By Vonda Van Til, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist
How do I report a lost Social Security card?
You do not have to report a lost Social Security card. In fact, reporting a lost or stolen card to Social Security will not prevent misuse of your Social Security number. You should let us know if someone is using your number to work, call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
If you think someone is using your Social Security number, there are several other actions you should take:
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online at ftc.gov/bcdp/edu/microsites/idtheft or call 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338).
- File an online complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.
- Contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Identity Protection Specialized Unit by calling 1-800-908-4490, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- Monitor your credit report.
When a person who has worked and paid Social Security taxes dies, are benefits payable on that person’s record?
Social Security survivors benefits can be paid to:
- A widow or widower—unreduced benefits at full retirement age, or reduced benefits as early as age 60.
- A disabled widow or widower—as early as age 50.
- A widow or widower at any age if he or she takes care of the deceased’s child who is under age 16 or disabled, and receiving Social Security benefits.
- Unmarried children under 18 or up to age 19 if they are attending high school full time. Under certain circumstances, benefits can be paid to stepchildren, grandchildren, or adopted children.
- Children at any age who were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled.
- Dependent parents age 62 or older.
Even if you are divorced, you still may qualify for survivors benefits. For more information, go to www.ssa.gov.
How are my retirement benefits calculated?
Your Social Security benefits are based on earnings averaged over your lifetime. Your actual earnings are first adjusted or “indexed” to account for changes in average wages since the year the earnings were received. Then we calculate your average monthly indexed earnings during the 35 years in which you earned the most. We apply a formula to these earnings and arrive at your basic benefit. This is the amount you would receive at your full retirement age. You may be able to estimate your benefit by using our Retirement Estimator, which offers estimates based on your Social Security earnings. You can find the Retirement Estimator at www.ssa.gov/estimator.
I’ve decided I want to retire. Now what do I do?
The fastest and easiest way to apply for retirement benefits is to go to www.ssa.gov/retireonline. Use our online application to apply for Social Security retirement or spouses benefits. To do so, you must:
- Be at least 61 years and 9 months old.
- Want to start your benefits in the next four months.
- Live in the United States or one of its commonwealths or territories.
I worked the first half of the year, but plan to retire this month. Will Social Security count the amount I earn for this year when I retire?
Yes. If you retire mid-year, we count your earnings for the entire year. We have a special “earnings test” rule we apply to annual earnings, usually in the first year of retirement. Under this rule, you get a full payment for any whole month we consider you retired regardless of your yearly earnings. We consider you retired during any month your earnings are below the monthly earnings limit, or if you have not performed substantial services in self-employment. We do not consider income earned, beginning with the month you reach full retirement age. Learn more about the earnings test rule at www.ssa.gov/retire2/rule.htm.
I’m not sure when I’m going to retire so I want to estimate my retirement benefit at several different ages. What’s the easiest way to do that?
Using our Retirement Estimator is easy at www.ssa.gov/estimator, and it’s the best way for you to get a good idea of what your monthly benefit payment may be after you retire. The Estimator gives estimates based on your actual Social Security earnings record. Keep in mind, these are estimates and we can’t provide your actual benefit amount until you apply for benefits. You can use the Estimator if you have enough work to qualify for benefits and aren’t currently receiving benefits. If you are currently receiving only Medicare benefits, you can still get an estimate. You can learn about this subject by reading our publication, Retirement Information For Medicare Beneficiaries, available at www.ssa.gov/pubs.
Vonda Van Til is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan. You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.