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Social Security

Social Security for Ex-Spouses – Swim with Jim Video

In the video cast above I am talking with Jim Ludwick, of Mainstreet Financial Planning, Inc. about benefits from Social Security for ex-spouses. Let me know if you have any questions! If for some reason the video is not showing up in the article – you can find it on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COy0NtaGRsU

Book Review: Making Social Security Work For You

This book, by my friend and colleague Emily Guy Birken, is a great book for gaining a better understanding of Social Security benefits. I recommend Making Social Security Work for You to anyone looking for answers about Social Security benefits. Birken is also the author of The Five Years Before You Retire, another excellent retirement planning tome. Birken’s style of writing is easy-to-follow. She has a subtle sense of humor that comes out in her writing. This makes the material enjoyable to read, even for a dry subject like Social Security. Making Social Security Work for You I especially like the way author Birken presents the material. Having written a book on the subject, I know full well the challenge she faced when putting this information together. It is difficult to make such a technical subject understandable and engaging. Birken presents the material in a cohesive manner, with a review (Takeaways) at the […]

A Social Security Hat Trick for $24,000

Did you know that even with the new Social Security rules, it’s possible to work out a strategy to maximize your Social Security benefits? There are options still available (if you were born before 1954) that can provide you with some vestiges of the old “get some now, get more later” option. Since the restricted application option is still open for those born on or before January 1, 1954, a married couple can still work this strategy to their advantage to maximize benefits. Here’s how it works: Jessica and Robert are both age 66 this year. Robert’s Primary Insurance Amount, or PIA, is $1,000 per month. This is the amount of benefits he’d receive if he files for his Social Security benefit upon reaching age 66. Jessica’s PIA is $2,600 per month. Robert files for his benefit when he turns 66 in June. Jessica reaches age 66 on her birthday […]

New Rules for File and Suspend

So the heyday is over, file and suspend under the old rules is gone forever as of April 30, 2016. Those were the days, my friend. We thought they’d never end. We’d file and suspend forever and a day. But not any more… Or, may we still file and suspend? Of course we can still file and suspend, the rules are just more restrictive now. When you suspend your benefits these days, all benefits that are payable based upon your record are suspended as well. For example, if you have a child who is eligible for benefits based on your record, when you suspend your benefits the child’s benefits will be suspended as well.  The same goes for spousal benefits based on your record. To be clear, the rules about suspending benefits are: You must be at least Full Retirement Age When you suspend benefits, your own benefit will not […]

Break Even Points for Social Security Filing Ages

Last week my article 3 Myths About Social Security Filing Age included some information about year-to-year break even points for the various Social Security filing ages. This prompted some questions about the break even points between all filing ages, not just the following year. So for example, what are the break even points between choosing to file at age 62 versus age 66 or age 70? This article shows the approximate break even points between all of the various filing ages. The first chart shows the break even points when your Full Retirement Age is 66. To use the chart, select your first filing age decision on the left, then move right to the second filing age you’re considering: So, for the decision between filing at age 62 versus age 66, you can see that the break even point is at the age of 78. Comparing filing at age 66 with […]

3 Myths About Social Security Filing Age

We hear all kinds of things about Social Security filing age – that we should always delay as long as possible, that we will gain 8% every year that we delay, and that the “break even” point is 80 years of age. This article takes a long hard look at these three “facts” about Social Security filing age and shows the real math behind them. All three are only true to a point – and as you’re planning your Social Security filing age, you should understand the real truth behind these three items. First, let’s look at the concept of delay. You Should Always Delay Your Social Security Filing Age to 70 This one is the easiest to understand why it’s wrong – but the component of truth in it can be important because it could work in your favor to delay. Of course an absolute like this is going […]

Restricted Application – the Definitive Guide

Much has been written and discussed regarding the option to file a Restricted Application for Social Security spousal benefits, but there are still many, many questions. This article is an attempt at covering all of the bases for you with regard to restricted application. The topic of restricted application is so popular these days because it’s being eliminated as a result of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA15). In fact, if you were born on or after January 2, 1954, the changes to the rules have eliminated the option to file a restricted application for you altogether. So – unless you were born on or before January 1, 1954, you might as well stop reading, because restricted application is not available to you. Period. Restricted Application Rules Okay, if you’re continuing to read, you (or your client, if you’re an advisor) must have been born early enough to be […]

What Must I Do Before April 30, 2016?

