For the roughly 65 million people who receive Social Security benefits every month, these funds are a replacement source of income needed when individuals are retired, disabled or are supplementing after the loss of a partner.
According to the Social Security Administration, as of 2021, over $1 trillion is paid out to beneficiaries in the course of a year. The 49.6 million retired workers and their dependents who are part of the program receive $1,555 a month, on average, and the 9.5 million disabled workers and their dependents receive an average of $1,280 a month. There are also 5.9 million Americans receiving survivor benefits.
With such a large program affecting so many people, there are often questions that come up, such as how to receive benefits, age limits, setting up direct deposit and other common topics. GOBankingRates breaks down the most frequently asked questions, as noted by the SSA.
How much will I get paid in Social Security benefits?
There are a number of factors that will determine what your monthly payment might be. These include the age, ranging from 62 to 70, at which you retire (generally, the longer you wait, the more you’ll be paid), what you earned in wages over the course of your entire career history and if you have a spouse who will receive SSA benefits on their own work history.
The SSA website has a helpful calculator, located here, that allows you to enter in personal information to get an estimate of what you might be able to expect. As noted above, retirees receive an average of $1,555 a month.
Social Security: How to Find Out How Much Money You Get Each Month
Can I work and still get Social Security benefits?
The short answer is yes. However, the amount you are paid in benefits will be different depending on your age. If you have not yet reached what the government defines as “full retirement age,” which currently is 66 years old, you could have Social Security earnings reduced.
If you are 66 or under, there is an annual limit you are allowed to make without reducing Social Security payments — as of 2022, that amount is $19,560. For any amount you earn over that annual salary cap, $1 will be taken out for every $2 you make. In the year you retire, the maximum increases to $51,960, and $1 will be taken out for every $3 you make above that. The month you reach full retirement age, you will receive 100% of your Social Security benefits no matter how much you might make through employment. Note that reduced benefits aren’t gone for good — you’ll simply receive them later.
Social Security: How You Can Work and Still Receive Benefits
How will I be paid my Social Security benefits?
As with many paychecks, receiving Social Security benefits is done via direct deposit. The benefit of this method is it avoids the need for paper supplies and postage, and it gets payments into the recipient’s account much quicker.
To set it up, you can follow a few easy steps online or mail in forms to start the process. The SSA also has a help line set up for anyone needing assistance: 800-333-1795. For individuals who don’t have a bank account or credit union, there is an option for a Direct Express debit card that is automatically preloaded with new monthly benefits. It can be used like any regular debit card to pay for goods and services and to take cash out of the account.
Who qualifies for Social Security Disability Insurance?
It’s not just retirees who are eligible for Social Security. Those who are disabled and not able to work might qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance. According to the SSA, the criteria to receive these benefits include not being able to complete work activities due to a particular medical condition; having a condition will last longer than a year or could be life-threatening; and inclusion of the condition on the SSA’s list of disabling medical conditions.
Some examples include disorders of the immune system and musculoskeletal system as well as cancer, among others. There are different allowable conditions for adults and those under 18. To apply, individuals will need to provide medical documentation and might be subject to an exam. If approved, there’s a five-month waiting period to start receiving benefits. If denied, you can appeal the case.
Social Security Disability Insurance: What It Is and How It Pays
Do I have to let the SSA know when a Social Security recipient has died?
Yes, you must inform the SSA that the family member has passed away so Social Security and Medicare payments stop. The easiest way to do so is to provide the funeral director with the deceased’s Social Security number so they can report it to the correct agencies on your behalf. You can also visit your local Social Security office or simply call the main number at 800-772-1213 to speak to someone to cease payments.
SSA payments are processed at the end of the month for the prior 30-31 days. So, it’s important to note that in whatever month the deceased passes, you must return the payment for that time period. For example, if the family member passes in July, the payment received in August (which would have been for the 31 days prior) must be returned. To do so, you can work with your bank to release the funds that were directly deposited.
Keep Reading: What Happens to Social Security When You Die?
Can I receive Social Security benefits if I’m living overseas but an American citizen?
If you plan to spend part of your retirement in the south of France, you can still claim your Social Security benefits. According to the SSA, American citizens living in most foreign countries are still eligible, though not all countries are covered. The agency has a helpful Payments Abroad Screening Tool, located here, where you can check if the international location is allowable.
If you work or have worked in another country, you may be able to apply your earned work credits towards your Social Security claim. The U.S. has arrangements with 30 countries, which the SSA lists here.
Social Security: Can I Still Collect Benefits if I Live Outside the US?
How can I track my Social Security benefits or make changes?
The SSA makes it easy to view claims, statements and make changes to your profile using a convenient online tool, called the “My Social Security” account. When you set up your profile, you can securely get estimates of benefits for you or your spouse, check the status of your application, establish direct deposit and change your address, among other tasks.
Even if you aren’t receiving benefits yet, you can set up an account to plan ahead with estimates and use the portal to request a replacement Social Security identification card.
How far in advance can I apply for my benefits?
It all comes down to a matter of timing. The earliest you can start receiving benefits is at age 62. But unless you were born on the first or second day of the month, you’ll have to wait until the following month to start claiming. For example, if you were born May 1 or May 2, you can start claiming in May; if you were born May 10, you have to wait until June.
The SSA allows you to start applying for benefits up to four months in advance. So, if you were born in May, you can apply in January to start getting your funds when your birthday comes around. The quickest way to do so is with the SSA’s online retirement application, located here.
Social Security: How Far In Advance Can I Apply?
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