PRESCOTT - Members of the Prescott Area Association of Realtors (PAAR) got some helpful tips on how to maximize Social Security benefits during a seminar Dec. 17-18 at the organization's office.
Jeff C. Young, Senior Vice President of First Financial Equity Corp. of Scottsdale, provided members with some little-known facts about what is the best age to file for Social Security benefits, how to apply for survivor benefits, and how to determine if you are eligible for ex-spousal benefits.
While early eligibility begins at age 62, the full retirement age for people born between 1943 and 1954 is age 66. People born between 1955 and 1959 must wait two months after they turn 66-years-old to file. For anyone born in 1960 or later, the full retirement age is 67.
Many people confuse the age to file for Social Security with the age you are eligible to file for Medicare benefits, Young said.
"The magic number is 66, not 65. You don't really want to do much before 66," Young said. "If you take Social Security early, you are penalized."
Young advises waiting until age 70 to file for benefits to collect the maximum amount.
"If you do not take full retirement at age 66, you will earn eight percent a year on your (benefit) money until age 70," Young said. "Can you grasp what a good deal this is? That is huge."
If your spouse dies, you can file for survivor benefits as early as 60 years old or, if disabled, you can file at age 50, Young said.
If your spouse was collecting Social Security when he/she died, the survivor benefit will equal100 percent of your spouse's benefit. However, if you are both receiving benefits, only the higher of the two will be paid, not both.
You can receive benefits from your ex-spouse if you were married at least 10 years and you are currently unmarried. If you and your ex have been divorced for at least two years, he/she does not have to apply for benefits in order for you to receive yours.
"Your ex-spouse doesn't even have to know about it," Young said. "You have to have a divorce decree and a marriage certificate if you want ex-spousal benefits."
Other helpful information Young discussed during the seminar was:
You must have 40 quarters of work to be eligible to collect social security, or work for 10 years over your lifetime;
A married person who has little or no earnings history can received a spousal benefit equal to half the working spouse's primary amount;
Be sure that any retirement programs you are enrolled contain Cost-of-Living-Adjustments, or COLA.
Young suggests seeking advice and information from a financial planner before making that trip down to the Social Security Administration's office.
"Not to take anything away from the employees, but they are prohibited by law from giving you advice," Young said. "I tell people that I want them going in there armed. I want you telling them 'this is what I want to do and here is the paragraph and the chapter that says I can do it'."
"Don't make these decisions lightly, find someone to help you," he added.
To file for Social Security benefits, visit the Social Security Administration website at www.ssa.gov, call 800-772-1213 or visit the local Social Security office at 205 N. Marina in Prescott.
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