Personal Finance: How Does Social Security Work? – as part of the expert series by GeoBeats.
Social Security has a lot of different options with it, for those people that have worked all of their career and have contributed consistently to Social Security, it is very simple. It is based on how many years that you have worked and how much you contributed and actually the Social Security administration is very good at communicating where things stand. A big concern for many people that are young, is what is Congress going to do with Social Security, but Social Security itself, is very good at communicating and administrating the benefits.
So, before I go into some of the details, let me just say that you can go to the Social Security website and there are loads of information and if someone is nearing retirement or even years away, it also projects what their retirement benefits are going to be. You can also go to your local Social Security office, you can call them, they are very helpful on the phone, they also offer seminars. So, the Social Security administration is usually fairly good to work with.
The thing to look at is you have to work at least 10 years, or they call it 40 quarters, and have made a good sum of money in order to be eligible but the longer you work and pay into Social Security, you know I think their rule of thumb is 35 years, the higher your benefits are going to be. However, someone with lower income is going to get a better, a larger, percentage of return on their Social Security amount that they put in versus somebody at the higher end because it is trying to supplement people’s other sources of income.
The key thing to look at is what is your full retirement age and for most people, it is now greater than 65. And the maximum benefit or the best benefit that they offer is at the full retirement age. However, you can retire as early as 62, but you are going to get benefits that are a little lower than the full retirement age. However, even though the full benefit is at full retirement age, if you wait till your are 70 or wait til after you are full retirement age, you can actually increase the monthly benefit that you are going to receive. If you have other income, the Social Security taxes or the Social Security income may be taxable so that is someone people need to keep in mind.
Spouses can get benefits, even if they did not work or if their spouse dies. The Spouse had higher benefits, the spouse can get those benefits. You can also get Social Security for disability. The key thing to keep in mind, though, is if you worked for, like the State or the Government, and you did not pay into Social Security for your entire career, that may reduce the amount of Social Security that you get. So that is where it starts to get a little bit complex. So and especially if you are looking to possibly get spousal benefits, those can go away as well.
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