Working? Retiring? Options if reaching full retirement age in 2015.

Do you reach your full retirement age (FRA) in 2015? Still working? Thinking about starting Social Security in 2015?

What are some options to consider?  

When to start Social Security benefits is always a popular topic during retirement seminars. In fact, there is no one overall best time that fits everyone. It is an individual decision. 

Last week I posted annual retirement earnings test information for 2015. Noted there, earnings test amounts vary based on whether you are younger than full retirement age (FRA) for the entire calendar year, reach FRA during the year, or are at least FRA. 

Today I am reviewing some options to consider for a person planning to work during 2015 and reaching full retirement age of 66 during 2015. FRA varies with year of birth. It is age 66 for those born from 1943 – 1954. 

If you reach full retirement age in 2015, receive Social Security and are still working, Social Security deducts $1.00 in benefits for every $3.00 you earn above $41,880. Earnings for the retirement test include only your own gross wages and net-income from self-employment. Beginning with the month you reach FRA, earnings no longer reduce your benefits.  

Assume our person, Happy Camper, expects to earn $41,000 in 2015, below the annual earnings test level for a person reaching full retirement age in 2015. Happy reaches FRA in May. 

One option: Since Happy will earn below his retirement test level, he can start Social Security retirement effective with January 2015 and receive benefits for all months of the year even though he continues working. On the plus side, this gets him more monthly benefits. On the negative, this results in a retirement benefit permanently reduced by 4 months with a reduction of 2.22 percent of his full retirement age amount. He gets 97.78 percent of his FRA amount.

Note: To learn percentages for this example, I used the “compute the effect of early or late retirement” calculator, one of the SSA Retirement Planner tools. This calculator uses the terms “normal retirement age” for FRA and “primary insurance amount” for the FRA amount. 

If Happy expects to earn more than the earnings test level of $41,880, this could still be a useful option for him. He would have to compare what he loses due to earnings (the $1.00 for every $3.00 noted above) to what he gains in payable benefits. 

Another option: Since Happy Camper is still working, he could start Social Security effective with May, when he reaches full retirement age. The earnings test ends at FRA so Happy could continue working and receive unreduced Social Security retirement from then on. On the plus side, he does not have any reduction in benefits. On the negative, he gives up the benefits payable in the above option. 

Yet another option:  If Happy Camper plans to work for some months (or longer) past FRA and then retire, he can defer his Social Security until he actually retires. On the plus side, each month of delay gains a small increase from delayed retirement credits. On the negative, Happy again gives up payable benefits.

On a monthly basis, delayed retirement credits increase benefits by 2/3 of 1 percent of the full retirement age amount, or 8 percent annually, up to age 70. Use the previously mentioned “compute the effect of early or late retirement” calculator to compute this.  

The retirement earnings test applies to the full calendar year with a special, one time, monthly earnings test available. The monthly test can apply when a person retires during the year, after already earning over applicable retirement earnings test amounts. It was not considered in the above options since Happy continued working through at least FRA. 

These examples are only to discuss some options involving the earnings test. For simplicity, factors such as the potential for family benefits through Happy Camper’s record were not added in. Social Security benefits are just one thing to consider in your retirement planning. For examples, Happy Camper’s taxable income varies with these options and his life expectancy could influence his decision.

What is best for you?

Compare your retirement plans with the online estimator

Q: The online Social Security Statement retirement estimates cannot be changed to consider different plans. Can I estimate my retirement amount using different earnings or ages? 

A: Yes. Estimate the effect of lower or higher future earnings, or retirement at different retirement ages, with the Retirement Estimator at  

One of the Social Security retirement planning tools in the Retirement Planner section at, the Estimator connects to your actual Social Security earnings record to provide personal retirement estimates at age 62, at your full retirement age (FRA), and at age 70. 

Just as on your Statement estimate, the initial Retirement Estimator reply assumes your most recent wages or self-employment earnings will continue into the future. Unlike the Statement, with the Estimator you can change the default reply to obtain estimates at different ages or with different future earnings amounts. 

Comparing multiple estimates for any given age based on the initial earnings level and then with lower or higher earnings provides an approximate result of different earnings on your future SSA retirement amount. With separate requests, you can estimate benefits based on either lower or higher earnings. Future earnings of more than one amount cannot be used in one estimate.

Your actual Social Security retirement monthly amount is based on your best 35 years of employment and your age, in months, compared to your full retirement age. The Retirement Estimator provides estimates at different ages. 

For estimates in specific months, other online tools are available in the Retirement Planner section, If your interest is only for months before your full retirement age (FRA), use the chart for your FRA. To consider months either before or after your FRA, go here.

You can use the Retirement Estimator if you are enrolled in Medicare, but not if you have applied for or receive SSA benefits. The Estimator reply does not show your personal information or earnings record. 

To view your Social Security Statement create a my Social Security account at Your Statement will also show your earnings record and family benefit estimates not available elsewhere.



