The Best Age to File for Social Security

the best age to file for social security

“What’s the best age to file for Social Security?”

This is the number-one question people ask me about Social Security.

And it’s little wonder because the answer is anything but simple or straightforward. In fact, finding the right answer for you often requires a lot of complex thinking and calculating to determine exactly what you should do.

Even if you can manage to do the proper planning on your own, then you’re left with an almost-bigger challenge: feeling confident that you got to the right answer.

You can do the hard work of making your best estimate… only to spend a lot of time and energy worrying and second-guessing yourself.

“What’s the best age to file for Social Security?” is the question that trips up most people more than any other in planning for the retirement you want. So let’s get to the bottom of this, and to an answer you can use, together.

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Lost Social Security Card? Here’s What You Need to Know

It’s just one little blue, fragile piece of paper — but a lost Social Security card can add up to a lot of trouble. If you your card is missing, you need to act now.

Your card lists out both your full name and Social Security number, and with these two pieces of information a thief can easily wreak havoc on your finances.

A lost Social Security card is all someone needs to open accounts, file fraudulent tax returns, get healthcare under your name, and a whole lot more. Needless to say, you should keep your card in a safe place (in other words, not your wallet) to prevent accidental loss or theft.

But we all know things happen, even with the best safeguards in place. If your card does go missing, here’s what you need to do.

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The Best Explanation of Medicare Coverage and What it Costs

Understanding Medicare is an important part of your overall retirement planning, but it’s so confusing and complicated! But I’m here to help you understand Medicare and how it will impact your retirement plans. There’s a lot of information here, so grab a cup of coffee and get comfortable.

medicare basics

What Is Medicare?

Medicare is the government-run health program for older or disabled individuals. There are several parts to Medicare, and each part covers different things. The four main parts are:

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Video: SS Family Benefit Maximum–Simplified!

Did you know that there are Social Security benefits available to your eligible family members if you die, become disabled, or retire? There are some limitations though. Generally speaking, no more than 150% – 175% of your full retirement age benefit can be paid out.

Check out this video for more information.

This video walks you through the individual steps to calculate your Social Security family benefit maximum. The numbers in the formula change on an annual basis so please note that this video is made with 2018 numbers. You can find the formula for the current family benefit maximum calculation at this link.


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2018: Key Changes to Social Security

Here are the most important Social Security changes for 2018. This is not all that’s changing, just what I think is most important.

Maximum Taxable Earnings

6.2% of your paycheck goes to Social Security tax (unless you’re self employed and then it’s 12.4%). However, there is a maximum amount of income that you pay this tax on. In 2017 this cap was $127,200. In 2018 the cap increases to $128,400.

Quarter of Coverage

Most of the Social Security programs require 40 ‘credits’ to qualify for benefits. So what does it take to get a ‘credit?’ It changes every year but for 2018 it will be $1,320. This is up from the $1,300 in 2017.

Earnings Limit

The amount you can earn before the SSA starts to withhold your benefits has increased from $16,920 to $17,040. Keep in mind that this only applies to benefits paid prior to full retirement age.

Cost of Living Adjustment

In most years the Social Security Administration increases benefits to keep up with inflation. It doesn’t always happen though. In fact, in the past 10 years there have been 3 years with a 0% increase. However, in 2018 benefits will increase by 2%.


Video: 2018 Social Security Income Limits


the 2018 social security earnings limit

The 2018 Social Security income limits have been announced.

It is important to understand these numbers and how your benefit may be affected if you are under full retirement age.


In this video we discuss:

  • The new 2018 Social Security income limit
  • The monthly income limit in the first year of retirement
  • Special rules called “substantial services” for self employed individuals

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Online Social Security Calculator: Your Step-By-Step Guide

online social security calculator


If you’re looking for an online Social Security calculator, you’ll find plenty of options. For example, the Social Security website has 11 different options for calculating your benefit! Additionally, there are plenty of private companies who’ll gladly take your money for their version of a SS calculator. Most of us don’t need all of those options. In most cases, there’s only one Social Security calculator you need to figure out your benefit.

online ss calculator

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Social Security Answers for FREE!!

social security questions and answers

This is the biggest announcement I’ve made since I started this website.

