Social Security was established to give economic security to the elderly. The Social Security Bill was signed into law on August 14, 1935. This social insurance was designed to provide “security against the hazards and vicissitudes of life.” Today, it primarily benefits qualifying retired people and surviving spouses and children. It also helps pay monthly bills for disabled workers and their families who qualify for the program. Read on to learn some common Social Security misconceptions.
It’s a big deal!
Many people rely on Social Security during their retirement years. Per Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Social Security is the biggest source of retirement income for most retirees. Thus, Social Security is extremely important to many older Americans.
What’s up with Social Security?
Per a Social Security Trustees Report, the Social Security’s trust fund reserves will likely be depleted in the year 2033. CBS News shares that this date was moved up by one year due to shifts such as slowing economic growth. And, if Congress doesn’t act soon, people should expect benefits to be reduced as reserve funds run dry.
How is it funded?
Note that Social Security is largely funded by working Americans. Workers and employers, and self-employed individuals, make contributions through payroll taxes to fund the program. However, there are concerns over how long Social Security will last. As the number of senior citizens who depend on Social Security contributions increases, and birth rates decline which thereby reduces the workforce, the structure can no longer support itself.
Social Security is complex.
It can be! Not only do rules govern Social Security, but important decisions like when to apply matter. Because there are many factors that come into play that can lead to different financial outcomes, a Social Security Advisor is a valuable resource. Armed with a wealth of Social Security information, they can help seniors or people who are planning for retirement make informed decisions, such as how to maximize benefits. Additionally, a trusted Financial Advisor or CPA can help people get their finances and retirement planning in order.
Do I qualify?
The Social Security Retirement benefit is the monthly amount that replaces part of one’s income when employed individuals over a certain age reduce hours or retire. Eligibility is based on work, as Social Security taxes are generally taken from paychecks. To see if you are eligible for Social Security, click here to go to SSA.gov.
Let’s be honest!
There are many misconceptions surrounding Social Security. Let’s look at a few common ones to learn the truth.
- Misconception #1 – There is a fee to apply for Social Security. WRONG! There is no fee to apply for Social Security. When a qualified individual is ready to apply for retirement benefits or Medicare, they may do so online (visit ssa.gov) or by calling their national toll-free service at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or by visiting a local Social Security office. When visiting, do call in advance to make an appointment. To apply, it’s important to be prepared. Do have all the proper documentation you may need. Examples include knowing your Social Security number and having some of the following: latest Social Security statement, banking information, your birth certificate, proof of citizenship, copy of U.S. military service papers, copies of W-2 forms and more. A list of what’s likely needed can be found on the official SSA website. Note that while applying online is likely faster, some folks appreciate the personalized attention of applying in person. Making an appointment is a better option for people who lack computer access or are not comfortable using computers.
- Misconception #2 – I must turn 62 to apply. FALSE! The statement that one must turn 62 before applying is technically incorrect. The SSA states that one must be at least 61 years and nine months old to begin applying. Bear in mind that applying early reduces one’s benefits, so if you can wait, it’s generally better in the long run. Know that it’s important to apply for Social Security when the time is right for you based on your unique personal situations and finances. While a person is certainly eligible to begin collecting payments early, note that more benefits can be realized by waiting. For this main reason, many people delay applying until they meet full retirement age or turn 70 to get maximum benefits.
- Misconception #3 – I deserve the benefits, so it’s best to apply early. NO! Not so fast! Most workers are deserving of the benefits. However, this doesn’t mean they should apply for Social Security benefits early. In fact, many experts caution: Just because you can apply doesn’t mean you should do it right away. Here’s the deal. Taking Social Security early reduces monthly benefits. If you are confident that you will likely live past 80, it’s probably not a good idea to apply early unless you must. Generally, the only people who should consider applying on the early side are those who immediately need the benefits to live or those who do not expect to live long due to illness or disease that will likely shorten their life span. Typically, healthy people who do not need the money at the qualifying age are better served waiting until full retirement age or age 70 if possible.
- Misconception #4 – Congress doesn’t pay Social Security. INCORRECT! For many years, Senators and Representatives did not pay into Social Security. They were initially covered by the Civil Service Retirement System, which was a pension plan. While they were allowed to remain in their plans, in 1984, changes were made to Social Security. Since then, like everyone else, all members of Congress, regardless of length of time in office, pay into the Social Security system. So, it is to their advantage, as well as ours, to fix the broken Social Security system and to promote the ability for senior citizens who paid in to live in dignity.
- Misconception #5 – You cannot get your Social Security payment directly deposited. FAKE NEWS! Federal law mandates that all Federal benefit payments, to include Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits, must be made electronically. One way is through direct deposit. What is it? Direct deposit describes payments sent electronically to an account in a financial institute. One may have Social Security payments directly deposited to a bank, trust company, savings and loan, or credit union as examples. Or benefits may be put onto Direct Express Debit Mastercard. Per SSA, direct deposit is now the standard way to receive benefits. It is safe, quick, and convenient for most people.
Many common Social Security misconceptions exist. This underscores the importance of self-education, financial planning, and creating strategies for the future. Proper decision making is key when it comes to establishing a secure and comfortable lifestyle in retirement. Social Security helps many people live well in their later years, so it’s important to optimize benefits. To read more Social Security myths, click here.
This information is provided for general purposes only and is not intended as financial advice. Note that these answers are general and are subject to change. Please visit AMAC Foundation’s Social Security Advisory Service for free expert Social Security guidance.