Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is the maximum monthly Social Security benefit one can receive?
A. Maximum Social Security benefits are paid to a wage earner who earns maximum taxable wages in every year between age 21 and the year of retirement. The maximum payable to a wage earner retiring in 2017 at age 66 is $2,687 a month. Up to 50 percent additional is payable to a retirement-age dependent spouse. The maximum payable in future years can be expected to rise as maximum taxable wages rise. Delayed retirement credits can increase benefits payable to wage earners who defer receiving benefits past full retirement age. For example, a wage earner reaching full retirement age in 2017 receives an 8 percent benefit increase for each full year benefits are deferred (3/4 percent per month) between full retirement age and age 70.
Q. I am still working full-time. I would like to know how my continued employment would affect my Social Security benefits. By how much will my benefit be increased for each year I work beyond my full retirement age?
A. The delayed retirement credit rate of increase for a worker born in 1940 is 7 percent per year (or 7/12 percent per month). The delayed retirement credit rate reached actuarial fairness at 8 percent for persons born in or after 1943.
When Social Security benefits begin, the Social Security Administration determines a primary benefit based on a worker’s 35 highest years of lifetime earnings (after old earnings are indexed to bring them up to date). Next, delayed retirement credits are added for each month after full retirement age a benefit is not paid. Cost-of-living adjustments from age 62 are applied to the enhanced benefit to determine the monthly benefit amount
Q. Someone told me if you don’t sign up for Social Security as soon as you are eligible, but do sign up a few years later, you get back pay to when you were first eligible. Is this true?
A. In general, Social Security benefits cannot be paid retroactive to the month the application for benefits is filed. The exception is if the applicant is past full retirement age. In that case, up to six months of retroactive benefits can be paid as long as backdating the application does not result in benefits being paid for any month prior to full retirement age.
Q. Do the earnings of your final ten years of employment have any special bearing on your Social Security benefits once you retire?
A. Final years of earnings have no special significance. Earnings prior to age 60 are indexed to bring them up-to-date. Actual earnings from age 60 on are included in the benefit calculation. Benefits are determined on the basis of the highest 35 years of indexed or actual earnings. It does not matter when those years of earnings occur.
Q. I called a local Social Security office yesterday to make an appointment for my wife and me to file for benefits. We have both reached full retirement age. The agent asked me when I wanted to start benefits. I didn’t know we had a choice. What answer should I give when we go to file?
A. You have the right to specify the exact month you want your Social Security benefits to begin. Benefits begun before full retirement age are reduced for each month of early retirement. Benefits begun after full retirement age are increased for each month that a benefit is deferred. This has always been a retiree’s option.
If you have a question about current or future benefits for yourself or a family member, please use this form. To ensure that we can send a personal response to your question, please make sure that you have entered your email address correctly. Due to the volume of inquiries, please allow 5-7 business days for a response.