For many Americans, Social Security is the largest share of their retirement income. That’s why it’s important to separate myth from fact. Here’s what you need to know.

Facts and Figures

This chart details some important facts and figures to keep in mind about Social Security. The maximum monthly Social Security benefit for workers retiring at full retirement age in 2019 was $2,861. The average monthly benefit for retired workers in 2019 was $1,461. The amount of a similar investment paying $1,461 for as long as you live – with inflation adjustments and survivor benefits for your spouse: $450,000.

Myth 1: Always take Social Security early (Or later)

Some people take benefits early because they’re afraid they won’t get their share, but there’s really no “right” time. Age 62 is the earliest you can collect retirement benefits, but collecting before full retirement age could reduce your benefits up to 30%. Waiting until age 70 could increase your benefit by up to 32%,1 but may not be an option if you need this income for living expenses. When you file for benefits should be based on your personal situation.

Myth 2: When you take Social Security doesn’t affect your spouse’s benefits

The truth is, if you have the higher Social Security benefit and are older than your spouse or expect your spouse to live longer than you, you may want to delay taking Social Security to maximize the survivor benefit if you pass away early.

Myth 3: You can’t work during retirement and collect Social Security

If you’re at full retirement age and still working, you can continue earning benefits. However, if you’re working and receiving Social Security before full retirement age, your benefits will be lowered by $1 for every $2 in earned income above $17,640.2 To find your full retirement age, visit the Social Security Administration website.

Myth 4: You can’t collect spousal benefits if you’re divorced

If you were married at least 10 years, are 62 or older and currently unmarried, you could be eligible to collect spousal benefits on your former spouse’s benefit.4

Learn more about Social Security and your retirement

Important information:

Final decisions about Social Security filing strategies always rest with you and should always be based on your specific needs and health considerations. For more information, visit the Social Security Administration Website.

Based on full retirement age of 66. Source: Social Security Administration. Does not include cost-of-living adjustments.

$1 for every $3 above $46,920 for the year you reach FRA. Source: Social Security Administration: Retirement Benefits, 2019, ssa.gov.

Source: Social Security Administration, “Fast Facts and Figures about Social Security, 2019.”

4 Source: Edward Jones estimates based on CANNEX Immediate Annuity Quote System – 12/21/2018. Example assumes a joint life annuity, 66-year-old person, 3% inflation rate and the 2019 average benefit level from the Social Security Administration.