What You Need to Know About Your Social Security Benefits
What Happens if I Receive Social Security Retirement Benefits While Still Working?
If you’re under full retirement age (FRA) and earn more than the annual limit (subject to inflation indexing), your benefits will be reduced, as follows:
- If you’re under FRA for the entire year, you forfeit $1 in benefits for every $2 earned above the annual limit. For 2017, the limit is $16,920.
- In the year in which you reach FRA, you forfeit $1 in benefits for every $3 earned above a separate limit, but only for earnings before the month you reach FRA. The limit in 2017 is $44,880.
Beginning with the month in which you reach FRA, you can receive your benefits without regard to your earnings.
Can I Collect More Benefits if I Retire After My FRA?
You can receive increased monthly benefits by applying for Social Security after reaching FRA. The benefits may increase by as much as 32% if you wait until age 70, but of course you’ll receive benefits for fewer years. After age 70, there is no further increase. Your tax adviser can help calculate the payout for waiting to collect your retirement benefits and help you determine if you likely will be better off waiting beyond your FRA to start taking benefits.
Can I Manage Retirement Benefits for an Incapacitated Person?
If a Social Security recipient needs help managing his or her retirement benefits — perhaps an elderly parent — contact your local Social Security office. You must apply to become that person’s representative payee in order to assume responsibility for using the funds for the recipient’s benefit.
Do I Qualify for Social Security Survivors Benefits?
A spouse and children of a deceased person may be eligible for benefits based on the deceased’s earnings record as follows:
A widow or widower can receive benefits:
- At age 60 or older,
- At age 50 or older if disabled, or
- At any age if she or he takes care of a child of the deceased who is younger than age 16 or disabled.
A surviving ex-spouse might also be eligible for benefits under certain circumstances. In addition, unmarried children can receive benefits if they’re:
- Younger than age 18 (or up to age 19 if they are attending elementary or secondary school full-time), or
- Any age and were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled.
Under certain circumstances, benefits also can be paid to stepchildren, grandchildren, stepgrandchildren or adopted children. In addition, dependent parents age 62 or older who received at least one-half support from the deceased may be eligible to receive benefits.
A one-time payment of $255 may be made only to a spouse or child if he or she meets certain requirements. Survivors must apply for this payment within two years of the date of death.
Are Social Security Benefits Subject to Income Tax?
You’ll be taxed on Social Security benefits if your provisional income (PI) exceeds the thresholds within a two-tier system.
PI between $32,000 and $44,000 ($25,000 and $34,000 for single filers). Recipients in this range are taxed on the lesser of 1) one-half of their benefits or 2) 50% of the amount by which PI exceeds $32,000 ($25,000 for single filers).
PI above $44,000 ($34,000 for single filers). Recipients above this threshold are taxed on 85% of the amount by which PI exceeds $44,000 ($34,000 for single filers) plus the lesser of 1) the amount determined under the first tier or 2) $6,000 ($4,500 for single filers).
PI equals the sum of 1) your adjusted gross income, 2) your tax-exempt interest income, and 3) one-half of the Social Security benefits received.
If you have additional questions about receiving Social Security retirement benefits, contact your financial adviser. He or she can help you navigate the application process and understand tax issues related to receiving retirement benefits.