Some Faqs about social security and retirement planning

After checking out these FAQs, if you have more questions or would like additional information, please email us for an initial phone consultation and to learn more about how our services might help you plan for a secure retirement.


when should I collect my social security benefit?

That is the million dollar question!  When you should collect, and what strategy you may be able to use, is a very personal and individual decision that depends on a number of factors, some of which include: Your relationship status (are you married, single, divorced, widowed?); When you plan to retire, stop working; The benefit amount you expect to collect; If married, how each of your benefit amounts compare to each other; If divorced, how long you were married; If you have adult disabled children; and your life expectancy.


What is the earliest age I can claim Social Security?

You can claim your retirement benefit as early as age 62.  However, it will be a reduced benefit, 75% of what you would receive at your Full Retirement Age (FRA).  Also, if you start collecting Social Security prior to your FRA, and are still earning income, you may be subject to the Earnings Test.


what is my full retirement age (FRA)?

If you were born between 1943 and 1954 your FRA is 66.  If you were born between 1955 and 1960 it increases by 2 months per year. For instance, those born in 1955 have a FRA of 66 and 2 months and those born in 1956 have a FRA of 66 and 4 months.  The FRA for retirees born in 1960 is 67 and that is true for all years after that.


what is Primary insurance amount (pia)?

PIA is the monthly amount of your Social Security benefit that you would collect if you start collecting at your FRA.  It is decreased if you claim prior to your FRA and increased if you claim after your FRA up to age 70.  The difference between collecting as early as possible at age 62 and waiting to collect until age 70 is a 76% increase in your monthly amount.


How many years of work do I need to collect Social Security?

Most people will qualify to collect Social Security benefits after they have worked and paid in to the program for 10 years.  A minimum of 40 'quarters of coverage' (QC) are required to be eligible to collect retirement benefits and a maximum of 4 QCs may be earned per year.   


what is a 'quarter of coverage'?

A quarter of coverage used to mean "working for a quarter of the year", therefore 4 quarters could be earned per year.  Now it is measured as an amount of earnings.  The earnings required for a quarter of coverage (QC) in 2016 is $1,260.  So if you earn 4 x $1,260, or $5,040, you have earned your 4 QCs for that year, even if you earned all that in a month or two.  And no matter how high your earnings may be, you can not earn more than 4 QC's in one year.  


what is a spousal benefit?

For couples, one spouse may collect a benefit based on the other spouse's earnings history.  The  spousal benefit is 50% of the other spouse's PIA if the spouse collecting the benefit is FRA or older.  If the collecting spouse is younger than FRA, they will collect a decreased amount, as low as 35% of their spouse's PIA if they collect at age 62.  To collect a spousal benefit, the other spouse must be collecting their own retirement benefit.


what if i am divorced but was married for many years?  

If you were married for at least 10 years, are currently unmarried and are both at least 62 years old, you are eligible for an ex-spousal benefit, which is very similar to a spousal benefit.  For divorced spouses, a spouse may claim an ex-spousal benefit based on the other spouse's earnings whether the other spouse is collecting their own Social Security benefit or not.  Ex-spousal benefits do not affect the ee-spouse's own retirement benefit or that of their current spouse if they have remarried.


what if i am eligible for a spousal benefit and my own retirement benefit?

For married couples and divorced retirees, this is one of the more complicated decisions, but remember that you can only collect one benefit at a time.  If you are younger than your FRA and file for Social Security benefits, you will be "deemed" to be filing for both and will receive the larger of the two.  Once you have reached FRA, depending on your age, there may be strategies you can use as a couple to increase your cumulative lifetime Social Security income.