When there is a conversation on Social Security, it typically revolves around politics. Nobody talks about the current benefits we have from Social Security as US Citizens. At the very least, I have not stumbled into a conversation where I could learn some thing useful.
My objective in this post is to help you understand the benefits you have as it stand today and point you to some useful SSA resources.
Here is my shot at a one line description of social security benefits – you work, you pay your social security taxes, you earn social security credits, these add up over the years, and you earn the right to your social security benefits.
Social Security Benefits
The United States Social Security Administration currently provides three major benefits:
- Survivor’s Benefit
Before I go digging deeper, I want to ensure that I cover one of the most important things you ought to do for yourselves.
my Social Security Account
If you are a lawful permanent resident or US citizen, do you have an online account at Social Security Administration site? If you don’t, I would recommend that you register and set up your online account access.
There are two reasons to do it: (there are probably more)
- To ensure that you own your account and someone else has not signed up with Social Security with your SSN. In this day and age, there is so much identity theft. One of the things you ought to do is sign up and ensure that your identify is not stolen and that you have access to your account.
- To review your estimated benefits, your earnings statement that shows how much you have paid in social security taxes, medicare taxes etc. The information available will show if you have earned enough credits for Medicare when you reach age 65.
It took me about five minutes to sign up and register online for my account.
You can sign up for it at the United States Social Security Administration site.
Now let us review the benefits.
If you have earned enough credits, you earn the right to retirement income via social security. How much your retirement benefit is dependent on how much you have paid into it and when you choose to retire.
You can learn how Social Security Credits works here.
The easiest way to determine your estimated retirement income is to sign up and login to your “my Social Security” account at the United States Social Security Administration site.
You get 100% of your benefit when you retire at full retirement age. The full retirement age is determined by social security based on when you were born.
You can check how your retirement benefits would be impacted if you choose to retire and collect social security retirement income sooner than your full retirement age.
Resource: SSA Retirement Benefits
Social Security does offer disability benefits if you qualify for it. In the private insurance world, this would be similar to a long term disability insurance.
In order to qualify, you must have earned enough credits, and you must have a medical condition that meets the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability.
Your spouse, children, divorced spouse, children disabled before age 22, may also qualify for disability benefits.
These benefits continue until you are able to return to work. If your disability continues to retirement, then your disability is converted to retirement income at retirement age.
Once again, you could login to “my Social Security” account online to see the estimated disability income.
Resources: SSA Disability Benefits
The SSA offers survivor’s benefit. If you are wondering what it is, it is similar to what the private insurance industry offers as life insurance.
However, you probably will never hear any of your financial advisors or insurance agents talk to you about Survivor’s benefit. They would be busy trying to sell an life insurance policy to you.
Your widow or widower may be able to receive full Survivor’s benefits at their full retirement age.
Your unmarried children under 18 can be eligible to receive Social Security benefits when you die. Your child may receive benefits at any age if they were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled.
Once again, you could login to my Social Security account online to see the estimated Survivor’s benefit for your spouse and children and also the maximum family limit.
Resources: SSA Survivor’s Benefits
Honestly, I have just touched the surface of the SSA benefits. You need to do your own research. My intent was to give you a high level overview and provide you some pointers to probe further.
If there is one take away, it is to sign up for “my Social Security” account for your own protection and also to know your estimated benefits.
Have you signed up for your my Social Security account online? Did you find this post useful? If you did, please share it in social media.