By Mary Spurrier
Social Security is an earned benefit. To collect this benefit, you must pay into the system for at least 10 years. Nonworking family members may be eligible based on the worker's record. The current work environment has increased the number of people who are taking early benefits. In 2009, some 42 percent of 62-year-olds claimed benefits, up from 38 percent in 2007, according to the Brookings Institution.
Your birth year and your age when you start taking benefits directly affect the amount you receive. If you choose to receive benefits before your full retirement age, your benefits will be reduced permanently. For example, if your full retirement age is 66 and you start receiving benefits at 62, you would receive 75 percent of your benefit. If you wait until your full retirement age, you will receive 100 percent, and if you wait until you're 70, you will get 132 percent of your benefit.
If you take benefits early and continue to work, you can experience an additional reduction of $1 of Social Security benefit for every $2 earned over $14,160. When you reach full retirement age, the earning limits no longer apply.
In specific situations, taking benefits make sense, such as poor health or unemployment. Otherwise, it's best to delay payments in order to boost retirement savings. The Employee Benefit Research Institute found that nearly half of people between 56 and 62 are at risk of not having enough retirement income to pay for basic costs such as food, transportation and housing. Taking Social Security early won't help as much as it seems.
For additional information, go to the Social Security retirement estimator at ssa.gov and click on "create scenarios" or go to AnalyzeNow.com. Both sites offer calculators to help you determine what is best for you.
Spurrier is the president of M. Spurrier Financial Services LLC. She can be reached at (585) 271-5280.
This column is written by members of the Rochester Women's Network (rwn.org).