Kelly Bullis: Signing up for Social Security |

Kelly Bullis: Signing up for Social Security

Kelly J. Bullis

Before you sign up, it might be helpful to review the rules on WHEN you become eligible to start taking Social Security benefits.

If you are 62 years old, or just about to turn 62, congratulations! You’ve reached that magical age and you now qualify. BUT WAIT! Is it a good idea to start taking benefits early? (You can put off taking those benefits all the way to 70 years old.) By the way, at the early “retirement age” of 62, you only qualify to receive about 74% of your normal full Social Security Benefit. That number goes up for each year you are older until you get to “retirement age” which if you were born in 1957 is 66.5 years old. After full “retirement age,” the benefits you qualify for increase by 8% a year until you turn 70 when you MUST start taking your benefits. It is important to know that if you choose to start taking your Social Security benefits earlier than “retirement age” you lock in that lower percentage of normal benefits for life.

Let’s start with the key things to know about taking benefits earlier than “retirement age.” First, are you still earning a living (wages and/or self-employed)? In 2019, if you earn (from a job or self owned business) more than $17,640 annually, then you should reconsider taking your benefits early. For every $2 above that amount, you lose $1 of Social Security benefit in a year. That means, if your monthly benefit is calculated to be $1,200 a month, and you earn $25,000, then you have to pay back $3,730 in annual benefits or $311 a month. If you earn more than $46,440 in wages/self-employment earnings, you would have to pay back ALL of your $1,200 a month benefits, effectively getting NOTHING! So, timing is everything.

There is a way to structure your business so you can take your Social Security benefits earlier than “retirement age” and not have to pay any benefits back. For that one, you will have to call me. Too complicated to put in an article.

Second, when do you plan to die? Ah-hah! For most of us, that is THE real question. Who really knows? If you plan on living a LONG time (say into your 90s), then taking your Social Security benefits at an age that is earlier than your “retirement age” will end up hurting you. BUT, if you only live to 75 years old, then taking your Social Security benefits earlier than “retirement age” is genius! So, do you have a debilitating disease with a lower life expectancy? Or are you healthy and in really good shape? Does your family history tend toward long life or short? If we all knew for certain when we were going to die, the decision would be easy, but, we don’t so what do you do? It all comes down to a roll of the dice. You might hit it big or you might get snake eyes.

So let’s get to the process of actually applying for your benefit. Make sure you begin the process about three months before you expect to start receiving any benefits. The easiest way is to go online at or you can call 800-772-1213. If you like to talk to somebody face to face, you can call the local Social Security Office (Reno’s phone is 888-808-5481) and make an appointment. (Do NOT just drop in, you’ll be there all day!)

Did you hear? Job 11:18 says, “And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security.”

Kelly Bullis is a Certified Public Accountant in Carson City. Contact him at 882-4459. On the web at Also on Facebook.