10 Important questions about social security answered
10 Important questions about social security answered

10 Important questions about social security answered

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Though Social Security was never intended to fully fund retirement for Americans, for about half of older adults still make up more than 50% of their income. That is why it is so important to have an understanding of how social security works.

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While certain details about social security can be complicated, there are some basic principles that you should understand to ensure that you maximize your potential benefits. Here are the answers to 10 of the most frequently asked questions regarding social security.

NoDerog / Getty Images / iStockphoto

NoDerog / Getty Images / iStockphoto

What is the average social security benefit?

While social security provides important retirement benefits to many Americans, do not expect it to fund all or even most of your needs as you grow older. For 2022, the average monthly social security pension benefit is only $ 1,657, or $ 19,884 per year. That equates to less than $ 10 / hour for an entire 2,000-hour work year. Although some with extremely low cost of living may be able to survive on it, for most Americans it would be nearly impossible. Knowing this early in life can get more Americans to start their own retirement savings programs to supplement their expected social security earnings.

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mphillips007 / Getty Images / iStockphoto

mphillips007 / Getty Images / iStockphoto

What is the maximum social security benefit?

Even the maximum social security benefit is unlikely to provide many Americans with a comfortable retirement alone. For 2022, this maximum benefit amount is $ 4,194 or $ 50,328. While this is a considerable amount, it requires an extremely high level of earnings throughout your working career to qualify, which means it would translate into a significant pay cut when you retire if used alone. You must also wait until the age of 70 to claim social security to be eligible for the maximum benefit. So similar to the average social security benefit, the maximum benefit is unlikely to be enough to fund the lifestyle of those who qualify for it.

Vadym Pastukh / iStock.com

Vadym Pastukh / iStock.com

How do I qualify for social security?

You can qualify for social security by earning 40 “quarters of coverage”, which essentially translates into 10 years of work and contribution to the social security system. For 2022, you can qualify for a quarter of the coverage with $ 1,510 in taxable earnings. Technically, therefore, you can qualify for four-quarters of the coverage each year after earning only $ 6,040. However, you can not earn more than four-quarters of the coverage in any one year, so you must still earn over a period of 10 years to qualify for Social Security.

fizkes / Getty Images / iStockphoto

fizkes / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Are social security payments adjusted every year?

Social security payments are subject to an adjustment of the cost of living each year based on the current inflation rate. For 2022, social security beneficiaries enjoyed a jump of 5.9% in their payments as inflation rose in 2021. This was the largest COLA since January 1983, when inflation has been relatively moderate in the intervening decades. While payments have never fallen, there have been a few years where there was no COLA at all, most recently in 2009, 2010 and 2015.

svetikd / Getty Images

svetikd / Getty Images

How much will the benefits be reduced if I claim at the age of 62?

You can start taking out your social pension benefits already at the age of 62, but your payments will be significantly reduced, as the full retirement age for those born in 1943 or later is currently 67. According to the Social Security Administration, the payments will be reduced by 5 / 9 of 1% for each month before full retirement age, up to 36 months. Benefits taken more than 36 months ahead of time are further reduced by 5/12 by 1% for each additional month. Put it all together, and it equates to a permanent 30% reduction in your monthly payments if you start your benefits at age 62 instead of age 67.

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insta_photos / Getty Images / iStockphoto

How much do the benefits increase if I wait to claim for 70 years

Although benefits are reduced if you take them before full retirement age, the opposite is true if you wait. The Social Security Administration allows you to defer payments for up to 70 years if you wish. Late payment increases your monthly benefit by 8% for each year you wait between 67 and 70 years. Of course, many factors come into play in this decision, including your overall health, life expectancy, and other sources of funding, but the bottom line is that if you can wait, you will earn a significantly larger monthly check if you can wait until you turn 70 years old.

DNY59 / Getty Images / iStockphoto

DNY59 / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Is social security taxable?

Although social security is a benefit program, a significant portion of what you receive may be taxable. If you file your taxes jointly and have a total income between $ 32,000 and $ 44,000 as a couple, 50% of your benefits may be taxable. If you have a combined income of more than $ 44,000, up to 85% of your social security benefits may be taxable. For single files, the income range is $ 25,000 to $ 34,000, with earnings over $ 34,000 taxed at up to 85%.

Alihan Usullu / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Alihan Usullu / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Do I get more back from social security than I paid for it?

Each year you work, you must transfer 6.2% of your paycheck to Social Security taxes, up to certain limits. If you are self-employed, this amount is doubled to 12.4%, as you pay both the employee and employer part of the social security tax. The good news is that for the vast majority of workers, you will receive more in Social Security payments than you pay into the system, according to figures calculated by the Urban Institute. For example, a single man with an average income who retires in about 35 years can expect to pay about $ 463,000 in social security taxes and receive about $ 517,000 in social security benefits during his lifetime.

Rawpixel / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Rawpixel / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Is Social Security Really Running Out Of Money?

There have been widespread reports that Social Security is about to go bankrupt in about 10 or 12 years. While not accurate, the news is rooted in the fact that the Social Security Trust Fund will actually be depleted in 2034. However, the primary source of social security funding is payroll tax on active workers. The Social Security Trust Fund only supplements this income. So as long as there are American workers, there will be revenue for the social security system. But what is true is that unless changes are made when the Social Security Trust Fund expires, benefits are expected to fall to around 78% of the current level. Still, there is no reason to panic that Social Security is running out of money. Although no changes are made, the Social Security Administration estimates that it can keep benefits at 74% of current levels until 2095.

eric1513 / Getty Images / iStockphoto

eric1513 / Getty Images / iStockphoto

What possible changes can come to social security?

Major changes in social security are unlikely to come soon. It is difficult enough for legislators to reach agreement on every issue, let alone one that may not affect the American people before 2034. However, various proposals on how to change social security have been tossed around for years, and a version of these suggestions are likely to see the light of day at some point. Although benefit reduction is not a popular option, it has been discussed, as has raising the full retirement age for beneficiaries. Other proposals include raising the wage base for social security or increasing social security taxes. The bottom line is that the program must either reduce payouts or increase revenue, or both. At some point, you should expect changes that address one or both of these options.

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