News From Our Blog

Social Security and Retirement Plan

Many people like to get a head start on planning their family’s economic future. And without a doubt, a major part of that process concerns retirement.

When planning your own retirement, it’s important to consider factors such as your current economic situation, your future needs, and if you will be depending on other sources of income.

Social Security is an essential part in planning your retirement from the work force, and so it’s recommended that you get to know some of its most important aspects.

1.  Retirement Age

In order to retire and be able to collect Social Security benefits, you must be at least 62 years-old. However, if you begin to collect at that age, the funds will be permanently reduced. If instead you decide to retire at age 67, you will be able to collect your full benefits.

See the Social Security department’s Retirement Planner for further information.

2. Number of Social Security Credits Needed to Retire

In addition to reaching retirement age, you should also have accumulated a total of 40 credits. You earn credits depending on the number of years you worked. Generally you get four credits for every year you’ve worked.

If you’ve already accumulated 40 credits and you’d like to know the amount of money that you’d collect during your retirement, you can create an online Social Security account and receive a copy of your benefits.

If you don’t have the required 40 credits but would like an estimate of the amount of benefits you’d receive, you can use the retirement benefits calculator.

3. Retirement Abroad

You have the right to collect Social Security benefits even if you live in another country. But if you are receiving retirement payments from another country that isn’t the United States, Social Security may reduce those benefits.

There are certain regulations for U.S. citizens and residents, and for those living in countries such as Cuba, North Korea and others. You can find more information about your payments while living outside the United States.

Use this tool to see if you can continue receiving your Social Security Payments abroad.

Applying for retirement benefits and other information

You can apply for retirement benefits online or at a Social Security office near you.

If you’d like to receive more information, get in touch with Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or at 1-800-325-0778 (TTY, for people with hearing disabilities).

Read this note in Spanish.

VA Home Loans Can Help Servicemembers and Veterans Purchase, Refinance, or Adapt a Home

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a variety of home loan programs for active duty servicemembers, veterans, and National Guard and Reserve members: 

  • Purchase Loans help purchase a home at a competitive interest rate often without requiring a downpayment or private mortgage insurance.
  • Cash Out Refinance Loans take cash out of your home equity to pay off debt, fund school, or make home improvements.
  • Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan can help you obtain a lower interest rate by refinancing an existing VA loan.
  • Native American Direct Loans help eligible Native American veterans finance the purchase, construction, or improvement of homes on Federal Trust Land, or reduce the interest rate on a VA loan.
  • Adapted Housing Grants help veterans with a permanent and total service-connected disability purchase or build an adapted home or to modify an existing home to account for their disability.

These programs are not one-time benefits - they can be reused.

Learn more about home loans for veterans and servicemembers.

Changes to Federal Benefits After the Supreme Court’s Ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion on the case United States v. Windsor (PDF). They ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (PDF), which said “marriage” and “spouse” only applied to heterosexual unions, was unconstitutional.

In response to this ruling, President Obama directed the Attorney General to “work with other members of my Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly.”

A number of federal agencies have released information about changes to federal programs and benefits as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision:

Taxes - The Department of Justice and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) ruled that “same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage.”

Social Security Benefits - The Social Security Administration now recognizes same-sex marriages for purposes of determining benefits.

Medicare - All beneficiaries in private Medicare plans now have access to equal coverage when it comes to care in a nursing home where their spouse lives.

U.S. Visas for Same-Sex Spouses - U.S. embassies and consulates will process visa applications for same-sex marriages the same as for opposite gender spouses.

Benefits for Uniformed Servicemembers - The Department of Defense will extend benefits to same-sex spouses of uniformed service members and civilian employees.

Benefits for Federal Employees (PDF) - The Office of Personnel Management is now able to provide benefits to legally married same-sex spouses of federal employees and annuitants.

For the most up-to-date information on other government programs that will change as a result of the ruling, please visit the agency website.  If you don’t know the agency, you can browse by program.

Read this note in Spanish.

How to Estimate Your Social Security Benefits

Whether you’re getting close to retirement or planning for the future, you can estimate your Social Security benefits.

The estimator gives you an idea of what your monthly Social Security benefits would be, based on your current record of Social Security earnings. Your actual benefit amount cannot be determined until you apply for benefits. 

As you plan for your retirement, keep in mind that you’ll need 70-90 percent of your pre-retirement earnings to maintain your standard of living when you stop working. Social Security benefits will only make up a part of this percentage and should be supplemented by a pension, savings, and/or investments. Check out 10 Ways to Prepare for Retirement.

Low-Income Families Can Get Help Paying for Phone Service

The Lifeline program helps low-income households get telephone service by providing discounts that average $9.25 a month on one basic phone service (landline or wireless).

In order to enroll in Lifeline, potential subscribers must demonstrate their eligibility by showing proof of income or participation in a qualifying program.

Learn more about Lifeline and find out if you’re eligible.