When do you want your Social Security retirement benefit to start?
Whether completing your application online or with an SSA representative, your decision is part of the retirement application. You are asked if you want to start benefits as soon as possible, with a particular month, or at full retirement age (FRA).
Starting prior to your FRA reduces your benefit, starting after FRA increases your benefit. There is no overall "best time" to start SSA retirement. Based on individual and family circumstances, this is your decision. My purpose today is to expand your consideration of options.
Over the years, many people have said to me that they do not want to start benefits before full retirement age but, if asked why, say they do not know or "just because."
Here is information to help you make an informed decision.
When computing your retirement amount, the SSA calculation is based on the number of months prior to, or after, full retirement age that you start benefits. Your FRA and estimated FRA benefit amount is provided annually on the SSA statement received before your birthday if you are age 25 or older, paying Social Security taxes and not yet receiving monthly benefits. You can also easily obtain this information online with the SSA Retirement Estimator at (www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator), one of the many planning tools in the Retirement section of (www.socialsecurity.gov).
With your estimated full retirement age amount, you can learn the percentage of reduction or increase for any given month by using another of the online SSA retirement planning tools.
Starting at the Retirement section, go to Benefit Calculators and then to "More charts & calculators." From there go to "Compute the effects of early or delayed retirement" or use the direct link to it at (www.socialsecurity. gov/OACT/quickcalc/early_late. html#calculator). Enter the specific month desired. The reply provides a percentage of your FRA amount (termed primary insurance amount in the reply) applicable for that month.
Compare estimates for several consecutive months and note that the change is small from one consecutive month to another. Getting online estimates for different months can help you decide when to start your SSA retirement.
For example, are you retiring from employment a few months prior to your FRA? Do you have a spouse or children eligible on your record? You might decide to start benefits early. Are you working full time? The annual earnings limit ends once you reach FRA. You might decide to wait.
My point is that full retirement age is just a month. Make your decision based on what is best for you. 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.
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.
If receiving benefits, other services are available 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. and 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. and 4 p.m.
Howard I. Kossover is a public affairs specialist for the Social Security Administration. He works with organizations, government agencies and businesses. Questions of general interest can be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.