By Bob Trotter Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Milwaukee, WI
COMING OF AGE ... AGAIN!
Think back to when you were younger.
Life was simple at the kids’ table. The smell of a home-cooked dinner filling the air on a lazy Sunday afternoon and, after dinner, everyone crowding around the TV to watch the last football game of the season.
Fast-forward a few years, when the adults first invited you to their table, and your life changed. Your coming-of-age moment had arrived! This rite of passage is a transition from asking permission to giving notice.
Coming-of-Age Day in Japan honors all the young people who reached age 20 during the past year. This national holiday takes place on the second Monday of January and celebrates their privileges and responsibilities as new adults.
Coming-of-age moments don’t come just once in life. Another important coming-of-age moment occurs when you decide to retire. Social Security can help.
Determining when to retire is a personal decision, influenced by your preferences and lifestyle. We encourage you to go online to www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs and read our fact sheet, When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits. You may find that this information helps you make an informed decision about the best time to retire. Invest the time to learn what you should do now to enjoy your retirement later.
Once you’ve come of age to retire—or even before, while you’re in the planning phase—our quick and convenient online services are available at www.socialsecurity.gov/retireonline. In as little as 15 minutes, you can soar through our online application.
It has never been easier to come of age at retirement!
Happy New Year from Social Security! Put down the champagne and ring in the New Year with a COLA! And we don’t mean the soda. In 2015, nearly 64 million Americans who receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will receive a cost- of-living adjustment (COLA) increase to their monthly benefit payments of 1.7 percent.
The average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker in 2015 is $1,328 (up from $1,306 in 2014). The average monthly Social Security benefit for a disabled worker in 2015 is $1,165 (up from $1,146 in 2014).
For people who receive SSI, the maximum federal payment amount increased to $733 (up from $721 in 2014).
Other Social Security changes in 2015 are also worth noting. For example, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security payroll tax will increase to $118,500 (up from $117,000 in 2014). A worker will earn one credit toward Social Security coverage after paying taxes on $1,220 in earnings in 2015 (up from $1,200 in 2014). As a reminder, eligibility for retirement benefits still requires 40 credits (usually about10 years of work).
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke about his dream of an America where equality was more than a concept—where it was an everyday reality.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self- evident: that all men are created equal."
His dream struck a chord with many people and inspired a nation. It shined a light on the ideal that every citizen should have equalopportunity to prosper and succeed.
As we remember Dr. King and his dream for America, take a moment to reflect on your dreams for yourself and your family. What are the things that you want for your future? Do you see yourself enjoying retirement someday?
With some planning, that dream can come true. The best way to keep your retirement dreams on track is by opening a my Social Security account. A my Social Security account is an excellent tool that helps you plan for the future. It lets you verify your earnings on your personal Social Security Statement—because your future retirement benefit depends on your earnings throughout your career. You can view your Statement at any time, giving you a good picture of what your future benefits will be. When you are ready to retire, you can even go online to apply for benefits from your home or office.
And the advantages of having a my Social Security account don’t stop after you retire. Once you start receiving benefits, you can manage them with a my Social Security account. You can get an instant benefit verification letter, check your benefit and payment information, change your address and phone number, and start or change your direct deposit information—all online.
Setting up a my Social Security account is quick, secure, and easy. Millions of Americans already have accounts. In fact, someone opens one about every 6 seconds. Join the crowd and sign up today at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
It’s the stuff dreams are made of.
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TIP YOUR HAT FOR PIE DAY AND SOCIAL SECURITY
A hundred years ago, no one would leave the house without a hat. Hats were everywhere: top hats, cowboy hats, stovepipe hats, even pork pie hats. Women wore elaborate hats to church, matching them to their fashionable outfits. Today, people celebrate their favorite sports teams with ball caps. And, we celebrate National Hat Day on January 15.
Social Security wears many hats to provide you with world-class customer service and benefits. One of the hats is as the administrator of the nation’s Social Security disability insurance program, known as SSDI. This program provides critical support to some of our most vulnerable citizens—those with severe disabilities. You can start your disability application online from the convenience of home by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability. You will save time and money by avoiding a trip to a Social Security office. And, you can wear your favorite fedora while you do it.
And, hats off to Pie Day on January 23! Planning and applying for retirement is as easy as pie at www.socialsecurity.gov/retirement, where you’ll have quick and easy access to online financial planning tools like the Retirement Estimator. The Retirement Estimator lets you experiment with different earnings and retirement dates to make sure your slice of retirement is just right for you. Make sure you have your piece of the pie covered. Create your personal my Social Security account to view your Social Security Statement instantly and to learn about retirement benefits you can receive. Sign up for your account at www.socialsecurity. gov/myaccount.
Wearing another hat, Social Security offers survivors benefits. Once you’ve registered for a my Social Security account, view your Social Security Statement to see the total survivors benefits your family may receive if something happens to you. Take the time now to make sure your family is provided for in the event of your death. You can get started at www.socialsecurity.gov/survivorplan. Now there’s a plan that’s fully baked!
Whether you are retiring, are disabled, or are a survivor, you can use the online benefits planners at www.socialsecurity. gov/planners to understand your Social Security protection better.
Like a good hat, Social Security has you covered.
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UNFLINCHING IN THE FIGHT AGAINST FRAUD
If you’re like most people, you protect what’s valuable to you.
To protect your family financially, you buy health and life insurance. To protect your home, you get homeowner’s insurance, a security alarm, or perhaps a large dog. To protect your jewelry, you hide it in a safe place or buy insurance in case you need to replace it. To protect your money, you invest it, perhaps in a bank that offers FDIC coverage.
Social Security is much the same. We value the people we serve, our employees who work hard to provide world-class customer service, and the integrity of our programs. We protect these by using many tools to identify, prevent, and stop fraud, and we seek the maximum punishment for those who commit it.
The tools we use help us predict where fraud may occur, and, by monitoring cases closely, we identify fraud sooner rather than later. We also have stiff penalties that discourage people from committing fraud.
Social Security has a zero-tolerance policy for fraud. While we cannot prevent every instance of fraud any more than law enforcement can prevent all crime, we aggressively investigate and pursue prosecution of those who try to cheat the system. Our message to those who would defraud Social Security is clear: We will find you; we will prosecute you; we will seek the maximum punishment allowable under the law; and we will fight to restore to the American public the money you’ve stolen.
Social Security takes fraud seriously and so should you. If you suspect someone is committing Social Security fraud, report it online at http://oig.ssa.gov/report or call the Social Security Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271.