Q. I get Social Security booklets that say I can retire at 66, receive $1,700 monthly and still work full time. But I know people who have had to work less than 40 hours a week or take a low-paying job because they risked losing benefits. I have a military retirement, Missouri retirement and currently make about $62,000 at a job I don't want to quit. So, will I eventually be able to keep all of that and enjoy full Social Security benefits, too? I turned 66 on Lincoln's birthday.
-- H.F., of O'Fallon
A. What, you haven't applied for benefits yet? Time's a-wastin', man! The very month you turned 66, you were entitled to enjoy the best of all worlds: You are eligible to receive full Social Security benefits and still earn as much as you please without having those benefits cut one red cent. Here's the deal:
For those of us born between 1943 to 1954, our "full retirement age" is 66. (After that it starts creeping up to 67 and now, of course, they're talking about 68 and older.)
Now, you could have started drawing benefits anytime between your 62nd and 66th birthdays, but you would have been penalized in two ways.
First, you would have taken a cut in the monthly benefit you'll receive for the rest of your life. If I start benefits next year on my 62nd birthday, for example, I'll receive only 75 percent of my full retirement benefit. That percentage increases a few tenths for each month I delay my retirement until my 66th birthday, when, of course, it hits 100.
But here's that second whammy you are concerned about: Until you reach your full retirement age, you are penalized if you earn over a certain amount. For 2013, that limit is a measly $15,120. If you are under full retirement age for the entire year, they'll deduct $1 from your benefit for every $2 you earn above that limit. So if you earned $62,000, they'd deduct $23,440, which would have been every penny of your benefit and then some.
There are different rules for the year in which you reach full retirement age, but you don't have to concern yourself with those, either. The bottom line is this: Starting with the month you reach full retirement age, you can get your full benefits with no limit on your earnings. That is the exact wording from www.ssa.gov/retire2/whileworking.htm, where you'll find much more information for planning your retirement. (Don't worry -- I also called Social Security to double-check my interpretation.)
So, it sounds as though you should apply for your benefits immediately. In fact, if you keep working, www.ssa.gov suggests that your continued earnings may increase your check even more in the future. Just keep your fingers crossed that Washington doesn't change the rules as it continues to battle the deficit.
Q. While recently cleaning out my attic, I found some old postcards. I don't really want them, but I was wondering if you might know someone who would appreciate them? -- T.W., of Fairview Heights
A. Your discovery comes at a most auspicious time: Tom Snyder will hold his 24th annual postcard show and sale this weekend, so if there's anyone who would want your old treasures, you're bound to find an enthusiastic collector there.
Just take them up to the VFW Hall in Collinsville -- 1234 Vandalia -- between 9 and 6 on Friday and 9 and 4 on Saturday. Admission is free. And don't be too fast to give them away; you might want to ask for a free appraisal just in case you've uncovered a real gem.
If you can't make it, I'd call Snyder at 531-4189 for advice.
Q. I'm trying to find when a picture ran in the News-Democrat. All I know is that it says Volume 112, No. 95. -- J.B., of Belleville
A. Our current volume is 155 so you'd think that volume 112 would have been in 1970, 43 years ago. But as odd as it might sound, our paper over the years had a hard time defining when it truly began. As a result, our numbering system was a mess for years, a mistake we did not finally fix until we celebrated our 150th anniversary in 2008.
So, after wearing out our microfilm machine, I found Volume 112, No. 95, was on April 22, 1967, AND April 5, 1993. You'll have to decide which one depending on the age and subject of the picture.
Who is the only person to have ever won pro tennis' Golden Slam?
Answer to Wednesday's trivia: Legend has it that in 1874, Jennie Jerome was hosting a banquet for Democratic presidential candidate Samuel Tilden. She asked Dr. Ian Marshall to mix up some whiskey and vermouth and add a dash of Angostura bitters. It proved such a hit that it eventually became known by the name of club hosting the banquet -- the Manhattan. Historians, however, pooh-pooh this tale because they say Jennie Jerome -- Lady Randolph Churchill -- was in France and pregnant with her son Winston.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org or call 239-2465.