The coronavirus pandemic has forced many of us into isolation for the foreseeable future, and if your to-do list is dwindling, here’s an idea: Use some of your spare quarantine time to prepare for Social Security.
I know it’s not the most exciting prospect, but this whole COVID-19 stay-at-home initiative does give us more time to reflect and maybe tackle some things we’ve been putting off for ages. Preparing for Social Security is one of those things that isn’t that fun, but it’ll pay off down the road.
So lets look at a few easy ways to prepare for Social Security while you are stuck at home. Come on, you can only wipe down the kitchen counters and wash your hands so many times.
Preparing for Social Security
Check Your Earnings Statement
One of the best things you can do while preparing for Social Security is check out your earnings statement.
There are two ways to view it:
- Go to www.ssa.gov/myaccount to either create an account and view the information, or login to your account if you already have one.
- If you are over age 60, you should receive your yearly earnings report in the mail.
Checking your earnings statement is a great way to get an idea of what you can expect to receive every month from the Social Security Administration when you decide to start taking benefits.
Your earnings statement is a useful tool to prepare for Social Security, and checking it can reveal any errors that need to be amended so you aren’t shorted money you are owed from a midyear job change or something else that may not have been caught by the SSA.
So cut out a little time while you’re stuck at home to check your earnings statement. This one small step in preparing for Social Security could pay off big down the road and it also gives you an idea of where you presently stand.
Figure Out Your Full Retirement Age
Your full retirement age is the key to unlocking the full potential of Social Security because you aren’t eligible for your full benefits until you reach your FRA.
Check out this chart from The Motley Fool while preparing for Social Security to see what your FRA is:
|Year of Birth||Full Retirement Age|
|1955||66 and 2 months|
|1956||66 and 4 months|
|1957||66 and 6 months|
|1958||66 and 8 months|
|1959||66 and 10 months|
|1960 or any year after||67|
As you can see, past laws haven’t made it as cut and dry as it could be, but figuring out your FRA isn’t too hard.
You can start receiving Social Security benefits as early as 62, but that means your benefits will take a cut for every year you start before FRA (up to 30% if your FRA is 67). Benefits increase 8% per year if you delay Social Security up to age 70.
Knowing your FRA is an important step in preparing for Social Security.
Talk to Your Spouse About Social Security
This COVID-19 panic means you are most likely spending a lot more time around your family as a lot of people work from home, or have been laid off or furloughed, sadly. Preparing for Social Security with your spouse may be the perfect way to kill an afternoon together.
If you and your spouse are both eligible for Social Security after working for years, it’s worth taking some time to figure out the best filing strategy that works for you.
Having one spouse file early to juice your retirement income may be worth considering while the other waits to maximize benefits at age 70. Or maybe the lower-earning spouse could file at full retirement age, so you can put that money to work in a different retirement account while the other continues to work.
If you’re crawling up the walls while staying at home to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, preparing for Social Security is a great way to kill a little time. You’ll learn more about how the program works, and set yourself up for when you’re finally ready to retire.