Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
Social Security is your money; you earned it through a lifetime of hard work. Nearly one in five Hawai‘i residents, 282,623 people, receive Social Security benefits, and 30% of residents 65 and older rely on the program for at least half of their income.
Makiki resident Evonne told AARP that, “The cost of living is high, especially in Hawai‘i. If our Social Security gets cut it would be very difficult for us to make ends meet.” Unless Congress acts, beneficiaries like Evonne are facing at least a 20% cut in benefits in the next decade due to a looming shortfall.
Some people believe that the shortfall means Social Security will go bankrupt and not be able to pay any benefits. That’s not true. People will still receive benefits. But the money will be less than what was promised.
At AARP we are urging Congress to act sooner rather than later to address the Social Security budget shortfall. We also want to help beneficiaries better understand the program and its benefits. With that in mind, below are five more things to know about Social Security:
- When can I start collecting Social Security?
You are eligible to receive Social Security as early as age 62. However, the longer you wait to start collecting after you become eligible (up until age 70), the larger your annual payments will be. Those eligible for survivor benefits or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can start collecting earlier.
2. Can I collect Social Security while working?
Yes. In fact, 26% of Social Security recipients in 2023 are still working. But if you are below full retirement age (67) and earn more than a certain amount, your monthly payments will be temporarily reduced. Once you reach full retirement age, your payments will be increased to make up for any previous reduction in benefits caused by earning more than the limit.
3. How much will I receive each year from Social Security?
Your Social Security income will be dependent on multiple factors, but the most important is your lifetime earnings from work. The Social Security Administration takes your 35 highest-earning years, calculates an inflation-adjusted average and plugs this information into a formula to find your “basic” benefit. How old you are when you claim Social Security will also impact the amount you receive.
4. What is the maximum Social Security payment I can receive each month?
In 2023, the highest monthly payment for Social Security is $3,627; however, the average retirement benefit is $1,833. To receive the maximum payment, your earnings must exceed the maximum taxable income for at least 35 working years, and you must be at full retirement age, which is age 67 for people born in 1960 or later.
5. How do I sign up for Social Security?
You can apply for retirement, spousal or disability benefits online at ssa.gov, by phone at 1-800-772-1213 or in person at your local Social Security office.
Learn More: aarp.org/youearnedit
Social Security Calculator: aarp.org/retirement/social-security/benefits-calculator.html
Craig Gima is communications director at AARP Hawai‘i. He is an award-winning multimedia communicator with more than 30 years of experience. A Honolulu native, Gima spent nearly 19 years at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a variety of reporting, editing and online roles before joining AARP in 2016. Gima graduated cum laude from the University of Southern California.