3 Reasons Why Your Social Security Check Was Short This Month
3 Reasons Why Your Social Security Check Was Short This Month
These are the situations that can diminish your benefits
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Some 65 million Americans receive Social Security retirement benefits each month, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). The average monthly benefit for all retired workers in 2022 is estimated to be $1,657a sum that represents the primary source of income for some of them.
Even if youve saved funds in a 401(k), an individual retirement account (IRA), or another qualified retirement plan, if youre banking on Social Security to supplement that, then you may be in for a shock once your first payment arrives. Ifyou recently started receiving Social Security benefits, there are three common reasons why you may be getting less than you expected: an offset due to outstanding debts, taking benefits early, and a high income.
1. Offsets Shrank Your Social Security Check
One potential scenario that may result in lower Social Security benefits is an offset. Thats when someone to whom you owe money makes a claim against your benefits. Examples of debts that could result inan offset include:
SSA regulations protect the first $750 in benefits you receive. However, if its determined that a debt does indeed belong to you, then the SSA will reduce your benefits each month by a certain amount until what you owe is repaid. Once an offset for debt is satisfied, youll receive your full benefit amount. Meanwhile, you have to deal with the temporary shortfall.
Also, you may be subject to an offset if you receive Social Security benefits before you reach full retirement age and continue to work. However, once you reach full retirement age, your earnings will no longer reduce your benefit, no matter how much you earn.
2. Early Benefits Shrank Your Social Security Check
For most people retiring now, the full retirement age for Social Security purposes is either 66 or 67, depending on the year when you were born. But it is possible to begin taking your Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62. While that can give you some financial relief if youre strapped for cash, there is a tradeoff. The size of your benefits automaticallyand permanentlygo down.
A 2020 survey of 1,727 adults in the U.S. ages 24 and older by the Nationwide Retirement Institute (NRI), a subsidiary of the Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, found that almost three in four baby boomers (73%), and most gen Xers (90%) and millennials (97%), incorrectly identify the age at which they are eligible for full retirement benefits. In that same study, future retirees over age 50 expect to receive a higher payment than what long-term retirees actually receive.
How much can taking benefits early really cost you? Lets say your normal retirement age is 67, but you decide to apply for Social Security when you turn 62. Because youre taking benefits for an extra 60 months, your Social Security check would be reduced by 30%.
If youre entitled to $1,000 a month, then youd only get $700. Thats a pretty significant chunk of money to give up, and that check will be lower for life. If youre thinking of getting benefits early, then it pays to crunch the numbers to see how much you stand to lose by doing so.
If you wait until youre age 70 to take Social Security benefits, youll get an extra 8% for each year starting with your full retirement age. But claiming after age 70 doesnt increase your benefits further, so theres no reason to wait any longer.
3. Medicare Premiums Shrank Your Social Security Check
You are eligible to enroll in Medicare the year when you turn 65. If you sign up for Medicare Part B, your premiums are deducted from your Social Security benefits. The standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B enrollees is $170.10 for 2022, an increase of $21.60 from $148.50 in 2021. However, its entirely possible that you could end up paying more if you fall into a higher tax bracket.
If you file an individual return and your income was higher than $88,000 but less than $111,000, then you paid $207.90 in 2021. If your income ranged from $111,000 to $138,000, then you paid $297. And if its more than $500,000, then the premium came to $504.90.
And in 2022, single filers with income greater than $91,000 and less than or equal to $114,000 pay $238.10 monthly. If their income is greater than $114,000 and less than or equal to $142,000, they pay $340.20. If it's between $142,000 and $170,000, the premium is $442.30. For income between $170,000 and $500,000, the premium rises to $544.30. And if its more than $500,000, then the premium comes to $578.30.
If your income has recently dropped, you may appeal to the SSA for a lower premium. The IRS may be providing the SSA with older data that needs to be updated, says James B. Twining, CFP, founder, and CEO of Financial Plan Inc.
For certain high-income earners,Medicare premiums areequivalent to 35%, 50%, 65%, 80%, or even 85% of the total cost of coverage.
Other Factors Affecting Your Social Security Check
If you retire before full retirement age and your income goes up instead of down for any reasonyou sell off a high-value asset, you start a profitable business, or you earn a lot as a consultant or freelancerthen that could substantially impact what you get from Social Security, at least until you reach full retirement age.
Your benefits could also dwindle if you have Medicare Parts A and B (also known as Original Medicare) and are also paying a separate premium fora supplemental policy, called a Medigap plan.
Fewer than one in 10 adults polled by the Nationwide Retirement Institute understand the factors that determine the maximum Social Security retirement benefit.
A Word About Reserves
Even though the Social Security fund is replenished each month with payroll taxes from all income earners, the funds resources are not infinite, meaning the fund could run out of money.
According to a 2021 report by the SSA, retirement benefits will be fully paid on schedule until 2033. In other words, the trust funds reserves are expected to be exhausted after 2033, and at that point, only 76% of the scheduled benefits will be able to be paid from continuing tax income. Congress will need to make changes to replenish the fund so that retirees can continue to be paid the full coverage.
The 2021 financial projections from the Social Security Administration include their best estimates as to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the 2021 report noted that the fund has been significantly affected by the pandemic and the 2020 recession.
The Bottom Line
Relying on Social Security to see you through retirement can put you on thin ice financially. It becomes even trickier when youre getting less money than you budgeted to receive. Taking the time to clear up any outstanding debts, weighing the cost of taking benefits early, and looking at how your income stands to affect your benefits can help you avoid any surprises once your Social Security checks start rolling in.
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