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Social Security in Plain Language

October 29, 2020 • By

Some of the terms and acronyms people use when they talk about Social Security can be a little confusing. We’re here to help you understand all you need to know.

We strive to explain your benefits using easy-to-understand, plain language. The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires federal agencies to communicate clearly in a way “the public can understand and use.” This can be particularly challenging when talking about complicated programs like Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicare. If there’s a technical term or acronym that you don’t know, you can easily find the meaning in our online glossary.

Everyone uses shorter versions of words nowadays. We do too. Social Security’s acronyms function as shorthand in conversations about our programs and services. If you’re nearing retirement, you may want to know what PIA (primary insurance amount), FRA (full retirement age), and DRCs (delayed retirement credits) mean. These terms describe your benefit amount — based on when you decide to take it. If you take your retirement benefit at FRA, you’ll receive the full PIA (amount payable for a retired worker who starts benefits at full retirement age). So, FRA is an age and PIA is an amount.

Once you receive benefits, you get a COLA most years. A COLA is a Cost-of-Living Adjustment, and that will usually mean a little extra money in your monthly benefit.

What about DRCs? Delayed retirement credits are the incremental increases added to the PIA if you delay taking retirement benefits beyond your full retirement age. If you wait to begin benefits beyond FRA — say, at age 68 or even 70 — your benefit increases.


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About the Author

Darlynda Bogle, Assistant Deputy Commissioner

Darlynda Bogle, Assistant Deputy Commissioner

Darlynda Bogle, Assistant Deputy Commissioner

Comments

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  1. Dennis converso

    I turned 62 mid January and signed for ss retirement will get first check in March 2021 I am working part time January,February,March,and December of 2021 how much can I make without a reduction in benefits?

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Dennis, thanks for using our blog. If you are under full retirement age for the entire year, then we deduct $1 from benefit payments for every $2 earned above the annual limit. For 2021, that limit is $18,960. There is a special earnings limit rule for those that retire mid-year and have already earned more than the yearly earnings limit. The special rule lets us pay a Social Security check for any whole month your earnings are $1,580 or less and you did not perform substantial services in self-employment, regardless of your yearly earnings.

      The Getting Benefits While Working web page provides more details.

      You may also find our Retirement Earnings Test Calculator helpful.

      Reply
  2. Jeffrey L Maxey

    I turn 66 on March 24, 2021. When can I start my social security and get full retirement benefits. What month can I tell them to start sending my check. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Sue

      Hi, Jeffrey. Thanks for using our blog to ask your questions. Because you were born in 1955, your full retirement age is 66 and 2 months. To get your full unreduced benefit, you can choose to start collecting in May 2020, and you’ll receive your May check on the 4th Thursday of June. Your birthdate determines your payment date.

      You can work and get benefits at the same time. These options are explained on our Working, Applying for Retirement Benefits, or Both web page. If you delay collecting benefits beyond your full retirement age, the amount of your retirement benefit will continue to increase up until age 70. There is no incentive to delay claiming after the month you attain 70.

      Keep in mind that you can apply four months before you want your benefits to start. When you’re ready to apply, use our online retirement application, the quickest, easiest, and most convenient way to apply.

      To learn more, check out our retirement webpage. You may want to use the online Retirement Calculator within your my Social Security account to get personalized retirement benefit estimates based on your actual earnings. This makes it easy to see how changes in the date or age at which you begin receiving retirement benefits will affect your benefit amount.

      Reply
  3. Muhammad Ahsan

    Plain language always works out in social arguments. The government policies for arguments are way different than before.

    https://www.sifona.com/product-category/ready-to-wear/

    Reply
  4. Patricia Smith

    Plain language, do I qualify for “File & …? ” since I was born Prior to 1954 ? Maybe FILE & DESCRIBE ? OR file & submit for Review ? I want to get All my $$$. I know about IRMA , COLA BUT NOT SURE ABOUT DRC
    I HAVE 2 EMAIL ADDRESSES. PERDIDOPAT@GMAIL.COM & THE 1 below.

    Reply
  5. Judy Henry

    If I start receiving widows as benefits at age 60, how much can I work and not be penalized?

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Judy, thanks for using our blog. You can get Social Security retirement or survivors benefits and work at the same time. However, there is a limit to how much you can earn and still receive full benefits. The amount you’re allowed to earn while receiving benefits depends on your age. If you attain full retirement age in 2021, the earnings limit is $50,520 but we only count earnings before the month you reach full retirement age. Beginning with the month you reach full retirement age, earnings no longer reduce your benefits, no matter how much you earn. If you’re under full retirement age for the entire year, then we deduct $1 from benefit payments for every $2 earned above the annual limit. For 2021, that limit is $18,960.

      Visit our Receiving Benefits While Working web page for more details.

      Reply
  6. M Guzman

    My ex husband recently retired. He is 11 months younger. I retired before him at 62 and just turned 68. We were married for almost 30 years but divorced for over ten years. Am I entitled to part of his benefits?

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Thanks for your question, M Guzman. If you are divorced, you can receive benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record (even if they have remarried) if:

      – Your marriage lasted 10 years or longer.
      – You’re unmarried.
      – You’re age 62 or older.
      – The benefit that you’re entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work.
      – Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

      Check out our Benefits For Your Divorced Spouse web page for more information. We hope this helps!

      Reply
  7. David campbell

    I turn 65 in July and want to start drawing ss does the income I made before July count against my ss ?

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi David, thanks for using our blog. If you are under full retirement age for the entire year, then we deduct $1 from benefit payments for every $2 earned above the annual limit. For 2021, that limit is $18,960. There is a special earnings limit rule for those that retire mid-year and have already earned more than the yearly earnings limit. The special rule lets us pay a Social Security check for any whole month your earnings are $1,580 or less and you did not perform substantial services in self-employment, regardless of your yearly earnings.

      The Getting Benefits While Working web page provides more details.

      You may also find our Retirement Earnings Test Calculator helpful.

      Reply
  8. Carter cutler

    My wife and plan to start collecting SS in Jan 2022 after we both reach 62. Please explain how spousal benefits work.

    Reply
  9. Elizabeth Dahl

    This is a good plan we are already working for women empowerment in india it will take time to get the results

    Reply

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