For anyone in or near retirement, your Social Security benefits are probably top of mind. Yes, the program’s outlook is a bit murky in the long run, though some benefits will undoubtedly be there for you. Meantime, it’s essential to get the most you can out of the program. So take a close look at this package of stories by MONEY assistant managing editor Karen Damato, who clarifies some popular misconceptions. For one thing, the common wisdom that you can claim benefits as early as age 62 is not, precisely, true. Further, starting with people reaching 62 this month, the full retirement age creeps up from 66 to 67 in two-month increments over the next six years. That’s essentially a benefit cut whatever the age at which you start your benefits. Finally, don’t miss the five ways you can get free Social Security help at the program’s website. You’ll want to bookmark all of them.
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THIS WEEK’S RETIREMENT NEWS, INSIGHTS AND ADVICE
Why You Probably Can’t Collect Social Security When You Turn 62
You’ve probably heard this a million times: You can collect Social Security as early when you celebrate your 62nd birthday. Not quite. Turns out, there are some quirks to the system—it is the federal government, after all. So you need to allow some leeway. MONEY
This Money-Saving IRA Strategy Could Be Toast Soon
If you have been planning to pass along IRA balances to your kids or grandkids, heads up. Proposed legislation may limit these “stretch IRAs,” which let heirs take distributions over their lifetime, thereby easing the tax bite. Writer Darla Mercado offers possible alternatives for transferring wealth. CNBC
How to Claim the Retirement Saver’s Credit
For workers with a low or moderate income—hey there, millennials—you may qualify for a saver’s credit. This tax break, which is often overlooked, can be claimed in addition to any tax deduction you get by contributing to a retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or IRA. Writer Emily Brandon explains. US NEWS
Regret Signing Up for Medicare Advantage? You’ve Got a Do-Over Now
Medicare’s annual enrollment period is over, but for some beneficiaries, a window remains open. If you are in a private Medicare Advantage plan, you have until Feb. 14 to make a switch to traditional Medicare, as well as purchase a Part D drug plan. Writer Elizabeth O’Brien has the details. MONEY
The Top Retirement Fears and How to Tackle Them
It’s easy to get anxious about managing in retirement, given the long list of risks you face, including running out of money, cuts to Social Security and declining health. Actuary Steve Vernon provides steps you can take to ease your fears. Hint: Getting advice from a pro can help. CBS MONEYWATCH
How a Change to Military Benefits Will Affect Millions of Workers
Starting in 2018, the military will be switching to a new retirement plan. The traditional pension is being cut back, and members will be able to contribute to the federal Thrift Savings Plan. Current service members have big decisions to make, since you will be able to choose between old and new plans. Start reviewing the numbers. CITYLAB
Older Americans Are at Risk as Congress Takes an Axe to Obamacare
The proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act by Congress has major implications for older Americans. For those seeking to retire early, or who lose a job later in life, Obamacare has provided a key source of health care coverage until Medicare kicks in, points out reporter Mark Miller. The repeal would also increase Medicare spending, which will push up costs for beneficiaries. Stay tuned to this one. REUTERS
Growing Numbers of Americans Are Retiring Outside the U.S.
Many older Americans dream of living abroad in retirement. Some 400,000 seniors have actually relocated overseas, and that number is expected to climb over the next decade. Lower costs are a key reason, of course. But there are hurdles to being an expat, especially securing access to health care. USA TODAY
How to Become a ‘Superager’
Why do some older people stay mentally sharp while others decline? A key reason may be how much you challenge yourself, both physically and mentally, research has found. That exertion has an impact on key regions of your brain. So don’t look at retirement as simply a time to relax, but also to try new things. NEW YORK TIMES
YOUR RETIREMENT QUESTIONS ANSWERED
Will Giving My Niece Money for Her IRA Trigger a Tax Bill?
Q. My niece is in her mid-20s and working part time, making about $15,000 per year. Can I give her a gift of $5,500 to put into a Roth IRA without increasing her taxes for the year? — Kathy, Tucson
A: There’s a lot of confusion about gift taxes, but few people ever run afoul of the limits. So you can relax—your niece won’t face a higher tax bill because of your generosity. READ MORE
WORDS OF WISDOM
“Knowing what you don’t know is more useful than being brilliant.”
–Investor Charlie Munger