Social Security Danger Zones
Many of us are well aware of the choice we need to make when to start collecting SS benefits, on one hand delaying taking your benefits until a later retirement age and getting a larger monthly benefit check or taking it at full retirement age or before and getting a smaller monthly benefit check. Bottom line it depends on your personal preference, health and life expectancy. For your information, the actuaries at SS calculate the total life benefits to be about the same whether you take your benefits early or late, average life expectancy being the key element.
There are other areas of rules and facts that you should be aware of that can also play an important role in your SS decisions. For example:
You need to know that if you are not full retirement age and collect early SS benefits, the SS earnings test restricts the amount of benefits you can receive while still working. In 2018 you could only make $1,420 per month, after reaching that threshold $1 will be deducted from your benefits for every $2 you earn. If you reach full retirement age during 2018 the numbers are higher (earnings max $3,780 and $1 in benefits for every $3 you earn). Once you reach full retirement age you will receive 100% of your full benefits and there are no restrictions on how much you earn.
Spousal benefits are an important SS aspect but they are governed by different rules than retirees collecting on their own. Spouse benefits do not get any larger than the benefit amount they are entitled to at full retirement age. If you wait to retire until you are age 70 in order to collect a larger monthly check your spouse will not collect a higher benefit amount, they will receive the same monthly amount they would have received at their full retirement age. Additionally, the higher earning spouse must have claimed their benefit already, so delaying collecting your SS benefit can be a costly error.
I have written on this topic several times, not checking your SS earnings record at least annually could be very costly because errors are made and your SS benefit is based on your earnings record. According to SS intelligence a single earnings error could potentially cause you to miss out on $30,000 in lifetime benefits. (Social Security earnings record available on www.ssa.gov and create "my social security account")