Question: Am I old enough to collect SS benefits if I am unemployed?

I am sorry to hear you are unemployed. I am glad that you have qualified for unemployment as a way to keep you afloat financially.

Individuals who are 62 or older, do qualify for Social Security Benefits (SS). Full retirement is a different age for everyone who was born after 1938. This has been a gradual change based on your year of birth. For those born in 1955 their full retirement age is 66 and 2 months. The individuals born in 1955 are also turning 65 this year and could enroll in Medicare. So we will use that year as our sample birth year.

Those born in 1955 turned 62 in 2017. This means that they could collect SS any time after they turned 62 in 2017 if they were not working. There are earnings limits when you are working and collect SS. In 2020 you would still qualify for SS and you may not have filed (decided to collect benefits) yet because you were working. Now that you are not working, it is worth considering collecting SS.

In this situation where you are collecting unemployment and SS, they are not disqualifying type of incomes. You are allowed to collect both sources of income without putting the other in jeopardy or breaking any rules. They are also both taxable sources of income. That is important to consider as you look ahead to filing your next year’s tax return. You can have taxes taken out of your SS, or simply remember you will have taxes to pay when you file next year.

When you file this year when you are 65, you will get slightly less each month than if you waited until 66 and two months to collect. The other side to collecting your SS is that you get the money now, when your income is probably lower than it was while you were working and you could use the extra source of income.

If you get called back to work you could be impacted by the earnings limit ($18,240) for those born in 1955 or after. In the situation when you earn more than that amount and collect SS, they hold back $1 of your SS for each $2 that you earn on the job. So if your income is high, you could be required to pay all or part of the SS back until you reach full retirement age. But if you don’t earn more than that this year, you could collect your early retirement benefits to help meet your budget this year.

In 2021 for those born in 1955, the earnings limit still applies, but it applies in a very different way. The earnings only count up to the month you turn 66 + two months. The amount you can earn increases as well, up to over $48,000 per year without impacting your SS benefit. The SS deduction changes to $1 taken from your SS for each $3 you earn, so the pay back is lower while your earnings can be higher.

If it looks like you will not work much in 2020 and if you went back to work in 2021, you could still be okay due to the higher earnings limit.

Then once you reach 66 & two months you can make any amount of money and still collect your SS.

If you turn 65 you must also look at your Medicare decision, so this is a good time to think about collecting SS as well.

You can reach out to Social Security Administration to review your individual situation, no matter what your age. 1-800-772-1213 is the national number. 1-877-319-3079 is Jamestown. 1-877-319-5773 is Olean. The website has very useful information and you can create your own portal to get to your information.

Senior Life Matters is a community based program sponsored by Lutheran Jamestown. For questions and concerns or to reach Janell Sluga, GCMC, call us at 716-720-9797 or e-mail at