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Marion Syversen Marion Syversen
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Making the most of Social Security in 2015

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Social Security is often the largest source of income for retirees. How can you get the most from your Social Security?

Generally, the way to get the most monthly benefit is to wait. The longer you wait to begin taking income, up to age 70, the more money you will have in benefits.

For retirement benefits the earliest one can take Social Security is at age 62. Once you turn on the spigot, if you will, and begin taking your monthly benefits, that value is locked in. That will continue to be your approximate monthly benefit all of your life.

I say approximately because there sometimes is an increase in those locked-in benefits. They are increases due to inflation and are called cost of living increases abbreviated as COLA.

Since 1975, COLA increases have occurred inevery year but two(2010 and 2011). The adjustment is an equation based on the Consumer Price Index. The most recent COLA increase was a1.7-percentincrease to all Social Security recipients on Oct. 22, 2014, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA).

So, if you take your retirement at age 62, you will have it for life. But this isn't the maximum benefit you might receive. If you wait, you would be eligible for a higher monthly amount.

At full retirement, age 66, benefits step up to an amount valued at a 25 percent increase over the monthly benefit you might receive at age 62. A 25 percent increase is a good amount, and it is an incentive to wait. If COLA occur, they are added to your monthly benefit at this payment level.

But there is another way to increase monthly benefits still more. If you really want to maximize your benefits, wait until age 70 when benefits increase an additional 32 percent from the benefits at full retirement (age 66).

So if you are keeping track at home, at 66 the benefits increase by 25 percent from age 62's monthly amount. And if you wait until age 70, benefits increase yet again 32 percent from the large benefit of age 66.

COLA are also applied to these large benefits as they are to all recipients. These increases are meant as an incentive for as many as can to wait to take their Social Security benefits. After all, life expectancy is advancing, and we no longer live only a few years in retirement.

Now we live 30 and 40 years collecting these monthly benefits, and maximizing them is critical.

Making choices always involves balancing various priorities. To maximize Social Security benefits, you may want to consider waiting as long as you can.

Last modified on Tuesday, 20 January 2015 22:00


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