By Darla Shelden
The Social Security Administration is facing the imminent retirement of the largest generation in American history, the 76 million individuals born in the “baby boom” years, from 1946 through 1964. The term “baby boom” was coined to define the boom in births after WWII.
In 1935, the Social Security Act established a system of benefits for retirees, disabled persons and families of retired, disabled or deceased workers. About 157 million Americans pay Social Security taxes and 56 million collected monthly benefits in 2012.
According to a recent poll by AARP, two thirds of baby boomers surveyed are expecting to delay retirement and half are not confident they’ll ever retire.
Sarah Schultz-Lackey, SSA, Dallas Region Communications Director said, “We know that Baby Boomers are on the go. That’s why in addition to our in-office and toll free telephone service, we are proud to provide a suite of online services so that Boomers can plan for their retirement using a variety of tools on our website.”
Since its launch last May, over one million people have gone online, to create a “My Social Security” account and to view their Social Security Statement.
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security said, “The online Social Security Statement meets our commitment to provide Americans with an easy, efficient process to obtain an estimate of their potential Social Security benefits.”
Individuals can start receiving Social Security retirement benefits at 62, but must be at least 61 years and 9 months old to apply.
“Visitors to our site can use our retirement estimator by visiting www.ssa.gov/estimator or file retirement benefits at www.ssa.gov/pgm/retirement.htm,” said Schultz-Lackey. “Our Frequently Asked Questions webpage is easily viewable from a smartphone at ssa-custhelp.ssa.gov and answers are just a click away.”
When reaching full retirement age of 65, individuals can continue to work if they choose and still receive full Social Security benefit payments.
Jennifer L. Whitehead, Public Affairs Specialist, Dallas Region said, “An individual can work and receive retirement benefits, but if he or she is under full retirement age, an annual earnings test does apply. For 2013 the annual earnings test amount is $15,120 yearly ($1,260 monthly). For every $2 in earning above the earnings test, $1 will be deducted from retirement benefits. The amount increases the year that the individual reaches full retirement age, and once he or she reaches full retirement age there is no more earnings test.”
Social Security will recalculate the benefit amount, after reaching full retirement age, in order to give credits for any months in which benefits were not received because of earnings. In addition, as long as an individual continues to work and receive benefits, Social Security will check their record every year to see whether the additional earnings will increase their monthly benefit.
Social Security suggests that individuals apply approximately 2 months before they want their benefits to start.
“If after taking a look at the retirement estimator an individual decides he or she is ready to apply, the Social Security’s online retirement application takes most people only about 15 minutes to complete,” said Whitehead. “After it is submitted, it is received and processed. Simple as that.”
Jose Olivero, SSA Oklahoma City Public Affairs Specialist said, “It has been the priority of the Social Security Administration to find ways to provide a high quality service at the lowest possible financial burden to the Social Security Trust Fund.
“Applying online will expedite the application process and can be done in a secure environment in the convenience of your home 24/7,” said Olivero. “A Claims Representative will review the claim and if they have any questions or find an error, they will contact you via phone and mail to clarify any issues before the claim is adjudicated.”
In addition to the website, you can call 1-800-772-1213 from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., Monday through Friday with questions or to make an appointment. New office hours nationwide are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. – noon.
Baby Boomer Melanie Aven wanted to apply the old fashioned way. “Applying for Social Security seemed to be kind of a big deal and I realized that I didn’t want to have this experience sitting alone in front of a computer,” said Aven. “By going into the Social Security office in Shepherd Mall, I would experience this significant milestone with someone who has guided hundreds, if not thousands of others, down this path.
“The representative I met with was extremely helpful, very knowledgeable and had a wonderful sense of humor,” said Aven. “Everyone I know who has gone into the Social Security office has had nothing but good things to say about the representatives they worked with.”
Astrue added, “We are making it even easier for people to do their business with us from the comfort of their home, office, or library. I encourage people to take advantage of our award-winning online services and check out the new features available.”
For more information visit www.socialsecurity.gov.