Compared to retirees of just a generation ago, older Americans are staying in the workforce longer, and they’re returning to the workforce post-retirement in higher numbers, too. The shift began slowly in the late 1990’s when the labor force started to see an influx of post-retirees looking for work, but accelerated, in part, due to the recession of 2007. The ever increasing cost of living, combined with the negative impact the recession had on investments and home values, meant that SSI/SSD simply wasn’t enough to cover the bills. That left many retirees with no choice but to go back to work.
Though many retirees who were financially pressured to return to work were already receiving monthly social security insurance benefits, some may not have been aware that there were ways they could have increased the amount they received prior to retirement. Had they known, some may not have had to return to work, could have returned to work for a shorter period of time, or could have returned to work but worked fewer hours. If you are planning for retirement, here are a few tips you can use to ensure you receive the maximum SSI benefits available to you so you can avoid returning to work, if possible.
- Make it Count: Start by confirming that your earnings are being properly reported so you’ll know the taxes that you’re paying into the system are being credited to you. A paystub will give you information, but only by downloading your earnings statement from the Social Security website can you verify that the information on the paystub was correctly reported.
- Claim Delay: This isn’t an attractive option, and for some it may be impossible. But, if you are able to delay claiming social security benefits until the age of 70, your SSI benefits will increase by 8 percent for each year you delay the claim after you reach full retirement age.
- 35 Years: Since SSI benefits are calculated using the beneficiaries highest 35 years of wages earned, you’ll want to make sure that you work for at least 35 years. Otherwise, zeroes will be averaged in, and that will lower your benefit amount.
- Claim Twice: Married couples who have reached retirement age can claim spousal benefits and then switch to payments using their individual work record (once they reach 70). That way, the benefits will increase because of the delay in claiming benefits until after the age of 70.
For anyone who is currently planning their retirement, but is unsure how their SSI benefits might be impacted if they do decide to continue working, the rules are pretty straightforward. As long as you work until full retirement age, you can still receive the full benefit amount to which you are entitled, no matter how much money you earn post-retirement. However, if you claim SSI benefits prior to reaching full retirement age, your benefits could be reduced, depending on your earned income.
The Social Security Administration also reviews the earnings of SSI recipients annually. So, if a beneficiary worked during the previous year and those earnings reflect one of his highest years, the SSI benefits will be recalculated to reflect an increase.
Just as with SSI recipients, if you receive SSD benefits, you can also work, but there are income and time limits. Whether you live in Reno, Rochester, or Raleigh, SSD terms are the same and, like SSI rules, they apply to everyone.
With so many older Americans working past retirement age, and returning to work once they have retired, it’s important to know where you stand with Social Security benefits. Educating yourself about the ways to maximize your monthly SSI payment may not completely eliminate your need to work, but you may be able to work less and for a shorter period of time, so you can finally enjoy your retirement once and for all.