Social Security Questions and Answers
Who’s eligible to receive Social Security benefits? How are benefits calculated? How can I increase my Social Security benefit? Can my kids inherit my Social Security benefit? Is Social Security going to run out of money? How can Spouses maximize the amount of Social Security they receive? These are some of the Social Security Questions we receive from our readers. In response, we have created this FAQ page as a resource to provide Social Security Questions and Answers.
Learn about eligibility for Social Security benefits, when you can collect them, and how much you will receive.
In addition, we will discuss how to maximize your Social Security retirement benefit, how to deal with taxes, and whether you can work while collecting benefits
Finally, we will address Spousal and dependent benefits, Social Security changes you should be aware of, and many, many more.
Social Security Questions and Answers
Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked Social Security questions.
Will Social Security Get a Raise in 2021?
Most seniors rely on their Social Security check as their main source of income.
The annual cost of living adjustments (COLA) helps to boost Social Security payments to catch up with inflation.
Each year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) bases the cost of living adjustment (COLA) increase on the Department of Labor’s consumer price index (CPI) for urban wage earners and clerical workers.
Over the past decade, Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment has averaged just 1.4%.
However, there have also been years when the COLA was zero, which means there was no increase in Social Security Benefits for that year.
In 2020, the COLA was 1.6%.
According to the SSA, the COLA for 2021 will be 1.3 percent.
As a result, the 70 million Americans who receive Social Security and SSI benefits will get a raise of 1.3% in 2021.
Do Seniors on Social Security Qualify for Food Stamps?
The short answer is Yes!
For many seniors, their Social Security benefits represent a significant source of their monthly income.
However, that is not always enough to meet their needs, including buying enough food for the month.
According to the Social Security Administration, these are the average Social Security benefits in 2021:
- $1,543 per month for retired workers.
- $801 per month for spouses of retired workers.
- $1,455 for older widows or widowers receiving survivor benefits.
If the average retiree is getting $1,543 a month in social security benefits, it means they are they will have to live on $18,516 per year.
If there is no income from other sources, making ends meet becomes a challenge for some seniors.
According to NCOA, In 2016, nearly 8.6 million older Americans faced the threat of hunger, representing 13.6% of adults aged 60+ in the U.S.
Food Stamps for Seniors
Seniors may qualify for food stamps (otherwise known as SNAP) to help buy food.
However, 3 out of 5 seniors who qualify for food stamps don’t apply.
In many states, you can apply for food stamps at the local County Department of Social or Family Services.
You can apply in apply in-person, by phone, or online.
Whether you can receive food assistance depends upon:
- the number of people in your household,
- your income, and
- your resources (such as cash, savings, and checking accounts).
Eligibility for SNAP is based on financial need.
However, there is a special income rule that applies to elderly or disabled persons.
Households with older adults (age 60 or older) and people with disabilities may have up to $3,000 in cash assets to qualify.
In addition, their monthly income must be below the federal poverty guideline, after taking all allowable deductions.
Finally, unlike other households, households with Seniors or the disabled are not required to meet a cap on gross income.
To apply for food stamps, contact your local department of social services or department of families.
Can I work while collecting Social Security Benefits?
The short answer is Yes!
However, whether the income you make will affect how much in Social Security benefits you receive depends on when you starting receiving benefits.
If you start receiving Social Security benefits before you reach full retirement age (FRA), then your income from working might reduce the amount of your benefit.
When you start to receive Social Security at your FRA, you qualify to collect 100 percent of the maximum benefit allowed from your earnings history.
Until then, Social Security doesn’t consider you fully “retired” if you make more than a certain amount from work.
As a result, they will deduct a portion of your benefits if your earnings exceed that limit.
However, once you reach FRA, there is no cap on how much you can earn and still receive your full Social Security benefit.
The income earnings limits are adjusted annually.
In 2021, for every $2 earned over $18,960, you lose $1 in Social Security Benefits.
For example, if you have a part-time job that pays $25,000 a year, it means you are making $6,040 over the limit ($25,000-$18,960).
Therefore, your Social Security Benefits will be reduced by $3,020, which is half of the $6,040.
How Does Social Security Spousal Benefits Work?
When it comes to Social Security retirement benefits, being married has its advantages.
Depending on your situation, taking spousal benefits may help you maximize how much in benefits you and your spouse receive.
However, how much you’ll receive depends on a number of factors, including:
- Your age
- The amount of your spouse’s benefit
- Whether you have other retirement benefits available to you
If you have not worked or do not have enough Social Security credits to qualify for your own Social Security benefits, you may be able to receive spousal benefits.
You qualify for spousal benefits if:
- Your spouse is already collecting retirement benefits.
- You have been married for at least a year.
- You are at least 62 (unless you are caring for a child who is under 16 or disabled, in which case the age rule does not apply).
Furthermore, if you are divorced and your marriage lasted at least 10 years, you may be able to get benefits on your former spouse’s record.
Finally, If your spouse or ex-spouse is deceased, certain family members may be able to receive monthly benefits, including:
- A widow or widower age 60 or older (age 50 or older if disabled);
- A surviving divorced spouse, under certain circumstances;
- A widow or widower at any age who is caring for the deceased’s child who is under age 16 or disabled and receiving benefits on their record;
How Spousal Benefits are Calculated
When you claim Spousal benefits, you could get up to one-half the amount your spouse is entitled to receive at their full retirement age.
However, if you decide to start taking your spousal benefits before you reach full retirement age, your benefit amount will be permanently reduced.
For example, if your spouse is receiving $2,500 a month in Social Security benefits but you are only getting $800 a month, you can switch to spousal benefits.
If you make the switch to spouses benefits, you will receive one-half the amount your spouse is entitled to, which in this example will be $1,250.
Therefore, by switching to spousal benefits, you will be getting $450 more a month.
However, you will only get your full spousal benefit amount if you wait until you reach full retirement age to begin receiving benefits.
Other Worker Benefits
Furthermore, Spousal benefits are layered on top of any worker benefit you may have (for example, a pension).
If you have your own worker benefit like a pension, you are always paid that benefit first, then any amount of spousal benefit is layered on top of that.
What Day Will Social Security be Paid this Month?
The Social Security Administration releases a payment calendar each year.
However, many beneficiaries find the calendar confusing to read.
We have therefore created a simplified version.
You can find it in our post, 2021 Social Security Payment Schedule.
In addition, we have created a monthly payment calendar that tells you the payment date for each month.
Just click on the month below to see the payment dates for that month.
Social Security Questions and Answers Summary
We hope this detailed list of Social Security Questions and Answers was helpful to you.
If you still have questions, you should leave a comment below.
However, what may be an even greater help is to join our FREE Facebook members group about Making Sense of Social Security Benefits.
It’s a very active group with some really smart people who love to answer any questions you may have about Social Security Benefits.
Also, from time to time, our team of editors drop in to contribute and answer questions.
Finally, you may like these popular articles, including:
How to Change Your Address with Social Security
Top 5 Changes to Social Security in 2021
The Printable 2021 Social Security Payment Calendar
How to get Emergency Cash From your Direct Express Card