Aging Parents: Do You Have Social Security Questions?

alz-checkbook-300x201.jpgAs aging parents, spouses and others get closer to retirement age, they often have more and more questions. This is especially the case for those who may be forced to retire due to medical issues and for those who are surviving spouses in need of information about benefits associated with a deceased spouse.

There are dozens of questions that aging parents may have about Social Security, but following are some of the most frequently asked by those approaching or considering retirement.

Once I apply for Social Security retirement benefits, when will I begin receiving them?

Once you have filed an application for Social Security benefits, you will begin receiving said benefits in the month following the month in which you become entitled. Entitlement typically begins when a person reaches the designated retirement age, which varies depending upon the year in which a person was born. But if a person is entitled to benefits at age 67 and she turns 67 in January, then she will begin receiving Social Security payments in February.

How do I estimate what my Social Security retirement benefits will be?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a toll-free number (800-772-1213) that you can call to ask questions, including how to calculate benefits; however, there is often be a considerable wait time with this number. An alternative is to contact your local Social Security office, or to consult an accountant. You can also calculate benefits using the SSA's online calculator

How much do Social Security benefits increase each year?

There is no set amount; instead, benefits are supposed to be inc​​reased to keep up with basic cost of living (COLA) increases, as determined by Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. For 2015, this amounted to a 1.7% increase. The SSA provides a COLA fact sheet which can be downloaded at

Can my benefit amount decrease?

The regular amount of your benefit will not decrease; however, there can be circumstances in which the amount a person receives may decrease for a given period of time. For example, if it was determined that a person owed back taxes and had no other way of paying them, the government might garnish Social Security benefits in order to pay that debt.

Do I pay taxes on Social Security?

That depends on the total amount of income that you receive during the course of a year. For those whose total income reaches a certain level, up to 85% of benefits may be taxable. About one-third of Social Security recipients pay some tax on their benefits annually.

Can a widow or widower receive survivor benefits?

Widows or widowers are entitled to survivor benefits beginning at age 60 (age 50 if they are disabled). Such individuals are also entitled to benefits at any age if they are taking care of a child of the deceased individual, and the child is younger than 16 years of age or is disabled. The amount available can be calculated using the SSA's survivor's benefit calculator at

Aging parents should learn as much as they can about Social Security in advance so that they may plan accordingly. For more helpful information, visit the SSA website at​

Related Article: ​

Handling Your Parents’ Social Security​ -​


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