Feeling Socially Insecure? 8 Tips for Securing Your Benefits

Social Security can prop you up during you retirement years, but many people feel intimidated by the program. Follow these 8 tips to get the benefits you deserve so you can lead the post-retirement life you want.


So, you made the mistake of taking your retirement benefits at 62? You can actual take a do-over that will help you earn higher monthly benefits. To take advantage of the do-over, though, you need to repay the SSA for the benefits you received. That's a tall order for most retirees. If you manage to get the money, though, you can start. That lets you receive your maximum benefits when you reach ages 66 or 70. The good news about do-overs is that you don't have to pay the SSA any interest or penalties. As long as you repay what you received, the slate gets wiped clean. What are your biggest concerns about retirement? Do you think Social Security will give you enough money to help you lead your current lifestyle? How will you work the system to get as many benefits as possible?

Talk to an Expert

It's important for retirees to recognize that they have unique circumstances that can impact their Social Security benefits. Some like Mark Weinberger, who worked on the U.S. Social Security Advisory Board, can shed light on personal strategies that maximize an individual or couple's benefits. Extra tip: If you can't afford or get an appointment with someone as experienced as Weinberger, pay close attention to what he posts online. It could help you raise pertinent issues when you meet with your own professional.

A Small Advantage to Death

The SSA rewards more money to widows and widowers than married couples. It's one of the few advantages to death. If your husband or wife passes before you, you can start collecting widow or widower benefits as early as 60. You'll get a reduced rate for taking benefits at 60, but you can also let your benefits grow for another ten years. It's probably a small condolence, but it's still yours to take.

Think Hard Before Remarrying

As long as you don't get remarried, you can benefit from your ex-spouse's Social Security after he or she dies. As long as you're at least 60 years old, you can collect on his or her benefits while you let yours grow, completely untouched. Getting remarried ruins everything, though. As long as you remain single, you get a piece of the loot. untitled

Don't Get Divorced

The kids are grown; you've lost patience with your spouse; and you're ready to make the most of your retirement years. Don't file for divorce just yet! Wait until you've been married for at least ten years. After that time period, you have a claim in your spouse's (or ex-spouse's) benefits. Extra tip: The SSA pays close attention. If you stay married for nine years, 11 months, and 28 days, you'll only get those benefits if you were married in February. A day short means you get nothing.

Do the Double Dip

The Double Dip lets you start collecting benefits early without penalizing yourself. When you start collecting benefits at retirement age, choose the benefits of the person who earned less money throughout life. The higher financial earner's benefits will continue to grow during this time. Extra tip: you can only take advantage of this if both people are of retirement age. You must let the Social Security Administration know your plans, otherwise it will automatically give you the larger benefit.

Coordinate With Your Spouse

Couples should coordinate with each other to get the most out of their social security benefits. If one person earns significantly more money than the other, then that person should apply for benefits last. A husband or wife who didn't earn much can apply for social security benefits at 62 or 65 without losing much money. If the major bread earner waits until he or she turns 70, though, you can add a significant amount of money to your monthly benefits.

Don't Take Benefits Early

You can start collecting your Social Security benefits at 62. Doing that, however, will reduce your benefits by about 25 percent. People born between 1943 and 1954 should try to wait until they turn 66. If you can do that, you'll get your full benefits. Extra tip: You could qualify for an extra 8 percent per year if you wait until you turn 70 to file. [smartads]

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