There is a great deal of confusion surrounding the new Social Security rules that were put into place with the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA15). The part that is bothering folks the most right now is the deadline that is coming up, on April 30, 2016. What’s important about April 30, 2016? What must I do before April 30, 2016? The rule changes in BBA15 indicated that the suspension of Social Security benefits would be treated differently beginning 180 days after passage of the law. The law was passed on or about November 2, 2015, and so 180 days after that is April 30, 2016. What’s the change? First of all, in order to suspend your benefits, you must be at or older than Full Retirement Age (FRA). For folks who will be eligible to take advantage of the old suspend rule, that means you must be 66 before […]

New Deemed Filing Rules

When the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 was passed, there were a few changes made to Social Security rules. One of the rules that changed significantly is the deemed filing rule. The old deemed filing rule The current or old deemed filing rule works as follows: When an individual who is under Full Retirement Age (FRA) is eligible for a spousal benefit in addition to a benefit based upon his or her own record files for either benefit, he or she is deemed to have filed for all benefits that he or she is eligible for at that time. At any other time (other than the time of application for benefits) deemed filing does not apply. For example, Anna and John are both nearing 62 years of age. Anna has a PIA (FRA benefit) of $800, and John has a PIA of $2,000. Anna is planning to file for her […]

SSA Updates File & Suspend Guidance

You can listen to this article by using the podcast player below if you’re on the blog; if you’re reading this via RSS, there should be a “Play Now” link just below the title to access the audio. If you’re receiving this article via email, there should be a “Download Now” link within the text of the message to retrieve the audio file. Recently the Social Security Administration provided some guidance regarding how the end of file & suspend will be handled, in light of the changes that were brought about by the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA15). If you’ll recall, the option to suspend your Social Security benefit (part of File & Suspend) allowed one member of a couple to establish a filing date which would then provide the other member of the couple with the eligibility to file for a spousal benefit. The first […]

Everything You Need to Know About File & Suspend and the April 30 Deadline

By now if you’re of a certain age, you have probably heard about the end of the file & suspend option for Social Security benefits. If not, click on this link to learn more about this option and the April 30 deadline due to changes made by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. However, as my email inbox indicates, you have lots of questions about file & suspend.  This article is my effort to cover all the bases with regard to everything you need to know about file & suspend and the April 30 deadline. For starters, if you and your spouse were born after April 30, 1950, this article does not apply to you, so you can stop reading. If one of you was born before April 30, 1950, the file & suspend option only applies to that individual, not to both of you. Of course, if both of you were born […]

6 Strategies for Social Security Benefits That Are Still Available

Earlier this fall the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 was passed. This was important to folks looking to maximize Social Security benefits because two of the primary strategies for maximization were eliminated with the passage of this legislation. You may be wondering if there are any strategies left to help maximize benefits – and as it turns out, there are still a few things you can do. Four of these strategies apply to anyone, while the last two only apply to married couples. (Note: if you were born in 1953 or before, you have more options available to you as a result of the grandfathering of some rules. See The Death of File & Suspend and Restricted Application for more details.) Delay Delaying benefits beyond age 62 or your full retirement age (FRA) continues to provide a strategy for increasing your benefits.  In fact, this strategy alone is likely the most beneficial of […]

Social Security Ground Rules

(In celebration of the release, here is an excerpt with some extras, from A Social Security Owner’s Manual, 4th Edition.) There are certain rules that will be helpful to fully accept as facts while you learn about your Social Security benefits. If this is your first reading of the list, skim through before moving on. Don’t expect to fully understand these rules on the start – but keep in mind you may need to refer back to this list of Ground Rules from time to time so you can keep things straight. Basic Social Security Rules The earliest age you can receive retirement benefits is 62. The earliest age you can receive Survivor Benefits is 60 (50 if you are disabled). Filing for any benefit before Full Retirement Age will result in a reduction to the benefits. Your spouse must have filed for his or her retirement benefit in order […]

Social Security Bend Points for 2016

When the Social Security Administration recently announced that the maximum wage base and the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) would remain unchanged for 2016, they also announced the bend points that are used to calculate both the Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) for Social Security benefits. In addition, the Family Maximum Benefit (FMax) bend points for 2016 were also announced. Wait a second! You may be wondering just why the bend points are changing when there was no increase to the COLA? Excellent question, as it shows you’ve been paying attention. This is because the bend points are based upon the Average Wage Index, which adjusts annually regardless of whether the numbers go up or down, whereas the COLA and the maximum wage base only goes up. Bend points can go down from one year to the next – it’s only happened once, in 2009, but it could happen again. For more on […]

