Now that I’ve been laid off, the Toni Says Medicare/Social Security column was given to me to begin understanding what my retirement options are. I’ve filed for unemployment and it will not even begin to pay my monthly bills.

I’ve been told I can begin receiving a Social Security check to help fill this gap because I am 63. I thought I had to wait until 65 to begin Social Security now I find out that is Medicare.

I’ve called Social Security for advice and cannot get a straight answer. Social Security seems so generic with what they say.

I need a little help with this complex decision that will affect me for the rest of my life.


James (a new reader)




Now with so many being laid off or retiring early, we are consistently being asked about different options regarding Social Security planning at the Toni Says office.

There really is not a correct age, but everyone should make an informed decision, not an emotional one! Many are leaving thousands of dollars with Social Security because they were not aware of alternative ways to receive more in their Social Security check.

Many Social Security strategies are no longer available since Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (HR 1314) at 2:00 in the early morning hours on November 2, 2015 that made major changes to Social Security as we knew it.  These new laws went into effect on Sunday, May 1, 2016.


Below are a few mistakes to avoid when filing for your Social Security check.


  1. Planning for the wrong retirement age: Your Social Security retirement age varies on when you were born.   Your FRA (full retirement age) could be 66 or maybe 67 and your FRA is when you can begin receiving 100% of your Social Security benefits.  Begin receiving your Social Security check at 62 and you receive 75%.  Those who wait later than 66 will receive 8% more in your Social Security check for each year that you have waited until age 70. Waiting to receive your Social Security check until 70 can amount to an increase of an extra 32% when beginning your check at 70.
  2. Not thinking about your spouse: When married, there are 2 checks you need to be concerned about, yours and your spouse’s benefit check. You and your spouse can bring in extra income while maximizing both you and your spouse’s Social Security benefits. One can delay their benefits while the other spouse could take a spousal benefit to bring in some income while the couple waits for the higher earner’s benefit to “grow”.
  3. Not thinking of filing and suspending: Using filing and suspending at FRA allows the beneficiary some “insurance” when make when making the decision to delay.
  4. Not claiming a widow’s benefit: You can claim a widow’s benefit and delay your own to grow by 8% to age 70.
  5. Not staying married at least 10 years: Make sure you are married at least 10 years to the date to make a claim on the ex-spouse’s Social Security. If your ex-spouse is dead, you can qualify for his/hers benefits.
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