Millions of Social Security beneficiaries received a holiday-timed gift with official notice of the 3.2% cost of living adjustment (COLA) for 2024 and the corresponding change to their monthly benefits.

That’s like scoring the $200 Amex gift card at your office gift swap. But that’s not all the Social Security Administration (SSA) has in its gift bag. Here are a few ways the agency bestows financial security to its beneficiaries and their survivors and dependents.

Digital Delights
The government has worked to bring its services up to the standards people expect in 2023 and beyond. SSA’s online services now allow you to: 

• Replace a Social Security card (or Medicare card)

• Start a benefit application

• Check-in using your mobile phone for both scheduled and unscheduled SSA office appointments for services such as:

Replacing a Social Security card
Verifying benefits
And more

Are you scheduling an appointment at an SSA office? You still need to call a national number or your local office to do that. Check out all the online services of the SSA.

Gifts For The Family
Auxiliary Social Security benefits provide a measure of support for a worker’s family members:

• Spouses can qualify for benefits paid on a worker’s record even if they haven’t worked.

• Natural, step, and adopted children can qualify for benefits if a worker retires, dies or becomes disabled.

To qualify for the latter, children must be under age 18 or age 19 if they’re full-time students and unmarried.

Children with disabilities that began before they were 22 and received benefits on a parent’s record may qualify for benefits as a disabled adult child.

Rewards For Waiting
Remember the agony of waiting to open gifts as a child? Adults are also sometimes impatient to “cash out” their Social Security. But those who wait can benefit from a substantial—8% per year—increase in benefits between their full retirement age and 70.

Delayed retirement credits (DRCs), as they’re called, are added to workers’ records at a rate of 0.66% each month past their full retirement age until they claim or turn 70, whichever happens first.

DRCs are added to individuals’ potential benefits in January of the year following the year when they were earned. Unless they turn 70 in January, they’ll receive all their DRCs in the first payment.

The full retirement age depends on the year of birth and currently is 67 for anyone born in 1960 (today’s 63-year-olds) or later. They can increase their retirement benefits by as much as 24% if they wait until 70 to claim.

For clients in the throes of decision-making about filing, here are some ideas about ways to delay Social Security.

Bow On Top
Cost-of-living increases (in the years they are granted) are announced annually in October and included in the December notices I referenced above.

Clients may wonder how and if COLAs apply to their unclaimed benefits while they wait to file. Here’s a guide for explaining COLA to clients at different stages before and after retirement.

The good news is that when someone files for benefits, the SSA will average all the COLAs granted since they turned 62.

Alyson Dorosky, CSSCS, is a Social Security support expert at LifeYield. She works with advisors and their clients to address their thorniest Social Security issues.