BOSTON (CBS) – Social Security is synonymous with retirement income but it is much more.
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.
The full Social Security retirement age was raised to 67 and is being phased in over the next 13 years. Born after 1960 you will have to wait until age 67 to collect your full 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 collecting at an earlier age, your benefit will be permanently reduced based on the number of months you receive checks before you reach your full retirement age.
A boomer born in 1954 can begin to collect her Social Security benefit this year at age 62. But if she does, she will have her benefit permanently reduced by 25%. So if she is eligible for $1,000 a month at full retirement she will only get $750 at age 62.
Think about working as long as you can. 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 the 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.
You can also collect on a spouse’s earning record and then switch to your own record which may give you a larger benefit.
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 though when you start collecting a benefit on an ex-spouse’s earning record.
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. www.ssa.gov Also check out the Social Security Estimator Calculator, which is on line to help you decide when to start your benefits. SS offers a great resource What Every Woman Should Know. Read it online, print it or request a copy.
One more thing: The Massachusetts State Treasurer’s Office will facilitate a Women’s Economic Empowerment Series in two pilot cities this fall, Quincy and Newton. Check with their office for more information on how to sign up.