, I will continue to get delayed retirement credit increases each year I wait.
- Social Security retirement benefits are subject to income tax just like withdrawals from a traditional individual retirement account.
- I must be a U.S. citizen to collect Social Security retirement benefits.
- True (89% of respondents answered this correctly)
- True (82%)
- True (72%)
- False (68%)
- False (65%)
- False (62%)
- True (60%)
- True (58%)
- True (57%)
- False (56%)
- False (49%)
- False (42%)
- False (24%)