Approaching Retirement? 6 Questions You Might Have About Social Security

Relaxed senior gentleman sitting on wooden bench in a park on a sunny day

If you’re approaching the magic age of 66, you just might be wondering about all the details of Social Security. And lucky for you, we’re here to provide some answers. To help you get started, here are six of the most commonly asked questions about retirement benefits . . .

1. How do I apply for retirement benefits?

Well, like many things in this fast-paced world, your retirement application is now online. Just head to ssa.gov/retire and you can complete and submit your application in as little as 15 minutes. Easy as that. You can also check the status of your application any time at this webpage.

2. When should I apply for benefits?

The earliest you can apply for retirement benefits is at age 61 and 9 months. But as I’m sure you’ve heard, it definitely pays to wait. If you do choose early retirement and start receiving payments before age 66, the payment amount you’ll receive when you reach full retirement age (FRA) will be significantly lower than if you’d waited.

On the other hand, if you delay your retirement past age 66, the amount you receive goes up significantly. Not only will you be eligible for more than one type of benefits, you’ll also receive Delayed Retirement Credit (DRC) from the government for every year that you delayed. This guarantees that your social security income will go up by 8% annually, so if you delay your retirement until age 70, you’ll receive at least 32% higher payments! Obviously delayed retirement isn’t possible for everyone, but definitely look into it if you can.

3. If I’m already on disability, does that affect what I get to retire?

The short answer is no. If you’re already enrolled in disability, the SSA states here on their website that your disability benefits will automatically convert into retirement benefits when you turn 66.

4. Will my benefit amount go down when my disability benefits switch to retirement?

Nope. The amount you get now will stay the same in retirement, and the conversion process should be completely transparent. The only thing that will change is the specific SSA department that handles and pays your benefits.

5. What do I have to do to convert my disability benefits into retirement benefits?

Absolutely nothing. When you reach full retirement age, the SSA automatically changes your disability benefits into retirement benefits. When exactly this switch happens depends on when you were born, but you don’t have to call, opt in, or do anything to continue receiving your benefits uninterrupted.

6. If I become disabled in my 60s, is it better to choose early retirement over disability benefits?

A lot of people ask this question, and honestly you’re way better off choosing disability over early retirement. The truth is people over age 60 have a much easier time winning a disability claim, and unlike early retirement, disability benefits won’t reduce the amount you’ll receive once you reach full retirement age. Beyond that, you’ll also qualify for the disability freeze benefit, which ignores any years you made no income when calculating your retirement benefits. A word of advice? Go for disability and you’ll be sure to receive all the benefits you deserve.

For even more information about retirement benefits, check out these great FAQs from the SSA website.