The average Social Security check will increase by $27 per month next year.
People who will turn 62 in 2018 will need to wait until an older retirement age to claim their full retirement benefit than existing Social Security beneficiaries.
Social Security beneficiaries will get 2 percent bigger payments in 2018. The Social Security program will also be tweaked in several important ways that affect how much you pay in and will receive in retirement. Here’s a look at the Social Security changes you can expect to see in 2018.
Bigger payments. The average monthly Social Security payment is expected to increase by $27 to $1,404 in January 2018. Couples who are both receiving benefits will see their payments climb by an average of $46 to $2,340. The maximum possible Social Security benefit for a worker who begins collecting benefits at full retirement age will be $2,788 in 2018, up from $2,687 in 2017.
Social Security payments are adjusted every year to keep up with inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. Social Security benefits were increased by only 0.3 percent in January 2017. Previous cost-of-living adjustments have ranged from zero in 2010, 2011 and 2016 to 14.3 percent in 1980.
A higher tax cap. Workers will contribute 6.2 percent of their earnings to Social Security until their income exceeds $128,700 in 2018, up from $127,200 in 2017. The Social Security Administration expects about 12 million people to pay higher taxes as a result of this change. Those who earn more than the taxable maximum will not have those earnings taxed by Social Security or used to calculate retirement benefits.
Larger earnings limits. Retirees who work and collect Social Security benefits at the same time will be able to earn slightly more in 2018 before part or all of their benefit is temporarily withheld. Beneficiaries who are younger than their full retirement age can earn up to $17,040 in 2018, $120 more than in 2017, before they will lose a benefit dollar for each $2 earned above the limit. The earning limit will grow by $480 to $45,360 for those who will turn their retirement age in 2018, and the penalty decreases to a dollar withheld for every $3 earned above the limit. Once you turn your full retirement age there is no penalty for working after claiming retirement benefits and your benefit will be recalculated to give you credit for any withheld earnings.
An older full retirement age. People who will turn 62 in 2018 will need to wait until an older retirement age to claim their full retirement benefit than existing Social Security beneficiaries. The full retirement age for those born in 1956 is 66 and four months, up from 66 and two months for people born in 1955 and 66 for everyone born between 1943 and 1954. The full retirement age will further increase in two-month increments in subsequent years until it reaches age 67 for everyone born in 1960 or later. Those who sign up for Social Security before their full retirement age will receive a reduced payment. Workers with an older full retirement age also have less opportunity to boost their payments through delayed claiming. “There are fewer months between the ages of 67 and 70 to earn delayed retirement credits, meaning the maximum benefit is lower with a full retirement age of 67 versus 66,” says William Meyer, founder and managing principal of Social Security Solutions, a company that analyzes Social Security claiming strategies.
No more paper statements. The Social Security Administration stopped mailing paper Social Security statements to everyone under age 60 in 2017. If you want to check your earnings history and get a personalized estimate of your future benefit, you will now need to create an online my Social Security account. “Then you can check your Social Security status anytime, anywhere, just like you do with your other accounts,” says Andy Landis, author of “Social Security: The Inside Story.” “Try to check your Social Security at least annually, say around the first of the year, tax time or your birthday.”
More security features. New security features have recently been added to the Social Security website. My Social Security account holders now need to enter a one-time security code sent to their phone or email address in addition to a username and password each time they log in. “Two-factor authentication is safer than just a username and password,” says Susan Grant, director of consumer protection and privacy at the Consumer Federation of America.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will mail out new Medicare cards without Social Security numbers printed on them beginning in April 2018. Instead, the new Medicare card will contain a unique combination of numbers and letters. But other printed materials may still list your number. “Don’t forget that your Social Security number is not just kept on a card. Social Security numbers may exist on bank account statements, tax documents and other forms of hard copy documents,” says David Almonte, a certified public account and member of AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “Be sure to properly dispose of these documents and not just blindly throw them away.”
Emily Brandon is the author of “Pensionless: The 10-Step Solution for a Stress-Free Retirement.”