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Q&A: Does $0 income later mean I should take Social Security early?

Changes are coming to Social Security . Here's what you need to know

Q: I retired at age 55. I also know that my Social Security earnings statement assumes that I’ll work until full retirement age. My full retirement age for Social Security is 66. If Social Security assumes I am working until 66, is it better to take it early at age 62 since there will be zero income reported starting at age 56 (six years of no income at early retirement) vs. 10 years at full retirement? – Deborah Miller

A: The "Your Social Security Statement" says at "your current earnings rate, if you continue working until ... your full retirement age, your payment will be about" $X a month; at age 70, $Y a month; and at age 62 $Z a month before Cost of Living Adjustments, according to William Reichenstein, a professor at Baylor University and head of research at Social Security Solutions.

“These benefit estimates assume you earn the same earnings each year until you begin benefits as you earned in the most recent year of recorded earnings,” he says. “For you, this is likely $0.”

If not, Reichenstein suggests going to to get a current set of benefit amounts at these three dates.  “If you were born Jan. 1, 1955, or earlier then your full retirement age (FRA) is 66,” he notes. “If you remain retired, then you will receive $0 for each year of future earnings, and your age 62 benefit would be 75% of your FRA benefit level, and your age 70 benefit would be 132% of your FRA benefit level.”

To be more precise, Reichenstein says your reduction from what’s called your Primary Insurance Amount – that is, your FRA level of benefits – will be 0.55% of your PIA for each of the first 36 months plus 0.42% for each additional month that you begin benefits before FRA. By contrast, your benefit level would be 0.66% of PIA higher for each month (8% per year) that you delay benefits beyond FRA with the maximum benefits achieved at age 70.


“The Social Security claiming strategy that would maximize your (and, if applicable, your spouse's) lifetime benefits depends on your PIA(s) and life expectancy(ies),” says Reichenstein. “This maximizing strategy has nothing to do with the fact that you are retired. The wrong decision can easily cost a couple hundred thousand dollars or more in lifetime benefits.”

And, since it appears that you are not familiar with Social Security rules, Reichenstein encourages you “to seek help before making this important decision.”

Q: I am a 64-year-old female who was diagnosed with COPD about 10 years ago. I worked until age 62 but then took my employer’s "early retirement package" because it was becoming more and more difficult to do my job. I applied for and started receiving Social Security benefits at that time. Can I now receive disability and how would I go about getting it? – Charlene Huffines, Mount Juliet, Tenn.

A: It is possible to establish a period of disability as long as.... 

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Posted 2:26 PM

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