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When Am I Able To Collect Social Security Benefits?

Question: I am still working but curious about collecting Social Security benefits, so when am I eligible to collect Social Security?

Answer: I feel like Labor Day is the perfect day to address this question.

To collect Social Security benefits you must “file a claim” with the Social Security Administration (SSA). This contact with SSA can be via phone call, or using the ssa.gov website. The SSA office at this time is not open for individuals to come into the office. If you are calling the SSA office you will find you get through quickly and the staff is very helpful.

If you are comfortable with using the computer, the website might be a useful tool for you. I would encourage you to use that contact as your primary starting point if you are able to do that. The website allows you to create a portal (mySocialSecurity) which is a secure login which will enable you access your data, and to return to this site at anytime.

Once you reach out to SSA you can learn what your actual benefits will be and when you can begin collecting those benefits.

You are eligible to begin collecting Social Security at age 62 for early retirement benefits. For people born between 1937 and the present, the full retirement age (FRA) is somewhere between 65 and 67.

How much you receive is based on your work history. As you are working throughout your life, your wages and taxes are put into the SSA System. This earnings record is then used to determine the amount you receive each month. If you begin collecting early retirement benefits, as early as age 62, you will receive less of a payment each month, but potentially more months of payments. If you wait until FRA, you will collect the full amount based on your work history. If you do not collect until sometime after FRA you will collect a higher monthly payment.

You can also continue to work and collect SSA benefits. There are earnings limits to be considered. If under FRA there is an earnings limit in 2020 of $18,240. If you are working while collecting SSA Benefits, and you earn more than $18,240, your SSA benefits will be reduced by $1 for each $2 you earn of that annual amount. In the January of the year you reach FRA the earnings limit changes to $48,600 and your SSA benefits will be reduced by $1 for each $3 you earn. Once you reach FRA you can work and collect SSA benefits with no limit on your earnings.

I advise individuals use SSA tools throughout your life to determine when it is best to begin collecting Social Security. SSA staff are very good at explaining how your numbers impact your filing for benefits decision. The website is also useful to track your numbers and how they can impact your decision on when it is best to collect SS benefits.

If you are younger than 62, you can and should keep track of your situation with SSA. Be sure to check your work history against that of SSA, to ensure your wages were collected into their system and collected in the correct amounts. SSA will send you a report entitled “Your Social Security Statement” if you request it or you can print it from the website. This report includes general information on Social Security and will include individual information on your estimated benefits, your earnings record and Social Security and Medicare taxes paid by your and your employer.

To contact SSA you can call (800) 772-1213 or in Jamestown at (877) 319-3079 or on the web.

Senior Life Matters is a community-based program sponsored by Lutheran Jamestown. For questions and concerns or to reach Janell Sluga, GCMC, call 720-9797 or e-mail at SLM@lutheran-jamestown.org.

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