A Couple of (US) Social Security Questions

Background: I turned 70 last September, but I’m still working (I plan to hang it up at the end of May). For several fairly arcane reasons I didn’t file for benefits then, and now that I’m getting ready to do so I find myself uncertain about a couple of things.

Uncertainty the First: Did my age 70 (maximum) benefit take effect in September or October? While I realize that this may sound like an unbelievably stupid question, I have seen it written that since my birth date is after the 15th the age 70 benefit doesn’t kick in till the following month — though this may be a misinterpretation based on the payment schedule. The answer will determine what I tell SSA to use as a “benefits as of” month for the purposes of calculating a lump sum arrears payment.

Uncertainty the Second: At some point SSA will stick a virtual pin in a virtual calendar and say, “this is when OttoDaFe, the miscreant, started receiving benefits.” What date would that be — the date I file, the date the first benefit is paid (at this point, I’m guessing May 23rd), or somewhere in between? While it’s pretty much an academic question, I’d like to know for planning purposes.

I’m well aware that, as the cliché goes, “The truth is out there, somewhere.” My problem is that I find it unusually hard to frame an effective search argument; and when I do find answers, they tend to be contradictory (this is true even when contacting the SSA directly). In such cases my reflex is to avail myself of the Doperverse, on the principle that anything not known there ain’t worth knowing.

Thanks in advance for any information. And feel free to beat me mercilessly upside the head if I haven’t been sufficiently clear.

I’m 73, so on SS for 7 years.

I have found SS to be very good at helping with questions. You don’t?

My birthday is in the middle of November, and I just went on spousal benefits until I turn 70 (I just turned 66.) We did this the end of December, and I got a check for both November and December.

Medicare starts at the beginning of your birth month also.
But I’m with samclem. The people at SS I’ve spoken to have been great.

Looking at the website doesn’t help much. There is a page about getting benefits when you reach 62, You must be 62 the entire month of your first benefit, so someone whose birthday is 6/1 will get it for all of June, while someone whose birthday is 6/2 will get benefits starting in July. But I have not seen anything about when you get them after you hit FRA.

You will find that contacting the Social Security Administration during the government shutdown will be problematic. While SS checks will continue to be sent out, actual human support for SS questions and concerns will probably be non-existent.

There’s a further oddity on the month for turning 62 thing. SSA considers your birthday to be the day before it is. Couple that with the thing about the first of the month birthday people being a whole month ahead means if you’re born on the 2nd, you’re good.

But indeed it is always best to make a call to be sure about things. Sometimes they’ll even find ways to add to your benefits. (E.g., from a former spouse or something.)

I just turned 61 last May, so I’ve got a while to go before being eligible for benefits, but I have a vague plan in mind.

First, I was under the impression that my max benefit is scheduled to kick in at age 66.667 (so, January of 2023). Is this incorrect?

Second, my vague plan is to begin collecting my max benefit, and to continue working at my current job, on account of I can’t see myself ever needing to spend less than I spend right now to get by. Is this permitted (collecting my SS benefit and my wages simultaneously. I do expect that my tax liability will go up accordingly, but doing this for a few years, like until I turn 100 or so, should allow me to build up a nest egg)?

It’s not just SSA who does this. It’s a general principle of law about how birthdays work. Common tradition is that we celebrate the anniversary of your birth as your “birthday” but that’s not when your age legally increases to the next whole number. Some laws or contracts may specify your birthday or the anniversary of your birth, but if it just says your age then the default is that you attain that age on the day before your birthday.

I read about a case where a woman was covered by her parents’ insurance until she reached the age of 21. Her birthday was on the first of the month. She filed a claim which was denied on the basis that she had actually reached the age of 21 in the previous month. It went to court and the judge ruled in favor of the insurance company.

This sounds wrong if you think of days and years as cardinal numbers but it kinda make sense if you look at days and years as ordinal numbers. The first day of your first year is the day you are born; the last day of your first year is the day you are one year old, and that happens the day before the anniversary of your birth. If you were born on June 1st, the last day of your 18th year is May 31st, and that’s when you are 18 years old. If you imagine each year of your life as a book with 365 pages (or 366 for leap years), then it’s like saying you finished the book when you’re on the last page, not when you are on the first page of the next book.

This is the largely arbitrary “full” retirement benefit. But your benefit keeps going up if you delay taking benefits. It stops going up at age 70.

What does happen at your “full” retirement age is that you are no longer penalized for earning money outside of Social Security. Other than that, the full retirement age is largely fictional because, as I said, your benefits keep going up if you wait.

By the way, the age at which you reach “full” retirement varies by the year you were born. For example, for those born in 1937 or earlier, it is 65. For those born in 1960 and later is is 67. It gradually increases between 1937 and 1960.

I forget the exact details but if you are under 70 and earn more than $17k while claiming SS payments, your payments will be reduced. Up to 85% of benefits are also taxed if make too much. It is not lost money though, they will pay you more at age 70 to make up for the reduced payments (but not taxes). At age 70 you should take SS.

Your SS benefit will continue to increase until you are 70 if you don’t take it at 66.


Not accurate. I claimed SS at 66. I still work 40-50 hours/week. There is NO penalty for continued working, you just pay taxes on your SS benefit with your regular wages. I have to work until I’m 100 also. :smiley:

Sorry, I conflated FRA and age 70. Benefits are reduced prior to Full Retirement Age - not prior to age 70.

The only ‘penalty’ would be the means testing that triggers taxes on up to 85% of your SS benefits.

Suppose one spouse is 70 and the other is not and still working. If only the 70 year old is collecting SS benefits, would they be taxed at all?

I suspect that this would depend on joint filing status. Taxation of SS also happens if you have IRA/401k withdrawals, not just earned income.

SS is not taxed by age. If you have income something like $32,000 in a year taxing of SS begins. My wife and I are retired I get SS and a retirement check, my wife is only getting a retirement check and we are over the limit. 85% of my SS gets counted as income and added to my adjusted income. Being over 66 if I no matter how much income I have it will not affect how much SS I receive.

True. When half your SS benefits plus your joint other taxable income exceeds $32,000 - it is taxed at a sliding percentage until you reach $44,000 in joint income. At that point, 85% of you pr SS benefit is taxed.

Single filers start at $25,000.

A helpful page about taxes on SS is (of course) on the Bogleheads site. A person could be paying as high as a 40.2% marginal tax rate. :eek: (It says updated for 2018 brackets, so if you’re doing your 2017 takes, it’ll be different. But the high rate for single filer in a certain range is about the same.)

The formula is arcane and then some.