Living in Retirement

One of the things to consider when you plan on living in retirement for the rest of your life, is what are your means of support financially.  Besides your own savings in the bank or from your IRA or 401K, where else do you plan on getting the money that you’ll need while you’re living out your golden years in retirement?

Social Security retirement benefits are the largest source of retirement income for people over 65.  Every employee contributes to Social Security while they are working.  The contribution is automatically deducted from the worker’s paychecks, and is matched by the employer, deposited into a fund, and managed by the government.  The fund pays retirement benefits and also survivor and disability benefits.  How much you get depends on how much you put in.

To qualify for benefits, you must have accumulated 40 credits, which represents about ten years of work.  If your only income comes from Social Security, that money won’t be taxed.  But if you draw additional income, a portion of your Social Security retirement benefits may be taxable.

So, if you’ll soon be living in retirement, you can apply for Social Security benefits by telephone by calling 800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment and/or phone application, or you can go online to www.ssa.gov/applytoretire.

Now you may have also heard of Supplemental Security Income or SSI.  Social Security and Supplemental Security Income are two different federal programs for funding while living in retirement.  Most people look forward to the time when they’ll get something back for all the years that money was deducted from their paychecks and contributed to Social Security.

Most people don’t know that many Americans are also eligible to receive SSI cash benefits, because they don’t know about the program.  SSI provides monthly cash benefits to help pay for food, clothing and shelter for people who don’t own much, have limited incomes, and are 65 and older, or are blind or disabled.  Usually a home, a small burial fund and one care are exempt when assets are calculated.  Aside from those assets, eligible senior citizens living in retirement can’t have more than $2,000 ($3,000 for a couple) and must be United States citizens.  It’s best to consult with an elder law attorney or a tax accountant well-versed in senior citizen matters as a first step in your search for SSI qualifications.

The federal SSI benefit pays base rates of $752 for individuals and $1039 for a couple.  Some states may add to that sum, but the amount differs from state to state.  Call your local Social Security office to be sure of the amount you are entitled to in your state.

Employer-sponsored retirement pensions are the second largest source of income for those living in retirement.  Most adult children know whether their parent receives a monthly pension, but that may be all they know.  When you first undertake the job of sorting our your own finances, you may wonder whether the amounts on the monthly pension checks are correct.  It’s recommended that someone double check, as administrative and calculation errors can, and often do occur.

Complex rules determine a person’s pension distribution.  Request a copy of your Summary Plan Description (the rulebook for your company pension).  A written request to the Plan Administrator will get you this document, as well as the Individual Benefit Statement that describes your total accrued and vested benefits, which will help you make sure that you get what you’re entitled to.

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