Have you ever wondered if you’re making any mistakes when it comes to Social Security?
A lot of American seniors are counting on Social Security to either supplement their retirement income or even rely on it, so making mistakes when accessing these funds can end up being detrimental to their livelihood. Be it that they are made out of an oversight or that they did not know any better, there is a high chance a lot of seniors will fall prey to these specific mistakes.
In order to make sure you are getting the whole amount that you are entitled to during your golden years, with no unexpected cuts to your income, we have gathered the most common mistakes seniors make so you, too, can know how to avoid them. From accidental mistakes like not checking some of the rules to not realizing what remarrying can do to the benefits you are getting, we have explained them all in an easy-to-digest manner.
With so many ways in which you can claim them and the various dates when you can start, it’s easy to fall for them, so even if you think you have everything covered, we suggest you still look over our list. Afterward, you can even consult some books if you feel you need more explanations!
Let us know if any of these mistakes surprise you!
#1 Not Working Long Enough
In order to make sure you are getting Social Security benefits during your retirement years, you first have to qualify. A lot of people end up making the mistake of not calculating their work credits or thinking they are not as important towards their final sum. To be able to qualify for the benefits, you need to have accumulated at least 40 credits over the years.
If you have had a stable job over the years, this shouldn’t have been a problem, as you can earn a maximum of four credits each year. If you look at 2019, for each $1,360 you have earned over the course of that year, you get one credit, which would put you at about $5,440 for the four you can get for that year. There is nothing too hard to achieve if you have had a stable job over the years, even if it has been a part-time one.
The benefits, however, are calculated on an average of 35 working years when your earnings have been the highest. Thus, if you haven’t worked for less than 35 years, each of those will be averaged as $0, which can hurt your overall benefit check. Make sure you not only calculate your work credits correctly but that you have also been working for at least 35 years so you do not miss out on having a bigger sum on your check.
#2 Personal Mistake: Not Considering Your Situation
A lot of people make the mistake of trying to wait until they have reached 70 years of age to start taking their social security benefits. While it is true that the amount you will get with each check will be larger if you wait for longer, you should always make sure you take into consideration your personal situation and not just general advice. The best course of action would be to discuss this with a financial advisor.
Everyone’s life circumstances are unique, and if, due to health reasons, your life expectancy is not found to be greater than 75, much less anything bigger like over 80, it makes no sense for you to wait until you’re 70 to start getting your check. You will end up receiving more in benefits if you start taking them earlier than 70, so make sure you make your calculation accordingly.
And, regardless of when you decide to receive your benefits, make sure you are signed up for Medicare when you reach the age of 65!
#3 Taking Early Benefits Without Looking Up The Working Rules
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to keep working even during retirement or even if your situation may require you to keep having at least a part-time job. Everyone has their own unique situation, and there’s never been any shame in being a hardworking person. However, if you have started to also take your social security benefits while you are still working, you may end up making a financial mistake due to oversight.
If you continue working, then your benefits will be reduced according to your age and how much you take over the annual limit. Thus, if we look at 2019 again, the limit for younger earners (meaning the people who have not yet reached retirement age but are taking out their benefits while working) was $17,640, with the benefit reduced by $1 for every $2 earned over the limit.
Similarly, if you have reached retirement age and were still working, the benefit was reduced by $1 for every $3 over the limit, which for this category of seniors was $46,920.
If your plan is to keep on working, you should keep these limits and reductions in mind!
#4 Waiting Too Long To Claim Benefits
Every month you wait, the benefits go up, and the final amount you will receive when you finally cash it in will be bigger. However, waiting too long to get them will end up with you having less money that could have helped you in the long run. We have already discussed not taking your personal health situation into consideration, and this links to it as well.
If you claim them early, then you will end up getting more benefits overall if your health is not the greatest. Likewise, if you have income issues, there’s no need to keep on waiting as the steady influx of money from these benefits could help you settle a debt or even prevent you from taking one that could wreck your retirement years completely! Like this, you could end up saving more money in the long run and not fall into financial hardship.
Do not fall for the mistake of waiting too long; think about your circumstances carefully!
#5 Taking Out Social Security Too Early
At the other end of the spectrum is taking the benefits out too early. This is because the age everyone has in mind when it comes to claiming social security benefits is 62, which is the lowest age you can start claiming them. However, if you were born after 1959, then you will not end up taking all the benefits you could have if you started to claim them at age 62.
This is because they reduce the claims by 30% for those who start claiming at 62 if they were born after 1959. And the bad news is that this reduction is permanent: even if you reach the full retirement age, they will not go back to the full amount because you claimed them too early. If you can wait until you reach full retirement age, we recommend you do not make this mistake and wait until retirement age to start claiming benefits.
#6 Oversight Mistake: Not Paying Attention To Your Earnings Record
Remember the work credits we talked about earlier on the list? This mistake is sort of similar to that one, as it is also connected to your earnings and how much you have been getting. Even if you are years away from starting to claim your benefits, you still need to be careful about how much you earn each year and have that written down somewhere.
This is because the amount you are entitled to from your social security benefits is dependent on how much you have been earning over the years. And if there is some sort of mistake on the record or an incorrect total, you may end up not getting the correct amount you are entitled to. This can happen for a variety of reasons, from processing errors to an employer not reporting the correct amount and even due to having your name changed when getting married or divorced.
It’s good to keep a close eye on your earnings and write these down over the years so you can know how much you could earn and spot any discrepancies right away.
#7 Not Knowing What Remarrying Will Imply
Speaking of remarrying, seniors who are already divorced and have reached the age of 62 or older are entitled to receive benefits based on the benefit record of their ex-spouse. That is only if they remain unmarried. If you were counting on your ex-spouse’s benefits to supplement your income because yours has been too low or you have been a stay-at-home parent, do not make the mistake of remarrying without making some calculations.
You will end up losing the benefits you initially thought you would get because of your new marital status!
#8 Forgetting About Your Spouses’ Benefits
On the other hand, we have people who make the mistake of not filing their social security benefits together with their spouse’s records. A lot of people end up filing them only based on their earning records, but this will end up giving you a lower benefit than you could be getting if you added your spouse’s as well. This is a significant mistake, especially for those who do not have enough credits to qualify for benefits on their own records, for whatever reason that may be.
If you have been a stay-at-home parent and your spouse worked, then you only started working after your kids flew the nest. If at all, you may not have gathered the 40 work credits needed, so your benefit is going to be lower than expected. In that case, you can qualify for Social Security benefits based on your spouse’s work record, so do not lose this opportunity!
#9 Big Mistake: Relying Only on Social Security Benefits
In June 2019, the average benefit retired Americans got was about $1,471. And while it is still a significant amount of money, and some people can make it work for them, it is still not enough for some people, and it would consist of them not only adjusting their lifestyles. This is not possible for other people, so if you are alone and you plan on relying only on the benefits for the entirety of your retirement life, you may end up facing some financial hardships down the line.
While some may not have any other choice, for others, it is a very good idea to start putting aside some money whenever they can. It doesn’t mean you have to save a lot, as every dollar will count, and these little savings may help you out way more than you can ever imagine down the line!
And if you’re confident that you will not have problems with Social Security, we suggest you get ready for the upcoming tax season with these easy steps!