Social Security Matters: Ask Rusty – Can I get a higher benefit now because I’m older?

Published 5:45 pm Saturday, July 3, 2021

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By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor, Association of Mature American Citizens     

Dear Rusty: I started getting Social Security at age 62 and I am now 77. Can I get a higher benefit now that I’m older? Signed: Needy Senior

Dear Needy Senior: Probably not. When you first start collecting your Social Security retirement benefits (e.g., at age 62 or any other age) your SS benefit amount is permanently established and will change thereafter only if:

  • A Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) is granted (which is usually done annually, starting with your payment in January of each year). There have only been 3 years in the last four decades that a COLA increase didn’t automatically occur. This year’s COLA increase was 1.3%.
  • You later became eligible for a higher spousal benefit because your husband started collecting benefits after you first claimed, and your benefit amount at your full retirement age (FRA) was less than 50% of your husband’s FRA benefit amount.
  • You later became eligible for a higher survivor benefit because your husband passed away and his Social Security benefit was more than you were receiving (you would need to apply separately for your survivor benefit).
  • You had later earnings which were higher than any of the 35 years over your lifetime used to originally compute your benefit when you first applied. Past years earnings are adjusted for inflation, so original earnings amounts in prior years are increased to today’s dollar value to see if your recent earnings are higher.
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If you are working, Social Security monitors your earnings (and your contributions through payroll taxes) every year to see if you are due a benefit increase and, if appropriate, it is automatically given. COLA increases are also automatically given effective with each December’s benefit (paid in January) if such an increase is appropriate due to inflation as measured by the national Consumer Price Index. So, the only other possible way your current benefit could be increased now is if 1) you didn’t claim a spousal benefit when you were eligible and you are still eligible because your husband is still living, or, 2) your husband is now deceased, and you didn’t apply for a higher survivor benefit you were entitled to when he died. If either of those are true, then you should contact Social Security to request your higher benefit.

You do not, however, get a benefit increase simply because you are now older than you were when you first claimed Social Security. COLA will slightly increase your benefit automatically most years, but unless one or more of the other conditions above apply, your benefits won’t change further as you age.