Social Security Retirement and Survivors Benefits

After years of working and contributing to Social Security, you can finally start getting your retirement benefits. Social Security benefits are intended to provide an income after you retire or reduce employment. Your spouse and children may also get some of your benefits after you die.

The benefit amount can depend on your income, working years, and when you start taking benefits. If you want to know more about maximizing your Social Security retirement benefits, find a Social Security retirement lawyer in your area for advice.

What Are Social Security Retirement Benefits?

Social Security is a federal government program run by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Most workers contribute to Social Security through payroll taxes. The amount of the contribution is based on your income, with the employee and employer both contributing. Self-employed workers contribute the whole amount of Social Security taxes.

To qualify, you have to earn at least 40 Social Security credits. For full-time workers, this generally means working for at least 10 years and earning over a certain amount. The more you earn and contribute, the more you will be able to get when you retire. A Social Security beneficiary can apply for benefits between ages 62 and 70.

How Much Can You Get in Retirement Benefits?

The amount you earn in monthly benefits will depend on your income during the years you worked, the age you start taking benefits, and if you continue to earn money from working after you start getting benefits.

The more you earn, the more you’ll get in benefits, up to a maximum amount. For example, in 2023, the maximum monthly benefit amount is $4,555.

You can get benefits at age 62, but it will only be 70% of your full benefits. You can get 100% of your full benefits after reaching your full retirement age. However, you can get even more if you wait until age 70 to take benefits (124%).

Your full retirement age is based on when you were born. For example, if you were born in 1954, your full retirement age is 66. If you were born in 1980, your full retirement age is 67.

For example, three people retire in 2023 at ages 62, 67, and 70. The maximum monthly benefit available would be:

  • 62-year-old: $2,572
  • 67-year-old: $3,808
  • 70-year-old: $4,555

If you are still working after taking retirement benefits, those benefits could be reduced if you make more than the annual amount. The annual amount can depend on if you are younger than the full retirement age. For example, someone under full retirement will have $1 deducted from every $2 earned for amounts over $21,240.

What Are Social Security Survivor Benefits?

If the person who is eligible to receive Social Security benefits dies, the survivor may be able to get the deceased worker’s monthly benefit. The widow or widower benefit amount is a percentage of the deceased spouse’s benefits and will depend on the worker’s earnings.

A widow or widower is eligible for reduced benefits at age 60. Full benefits are available at the full retirement age. If the survivor has a disability, they may be able to get full benefits as early as 50 years old. If the survivor has retirement benefits based on their work record, they can take whichever benefit is higher.

Who Is Considered a Survivor for Social Security?

Family members who may be eligible for a percentage of the deceased worker’s benefits can include:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Unmarried children under the age of 18 (or 19 if still in school)
  • Disabled children

Under some circumstances, dependent parents 62 or older, stepchildren, grandchildren, or adopted children may also be eligible.

A former spouse may also be able to get spousal benefits if they were married for at least 10 years before the divorce. However, eligibility for a surviving divorced spouse requires they do not remarry, with limited exceptions.

What Is a Lump-Sum Death Payment?

A surviving spouse or child can get a lump-sum death payment from Social Security. The death benefit is only $255, the maximum since 1954. This one-time payment was intended to help survivors pay for burial expenses.

To know more about Social Security retirement or survivors’ benefits, visit your local Social Security Office. You can also talk to a Social Security retirement lawyer near you for legal retirement and survivor benefits advice. If you are having trouble accessing the benefits you are entitled to, a lawyer could help.

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