Social Security recipients get a raise in 2019, and it’s their biggest in years.
The 22 million beneficiaries — 15 million of them retired workers — will see a 2.8 percent cost-of-living (COLA) bump in the year ahead. The COLA is based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Workers and Clerical Workers. This is the biggest yearly increase since 2012.
The Social Security Administration also increased the maximum monthly payout possible at an individual’s full retirement age for the coming year. In 2018, a retiree worker reaching full retirement age — which varies depending on year of birth — could receive no more than $2,788 a month. In 2019, that figure increases to $2,861 a month ($73 per month, $876 a year).
An individual’s full retirement benefit is based on the 35 highest-earning work years (adjusted for inflation).
For those turning 62 in 2019, there’s the decision of whether to take the benefit immediately, wait until they reach the full retirement age (FRA) of 66, or put off taking Social Security until they are 70. The benefit increases 8 percent a year after 66 and ceases growing at 70.
“It is not always better to delay,” says Rebecca J. Muller, an accountant and enrolled agent with Precision Tax and Accounting in Deer Park, N.Y.
“I have a friend retiring at 62. If she waits to 66, she will get $800 more per month. At 62 she will receive $1,600 month or $76,800 over the four-year wait period. At 66 she would get $2,400 per month. So the real question is how many months will it take her to recoup the $76,800?
“The answer is eight years. That’s a long time. And she needs to pay for her health insurance, and that is what Social Security is going to do until she hits Medicare age (65). Remember, not everyone makes it to 70.”
Muller also advises consulting with a tax professional and the staff at Social Security for a complete analysis of an individual (or couple’s) situation.