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Debunking 5 Social Security Myths that Early Retirees Must Avoid

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If collecting Social Security benefits are part of your early retirement plan, then here are five myths that you need to avoid:

Myth: You must start collecting Social Security benefits at age 62.

Fact: While you can start claiming benefits at age 62, you don’t have to. In most cases, the longer you wait, the more you’ll get. And if you can wait until age 70, you’ll get the maximum benefit.

Myth: The actions of an ex-spouse can reduce your Social Security benefits (or vice versa).

Fact: The bad news is that there are probably quite a few things that a vindictive ex-spouse can do to your life. But the good news is that reducing your Social Security benefits is not one of them. Simply put, once you reach your full retirement age (FRA), if you were married for 10 consecutive years and have not re-married, then you’re legally entitled to either claim your own Social Security benefit, or 50% of your ex-spouse’s Social Security benefit (whichever is higher). What’s more, you do not have to communicate your intentions to your ex-spouse.

Myth: If you earn income after age 65, it won’t be factored into your overall benefit entitlement.

Fact: The SSA looks at highest 35 years of earning income, regardless of whether that took place before or after you turned 65.

Myth: Once you start receiving Social Security benefits, you cannot pause them.

Fact: You are entitled to suspend your Social Security benefits, and should probably do so if your money situation unexpectedly changes for the better — such as due to an inheritance, lottery win, selling a restored car for a huge profit (find out how much does it cost to restore a car here ), or any other financial windfall. Each year that you delay will increase your benefit by 8% until age 70. You can even cancel your Social Security benefit claim, provided that you do so within 12 months of receiving your first payment, and return all of the funds to Uncle Sam. Keep in mind, however, that you can only cancel your claim once in your lifetime —  so make sure that you get the timing right.

Myth: You can potentially outlive your Social Security benefits.

Fact: Granted, you may outlive your overall financial resources if you don’t have a solid retirement plan and align your lifestyle accordingly. However, you cannot outlive your Social Security benefits, regardless of when you decide to start receiving them. You will get them for as long as you live. Plus, if you predecease your spouse, then he or she will also receive survivor benefits (over and above their independent Social Security Benefits) for the rest of their life. With this in mind, as discussed previously, nobody should rely exclusively on Social Security being there down the road. You definitely need, want and deserve to have a favorable nest egg.