PODCAST: What accountants should know about Social Security

Written on Mar 11, 2021

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager 

For CPAs to maintain their role as trusted business advisors, those in client-facing roles need to understand the details of Social Security. 

“For Social Security retirement benefits, as far as the age is concerned, a person needs to be at least 62 years old for reduced retirement benefits every month,” said Brandon Smith, Public Affairs Specialist at the Social Security Administration in Cleveland. “And if they are willing and able to wait, the check would increase.” 

Man wearing suit and smiling for camera.

Smith and Robert Fenn, the Public Affairs Specialist at the SSA in Akron, joined The State of Business podcast this week to discuss social security information accountants should be aware of for their clients and eventually, for themselves. 

Fenn said a question the SSA receives regularly is if you can work and still receive benefits. 

“One of the things that I have found in my career with Social Security is that sometimes people will have their own definitions of retirement,” Fenn said. “And in my mind, retirement means I have worked, and now it's time for me to stop seeing these people I’ve worked with. Well, some individuals define retirement as ‘I was working full time, now I'm going to part-time.’” 

Fenn said individuals can work and still receive a Social Security benefit, but it’s important to understand that if someone is retiring during that year, there is also an option for individuals to file for their benefits. It's critical to know how much they have made for the year, but the month after the retirement may not be held against them, they still can receive their security payment. 

Man wearing suit and smiling for camera.

Spouses come up regularly during Social Security discussions, Smith said. “Spouse” is a gender-neutral term, and the gender makeup of the couple does not matter. Additionally, the term “spouse” refers to both parties still being alive. For spousal benefits, you're either still married to someone, or you're no longer married to them, but they (and you) are still alive. 

“The most a spouse could receive on the record of his or her living husband or wife or living-ex-husband or ex-wife would be 50% of that wage earners full retirement age amount,” Smith said. 

The Social Security Administration is available through a variety of options for questions. 

“You can call us, you can go on our website, you can talk to a local person, there's automated services that you can access via the mobile website, as well and via the toll-free national number,” Smith said. “It's really about making sure that you have the ability to get the information in a digestible format for yourself.” 

To hear more about benefits, eligibility and other aspects of Social Security, listen to the complete episode now