YOUR GUIDE TO RETIREMENT BENEFITS

SOCIAL SECURITY       

Franklin D. Roosevelt

In 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act. It was created out of necessity as the United States was coming out of the Great Depression and numerous aging Americans were struggling. Financing would come from workers and employers and be distributed to retirees. After years of paying into Social Security, it is approaching the time that the largest generation ever will start reaping their benefits. 1

John F. Kennedy

“A Nation’s strength lies in the well-being of its people. The Social Security program plays an important part in providing for families, children and older persons in time of stress, but it cannot remain static. Changes in our population, in our working habits, and in our standard of living require constant revision.”

How Social Security Works

  • When you receive a paycheck from your employer, you pay into Social Security
  • 6.2% of your salary is paid by you and 6.2% is paid by your employer 2
  • 40 credits are needed to be eligible to receive benefits 3
  • 1 credit for every $1,300 made annually 3
  • Maximum 4 credits per year 3
  • Highest 35 years of earnings are used to determine your Social Security benefit 4
  • If you work less than 35 years, the missing years are counted as zero 5
  • 2017 average Social Security benefit is $1,360 6
  • Maximum benefit for 2017 is $2,687 6
  • Maximum taxable income is $127,200 6

The Evolution of Social Security’s Taxable Maximum

YEAR AMOUNT
1986 42,000
1987 43,800
1988 45,000
1989 48,000
1990 51,300
1991 53,400
1992 55,500
1993 57,600
1994 60,600
1995 61,200
1996 62,700
1997 65,400
1998 68,400
1999 72,600
2000 76,200
2001 80,400
YEAR AMOUNT
2002 84,900
2003 87,000
2004 87,900
2005 90,000
2006 94,200
2007 97,500
2008 102,000
2009 106,800
2010 106,800
2011 110,100
2012 110,100
2013 113,700
2014 117,000
2015 118,500
2016 118,500
2017 127,200

Determining Your Primary Insurance Amount

In 2011, the Social Security Administration (SSA) stopped sending paper statements to Americans, which saved an estimated $70 million. In 2012, the SSA resumed sending statements to those age 60 and over. However, it can still be challenging to determine the amount you will receive when you begin taking payments.

You can find this information by either calling the SSA or visiting its website (www.ssa.gov). You may also work with a financial services professional to help you get the answers you need to make an informed decision.

Discount or Premium of Primary Insurance Amount 7

Apply at Age Benefit is X Percent of PIA Example if PIA is $1000
62 75.0% $750
63 80.0% $800
64 86.7% $867
65 93.3% $933
66 100.0% $1,000
67 108.0% $1,080
68 116.0% $1,160
69 124.0% $1,240
70 132.0% $1,320

This chart is for illustrative purposes only.
Assuming FRA is age 66

When Can You Start Receiving Your Social Security Benefit? 8

You may begin to receive early benefits from Social Security at age 62. If you start before your Full Retirement Age (FRA); however, your benefit will be reduced. At age 62, your benefit will only be 75 percent of your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA). Depending on your lifespan, this can drastically reduce the amount of Social Security you receive over your lifetime.

Each year you delay receiving your Social Security benefit, your payment will increase. Once you reach your FRA, you can begin receiving your unreduced, full PIA. You can continue to delay receiving benefits until age 70. Your benefit will increase by 8 percent each year, from your FRA until a max at age 70. By delaying payments from FRA to age 70, you can receive a 32 percent increase in benefits.

What is Your Full Retirement Age? 9

Year of Birth Full Retirement Age
1937 or earlier 65
1938 65 and 2 months
1939 65 and 4 months
1940 65 and 6 months
1941 65 and 8 months
1942 65 and 10 months
1943-1954 66
1955 66 and 2 months
1956 66 and 4 months
1957 66 and 6 months
1958 66 and 8 months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 and after 67

When Should I Apply for Social Security?

