Dear Rusty: How can I maximize my monthly Social Security benefit? I’m already 70 years old – almost 71 now. Signed: Ready to Apply.
Dear Ready to Apply: You’ve already maximized your monthly Social Security benefit by waiting until age 70 to apply. Age 70 is when you stop earning delayed retirement credits, which have boosted your monthly benefit amount by 32 percent over what you would have received at your full retirement age of 66, and by 76 percent over what you would have received if you had claimed benefits early at age 62. Your maximum Social Security benefit is reached in the month you turn 70 years of age, so you shouldn’t delay any longer. Since you’re now actually more than 70 (almost 71), you should immediately claim your Social Security benefit and you should also ask for six months of retroactive benefits, which SS will give you in a lump-sum. You can claim your benefits by contacting the Social Security office (find your local office at www.ssa.gov/locator) and making an appointment to apply for benefits, or you can apply online at www.ssa.gov. To apply online, you’ll have to first set up your personal “My Social Security” online account at www.ssa.gov, and then complete and submit your application online. You should specify your “benefit start month” as six months before the date you apply to get the retroactive benefits.
If you are married, since you have not yet applied for benefits your wife is not yet receiving spousal benefits from your record. Assuming she has reached her full retirement age, her spousal benefit will be half of the benefit you were eligible to receive at your full retirement age, if that amount is more than she is entitled to on her own lifetime work record. If your wife was born on or before January 1st, 1954 she should contact your local Social Security office to file for her spousal benefit. If your wife was born January 2nd, 1954 or later, her spousal benefit should be automatically added to her own benefit when you claim, and she should not need to contact Social Security to apply. I encourage you both to claim these benefits as soon as possible, because each month you delay you are losing benefits which you are entitled to. This is true even if one or both of you are still working, because there is no penalty for working after you have reached full retirement age. And even if you’re still working and paying FICA taxes monthly, your benefit will not increase just because you are still paying into Social Security.
The information presented in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The opinions and interpretations expressed in this article are the viewpoints of the Association of Mature American Citizens Foundation’s Social Security Advisory staff. To submit a question, contact the Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.