Q: "I know that Social Security's full retirement age is gradually rising to 67. But does this mean the "early" retirement age will also be going up by two years, from age 62 to 64?"
A: No. While it is true that under current law the full retirement age is gradually rising from 65 to 67, the "early" retirement age remains at 62. Keep in mind, however, that taking early retirement reduces your benefit amount. For more information about Social Security benefits, visit the website at www.socialsecurity.gov/r&m1.htm.
Q: "Next month I'll turn 65 and, because of my financial situation, I thought I'd be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). But my neighbor told me I'd probably be turned down because I have a friend who said he might help support me. Is this true?"
A: If your friend helps support you, it could have an effect on whether you get SSI and on the amount you receive. Whether you can get SSI depends on your income and resources (the things you own). If you have low income and few resources, you may be able to get SSI. However, if you are receiving support from your friend or from anyone else, that income will be considered when making a decision on your SSI eligibility and amount. Support includes any food or shelter that is given to you or is received by you because someone else pays for it.
Q: "How are my retirement benefits calculated?"
A: Your Social Security benefits are based on earnings averaged over your lifetime. Your actual earnings are first adjusted or "indexed" to account for changes in average wages since the year the earnings were received. Then we calculate your average monthly indexed earnings during the 35 years in which you earned the most. We apply a formula to these earnings and arrive at your basic benefit. This is the amount you would receive at your full retirement age. You may be able to estimate your benefit by using our Retirement Estimator which offers estimates based on your Social Security earnings. You can find the Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.
Submit questions to local Social Security Director Martin Coffey by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at email@example.com.