Average Social Security and SSI amounts in Sept. 2014

For September 2014, last month, following are three easily understood tables providing Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) information. These tables are online here

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a separate, low income program for the aged over 65, disabled or blind children, and disabled or blind adults that is administered by the Social Security Administration. Since SSI is completely different from Social Security, a person meeting the individual rules for each could become eligible for both programs. Income from Social Security reduces SSI amounts.

Learn more about Social Security and SSI at 

Table 1 shows the number of people, in thousands, receiving Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) divided by Social Security only, SSI only, and people receiving both. 

Table 2 shows Social Security benefit information for September 2014, separated by number of beneficiaries receiving specific types of benefits and the average dollar amount of those benefits. The number of beneficiaries is again shown in the thousands, with total benefits shown in the millions and average amounts in dollars.

The “notes” in table 1 explain differences in total Social Security beneficiaries shown between table 1 and table 2.

Social Security was never intended to provide full retirement income and this table emphasizes that fact. In September 2014, the average SSA retirement benefit, for the retiree only and excluding any family benefits, was $1,302.56.

Table 3 shows Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit information for September 2014, separated by number of recipients receiving specific types of benefits and the average dollar amount of those benefits. As above, the number of recipients are shown in the thousands, total benefits shown in the millions and average amounts in dollars.

In September 2014, the average SSI amount was $535.21.

These tables are online here in case you cannot read them clearly.

Using your SSA Statement

In previous posts, I have encouraged readers to create a personal my Social Security account at Whether or not you now receive Social Security monthly benefits, online services are there for use. To create a my Social Security account, you must be at least 18 years old, have an email address and a United States mailing address. There are no fees to do this. As of September 30, nearly 14.5 million people had opened their free my Social Security account. 

If not yet receiving ongoing benefits, the major tool available is your Social Security Statement.

Many people think only of retirement when Social Security is discussed, but, in fact, the program includes disability and survivors benefits too. Including family member benefits, retirement represents about 70 percent of national Social Security benefits, survivors about 11 percent, and disability about 19 percent.Nationally, about 18.3 percent of the entire United States population, including adults and children of all ages, receive monthly Social Security benefits. 

Of course, retirement is the desired Social Security benefit, but studies show that just over 1 in 4 of today’s 20 year-olds will become disabled before reaching age 67 and people die at all ages.   

For all of these possibilities, your Social Security Statement is a great family financial planning tool. After creating your my Social Security account, look at your Statement (sample here), especially your earnings record and estimated benefits sections, at least annually. 

Directly from your actual Social Security work record as reported by employers, your earnings record for many years is shown. This is the only place where you can see your personal earnings history. Future Social Security benefits on your record are based on your lifetime earnings. Review your record for accuracy. If there is an error, follow the correction instructions. 

Now look at the estimated benefits section. The Social Security website retirement planning section, contains tools to estimate retirement amounts but disability and survivors estimates, potentially to your children and other family members, are only on your Statement. Useful at all ages and especially for young families with dependent children, these current estimates can be a foundation for your other family financial planning. 

Creating your personal my Social Security account lets you access your Statement whenever desired. Starting for December birthdays, this past September the Social Security Administration resumed periodic mailings of paper Statements. Workers attaining ages 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60 who are not receiving Social Security benefits and who are not registered for a my Social Security account will receive the Statement in the mail about 3 months before their birthday. After age 60, people will receive a Statement every year. The agency expects to send nearly 48 million Statements each year.




Boomers, Social Security and Someday

Are you a Baby Boomer?

Boomers have been filing for Social Security retirement for several years already.

On October 15, 2007, at an event hosted by Michael J. Astrue, then the Commissioner of Social Security, the nation’s first Baby Boomer, Kathleen Casey-Kirschling, filed for her Social Security retirement benefits online at 

Ms. Casey-Kirschling, who was born one second after midnight on January 1, 1946, was eligible for benefits beginning January 2008 and graciously helped promote filing for Social Security retirement online. 

Here is a photo of Ms. Casey-Kirschling from that 2007 event:

Today, nationally over 50 percent of all Social Security retirement  applications are filed online. Learn how here.

Over the next 20 years, nearly 80 million Boomers will retire.

Someday, do you plan to retire? Boomer or not, Social Security should be part of your planning.

Lots of SSA retirement planning information is on the Social Security website,, in the Retirement Benefits section and especially in the Retirement Planner area. Different calculators to help your planning are there including the Retirement Estimator, that connects to your own work record to provide an individual estimate.

Someday is closer than you think. Create your personal my Social Security account for additional estimates and to check your earnings record for accuracy.

Disability videos on YouTube

When discussing a Social Security retirement topic, I often mention that retirement information and calculators based on your personal work record are in the Retirement Planner section of the Social Security website,

The potential for becoming disabled is probably a smaller topic of interest, but just over 1 in 4 of today’s 20 year-olds will become disabled before reaching age 67. I think acknowledging this possibility should be part of routine financial planning, especially if you have a dependent family.   

