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Maximize Your Social Security Retirement Benefits

Updated on March 21, 2013

Social Security Questions

There are a lot of decisions to make, both psychologically and financially, when you are planning for retirement. One of the primary decisions you'll need to make is when to start collecting your Social Security retirement benefits.

A number of Social Security questions you'll need to contemplate include:

What's the best age to start receiving retirement benefits?

When should your wife or husband apply for Social Security?

Will you receive your spouse's benefits if he/she dies before you?

Should you apply for benefits based on your earnings or your spouses earnings?

Is it possible to collect on your ex-spouse's income?

If your mind wasn't spinning before, it is now! Below are some tips and ideas to help you get the most out of your Social Security:

Boost Your Social Security Earnings:

Your retirement benefit will be based upon your top 35 years of income and so you'll want to get as many "high earning" years in as you are able to. For this reason, staying at work for even one year more at a significant earning position could create a big difference with your retirement income.

Postpone Taking Your Social Security Benefits:

You are penalized for each month you collect your Social Security retirement benefit before you reach your full retirement age, with the highest possible penalty being 25% in instances where you begin collecting benefits at age 62. Despite the fact that beginning your benefits earlier may be attractive, those people who are patient can increase their Social Security income by as much as 30% (including COLA adjustments) just by holding out until full retirement age.

Social Security Comic Book???

social security first job
social security first job

Did you know that Social Security used to publish a comic book?

During the 1950s and 1960s, the SSA published a series of comic books on Social Security-related topics in an effort to reach America’s youth, who in those days used comic books as their hottest medium of communication.

You can learn more about this comic from 1956 by visiting the Social Security history page.

Work Part-Time While in Retirement:

While you're limited in how much you are allowed to get paid when you're under full retirement age and receiving Social Security, as you achieve full retirement age you can get paid as much income as you choose without your retirement benefits being reduced. Another idea could be to take a part-time job when you finally retire and postpone receiving Social Security benefits.

Apply for Benefits Based upon Your Spouse's Income:

When you're married, it is possible to withdraw Social Security retirement benefits based on your income, or you could collect half of your spouse's benefit, whichever is bigger. If you and your spouse are not the same age, you may want to do some planning to guarantee you maximize your benefits, however this may possibly be a strategy to take into consideration if one spouse makes a lot more than the other, or perhaps if one spouse has been out of the work force for several years.

Take advantage of Your Ex Spouse's Benefits:

The spousal benefit is true for ex-spouses too. If you were married to your ex-spouse for at least 10 years, and you aren't presently married to somebody else, you are able to collect up to 50% of your ex spouse's benefits. It's not necessary to communicate with your ex-spouse to apply for your benefits; actually they will probably never know unless you advise them, also it won't influence their own benefits in the slightest.

social security 75 years old
social security 75 years old

75 Years of Social Security

This month it will be 75 years since Social Security was signed into law...


Anita Creamer

Aug. 9, 2010 (McClatchy-Tribune Regional News delivered by Newstex) -- Evelyn Sekula's widowed grandmother struggled to survive during the Depression. Like millions of other elderly people, she had no pension and no savings.

"She had no income at all except for what my father gave her," said Sekula, 90, who lives at the Atria El Camino Gardens senior residence in Carmichael. "She was always looking for a way to make money. My father probably gave her $10 a month."

Today's older adults were children and teenagers when President Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the face of aging on Aug. 14, 1935, when he signed the Social Security Act into law.

They remember the difficult years when old age took place in a bleak, Dickensian landscape of need dotted with poor houses for those whose families couldn't support them. And they remember the difference that Social Security made in ordinary people's lives.

They also remember their parents' fears that Social Security amounted to socialism. Yet on the edge of the program's 75th anniversary, most of them can't imagine retirement without the small cushion of funds and dignity that Social Security provides.

As California Budget Project executive director Jean Ross says, Social Security lifted the elderly out of poverty -- and as the most important source of income for most older Americans, it continues to do so.

Continue reading "Social Security Nears 75th Anniversary"...

Want to learn more about Social Security? - Check out these great resources or use the search box to find your own!

Please feel free to post any comments or questions here.

Questions & Comments

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    • EbizTaxTips LM profile imageAUTHOR

      EbizTaxTips LM 

      5 years ago

      @ChristyZ: Thanks!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great information, I've never heard about the ex-spouse benefits rule, wow!


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