When you think “Social Security,” your mind might jump to retirement benefits, but that’s only one type of Social Security benefit. There are also disability benefits, spousal benefits, and survivor benefits through the Social Security Administration. Figuring out Social Security benefits can be difficult and sometimes confusing. When do you become eligible? Which benefits are you eligible for, and how do you take advantage of the benefits you have access to? Never fear – we’ll break it down for you and make it easier to understand.
Social Security Retirement Benefits
Social Security retirement benefits are probably the best-known type of Social Security benefit out there. They’re meant to keep the retiree population out of poverty in the later years of their lives. You have to have been working for at least 40 fiscal quarters (generally about 10 years) before you begin collecting your retirement benefits. While you’re working, you’ll pay a percentage of your income into the collective Social Security fund for the entire nation, and when you start collecting your Social Security benefits, they’re coming out of that fund. It’s not like a savings account, so you won’t get out exactly what you put in. Your benefits will depend on your age and on your highest 35 years of earnings. If you retire before you turn 62, you can begin collecting Social Security retirement benefits on or anytime after your 62nd birthday, but you will receive a reduced benefit unless you wait to take advantage of your Social Security benefits until you reach “full retirement age.” Full retirement age will depend on your birth year, but it is at least 66. Even after you hit your full retirement age, you can still delay retirement until the age of 70 in order to increase your monthly Social Security benefit. It caps out when you turn 70.
If you are currently married or were at one point married for 10 years or more, you may be eligible for spousal benefits. The same age rules apply: you can begin collecting spousal benefits at 62, they cap out at age 70, etc. Here’s how it works: you can collect half the amount of your spouse’s Social Security retirement benefit, and they will still receive the full amount. For example, if your spouse’s benefit is $1,000 per month and you qualify for spousal benefits, your spouse will receive $1,000 per month and you will receive a separate check for $500. However, you can’t just pile the spousal benefit on top of your own benefit check – it’s an either/or situation. If half of your spouse’s benefit comes out to more than your own benefit, that would qualify you to take advantage of spousal benefits.
Getting through the death of a spouse can be one of the most difficult experiences a person goes through in their lifetime. Fortunately, Social Security survivor benefits exist to ease some of the financial burden. When the living spouse turns 60, they can start collecting the full Social Security benefit of their deceased spouse. However, if the living spouse is caring for a child under the age of 16, they can start collecting their deceased spouse’s benefits immediately, regardless of their age.
When a person refers to someone else as being “on disability,” they are most likely referring to that person receiving Social Security disability benefits due to a medical inability to work. The process to receive disability benefits can be long. “Disability” in this context refers to a condition that will either last over one year and render a person unable to work or result in death. There is a hearing used to determine a person’s eligibility for disability benefits, based on how disabling their condition is. If their application for disability benefits is approved, they’ll receive a set amount in benefits per month.
Contact an experienced attorney for help with Social Security benefits. Contact Steuer, Escovar, and Coleman at (216) 771-8121 for a FREE consultation today, or visit our website.