You cannot estimate the amount of potential Social Security disability benefits online but can obtain an estimate on your Social Security Statement. That estimate assumes you become disabled now, a good starting point for your financial planning. Your Statement is available online once you register for your free, personal my Social Security account.  

What if you became disabled now due to accident or illness? What do you need to know? How do you file for Social Security disability and how is an application processed? 

Use the Disability Planner section of the website to learn basic information about Social Security disability. There you can file a complete disability application online, and if needed, appeal a decision that you disagree with. 

Especially read the section about how you qualify for disability benefits. Linked from the Disability Planner, you can also watch a Social Security Disability Claims Process video series on YouTube. More questions? Contact Social Security directly.

Agency Resumes Mailing Social Security Statements

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 

News Release


Agency Resumes Mailing Social Security Statements

Encourages People to Create a Secure my Social Security Account to Obtain Their Statement Online, Anytime

Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, today announced the agency will resume the periodic mailing of Social Security Statements–once every five years for most workers–while encouraging everyone to create a secure my Social Security account to immediately access their Statement online, anytime. The Statement is a valuable financial planning tool providing workers age 18 and older with important individualized information regarding their earnings, tax contributions, and estimates for future retirement, disability, and survivors benefits.

“We have listened to our customers, advocates, and Congress; and renewing the mailing of the Statement reinforces our commitment to provide the public with an easy, efficient way to obtain an estimate of their future Social Security benefits,” Acting Commissioner Colvin said. “I encourage everyone to create their own secure my Social Security  account to obtain immediate access to their Statement online, anytime.” 

Beginning this month, workers attaining ages 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60 who are not receiving Social Security benefits and who are not registered for a my Social Security account will receive the Statement in the mail about 3 months before their birthday.  After age 60, people will receive a Statement every year.  The agency expects to send nearly 48 million Statements each year.

The Social Security Statement helps people plan for their financial future.  In addition to providing future benefit estimates, the Statement highlights a person’s complete earnings history, allowing workers to verify the accuracy of their earnings. This is important because an individual’s future benefit amount is determined by the amount of their earnings over their lifetime.  To date, more than 14 million people have established a personalized my Social Security account at

With a my Social Securityaccount, people may access the Statement from the comfort of their home, office or library whenever they choose. Individuals who currently receive benefits should sign up for a my Social Security account to manage their benefit payments and, when the need arises, get an instant benefit verification letter, change their address and phone number, and start or change direct deposit of their benefit payment.

Acting Commissioner Colvin reinforced that “whether conducting business with Social Security via the Internet, mail, telephone or face-to-face, we will continue to provide convenient, cost-effective, secure and quality customer service to meet the needs of the public we serve.” 


You can see a sample Social Security Statement here.



Social Security Twitter Chat today at 1:30 p.m. EDT

As part of National my Social SecurityWeek, the Social Security Administration is hosting its first Twitter Chat, titled #mySocialSecurity: Planning for Your Financial Future today August 21, 2014 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. EDT

Joining will be the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Federal Trade Commission.

During the Twitter Chat, you can ask questions relating to the topic using the hashtag #mySocialSecurity.

This week the Social Security Administration hopes to educate the public about the benefits of having a my Social Security account.

Individuals can use their my Social Security accounts to access their Social Security Statements to check their earnings and get estimates of future Social Security benefits.

People already receiving Social Security benefits can get benefit verification letters, change their address and phone number, and start or change their direct deposit information.

Participate in the my Social Security Twitter Chat today, Thursday August 21, 2014, 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. EDT.

Visit and create your my Social Security account today.

National my Social Security Week

If you receive Social Security benefits or have Medicare, you can use a mySocial Security online account to:

1. Get your benefit verification letter;

2. Check your benefit and payment information and your earnings record;

3. Change your address and phone number; and

4.Start or change direct deposit of your benefit payment.

 If you do not receive benefits, you can use a mySocial Security online account to:

A) Get yourSocial Security Statement to review:

          1) Estimates of your future retirement, disability, and survivors benefits;

          2) Your earnings once a year to verify the amounts we posted are correct and see the estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid.

B) Get a benefit verification letter stating that:

          1) You never received Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicare; or

          2) You received benefits in the past, but do not currently receive them or

          3) You applied for benefits but haven’t received an answer yet.

Get your free personal online my Social Security account today!


Planning for Someday with the SSA retirement planner

Planning for retirement, including learning the basics of Social Security, should begin well before you actually retire.  

Based on the questions I receive, advance planning is not always done. 

Lots of SSA retirement planning information is on the Social Security website,, in the Retirement Benefits section and especially in the Retirement Planner area at  

 Here is a partial list of Retirement Planner topics:

     Finding your retirement age (full retirement age – FRA)

     Estimating your retirement benefits and other calculators

     Working after retirement

     Discover your retirement options

     Benefits for family members

     Needed documents

     Online retirement application

     Applying just for Medicare

 Someday you will want to retire. Start planning today to make someday possible.