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Your Social Security Questions Answered

AARP experts address chief concerns

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Is there a maximum Social Security benefit you can receive no matter how much you’ve earned?

En español | Yes, but that depends on the worker’s year of birth, his or her yearly taxable earnings and the age the worker starts getting benefits. The highest amount a worker turning age 66 in 2019 can get is $2,861 a month. But you can increase that amount if you wait until turning 70 to start claiming the benefit. A worker with $2,861 a month payable at a full retirement age of 66 would collect $3,776 a month by delaying until age 70 — without working past 66. That’s because your benefit increases by 8 percent a year between full retirement age and 70.

I am making contributions to my 401(k). Will that change my Social Security earnings limit?

Contributing to a 401(k) plan does not reduce the amount of earnings that the program uses for tax purposes or in the program’s retirement earnings test. Social Security looks at your gross earnings before any tax-deferred deductions and allotments.

I am on Social Security disability. Can I collect these disability payments and the program’s retirement benefits at the same time?

You cannot collect both at the same time. If you are eligible for both, you would receive the higher of the two. In most cases, the disability payment will be higher than a reduced retirement benefit. That is because the program calculates your disability benefit as though you reached full retirement age when you became disabled. It converts to a retirement benefit in the month you attain full retirement age.


Visit AARP's Social Security Resource Center to find more answers to your questions

Can you change your mind about collecting retirement benefits from the program?

Yes, but only one time. Social Security will allow you to withdraw your application for retirement and repay the benefits within your first 12 months of eligibility. If you are over full retirement age, you can ask the program to suspend your payments. If you temporarily stop your retirement benefit between full retirement age and age 70, you will get a higher amount when you start collecting again.

If I start taking my benefit at 62, can I switch to spousal benefits when my husband claims his Social Security?

You can claim your own benefit at 62 and then pick up a spouse’s benefit on your husband’s record later if it is higher. When your husband files for his retirement funds, you will be eligible for an additional benefit on his record if your full-retirement-age amount is less than half of his.

Can I collect a survivor benefit from my deceased husband at age 62 and switch to my own retirement benefits later?

Yes. When you are eligible for both your own retirement benefit and a survivor benefit, you have the option of collecting one benefit early and waiting until you are older to switch to the other. Collecting one early will not affect the amount of the other when you switch later. You can collect a survivor benefit on your deceased spouse’s record as early as age 60 and wait as late as age 70 to switch to your own record. Another option is to collect your own retirement benefit as early as age 62 and switch to the survivor benefit when you reach full retirement age.

What if I stop working in my 50s? Will it affect the benefits that I receive if I apply at age 62 or 66, or even if I wait until 70?

Your program benefits are calculated based on your 35 highest years of earnings. It doesn't matter what age you were when your earnings peaked. The estimates on your Social Security statement include anticipated future earnings if you have worked in the two years prior to the statement date. So, that estimate may be off if you plan to stop working sooner than that. You can fine-tune that estimate with Social Security’s Retirement Estimator, which can be found on its website at ssa.gov. You can also get a revised estimate by calling the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778).

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