Social Security Benefits for Senior Citizens Over 65

by Rod Howell

    If you’re over 65, you’re likely at your full retirement age, which is based on your year of birth. At full retirement age, you receive the full amount of benefits to which you are entitled. If you receive disability benefits before age 65, your benefits convert to retirement benefits when you reach full retirement age. Your benefit amounts won’t change, just the name for Social Security purposes.

    Retirement Benefits

    Social Security retirement benefits at full retirement age are based on 35 of your highest earning years. As of 2012, the most you can get in retirement benefits at full retirement age is $2,513 per month. If you’re a spouse of someone who qualifies for retirement benefits, you can get spousal payments equal to one-half of his benefit amounts when you reach full retirement age.

    Survivor Benefits

    If your deceased spouse qualified for Social Security benefits, you are entitled to survivor benefits based on that spouse's work record. You get 100 percent of his entitled benefits in survivors payments if you start collecting at full retirement age. The full retirement age for survivor benefits is different than the full retirement age for retirement benefits.

    Still Working

    If you want to work after reaching full retirement age, you can get your Social Security benefits at the same time. Generally, your earnings would reduce your benefit amounts if they are in excess of the Social Security Administration's (SSA) income limits before you reach full retirement age. However, starting with the month you reach full retirement age, your benefits won’t be affected, as there are no income limits on your earnings.

    Taxation of Benefits

    The SSA might not put income limits on your earnings after you reach full retirement age, but the Internal Revenue Service does, and if your earnings are substantial, you can trigger taxation of your tax-free benefits. As of 2012, if you’re single and your earnings and one-half of your Social Security benefits top $25,000 per year, up to 50 percent of your benefits are taxed at normal income tax rates. If your total income tops $34,000 per year, up to 85 percent are taxed. If you’re married, you and your spouse’s earnings are used to determine the taxability of your benefits. If the total of your combined incomes, plus one-half of your benefits, surpasses $32,000 per year, 50 percent of your benefits are taxed and up to 85 percent is taxed if the total annual income exceeds $44,000.

    Considerations

    You have the opportunity to increase your retirement benefits after you reach full retirement age by not taking them. You earn delayed retirement credits every month you postpone your retirement benefits. As of 2012, the SSA can increase your benefits by as much as 8 percent per year. You can earn delayed retirement credits up to age 70. Delayed retirement credits cannot be earned on survivor benefits or spousal benefits. Also, you have the option of filing and suspending your Social Security benefits. By doing so, you get to postpone your benefits and accrue delayed retirement benefits. This option benefits your spouse, as she can get spousal benefits on your record. You can only file and suspend your benefits at full retirement age.

    Photo Credits

    • Dynamic Graphics/Creatas/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Rod Howell is a writer living in Charlotte, N.C. He graduated from Thaddeus Stevens College with an associate degree in administration in 2000. He published the book "Capitol Conspiracy" and regularly contributes to a blog as well as various other websites, drawing frequently from his experience as an insurance agent.

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