If you're planning to start collecting Social Security soon, you may now have to wait a bit longer to reach full retirement age (FRA).
2017's change in the full retirement age
The arrival of 2017 brought with it several changes on the Social Security front. Among the biggest was the start of a planned hike in the FRA.
Since 2005, the FRA has been 66. But as of January 1, the FRA is taking a long slow climb.
Here's how it works: Those born in 1955 will turn 62 this year and can begin taking partial benefits. But full retirement age for them will increase by two months — to 66 years and 2 months.
If those workers who turn 62 this year opt to take benefits as soon as they can, they won't be just four years early — compared to the FRA that's been in effect for the last decade or so. They'll be four years and two months early.
Those extra two months may not sound like much, but they have implications for the monthly benefits check you'll get for the rest of your life.
Consider this: If your check at FRA would normally be $1,500 a month, but you instead choose to start collecting as soon as you can, that monthly benefit will now drop down to $1,112.50 for the rest of your life.
That's instead of the $1,125 monthly check a worker who took early retirement when they turned 62 in 2016 would have gotten for the rest of their life, according to Fool.com.
The Social Security Administration Amendments of 1983 signed by President Reagan call for the FRA to "increase by 2 months a year for persons reaching age 62 in 2017-22," further noting that it "will be fixed at age 67 for those reaching age 62 after 2022."
Here's a chart from the Social Security Administration that lays it all out:
This slow increase in the full retirement age presents a challenge now that Americans are living longer and saving less.
Sadly, more than 56% of us have less than $1,000 saved, and half of us live paycheck to paycheck.
How can I beef up future benefits checks before I start collecting Social Security?
If you have some time left before you start claiming your Social Security benefits, consider the following:
Play the waiting game
In the past, it was very common to retire and take Social Security at 62. But every year you wait after 62, you have an imputed return of 8% per year on your lifetime benefit. So if you wait from 62 to 70, the amount that Social Security pays climbs dramatically. (Benefits no longer increase after 70.)
Use an online calculator to help!
AARP's interactive calculator allows you to pop in your specifics and it will give you a decision tree to help you figure out the optimal time to take Social Security. Check it out to help yourself or a parent.
If you are looking for a more comprehensive approach to give you specifics on when it would be best to start drawing on your Social Security benefits, check out the Maximize my Social Security tool. There are different levels of analysis that you can choose, but $40 gives you access to sophisticated software that helps determine the best time to start receiving your checks. They also offer a money-back guarantee if you aren't satisfied.
Boost your earnings today
What you get from Social Security has everything to do with your 35 highest earning years. So you might consider negotiating a raise or taking on a second job.
We can help you on the latter front. Our work from home guide has legitimate ways you can earn some extra money. None of the sites listed will make you rich, but they will help you supplement your existing income.
How can I play catch-up on my own retirement savings?
Know how much you'll need to retire
By age 35, you should have two times your annual salary saved up for retirement, according to the latest numbers from Fidelity Investments.
Five years later, you should have three times your annual salary. And on and on, until you reach 67 when you should have 10 times your annual salary saved.
Laid out visually, the Fidelity guidelines for individuals look like this:
- By 35, save two times your gross annual salary
- By 40, save three times your gross annual salary
- By 45, save four times your gross annual salary
- By 50, save six times your gross annual salary
- By 55, save seven times your gross annual salary
- By 60, save eight times your gross annual salary
- By 67, save 10 times your gross annual salary
Make extra contributions to retirement savings if you're over 50
If you're coming into the savings game kind of late, you can play catch-up. You have to be 50 or over to do this, but here's how it works:
- If you have a 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans or the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan, you can make an extra $6,000 contribution in 2017. (That's on top of the existing $18,000 contribution limit for these plans.)
- For those with IRAs, your can contribute an additional $1,000 in 2017, for a grand total of $6,500 in annual contributions.
Be sure to work with fee-only financial planners
If you decide to enlist the services of an advisor, be sure he or she is what's called "fee only." That means they earn their income on an hourly or ongoing basis, not on commissions from the investments they steer you towards. Visit NAPFA.org (The National Association for Personal Financial Advisors) for ongoing fee-only help planning for retirement or GarrettPlanningNetwork.com for one-time advice on an hourly basis.
Strive to reduce debt in your life
Being debt free buys you so much freedom. And today it's easier to become debt free than at any time in recent memory because of dirt cheap interest rates. If you're still paying high interest rates, like on a credit card, get a lower interest card if you can qualify and transfer the balance.
Look at that box on your monthly statement and see what you'd have to pay to be debt free in three years. Then resolve to pay that each and every month. You need to budget money to pay down your debt just as you would budget for rent or a mortgage or a car payment.