No Social Security COLA for 2016; Wage Base Unchanged as Well

Recently the Social Security Administration announced that there would be no Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to recipients’ benefits for 2016.  This is the third time in 7 years that there has been no adjustment.  In 2010 and 2011 we saw the first ever zero COLA years since the automatic adjustment was first put in place in 1972. That dark period of time actually resulted in two years in a row with zero COLAs, after 38 years of increasing adjustments. Why? The Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) is based upon the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, or CPI-W.  If this factor increases year-over-year, then a COLA can be applied to Social Security benefits. This is an automatic adjustment, no action is required of Congress to produce the increase when there is one.  See How Social Security COLAs Are Calculated for details on the calculations. When […]

The Death of File & Suspend and Restricted Application

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015’s Aftermath Note: the original text had a placeholder date of May 3, 2016 as the final date for File & Suspend. This date has been finalized as April 30, 2016 and the text below corrected. — jb With the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, an era of flexibility in Social Security claiming strategies comes to an end. Long gone is the ability for one spouse to delay benefits while the other collects benefits based on the first spouse’s record. Also gone is the option of collecting spousal benefits while delaying your own benefits to accrue the delay credits. We’ll go over the actual changes below, based upon your date of birth – because some of the provisions will remain for a while, and could be useful if you’re the right age. Born in 1953 or earlier If you were born in […]

Get some now, get more later

Note: with the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Bill of 2015 into law, File & Suspend and Restricted Application have been effectively eliminated for anyone born in 1954 or later. If born before 1954 there are some options still available, but these are limited as well. Please see the article The Death of File & Suspend and Restricted Application for more details. When you have reached Full Retirement Age (FRA – age 66 if you were born between 1946 and 1954), you have the option to file for Spousal Benefits separately from your own benefit. This is known as a restricted application – and is often referred to as “get some now, get more later ”. Of course, you must either be married to another Social Security recipient who has filed for benefits, or you have divorced after 10 years of marriage to someone who is at least 62 years […]

The 52% Medicare Premium Increase by the Numbers

By now if you’re a Medicare recipient I’m sure you’ve heard all about the potential 52% Medicare Premium increase coming in 2016 for some recipients. This is due to a virtually-unknown (until recently) part of the law that allows no increase to Medicare premiums if there is no COLA adjustment to Social Security benefits being currently received. This happened in 2010 and 2011 when there was no COLA added for Social Security recipients – it just wasn’t the headline grabbing 52% number. As a result of this lack of increase for 70% of all Medicare Part B recipients, all other Medicare Part B premium payers must pick up the slack. The increase to premium is projected to be a maximum of 52% – from $104.90 to $159.40. Who is impacted? Primarily only those people who are over age 65, receiving Part B Medicare coverage and who are not currently receiving Social […]

Exception to the Divorced Spouse Remarriage Rule

Generally speaking, when a divorcee is receiving a Social Security spousal benefit based on an ex-spouse’s record, the recipient must remain unmarried in order to continue receiving the ex-spouse benefit. (For more details on this, see Coordinating Social Security Benefits in Matters of Divorce and Remarriage.) In many cases,when a divorcee remarries, the spousal benefit based on his or her ex-spouse’s record will end. However, there is an exception to this rule that I recently became aware of. It’s in part because the circumstances surrounding this exception have recently become more common – so let’s get to the exception. The Exception If the person who is receiving a spousal benefit based on an ex-spouse’s record marries someone who is currently receiving widow(er)’s, mother’s, father’s, divorced spouse’s, or parents’ benefits, the spousal benefit will continue. That’s a mouthful! Let’s play out an example: Jane is divorced from Gerald. Jane has been receiving […]

Timing of Delay Credits

When you delay filing for your Social Security benefits past Full Retirement Age (FRA – age 66 if you were born between 1943 and 1954) you earn Delay Credits for each month that you delay. The credit amount is 2/3% per month, or a total of 8% for every 12 months of delay. When you file for benefits after delaying, these credits are applied to your PIA. The timing of the application of your credits is not immediate, though. Delay credits are added to your benefit only at the beginning of a new year, so this can cause a bit of confusion as you begin receiving benefits. Example For example, Janice was born on September 14, 1949, so she will turn age 66 on September 14, 2015. Janice’s PIA is $1,000. If you’ll remember from this post (When is Your Social Security Birthday), Social Security considers Janice to have reached […]