One of the most challenging questions to answer is when to start receiving your Social Security benefit. There are pros and cons to delaying your benefit as well as to receiving it as soon as you become eligible.

Two primary factors may help you make your decision. First, do you need the money? If you need the income to cover expenses in retirement, your decision is made. If you do not need the money, it might make sense to delay receiving your benefit and let your future payments continue to increase. The second factor is your health and life expectancy. Individuals in poor health may want to begin receiving their benefits earlier rather than later. If you are in good health and have a history of longevity in your family, it may behoove you to wait. No matter what you decide, there is an element of risk in your decision because your finances and health can change throughout retirement.

There are calculators to help you determine your available benefit at various ages. By determining your break even age and your projected life expectancy, you can make an informed decision about when to apply for your Social Security benefit.

Break-Even Analysis | Cumulative Balance

This illustration represents a hypothetical situation and is for informational purposes only

Can My Social Security Benefit Increase?

Each October, the SSA announces the amount in which monthly benefits will increase. Cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) are applied to individuals who are already receiving benefits and to those who have not filed yet. COLA is based off the Consumer Price Index from the third quarter of one year to the third quarter of the next. There is no guarantee of COLA annually, which can make it more challenging to plan your retirement income. As illustrated in the above table, there was no COLA increase in 2010, 2011 and 2016.

Cost-Of-Living % Adjustments

Year COLA %
1980 14.3
1981 11.2
1982 7.4
1983 3.5
1984 3.5
1985 3.1
1986 1.3
1987 4.2
1988 4.0
1989 4.7
1990 5.4
1991 3.7
1992 3.0
1993 2.6
1994 2.8
1995 2.6
1996 2.9
1997 2.1
1998 1.3
1999 2.5
2000 3.5
2001 2.6
2002 1.4
2003 2.1
2004 2.7
2005 4.1
2006 3.3
2007 2.3
2008 5.8
2009 0.0
2010 0.0
2011 3.6
2012 1.7
2013 1.5
2014 1.7
2015 0.0
2016 0.0
2017 0.3
  • How long is this reduction applied to your monthly benefit?
    Answer: FOR LIFE 18
  • What percentage of retirees claim Social Security benefits at age 62?
    Answer: 43% of men and 48% of women 19
  • What percentage of retirees receive reduced Social Security benefits?
    Answer: 72% 20
  • What percentage of Americans age 65 and older receive Social Security benefits?
    Answer: 90% 16
  • Social Security represents what percentage of income for elderly Americans?
    Answer: 34% 16
  • Claiming Social Security benefits at the wrong time can reduce your monthly benefit by how much?
    Answer: 30% 17

How Spousal Benefits Work 10

If you are a married individual who had little to no earnings throughout your working years, Social Security can be received through spousal benefits. Once your working spouse files and collects his or her benefit, you can also file and start receiving half of your working spouse’s benefit. As the non-working spouse, you may file for benefits before FRA; however, you will receive a reduced spousal benefit.

Divorced or Widowed 11

If you were married for at least 10 years, have not remarried, and the benefit you would receive on your own work record is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s, you can receive spousal benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work history. Again, you may apply as early as age 62, but you will have a reduced payment. If you have been divorced for over two years, your ex-spouse does not need to apply for benefits in order for you to receive yours. You will need to produce information to verify you were married and for the SSA to locate appropriate records. With that information, they will be able to calculate your benefits.

If you are widowed, you may receive survivor benefits. You can apply as early as age 60, but if you apply before your FRA, you will receive reduced benefits. If you are over your FRA, your benefit will equal 100 percent of your deceased spouse’s benefit. Important: Your survivor benefit will be 100 percent of your deceased spouse’s actual benefit. If your deceased spouse took benefits early, it will be 100 percent of the reduced amount received. If benefits were delayed to age 70, it will be 100 percent of his or her maximum amount. If you were both receiving Social Security at the time of a passing, you will receive either 100 percent of your spouse’s

benefit or continue receiving your benefit, whichever is greater. Lastly, if you remarry, your survivor benefit will stop unless you are age 60 or over when you remarry.

