Four Social Security myths debunked

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the Social Security system. Here are four common myths and the facts about how Social Security works and its future prospects.

Myth 1: You should collect benefits early.

This is one of the biggest Social Security myths. Beneficiaries can start taking retirement benefits as early as age 62, but if you take Social Security between age 62 and your full retirement age (which ranges from 65 to 67, depending on your year of birth) your benefits will be permanently reduced to account for the longer period you will be paid.

On the other hand, if you delay taking retirement, depending on when you were born your benefit will increase by 6 to 8 percent for every year that you delay, in addition to any cost of living increases.

Myth 2: Your money goes into an account with your name on it.

When you pay into Social Security, the money is not set aside in a separate account, as with a 401(k) or IRA. Instead, your contributions are used to pay current recipients. When you start receiving benefits, people paying into the system will be paying your benefits.

Myth 3: Social Security will be out of money soon.

Many young people believe the Social Security system will run out of money before they have a chance to collect anything. Currently, the Social Security trustees predict that the combined trust funds for the retirement and disability programs will run out of money in 2035. Politically, it seems unlikely that Congress would let this happen. Changes will likely be made to the system by either raising taxes, reducing benefits for high-income individuals, increasing the retirement age or something else that will allow Social Security to be fully funded.

Myth 4: If you haven’t worked, you cannot collect benefits.

If you haven’t worked outside of the home, you will not be able to collect Social Security benefits on your own record, but you may be able to collect them based on your spouse or ex-spouse’s record. Spouses are entitled to collect as much half of a worker’s retirement benefit. This rule applies to ex-spouses as well, as long as the marriage lasted at least 10 years and the spouse applying for benefits isn’t remarried.

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