The topic of retirement can be cloudy, especially the younger you are. Dr. Cynthia Crawford, University of Missouri Extension Professor in Family Economics spoke with KMZU’s Ashley Johnson to break down the basics of seeking Social Security retirement benefits, and how working longer can help.


Click play below to hear the full interview:

Crawford says the best day to think about retirement is the first day of your first real job; however, it is never too late to begin planning now.

“Planning is a package that we all need to be weaving together to support ourselves in those golden years,” said Crawford.

One common misconception about Social Security is that it will be a sufficient means of supporting individuals in retirement by itself.

Crawford explains Social Security was never intended to be the sole source of income, but was meant to be a supplement to already-existing benefit or contribution plans, or an individual’s personal savings and investments.

On average, it replaces about 40 percent of income. For lower-income earners, the percentage may be higher, but for higher-income earners, it could be significantly lower.

Crawford says one way to combat the possible low monthly payments is working longer. The earliest an individual can apply for Social Security is age 62. While there is no cap on what age someone can apply, benefits do not increase after age 70.

She says for each year an individual delays applying for Social Security benefits after age 62, monthly payments will increase between 6 and 8 percent. Crawford says this is a way to address the fear of outliving our resources.

Crawford also discusses the assumption that Social Security benefits are based on an individual’s last five years of work. She says this is incorrect and instead, it is based on an individual’s 35 highest-earning years of work. For those who may not have 35 years of professional salary in place, the missing years are factored in as a zero.

“There is a lot to think about when it comes to social security and i want people to be well-informed,” said Crawford.

If interested in learning more about your personal Social Security benefits, visit to set up an account. Within minutes, this resource will display your earnings history, projected benefits that will be paid when you are 62, and then at age 70. This allows an individual to see the benefits of increasing monthly income by delaying the age at which they apply.

“We need to realize that social security started paying out retirement benefits in the early 40s and it is constantly being tweaked and fine-tuned to make sure it’s available long-term to people paying in decades and generations into the future,” said Crawford.