Social security: 94% of adults can not name these 4 factors that affect the benefits
Social security: 94% of adults can not name these 4 factors that affect the benefits

Social security: 94% of adults can not name these 4 factors that affect the benefits

Social benefits are an integrated source of income for many older Americans, and you have more control over your benefit amount than you might think.

There are several factors that affect the amount you receive each month and the decisions you make can have a significant impact on your income. But only 6% of adults can name all four factors that determine your benefit amount, according to a 2021 study by the National Retirement Institute.

If you are in doubt about how exactly your benefits are calculated, you are not alone. But knowing these four factors can help you maximize your social security.

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1. Your work history

Your income throughout your career is the primary factor affecting your benefit amount. The Social Security Administration takes an average of your income over the 35 highest earning years of your career and then adjusts it for inflation.

If you have not worked for a full 35 years before you start applying, you will have zeros added to your average, which will reduce your benefit amount. Additionally, if you are able to increase your income a bit, it can result in higher payments each month.

2. Your age

The year you are born will affect your benefit amount because it determines yours full retirement age (FROM). This is the age at which you will receive the full benefit amount you are entitled to based on your work history.

If you were born in 1960 or later, your FRA is 67 years old. If you were born before 1960, your FRA will be either 66 or 66 and a certain number of months, depending on the exact year you were born.

The age at which you start claiming benefits

You do not necessarily have to wait for your FRA to start claiming benefits, but if you make claims before or after that age, it will affect your monthly payments.

That the earliest you can start claiming is 62 years old, but by submitting it early, your benefit amount will be reduced by up to 30%. You can also delay benefits past your FRA, and by doing so you will receive your full benefit amount plus a bonus of up to 32% if you wait 70 years to file.

Deciding what age you will start requiring is one of the most important social security decisions you will make because your benefit amount is generally locked in for life once you have applied (apart from annual adjustments to cost of living).

4. Your marital status

If you are married or divorced, you can receive extra from Social Security each month depending on how much your spouse or ex-spouse receives.

You may be entitled to that spousal benefits if your spouse earns significantly more than you on social security. The maximum you can receive is 50% of the amount your spouse will receive from his or her FRA.

If you are already receiving more than that based on your own work history, you are not eligible for spousal benefits. If you collect less than this amount (or if you have not worked long enough to be eligible for social security at all), you will receive the higher of the two amounts.

To be eligible for divorce benefit, you must have been married for at least 10 years and you are currently unable to be married. As with spousal benefits, the maximum you can receive is 50% of the amount your ex-spouse is entitled to from his or her FRA.

Get the most out of social security

While social security services may seem like something that is out of your hands, you have a lot of control over how much you receive. Once you know all the factors that affect your monthly payments, it will be easier to make the best decisions to maximize your monthly income.


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