Before I get to that, a little background will help to explain.

When I started this website, I had a simple goal. I wanted to help folks make sense out of Social Security. After assisting individuals with retirement planning for over a decade, I knew that the information available on this topic was unclear and often contradicting. Unfortunately, most folks just had to take the word of the person they’d talked to at their local Social Security office as the final word…even when it didn’t seem right.

What I didn’t completely understand was just how popular this site would become. As I’m writing this article, I’m looking back at multiple days where I’ve had over 1,000 daily visitors to my website. That’s still pretty modest for many sites, but I’m ecstatic that there’s that many people who want to read about Social Security! This site is rapidly growing too. In the last 12 months we’ve experienced a 925% increase in traffic from the search engines such as Google and Bing.

I’ve come to realize, there are a lot of people who are looking for answers to their Social Security questions.

To answer that need, I’m launching a question & answer page to my website. It’s 100% free and super easy to use. If you’d like to check it out, visit

To post your question, you’ll have to do a quick registration (to keep out the spammers), and agree to the following:

  • Your question and the answers will be published for public viewing on this site. Once published, the content will remain posted at the site owner’s discretion. You should not publish personal data such as date of birth, social security numbers, or any other personally identifiable information.
  • The information in this site does not constitute specific and individual advice. It should be interpreted as educational in nature.

I will continue to offer a consulting service if you’d rather contact me directly. For more information on that, visit the Need Help page.

I can’t wait to see your questions!

Why Social Security is Important for YOU (even if you’re not close to retirement)

family coverage under social security

Think Social Security is just for the retired? Think again! There’s something here for everyone.

When we think of Social Security, we usually think about a monthly check when we retire. The truth is, the Social Security system offers a lot more than just retirement benefits. There are also benefits if you become disabled, survivor benefits if you die and benefits if you need medical care. All of these benefits offer a valuable safety net for risks that could occur decades before retirement.

Here are some numbers that show the importance of Social Security benefits that you might use long before retirement:

  • In 2014 there were nearly 3.3 million children receiving benefits.
    —350,000 from a retired parent
    —1,634,000 from a disabled parent
    —1,245,000 from a deceased parent
  • 34% of all Social Security benefits are paid to the spouses and children of retired, deceased or disabled workers.
  • 54 years old is the average of a disabled worker
  • Just over 1 in 4 of today’s 20 year-olds will become disabled before reaching age 67.

Source: SSA.GOV

Let’s face it…the risks are real. Social Security helps families who have faced a loss of income due to death or injury.

If you are serious about planning for the future, and protecting against potential risks, you need to understand how these benefits work and when they apply. With this information, you can make the best decisions about how to protect your family.

Two Categories of Protection

So how does Social Security help to manage these pre-retirement risks? There are two categories of benefits available:

  • Benefits for the worker
  • Benefits for the worker’s family

Both groups of benefits are an important part of your overall financial plan.  Let’s examine each individually:

Benefit for the Worker

In additional to retirement income, Social Security provides two other important benefits for the worker:  income if you become disabled, and medical coverage.

If you become disabled:  Social Security provides income to those who are unable to work due to disability.  Depending on your work history, you may be eligible for one of two programs:  Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

SSDI pays a portion of your pre-disability income, based upon a complex formula.

Eligibility for SSDI is based on your work history and your medical condition.  In general, you must have worked for ten year to be eligible for SSDI, but there are multiple exceptions based upon age.

So how much would this disability payment be? There are a few factors that affect it, but generally speaking you can look at your full retirement age benefit on your Social Security benefit statement for a good idea.

If you become disabled, you may also become eligible for Medicare health insurance after 24 months of disability.

