For many people, age 65 is a big deal — and a birthday worth celebrating. If you’ll be turning 65 this year, here are some key points to keep in mind.
1. You’re eligible for Medicare
Medicare eligibility begins at age 65, and you can even sign up for coverage beginning three months before the month of your 65th birthday. It pays to enroll in Medicare on time, because if you don’t, you could end up subject to costly penalties that make your Part B premiums more expensive.
If you’ll be signing up for original Medicare (as opposed to Medicare Advantage), you’ll need a Part D plan for prescription drug coverage as well. Medicare Part A will cover your hospital care and Part B will cover outpatient care, but drug coverage is separate.
2. But you don’t have to sign up for Medicare
Just because you’re turning 65 this year doesn’t mean you’re giving up your job. And if you plan to keep working, you may continue to have access to a group health insurance policy through your employer.
If you’re happy with that coverage and want to keep it, you can delay your Medicare enrollment and avoid a late signup penalty. But if you’re not happy with that group plan, know that you’re allowed to work and get health coverage through Medicare at the same time.
Furthermore, if you’re keeping your group health coverage through your job, you may want to sign up for Medicare Part A regardless. Though you’ll pay a premium for Parts B and D, Part A is generally free for enrollees. Signing up could give you access to secondary insurance that may pick up the tab for hospital care your primary insurance doesn’t cover.
That said, once you enroll in Medicare, you won’t be eligible to contribute to a health savings account. And so if you’re currently taking advantage of that option, you may want to forgo that free Part A coverage if you’re keeping your group plan through work.
3. You can claim Social Security — but you may not want to
The earliest age you can sign up for Social Security is 62, and so if you’re turning 65 this year, claiming benefits is definitely an option. But that doesn’t mean you should rush to file.
You won’t be eligible for your full monthly benefit based on your earnings history until you reach full retirement age. If you were born in 1957, full retirement age doesn’t kick in until 66 and 6 months. Filing for benefits at 65 will mean reducing them in the process — for life.
Whether it pays to claim Social Security at age 65 will depend on different personal factors, like whether you’re still working full-time and what your retirement savings balance looks like. If your health is forcing you to cut down to part-time hours, then you may need your Social Security benefits to supplement your income.
On the other hand, if you’re still working full-time and aren’t thrilled with how much you’ve saved for retirement, you may want to sit tight and wait until full retirement age (or even beyond) to claim Social Security. Scoring a higher monthly benefit could help compensate for having less money than you’d like in your IRA or 401(k).
As you get ready to celebrate your 65th birthday, be sure to keep these important details in mind. They could help lead you to wise financial decisions that serve you well throughout your senior years.
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