Your Social Security Advisor

Can I Get a Higher Benefit Now Because I’m Older? – Ask Rusty

social securityDear Rusty: I started getting Social Security at age 62 and I am now 77. Can I get a higher benefit now that I’m older? Signed: Needy Senior

Dear Needy Senior: Probably not. When you first start collecting your Social Security retirement benefits (e.g., at age 62 or any other age) your SS benefit amount is permanently established and will change thereafter only if:
• A Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) is granted (which is usually done annually, starting with your payment in January of each year). There have only been 3 years in the last four decades that a COLA increase didn’t automatically occur. This year’s COLA increase was 1.3%.
• You later became eligible for a higher spousal benefit because your husband started collecting benefits after you first claimed, and your benefit amount at your full retirement age (FRA) was less than 50% of your husband’s FRA benefit amount.
• You later became eligible for a higher survivor benefit because your husband passed away and his Social Security benefit was more than you were receiving (you would need to apply separately for your survivor benefit).
• You had later earnings which were higher than any of the 35 years over your lifetime used to originally compute your benefit when you first applied. Past years earnings are adjusted for inflation, so original earnings amounts in prior years are increased to today’s dollar value to see if your recent earnings are higher.

If you are working, Social Security monitors your earnings (and your contributions through payroll taxes) every year to see if you are due a benefit increase and, if appropriate, it is automatically given. COLA increases are also automatically given effective with each December’s benefit (paid in January) if such an increase is appropriate due to inflation as measured by the national Consumer Price Index. So, the only other possible way your current benefit could be increased now is if 1) you didn’t claim a spousal benefit when you were eligible and you are still eligible because your husband is still living, or, 2) your husband is now deceased, and you didn’t apply for a higher survivor benefit you were entitled to when he died. If either of those are true, then you should contact Social Security to request your higher benefit.

You do not, however, get a benefit increase simply because you are now older than you were when you first claimed Social Security. COLA will slightly increase your benefit automatically most years, but unless one or more of the other conditions above apply, your benefits won’t change further as you age.

This article is intended for information purposes only and does not represent legal or financial guidance. It presents the opinions and interpretations of the AMAC Foundation’s staff, trained and accredited by the National Social Security Association (NSSA). NSSA and the AMAC Foundation and its staff are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other governmental entity. To submit a question, visit our website (amacfoundation.org/programs/social-security-advisory) or email us at [email protected]

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MariaRose
3 months ago

One thing, I learned in researching when to apply and get Social Security, is to figure out your personal life expectation (years left of life). The ideal is to wait at least until your FRA (full retirement age) to max out your benefits. It doesn’t matter if you are married or not because your personal Social Security benefits are based on your income level achieved during your highest income level of a 35 year period. I, personally wanted to reach FRA, but job circumstances forced me to retire 18 months earlier with a difference of about $207/ month less for the rest of my life, with possible scrap increases in the COLA, granted by our magnanimous Congress, who feels, currently, that we should be cut in benefit amounts by 20% because they need a source of funding for people who haven’t contributed, but that’s a totally different discussion.
Rusty gives clear logical answers but people still try to play the system to raise their benefits after realizing that collecting age 62 is way lower than expected. One has to realize that retirement benefits are not equal to income earned, especially Social Security. I thought I could at least get widower’s benefits since my ex-spouse’s benefit earnings were much lower than mine, despite earning more money than me, but if you, during your working years, don’t declare all income for tax purposes to avoid liability, to have more money in hand at present, create a loss in Social Security benefits. I advise all women to keep track of both their own Social Security benefits and their significant other with who they plan to spend their “golden years”, especially if they are considering getting any spousal benefits, which is merely half of the other person benefit until that person dies.
Rusty has been a great source of information on these matters. Never ASSUME get the facts, which are also available if you create an account online. You can see your benefits and plan accordingly.

Kim
4 months ago

Because we’re now living much longer, it’s a much better idea to delay collecting benefits until age 70, if at all possible. When I first signed up for SS, the agent said “a huge majority” start taking it at age 62, when they’re first able to. Many of us will live another 30 years or more. Over that period of time, with COLA’s, SS payments will compound and will be much higher if we wait until 70 to start collecting.

Mark Slauson
4 months ago
Reply to  Kim

I’m starting next year at 62. The break even is about 12 years or 74 years. The benefit during those 12 years will be great. Many men don’t make it to 80’s. I’m sure the government loves to have people wait.

Kim
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark Slauson

Because we have longevity in the family (both M and F) going back a few generations, I’ll take my full SS at age 70, in 1 1/2 years. So…longevity should be considered!

For now, because I was married more than 10 years, divorced, and have not remarried, and since we’re both over the full retirement age, I’ve been taking half my ex’s SS payment. That’s available to spouses, born before 1954, who meet all the other conditions. But I’m sure you’re right about the government preferring us to wait. (I’ll take an extra helping of greens to prolong those nice checks…)

Dan W.
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark Slauson

How about this ?

Take it when you need it. If you need it at 62, take it.

Otherwise, your benefit grows a bit each month starting at age 62 all the way until you hit age 70 at an annual rate of roughly 8% per year. That may not seem like much until you discover that there are very few investments out there that will guarantee you an 8% annual return for each of the next eight years.

Even if you don’t wait until age 70, you might still decide to squeeze out a few more months (or years) at the 8% annual rate.