A Guide to Maximize Your Social Security Benefits

Eager to retire?

First and foremost, to become eligible for social security benefits, you must work with an employer who participates in the Social Security system under covered employment. Some government entities may elect not to participate in the Social Security system. Those employees, like school teachers, firefighters, and police officers, are often covered or are eligible for a government pension or another benefit.

You become eligible for Social Security once you have acquired sufficient work credits, generally equivalent to 10 years of employment.

Before 2022 credits were based on quarters of work; now, credits are based upon the amount of money you earn in a year. One 2022 credit equals $1,510 in earnings, and forty work credits are required to be eligible for Social Security and Medicare. You can earn a maximum of four credits in a year, and the earnings amount changes each year.

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In these short, comprehensive videos, Senior Financial Planner David Cechanowicz, guides you through the maze of Understanding Social Security so you can plan for and design your personal journey to retirement with greater confidence.

Learn how are benefits calculated, how do you get them, how do you share them, how you can cause benefits to shrink, and how you can lose part of it – or – even lose it all; What is FRA? What is your PIA or primary insurance amount? And  how multiple scenarios complicate the claiming process.

Standalone Social Security claiming analysis, like software, applications, and online tools, will frequently come up with an entirely different results than one from a program that looks at all your financial resources in retirement.

When you consider all of the items on the 17 Factors to Consider List, it should be clear there are many different aspects of claiming social security that will be unique to your personal situation.

This is the kind of question we frequently see at REDW wealth, but in some ways, it’s like asking whether a young couple should have a baby right away or wait five years. There is no one correct answer in considering all the variables that go into making the Social Security decision. There could be as many as five or six different answers ranging from claiming at age 62, claiming at full retirement age, delaying payments until age 70.

The Social Security Administration of the United States explains, the “primary insurance amount,” or PIA, is the sum of three different percentages – of portions – of average indexed monthly earnings. The amounts depend on the year a worker attains age 62, becomes disabled before age 62, or dies before reaching age 62.

For 2022 these portions are the first $1,024, the amount between $1,024 and $6,172, and the amount over $6,172. These dollar amounts are the “bend points” of the 2022 PIA formula.

Under spousal benefits, a worker’s spouse who has accumulated sufficient credits can be eligible for both retirement benefits and Medicare, providing all the other requirements are met.

Dual-income married couples have as many as eight Social Security benefits in the household. Each worker is entitled to their own benefit in addition to the potential benefits.

Enroll 90 days before you want benefits to begin. Social Security benefits may be claimed online, via a telephone call, or through a visit to a local office.

For those claiming benefits at age 62, the first month of eligibility is the month after your 62nd birthday. The online process is relatively simple, although there are frequent questions that may give you paths on how to answer. Sometimes REDW Wealth can assist you in walking through the claiming process using a screen-sharing program that lets us see your progress once you log into your account.