My father is planning on retiring and both he and I are trying to make sense of the caveats of Social Security during retirement. My interpretation of the retirement benefit is that he will get about $1000 per month, but once he retires his benefit will not increase. Is this correct? So once he retires that will be the same amount he gets until he dies, correct?

3 Answers 3


Cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) are applied each year. If inflation is low, the benefits may not change.

There may be survivors benefits that continue past his death.

There may be attempts to kill or limit Social Security. Or there may not be. (Definite case of "if you don't vote...")

But yes, in principle, that's the general idea.

(Websearch will find many sites offering advice on how to optimize your Social Security benefits. One that looks good to me -- though I'm not an expert by ANY means -- is the series of articles posted on PBS News Hour's website.

  • 3
    I've mostly ignored Social Security except to periodically make sure my wages are being recorded correctly. I won't object to the supplement, but I'm not counting on it when calculating what I need in order to retire comfortably. Sometimes the paranoids really are out to get you...
    – keshlam
    Dec 2, 2014 at 16:01
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    OK. I see from your profile, 55. I'm 52, and semiretired. The Mrs is 58, and not working. I understand paranoia, in our case, I look at the SSA forecast, and keep my fingers crossed we'll actually see it. Dec 2, 2014 at 16:59

There are a couple of points not included in keshlam's answer.

The Social Security benefit is determined not by when a person retires but the age at which the Social Security benefit starts. It is not necessary to be retired from one's job in order to apply for Social Security benefits. One can apply for Social Security benefits to start as early as age 62+, but then the benefit is much smaller than would be received if the benefit starts at "full retirement age" -- a number whose value is the subject of much debate in Congress -- and benefits continue to increase if they are delayed till age 70 (no increase after age 70). The formula used by Social Security essentially works out so that

(monthly benefit) x (life expectancy in months as of day benefits start)

is the same no matter when benefits start (between full retirement age and 70).

So, a person in good health (anticipating living longer than the life expectancy) who can manage to delay taking Social Security benefits (living off pensions, investment income, 401k and IRA withdrawals, etc or with income from part-time work such as greeter in Walmart etc) for some time after retiring from the main job is better off delaying taking Social Security benefits as long as possible. In fact, the income from the part-time job will increase the benefit payable too. But if the person's health is poor, it might be better to take benefits as early as possible.

  • 1
    So a person can have a fulltime job and get Social Security?
    – Subtubes
    Dec 2, 2014 at 17:12
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    Yes, one can have a full-time job and still collect Social Security. People who have relatively little income don't pay Federal income tax on their Social Security benefits while people with higher income can have as much as 85% of their Social Security benefit subject to Federal income tax. Look for an answer by @JoeTaxpayer on this site where he points out that the marginal rate of tax can be as much as 46% on that SS benefit. Dec 2, 2014 at 17:53
  • Means testing is coming. Dec 4, 2014 at 2:45

There are many factors that could change his benefits:

  • COLA adjustments
  • Spouse or ex-spouse benefits
  • At what age he begins collecting benefits
  • Working while collecting
  • Changes in laws
  • etc

The SSA website is very good, and worth checking out: http://www.ssa.gov/

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