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4 Things You Need to Know About Filing for Social Security in 2019

By Maurie Backman - Dec 1, 2018 at 9:18AM

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Planning to take benefits in the coming year? Read this first.

Millions of seniors rely on Social Security to help cover their expenses in retirement. If you're retired or are about to bring your career to a close, you might be toying with the idea of filing for benefits in the coming year. Here are a few key things to know before you do.

1. The average monthly benefit will be $1,461

If you're thinking you'll get enough money from Social Security to pay the bulk of your bills in retirement, think again. The average beneficiary will collect $1,461 a month, or $17,532 a year, from Social Security in 2019, which is hardly enough to live on.

Older man reading newspaper outdoors.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

That said, your monthly benefits might be a lot lower or higher than $1,461 depending on how much you earned during your career and how old you are when you file. You can determine your own benefit by logging onto your Social Security account or reviewing your latest benefits estimate from the Social Security Administration, which you may have received in the mail if you're 60 or older.

2. You can file if you were born in 1957 or earlier

You're allowed to start collecting Social Security as early as age 62, which means that if you were born in 1957 or before, you're automatically eligible for benefits in 2019. However, unless you were born in 1953 or earlier, you won't have reached full retirement age by 2019, and as such, you'll face a reduction in benefits for claiming them ahead of that milestone.

Here's what full retirement age looks like depending on the year you were born:

Year of Birth

Full Retirement Age

1943-1954

66

1955

66 and 2 months

1956

66 and 4 months

1957

66 and 6 months

1958

66 and 8 months

1959

66 and 10 months

1960

67

DATA SOURCE: SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION.

If you have a pressing reason to claim benefits as early as possible -- for example, you've lost your job and don't have another means of paying the bills -- then you're certainly better off taking Social Security early than racking up debt just to live. But if you don't need those benefits right away, know that it might pay to hold off and avoid a reduction.

3. You can file for benefits even if you're still working

If you're still working and have a steady paycheck coming in, you may not need to access your Social Security benefits even if you're technically eligible. But if a need for money arises, you might be driven to file even if you are still gainfully employed.

The good news is that you're allowed to collect a paycheck and Social Security simultaneously. The bad news, however, is that if your earnings exceed $17,640 next year, you'll have $1 in benefits withheld for every $2 you earn above that threshold. On the other hand, if you'll be reaching full retirement age at any point in 2019, you can work and earn up to $46,920 without losing any of your benefits. Once your earnings surpass that limit, you'll have $1 in benefits withheld for every $3 in earnings.

These rules, however, only come into play when you're working and collecting benefits before having reached full retirement age. Once you reach that age, you can earn as much money as you'd like without having any of your benefits withheld.

4. It might pay to wait even if you're reaching full retirement age

If 2019 is the year in which you'll reach full retirement age, you might assume that it's the perfect time to claim your benefits. But if you're not desperate for that cash, waiting beyond full retirement age could actually pay off. For each year you delay your benefits past full retirement age, you'll automatically boost them by 8% until you turn 70. This means that if you're looking at a monthly benefit of $1,461 at a full retirement age of 66, waiting until 70 will give you $1,928 a month instead -- for life.

Is 2019 the right year for you to start collecting Social Security? It'll depend on how old you are and what you need that money for. Take your time to weigh the pros and cons of filing next year versus waiting, and with any luck, you'll arrive at the right decision.

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