A question often heard at Social Security is "What is the best age to start my SSA retirement?"
The answer is that there is no one "best age" for ev-eryone. Ultimately, what works best for you is your choice based on your individual and family circum- stances. Consider your current cash needs, health and family longevity, post-retirement work plans, other retirement income, anticipated financial needs, plans of your spouse or partner and, of course, the amount of your Social Security benefit.
For you, is it better to begin receiving SSA retirement earlier with a smaller monthly amount or wait for a larger monthly payment later that you may not receive as long? SSA retirement benefits can start as early as age 62 but, although uncommon, you can wait to age 70. Benefits delayed past your full retirement age increase up to age 70. The online SSA retirement planner has tools to help estimate benefit amounts at different ages. Find them at (www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2).
Retirement may be longer than you think so plan for the long term. Averages include a wide range of life spans. You could live much longer than "average," and, generally, women tend to live longer than men. About one out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past age 90, and one out of 10 will live past age 95. Social Security benefits last as long as you live. Will your other retirement income do so?
Your decision could affect your family.
Do you have children eligible to receive SSA benefits on your record? You might if they are under age 18, to age 19 if a full- time student in high school, or if they have a severe disability that began before age 22. For them to receive, you must be getting benefits too.
When you start retirement will your spouse be eligible based on your work record or just on his or her own? Know that SSA life and survivor benefits are computed differently. If you die first, your spouse may be eligible for survivor benefits on your record, particularly if you had higher lifetime earnings, with the survivor amount partially based on your age when starting retirement.
Keep on working
You can keep working while receiving SSA retirement. When younger than your full retirement age, some of your benefits during the year will be withheld if your earnings (gross wages or net self-employment) exceed certain dollar amounts.
Once at full retirement age, these earnings do not impact your ongoing SSA. Additional earnings also have the potential of increasing your monthly benefit.
Estimate your Social Security retirement benefit amounts and find more information to help with your planning at (www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2).
When you are ready to apply for retirement, you can do so online at (www.socialsecurity.gov/ applyonline).
You can contact the Social Security Administration in several ways. Visit the SSA Web site at (www.socialsecurity.gov) for information, retirement planning tools and the online retirement application.
There you can also request services including verification of your existing benefit amount at "What you can do online." Call the SSA national toll-free number 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778) between the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for information about your benefits or to make an appointment.
To reach the Minot office directly, call 852-0604 between the hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Howard I. Kossover is a public affairs specialist for the Social Security Administration.