BOSTON (CBS) – Social Security benefits are not just retirement benefits. Should you become disabled, you and your dependents would be eligible for benefits. Should you die with minor children, they and your spouse will be eligible for benefits based on your employment record.

But Social Security retirement benefits are what we think of when we talk about Social Security. The full Social Security retirement age is being raised to age 67 and will be phased in over the next 16 years. And anyone born after 1960 will have to wait until age 67 to collect their full Social Security benefit.

You can also retire and receive benefits at any time between age 62 and your full retirement age. You may also start collecting at age 60 if you have been widowed.  However, if you start at an earlier age, your benefit will be permanently reduced based on the number of months you receive checks before you reach full retirement age.

Let’s use a boomer born in 1949. If she begins to collect her benefit this year at age 62, she will have her benefit permanently reduced by 25%. So if she is eligible for $1000 a month at full retirement she will only get $750 at 62.

So it does pay to work as long as you can. And recent studies have shown that workers live longer if they continue to work. And if you work until age 70 you will increase your benefits by 8% every year past your full retirement age.

Spouses have a unique opportunity to collect on their own Social Security earnings record or their spouse’s. They can collect their own benefit or one half of a spouse’s, whichever is larger. This was instituted primarily to help women who had been in low paying jobs or never worked outside their homes.

If you are divorced and were married for at least 10 years you can collect on your ex’s Social Security earnings record or your own. You cannot be married when you start collecting a benefit on an ex-spouse’s earning record. You will need your spouse’s Social Security number and proof of the marriage and divorce.

If you are confused about your benefits call and make an appointment with the closest Social Security office. Get on line or call 800-772-1213. Also check out the Social Security Estimator Calculator which is on line to help you decide when to start your benefits.


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