3 Things to Consider When Claiming Social Security During the COVID-19 Pandemic
If you are in your 60s and the COVID-19 pandemic has affected your financial stability, you may be considering claiming Social Security retirement benefits. As over 30 million Americans filed unemployment claims in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, it is tough not to panic.
Yes, filing for Social Security may be tempting during these unprecedented times, especially if you lost your job or your employer reduced your work hours significantly. However, doing so may not be the most optimal option.
Before you proceed with claiming Social Security benefits, we encourage you to consider the following three things.
- Claiming Social Security Could Reduce the Amount of Benefits
Americans can start receiving their Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62. However, the longer you hold off on claiming these benefits, the higher your monthly retirement benefits will be.
The way it works is this: For each month you claim benefits before reaching full retirement age (FRA), which is between 66 and 67 depending on your birth date, your benefits take a hit. According to the Social Security Administration, your retirement benefits “will be reduced based on the number of months you receive benefits” before reaching the age of 66 or 67,
If the COVID-19 pandemic caused you to lose your job or otherwise affected your income, claiming Social Security benefits early may seem like a good option. However, this might become a decision you will regret later, which is why it is critical to consider alternative options, including:
- Tapping into your emergency fund;
- Using the $1,200 stimulus check; or
- Filing for unemployment. If your layoff was not your fault, you might be entitled to unemployment benefits. In fact, during the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government guarantees an additional $600 a week on top of the regular unemployment compensation. Note: You can still file an unemployment claim even if you are still working, but your hours or income decreased during the pandemic.
- Working While Receiving Social Security Benefits Could Reduce Your Checks
If you claim benefits due to losing your job during the coronavirus crisis but go back to work after the pandemic ends and businesses reopen, getting rehired could reduce your Social Security checks. Working while receiving Social Security benefits can lead to a reduction in benefits if you have not reached your FRA.
- When in Doubt, Talk to a Lawyer
Since it would be challenging to undo your Social Security claims or fix the reduction in retirement benefits if you claim before FRA, it is advised to consult with a lawyer. While you can rescind your claim within 12 months of claiming retirement benefit, you will have to pay back all benefits you received. You can only rescind your Social Security claim one time.
COVID-19: Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits
If you are considering applying for Social Security disability benefits during the coronavirus pandemic, doing so may be difficult considering that the SSA closed its offices. However, you can still seek help from a lawyer to assist you with applying for benefits.
Despite the SSA’s office closings, you can still apply online for SSDI (available only to workers who have “paid into” the system through their taxable income) or SSI (if you are an individual with low income and assets).