Question: You told a caller to your radio show that Social Security benefits will be locked down at age 70, but I don’t think that is the case for some people.
It is my understanding that the benefit amount is based on the highest 25 years of income out of 35 years of work income. My SS office told me that for someone who has not had 35 working years by age 70, the benefit might potentially rise.
I have worked for less than 25 years. I cannot reach the total of 35 working years even if I work until I’m 70. I was told that even if I reach 70 and start getting my “maximum” benefit, by continuing to work I could increase the benefit amount every year.
I could do that by changing my years of zero income to some income. Any income is higher than zero. This info is applicable to many immigrants, I think. I have a lot of zero-income years. I plan to work longer to offset them and build up my final benefit.
Ric: Actually, we’re both right — just about different things!
I was talking on the air about the Delayed Retirement Credit. Here’s how that works: When you reach your full retirement age (about age 66 for many), you are entitled to your full retirement benefit. If you begin to receive benefits earlier (as young as age 62), you get less per month.
If you wait longer (until you’re as old as 70), you get more per month. That’s the DRC. And the longer you delay starting, the more you get each month when you finally start — until age 70, that is. After that, there’s no further increase from waiting. Thus, there’s no reason to wait past 70 to begin collecting Social Security retirement benefits.
But you are referring to the benefit amount (not the delayed credit) and how that is calculated. So, you’re right too: The benefit amount could increase past 70.
Social Security retirement benefits are calculated by adjusting your lifetime wages to today’s wages. Add up your highest 35 years of wages and divide by 420; this produces your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME). Missing years count as zero, and future years count as if they represent a high year.
The Social Security Administration then applies a formula to the AIME to determine your primary insurance amount. That’s what you get at your full retirement age.
So, as you said, if you continue to work past 70, even if you’re collecting Social Security, your benefit could go up if you replace some missing wage years (currently counted as zero) with current wages (that are above zero).
Indeed, here’s what Social Security’s website says: “Your benefits may increase when you work. As long as you continue to work, even if you are receiving benefits, you will continue to pay Social Security taxes on your earnings. However, we will check your record every year to see whether the additional earnings you had will increase your monthly benefit. If there is an increase, we will send you a letter telling you of your new benefit amount.”
So, we’re both right — just about different things!