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West Virginians Can Boost Their Social Security Checks – By Waiting

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Many West Virginia seniors could give their Social Security checks a big bump by simply waiting to apply for benefits, if they can. Credit: National Academy of Social Insurance
Many West Virginia seniors could give their Social Security checks a big bump by simply waiting to apply for benefits, if they can. Credit: National Academy of Social Insurance
November 16, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - More than seven out of 10 West Virginia retirees put in for early Social Security, but experts say you can get a big boost to those monthly checks by waiting as long as you can.

You can claim Social Security as early as age 62. But Kristen Arnold, an income security policy analyst for the National Academy of Social Insurance, said you can raise your monthly benefit amount by waiting until age 70. She said it could mean 76 percent higher benefit checks - for the rest of their lives.

"If you're working, you don't have to take Social Security," she said. "You can wait, and for each year you wait, your monthly benefits will increase by 8 percent - and that monthly increase in benefits lasts for as long as you live."

According to federal figures, West Virginia has one of the highest rates of reliance on Social Security in the nation. According to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, the state's boom-and-bust economy and older demographics mean Social Security is the sole source of income for many seniors.

Arnold stressed that if you have to take Social Security early to make ends meet, you should go ahead. There is very little danger that the program will go broke in the foreseeable future, she said. But Arnold said too many West Virginia seniors are cheating themselves out of more income by not waiting to apply for their benefits.

"More than 70 percent of beneficiaries in West Virginia are receiving reduced monthly benefits due to early claiming," she said.

If you were born after 1943, full Social Security benefits don't kick in until age 66 or 67. However, Arnold said, the additional benefits build up all the way up to age 70.

More information is online at nasi.org.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV