Is it a good idea to enroll in Social Security at the same time as Medicare? | personal finance

(Maurie Backman)

Once you turn 65, you can enroll in Medicare. And if you’re no longer working at that point or aren’t married to someone who has a group sickness plan, then this is one path you might want to take.

In fact, once you lose access to a group health plan (your own or a spouse’s), you risk facing surcharges on your Medicare Part B premiums if you don’t register for coverage on time. So if you don’t have access to group health insurance by age 65, it makes sense to enroll in Medicare.

If you enroll in Medicare now, you may be inclined to file for Social Security at the same time. But whether that’s a good idea or not depends on your age.

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It’s all about the timing

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While Medicare eligibility begins at age 65, group health coverage by then may allow you to enroll at a later age. And if that’s the case, then applying for Social Security at the same time can be a good idea.

However, if you enroll in Medicare at age 65, you might want to think twice about applying for Social Security. That’s because you’re not entitled to your full monthly Social Security benefit until you reach full retirement age, or FRA.

FRA depends on your year of birth and starts at 66, 67 or anywhere in between. But if you apply for Social Security before you reach FRA, your benefits will be permanently reduced. So if you register for them at age 65 in conjunction with enrolling in Medicare, you could reduce your benefits by up to 13.34%, depending on your exact FRA.

If you are now enrolling in Medicare at age 67 and your FRA is 67, then there is less harm in enrolling in both at the same time. Of course, moving Social Security to FRA gives you the option to increase your benefits by 8% per year – for life – until age 70. But filing it with your exact FRA is certainly a sensible way to go, especially if you’re not looking to delay your retirement.

Be careful when applying for Medicare and Social Security

If you are enrolled in Medicare and Social Security at the same time, your Part B premiums are automatically deducted from your Social Security benefits. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enroll in Medicare without being a Social Security carrier.

Going this route simply means paying your Part B premiums directly. However, you also have the option to automate this process so that it is not a burden.

Of course, you can choose to enroll in Medicare at age 65 and then claim Social Security, despite the impact on your benefits that might ensure. There’s nothing wrong with that once you’ve run through the numbers and found that it makes sense. The key, however, is to understand the implications of registering for Social Security early — and also recognizing the consequences that can result if you don’t register for Medicare on time.

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