Social Security tip: Questions and answers
Published: Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 1:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 1:12 p.m.
Q: I'm reaching my full retirement age and thinking about retiring in early 2013. When is the best time of year to apply for Social Security benefits?
A: If you are planning to retire in early 2013, you can apply now. You can apply as early as four months before you want your monthly benefits to begin. To apply, just go to www.socialsecurity.gov/applytoretire. Applying online for retirement benefits from the convenience of your home or office is secure and can take as little as 15 minutes. It's so easy.
Q: My wife and I live in Minnesota, but plan to spend the winter in Florida. My wife will turn 62 while we are down south. Can she apply for benefits in Florida, or do we have to wait until we get back home to apply for retirement at our local Social Security office?
A: These days, you don't even have to be near a Social Security office to apply for benefits. Regardless of where you and your wife are living, you can apply for retirement benefits online at www.socialsecurity.gov/applytoretire. It's so easy to do, and it can take as little as 15 minutes to complete and submit the application. If she prefers, your wife can file a retirement benefit application at any Social Security office — including the one closest to you in Minnesota, Florida, or wherever you happen to be.
Q: I am 57 years old and I currently receive Social Security disability benefits. Can I still get my regular Social Security retirement benefits when I reach full retirement age?
A: If you are still receiving Social Security disability benefits when you reach your full retirement age, we will automatically switch you from disability benefits to retirement benefits at that point. The money amount will remain the same. For more information, visit our website on disability benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.
Q: If both my spouse and I are entitled to Social Security benefits, is there any reduction in our payments because we are married?
A: No. We calculate lifetime earnings independently to determine each spouse's Social Security benefit amount. When each member of a married couple meets all other eligibility requirements to receive Social Security retirement benefits, each spouse receives a monthly benefit amount based on his or her own earnings.
Couples are not penalized simply because they are married. If one member of the couple earned low wages or failed to earn enough Social Security credits (40) to be insured for retirement benefits, he or she may be eligible to receive benefits as a spouse. Learn more about Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov.
Q: Can I get an estimate of my retirement benefit at several different possible ages?
A: Yes. We suggest you use our Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator to test different retirement scenarios. This online tool will give you retirement benefit estimates based on current law and real time access to your earnings record.
The Retirement Estimator also lets you create additional "what if" retirement scenarios. It's even available in Spanish at www.segurosocial.gov/calculador. You can test even more alternatives at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/calculators.htm.
Kay Louder is the district manager of the Social Security office in Gainesville.