If you think you’re not going to get Social Security, you’re not alone. Just 37 percent of workers believe that when they hit their Social Security retirement age they will get the same level of benefits that are provided today, according to a recent survey.

Yes, Social Security faces a funding shortfall starting in 2034. But don’t panic. Social Security isn’t likely to disappear, at least not in your lifetime. The program will still have enough payroll taxes flowing in to pay out about 75 percent of scheduled benefits through 2091. And that’s if Congress does nothing to shore up the system.

Still, Social Security isn’t likely to be enough for most people to live comfortably in retirement. This year, it will pay retirees, on average, a $1,404 monthly benefit ($16,848 annually) — hardly enough to meet most people’s basic expenses. That’s why it’s important to think of Social Security as part of a larger retirement plan. Take a moment to understand how your Social Security retirement age and claiming options may impact your financial security far into the future.

Think about Social Security as part of a larger retirement plan.

FULL RETIREMENT AGE ISN’T THE SAME FOR EVERYONE

One of the most important decisions you can make about Social Security is when to start taking it. Although you can begin collecting as early as age 62, you need to reach full retirement age, known as FRA, in order to receive 100 percent of your benefit, which is based on your earnings history. Depending on the year you were born, your FRA can be as early as 66 or as late as 67. To find your FRA, use this Social Security Administration chart.

EARLY ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER

If you can take Social Security as early as age 62, why not get the party started and begin collecting benefits? That can make a lot of sense, especially if you’re in poor health or need the money to make ends meet. But taking Social Security before you reach full retirement age means your benefits will be reduced by as much as 30 percent. And don’t expect that to change when you reach FRA — you’ll be paid a reduced benefit for the rest of your life.

LATER HAS BENEFITS

There can be a significant advantage to waiting beyond your full Social Security retirement age, especially if you think there’s a good chance that you could live well into your 80s and beyond. That’s because you’ll receive an 8 percent bump in your benefits for every year that you delay up to age 70 — and that increased benefit will continue for the rest of your life. What’s more, any cost of living increases that Social Security may provide in the future will be calculated based on a percentage of your higher benefit amount, which can boost your monthly check even more.

BE STRATEGIC IF YOU’RE MARRIED

If you and your spouse both earned an income during your working years, you may be able to boost the monthly benefits of the lower-earning partner by making smart choices about when and how you file for benefits — a fact that can add a level of financial security should the higher-earning spouse pass away. A financial planner or professional can help you work through your options.

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