At Schwartz, Fang and Keating, P.C. we understand the importance of social security as a future backbone of retirement for many of our clients. As such, we want to ensure you know the most important facts about social security. For your benefit our estate planning attorneys have written this blog post with the top 5 things we think you should know about social security, ensuring the security of your future.

1. Retiring Early Can Hurt You Monetarily

Did you know that there is a “full retirement age” dictated by the federal government for each of us? See the chart below for your full retirement age based on your date of birth.


Date of Birth Range Full Retirement Age
People born between 1943-1954 66
People born between 1955-1960 67
People born after 1960 67

Any person can choose to retire and begin collecting social security at the age of 62, regardless of the above chart. However, by taking this “early retirement” your monetary benefit can be permanently reduced by as much as 25% of the benefit you would’ve had if you’d waited until your “full retirement age” to collect it.


2. How Your Social Security Benefits Are Counted

Social security benefits are accounted for by the number of credits you’ve earned over 35 years of working. The government counts your highest earning 35 years; it does not matter if they are consecutive.

Each year you work you are able to earn as many as four credits. For an understanding of how much a credit is worth, for example, a single credit in 2015 is earned by making $1,220 within the entire year.


3. Who Qualifies for Social Security?

Legal U.S. citizens are eligible to receive social security benefits. As explained above, credits are used to account for your actual benefit. In order to receive any benefit you must have earned at least 40 credits. So technically speaking, if you were to earn 4 credits a year for 10 years you would then qualify to receive social security benefits.


4. Social Security Adjusts for Couples

Even the government acknowledges that married couples, especially those raising children and maintaining homes, share the work at home and in the actual workforce. Therefore, if you or your spouse qualify for a low benefit, namely because they were out of the workforce, but you were participating in the workforce, your spouse’s benefit can be adjusted.

For example: If you qualify to receive $1,500 a month through social security, but your spouse only qualifies to receive $500, they may choose to switch to receiving “spousal benefits” and then the lower earning spouse would receive $750 a month (ie. half of your benefit, whatever it may be) instead.

You should also note that just like regular benefits, spousal benefits claimed before your full retirement age will not allow you to collect the full 50% of your spouse’s benefit. Of note, if you are divorced or separated but were married 10 years or longer you are still eligible to
receive this benefit.


5. Survivor Benefits

Should you reach retirement age and your spouse has passed away, you are entitled to their social security benefits—100% of them. If your spouse died before they could claim their benefits you are eligible for as much as they would receive when they would have retired. If your spouse was already collecting you are able to receive the full amount they were receiving at the time of their death.

Just like above, although you can start collecting survivor benefits at age 60 you will receive the reduced amount if claimed before you reach full retirement age. If you are divorced but were married longer than 10 years you may still claim this survivor benefit.


Contact Our Long Island Lawyers

Contact the estate planning lawyers at Schwartz, Fang and Keating, P.C. to discuss your benefits and any questions you may have regarding the planning of your estate. We are here to help you plan your estate, draft and/or adjust your will so that you can rest assured that you and your loved ones will be provided for in the future, no matter what. To read more about estate planning check out our blog post on, “How To Plan Your Estate.”