Applying for Social Security
Franklin Roosevelt, promising it would remain completely voluntary, signed the Social Security Act in 1935.
In 1937, the Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) made Social Security mandatory, requiring workers to pay a 1 percent payroll tax on the first $1,400 of annual income and employers to contribute an equal amount.
Over the years, the mandatory employee and employer contributions to the Social Security payroll tax have increased dramatically. Self-employed people are also required to contribute to the system.
* 1950: employee -- 1.5 percent, employer -- 1.5 percent, self-employed -- 2.25 percent
* 1960: employee -- 3 percent, employer -- 3 percent, self-employed -- 4.5 percent
* 1972: employee -- 5.85 percent, employer -- 5.85 percent, self-employed -- 8 percent
* 1990: employee -- 7.65 percent, employer -- 7.65 percent, self-employed -- 15.3 percent
In 1997, the Social Security Advisory Panel, appointed by President Clinton, declared that payroll taxes needed to be raised to 18 percent (or benefits needed to be reduced by 30 percent) to keep the system actuarially sound.
A recent Social Security Trustees' Report stated that Social Security would start to run deficits by 2012, and the trust fund would be depleted by 2029. To date, nothing has been done to rectify this impending calamity.
On Aug. 10, 2006, I'll be 62 years old -- too young for Medicare and too old for women to care.
On Oct. 11, 2006, my first Social Security payment is scheduled to be deposited in my bank account.
Apparently, the Social Security Administration will owe me two months worth of payments upon my demise.
As of 2003, the normal Social Security retirement age was raised from 65 to a range of 65-67, depending on your year of birth. If you were born before 1938, the full retirement age is 65. If you were born in 1960 or later, the full retirement age is 67. If you were born between 1938 and 1960, you need to consult a chart.
However, you can still receive a partial retirement benefit (75 percent of the full benefit) at age 62.
If you choose to work past your full retirement age, you will accrue additional benefits and special credits for delayed retirement. Plus, you can continue to work while receiving retirement benefits (earning limits affecting benefits will apply prior to full retirement age while there are no earning limits after full retirement age).
For those born between 1943 and 1954, including me, the full retirement age is 66. But being basically lazy and worn out, I've chosen to receive my payments at age 62. After doing the math, it was an easy decision.
At age 62, I would receive 75 percent of what I would get at age 66 (full retirement). But starting four years early means it would take 12 years, beginning at age 66, to amass the same amount as it would take in 16 years at 75 percent. In other words, I'd break even at age 78. As a professional pessimist, I prefer not to wait that long.
To apply for Social Security retirement benefits, you must be within 90 days of your 62nd birthday (or later).
You can apply online via the Internet at www.ssa.gov or by telephone at 800-772-1213.
Local Social Security offices include:
* Batesville -- 111 North 12th Street (phone: 870-793-3488)
* Mountain Home -- 995 Wallace Knob Road (phone: 870-424-3113)
* Jonesboro -- 2608 Fair Park (phone: 870-972-4620)
I applied online but still had to present certain documents (original birth certificate, military discharge DD214, etc.) to a local office. Instead of mailing the documents (to be returned by mail), I delivered them in person.
Retirement isn't for everyone. As strange as it may seem, there are some people who actually enjoy working, probably due to a neurotic psychological disorder or a bad marriage and they just want to get out of the house.
Now that I'm retired I can do all those things I've wanted to do for years, like wash the car and mow the lawn.
I will continue to write the column though. Educating the world is a daunting task but someone has to do it.
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Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels, which are available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.