Benefit for Worker’s Family

If you die or become disabled, there are benefits that may be available to your spouse and to your children.

Benefits for your Spouse

There are several ways your spouse may be eligible for social security benefits:

    • When caring for your child under the age of 16
    • If age 62 (60 for survivor benefits)
    • If over the age of 50 and disabled (survivor benefits only)

Generally, your spouse will qualify for these benefits if you were married at least 12 months. The requirement for survivor benefits is only 9 months.  However, there are multiple exceptions to the 9 month length of marriage requirement.

For more information on the Survivors Benefit, see my article Social Security Survivor Benefits: The Complete Guide to Who Gets What and How to Calculate It.

Benefits for your Children

If you become disabled or die, a child who is your biological child, adopted child, or dependent stepchild  is eligible for children’s benefits if the child is:

    • unmarried, and
    • under age 18, or
    • 18-19 and a full-time student in secondary school through grade 12, or
    • 18 or older and disabled with a disability that started before age 22.

How Much In Benefits?

Assuming that each family member meets the eligibility criteria for benefits, they would be able to receive up to:

Also see the quick reference chart below.


If you die, your spouse will be eligible for 100% of your Full Retirement Age (FRA) benefit if he or she is:

  • at his or her full retirement age, or
  • at any age if caring for a child under the age of 16.

Surviving spouse is eligible to file as early as 60, but benefits will be reduced.

If you become disabled, your spouse will be eligible for 50% of your Full Retirement Age benefit at surviving spouse’s full retirement age or at any age if caring for a child under the age of 16.

Spouse is eligible to file as early as 62, but benefits will be reduced.


If you die, your eligible child may receive 75% of your Full Retirement Age benefit.

If you become disabled, your eligible child may receive 50% of your Full Retirement Age benefit.

Benefits for children continue until the child reaches age 18, unless the child marries.  Benefits may continue until the child is 19 as long as he or she is completing a secondary school program.  Benefits may also continue for children who were disabled prior to age 22.


social security benefits payable to family

Family Benefit Maximum

Each qualified family member may receive a monthly benefit payment based on your full retirement benefit amount, but there is a limit to the total amount the Social Security Administration will pay to your family. They refer to this limit as the Family Benefit Maximum. This maximum benefit is not a set number but is about 150 to 180 percent of your full retirement benefit. Where your percentage falls depends on your full retirement age benefit. I’ve included a chart below to help you figure this out for yourself.

There are two notable exceptions to maximum calculation.

1)If you have a divorced spouse who is receiving benefits from your work record, it will not count in the family benefit maximum and it will not affect the amount of benefits you or your family may receive.

2) The 150% to 180% range only applies if the payments to children or eligible spouses is made because of your retirement benefit. The family maximum for SSDI is simply 150% of your full retirement age benefit

2017 family maximum benefit formulaEarnings Limit

If a child or surviving spouse is receiving benefits from Social Security, they are subject to the same earnings limitation as everyone else. It should be noted that your child’s earnings affect only their own benefits and not yours or those of any other beneficiaries on your record.

ssa survivor benefit earnings limit

The Replacement Cost of Social Security

I’ll occasionally hear someone say that they would get out of Social Security if that was allowed.Their thought is that they’ll never receive the amount of benefits to equal to the amount of taxes they’ve paid in. That rationale makes sense if you are only considering the benefit you may get in retirement. But the argument falls completely apart when you consider all the other benefits that are provided from Social Security.

If you really wanted to opt out of Social Security, you’d need to:

  • Buy more life insurance
  • Buy more disability insurance
  • Save a few hundred thousand to pay for healthcare costs
  • Save a few hundred thousand to create a retirement income

The average couple would need to pay for life insurance, disability insurance and save just over $1,000,000 to replace the income from Social Security.

If you still have questions about Social Security, here are two books that I think are great.

Mike Piper’s Social Security Made Simple

Emily Guy Birken’s Making Social Security Work For You