Dear Rusty: I am 78, still working, have a good health-care plan, and I make a nice salary. Can I still get my Social Security (SS) check since I paid into it all these years?
Signed: Still Working in my late 70s
Dear Still Working: Not only can you get your Social Security check now, but I recommend you apply for it as soon as possible. Regardless of your current earnings, you’ll not suffer any penalty because you are still working. That’s because you stopped being subject to the SS “earnings test” when you reached your full retirement age (FRA) of 66 a dozen years ago. Indeed, your Social Security benefit continued to grow until you reached 70 years of age, at which point it reached your maximum benefit, which is 32 percent more than your benefit would have been at age 66.
Since your benefit reached its maximum some years ago at age 70, and since working now won’t hurt your payment amount, you should claim your benefits immediately. You should also ask for six months of retroactive benefits. Although your benefit stopped growing at age 70 and you’re now 78, Social Security will only pay up to six months of retroactive benefits; thus you have lost some of your benefits by waiting until age 78 to claim.
You can apply for your benefits either by calling SS at your local office or the national Social Security service center at (800) 772-1213 to make an appointment to apply, or you can apply online at www.ssa.gov/retire. Applying online is by far the most-efficient method, but you’ll need to first create your personal “my Social Security” online account to do so (simply go to www.ssa.gov/myaccount and follow the instructions).
Since you’re still working, and assuming you have “creditable” health-care coverage from your employer, you can delay enrolling in Medicare until you stop working (“creditable” coverage is a group plan with at least 20 participants). If you haven’t yet enrolled in Medicare and you’ve had creditable health-care coverage since you were 65, you will not incur a late-enrollment penalty for enrolling in Medicare now, but you can also continue to defer enrolling in Medicare without penalty if your employer coverage is “creditable.”
I strongly encourage you to apply for your Social Security benefits as quickly as possible, because you will continue to lose money by delaying further. You will still get credit for your current earnings even after you start your Social Security benefits and, if appropriate because of your recent earnings, your benefit amount will be automatically increased. So, there is no reason to delay claiming Social Security any longer. You earned your SS benefits, you aren’t subject to a penalty because you’re still working, and you’ll continue to get credit for your current earnings while still working, so you should apply for SS right away.
Russell Gloor is a national Social Security advisor at the AMAC Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC). The 2.4 million member AMAC says it is a senior advocacy organization. Send your questions to: email@example.com.
Author’s note: This article is intended for information purposes only and does not represent legal or financial guidance. It presents the opinions and interpretations of the AMAC Foundation’s staff, trained and accredited by the National Social Security Association (NSSA). The NSSA and the AMAC Foundation and its staff are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other governmental entity.