Dear Rusty: I am 64 years old and would like advice on how to move forward to apply for Social Security now instead of waiting until I am the “magic” age of 66.5 years. Signed: Ready for Retirement
Dear Ready for Retirement: All Social Security offices are currently closed to public visits, but they are still providing telephone services (although telephone wait times are usually longer these days). You can apply over the phone if you wish. However, the most efficient way to apply for your Social Security benefit, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, is to apply online. You will need to create your personal “My Social Security” account prior to applying online, but that is easy to do at www.ssa.gov/myaccount. For information, Social Security uses a “two-factor” identification process for security purposes, usually by asking you to enter, in addition to your password, a special ID code sent to your cell phone (or email). Once you have set up your personal account, you can use the online application process at www.ssa.gov/retire.
Here is a link to a short video from Social Security which explains the online application process: www.ssa.gov/hlp/video/iclaim_r01.htm. When you start the online process, be sure to write down the reentry code, which will allow you to save and re-enter your online application as many times as needed before you finally submit it. Once it is submitted, Social Security will call you or write you to get any additional information they need. A couple of things I want to be sure you are aware of:
By claiming before your full retirement age (FRA) your benefit amount will be permanently reduced. The reduction is about 0.556% per month prior to your FRA that you claim (at 64, a reduction of about 15%).
Finally, if you are still working, you’ll be subject to Social Security’s earnings test until you reach your full retirement age. If you start benefits mid-year 2020, you’ll be subject to a monthly earnings limit of $1,520, and if you exceed that limit you won’t be eligible for benefits for that month. The following years you’ll be subject to an annual limit, until you reach your FRA when there is no longer a limit to how much you can earn.
Russell Gloor is an Association of Mature American Citizens certified social security advisor. To submit a question, visit amacfoundation.org/programs/social-security-advisory or email firstname.lastname@example.org