Working in Retirement 12

Because of the recent economy, more people are choosing to work in retirement. Between age 62 and your FRA, you may have some of your Social Security benefit withheld if you earn too much income. If you are receiving your benefit and earning over $15,720 during your Low Threshold years (age 62 to your FRA), your benefit will be reduced. One dollar of your Social Security benefit will be withheld for every $2 you make over the threshold. During your High Threshold year (the year you reach your FRA), there is another threshold income amount that is triggered. In the months leading up to your FRA, your benefit is reduced by $1 for every $3 you earn over $41,880.

Because of the recent economy, more people are choosing to work in retirement. Between age 62 and your FRA, you may have some of your Social Security benefit withheld if you earn too much income. If you are receiving your benefit and earning over $15,720 during your Low Threshold years (age 62 to your FRA), your benefit will be reduced. One dollar of your Social Security benefit will be withheld for every $2 you make over the threshold. During your High Threshold year (the year you reach your FRA), there is another threshold income amount that is triggered. In the months leading up to your FRA, your benefit is reduced by $1 for every $3 you earn over $41,880.

Taxation of Social Security Benefits 13

Depending on how much income you earn in retirement, your Social Security benefit may be taxable. Income that counts toward your limits include: pensions, dividends and interest, and even tax-free interest from municipal bonds. To determine your threshold income, take your modified adjusted gross income and add half of your combined Social Security benefits plus your tax exempt income.


The chart to the right illustrates how much of your Social Security will be taxed.

There are only two ways to reduce the amount of tax you pay on your Social Security. One, reduce the amount of other income you are receiving. Two, change the type of investments you have that are paying dividends and interest. There is a planning opportunity that will allow you to receive a portion of your already taxed money and minimal interest. This option can help you continue receiving the income you need and potentially reduce the amount of money that counts toward your threshold income.

Social Security Reform 14

Because of the current debt situation in the United States, many pre- and post-retirees have become concerned about their Social Security benefits. Current projections suggest that, in 2037, only a portion of promised benefits will be able to be paid. The government has proposed many options for reform, including raising the retirement age, raising taxes and revising benefits. Any revision will likely be phased in over a period of time thus minimally affecting the baby boomer generation.

Social Security Tax 15

  • Social Security Exempt
  • 50% of Social Security benefits are taxable
  • 85% of Social Security benefits are taxable

Retired Married Couple 15

  • Total income less than $32,000
  • Total income between $32,000 - $44,000
  • Total income exceeding $44,000

Retired Single Worker 15

  • Total income less than $25,000
  • Total income between $25,000 - $34,000
  • Total income exceeding $34,000

1935

Social Security is enacted 21

1940

Ida Mae Fuller is issued the first monthly benefit from Social Security. Her check is for $22.54. 22

1950

President Truman signs the 1950 Social Security Amendments, adding the first COLA so benefits can keep pace with inflation 23

1961

The Social Security Amendments of 1961 are signed by President Kennedy, permitting all workers to elect early retirement at age 62 24

1972

Automatic cost of living adjustments are enacted. 21

1983

President Reagan signed into law the Social Security Amendments of 1983 25

1995

The Social Security Administration becomes an independent agency 26

2000

President Clinton signs into law a bill eliminating the retirement earnings test (RET) for persons at or above the full retirement age (FRA) 27

2012

The Social Security Statement became available online via SSA’s website by visiting: www.ssa.gov/mystatement 28

2015

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 eliminated some advanced filing strategies 29


[Company name] is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any government agency. The content of the brochure is for informational purposes only and should not be used to make any financial decisions.

Exclusive rights to this material belongs to GPS. Unauthorized use of the material is prohibited.

GIB-824658 2016-12-20