Q. I retired in March 2011, when I turned 62. My benefits forecast from Social Security, which was mailed to me in 2010 indicated my benefit would be $1,770 per month. When I applied for my benefit in March 2011, I was told my benefit would be $1,735 per month. When I questioned the clerk about the $35 difference in benefit, she responded, “It was an estimate and those can be wrong.” I responded that the estimate should be closer to reality. The clerk then told me that Congress had voted to reduce benefits for those turning 62 in 2011 by 1.5 percent. She said 2010 was the first time that wages had declined since Social Security started so Congress decided to reduce benefits. Did Congress really vote to reduce benefits for those born in 1949? Seems unfair that the 49ers need to be penalized and not other years.
A. Yes, the benefit estimate you received was just an estimate. The final amount of your benefit cannot be calculated until you apply for it. Start by reading the Social Security Administration fact sheet at www.ssa.gov/pubs/10070.html, then use the estimator provided for those born in 1949. The only connection I can find to that date is this: In 1950, Congress extended Social Security protection to most self-employed individuals, most state and local government employees, household and farm workers, members of the armed forces and members of the clergy.
As to the other part of your conversation with a Social Security representative, either she misspoke or you misheard. First, the reduction wasn’t in benefits, it was in the amount that is deducted from wages or self-employment to pay for that benefit. Second, because of the economic downturn, there was no cost-of-living adjustment made to Social Security benefits in 2010 and 2011.