Exploring the details of Social Security and its advantages could open doors to financial support. Solstice Senior Living provides seniors with the resources needed to live carefree, independent lives. We created this guide to Social Security to help residents and their loved ones explore the origins and various benefits of Social Security and discover how to optimize their eligibility.
Social Security Defined
President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched the Social Security Administration in 1935 as part of the New Deal to offer retirement benefits amid economic recovery. It has since expanded to include survivors’ payments (1939), Social Security Disability Insurance (1956), Medicare (1965) and Supplemental Security Income (1972). Today, over 20% of Americans, including 47 million retirees, rely on Social Security.
Social Security Benefit Types
The most common type of Social Security awarded is based on work history. Funding for the program comes from payroll taxes, with contributions made by both employees and employers. There are many other types of Social Security, all containing various benefits.
- Retirement: Benefits are calculated from up to 35 years of work history; eligibility requires a minimum of 10 years or 40 credits of work history. Typically, retirement benefits amount to approximately 40% of an individual’s pre-retirement income for most people. Early benefits can be claimed from the age of 62.
- Disability Insurance: Is accessible to individuals who meet specific medical criteria and possess an adequate work history.
- Supplemental Security Income: Offers a monthly cash benefit to individuals with restricted income and assets. This assistance is extended to those who are ineligible for Disability Insurance.
- Survivors’ Benefits: These benefits are accessible to spouses, school-age children up to the age of 18 or 19, and certain parents with dependent children. The earliest age at which a surviving spouse can claim this benefit is 60, with consideration for an earnings cap on earned income.
- Spousal Benefits: Benefits designed for beneficiaries whose own benefits are less than 50% of their spouse’s benefit at full retirement age. This may occur due to differences in work history, earning less in their career or choosing to stay at home to raise children.
Maximizing Social Security Benefits
Retirement plays a significant role in financial planning, and an increasing number of experts are now accessible to guide seniors transitioning into this next stage of life. While seeking tailored advice from an accountant, financial adviser or certified Social Security consultant is ideal, here are several successful strategies employed by others in similar situations.
- Age Split for Couples: If both you and your spouse qualify for Social Security, you have the option to consider various age splits, such as 62/66, 62/70, or 66/70. In this strategy, the spouse with the lower earnings claims benefits at an earlier age, while the higher-earning partner waits to receive a larger benefit amount later.
- Restricted Benefits: If your spouse had a higher income than you, you might be eligible to claim a spouse’s insurance benefit or widow’s insurance benefit through a restricted application. This approach allows your own benefits to continue accruing while you receive additional support based on your spouse’s earnings record.
- Early Benefit for Survivors: A surviving spouse can claim widow/widower’s benefits as early as age 60, although these benefits will be reduced by approximately 71.5%, slightly more than one-third of the full benefit amount.
Signing Up for Social Security
The simplest method to estimate your Social Security payments, apply for benefits or check your application status is by creating a My Social Security account at SSA.gov. Alternatively, you can submit applications over the phone by dialing (800) 772-1213. If you prefer in-person assistance, locate your nearest SSA office at https://www.ssa.gov/locator/.
If you’re a current or prospective resident or a family member of a resident interested in learning more about Social Security benefits and how they can assist with senior living costs, please reach out to your Solstice community for additional details.