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Social Security

Divorcee Social Security Benefits

Are you eligible for divorcee Social Security benefits? The matrix in this article helps you to understand what benefits you may be eligible for.

Social Security Terms

Several unique Social Security terms are essential to understand when learning about possible benefits from the Social Security system.

Social Security Changes for 2018

In 2018, there will be some slight changes to Social Security. For individuals receiving benefits, there will be a cost of living (COLA) increase of 2 percent. While 2 percent may not seem like a lot, it certainly does help. Additionally, it’s better than nothing. That is, Social Security remains one of the few retirement vehicles available with a COLA. Many defined benefit pensions (if an individual is lucky to have one) do not have COLA increases. Their payments remain fixed for the retiree’s lifetime. Individuals still working will see the wage base subject to the OASDI tax of 6.2 percent increase from $127,200 for 2017 to $128,700 for 2018. As always, the Medicare tax of 1.45 percent remains on an unlimited amount of wages, with an additional .9 percent tax added for those with incomes above $200,000 (single) or $250,000 (MFJ). For individuals receiving benefits yet continuing to work, […]

Social Security Bend Points Explained

How are bend points determined for Social Security benefits? It’s a long history, but once you know how, it all makes sense.

Divorced with Children? Social Security Benefits for You

If you are divorced with children under age 16, you may have some Social Security benefits coming to you. The rules are different for divorcees.

How to Get Your Social Security Statement

One of the requests we make when doing retirement or Social Security claiming plans for clients is for the clients to bring in their Social Security statements. As many readers are aware, these statements can be retrieved online from the Social Security website. Below is a step by step process to retrieve your statement online. Go to https://secure.ssa.gov/RIL/SiView.do Click on “Create an Account” and agree to the Terms of Service Enter your personal information on the following page You will be required to answer questions related to your identity and background (be careful – answering these questions wrong will require you to call or go into the local office) Set up your account with a username and password. You should then be able to view and retrieve your statement, earning history, etc. If you’re leery of giving your personal information online, you can go into your local Social Security office […]

Interaction of Survivor Benefits with Your Own Benefits

Social Security Survivor Benefits can be a critical lifeline for surviving spouses. The interaction of survivor benefits with your own benefits can be a bit confusing though. Does starting to receive one benefit affect your future amount of the other benefit? How about vice-versa? There’s a lot written about the topic in Social Security’s POMS manual, but it becomes very simple after you study it a bit. The interaction of survivor benefits with your own benefits can be played out in one of two ways: either you take your own benefit first and the survivor benefit later; or vice versa, taking the survivor benefit first followed by your own benefit. We’ll look at each of these methods and review the interaction of survivor benefits with your own benefits. Note: in our examples, we are assuming that the survivor benefit has been calculated correctly per the late spouse’s circumstances. See How […]

The Remarriage Rule (Possibly the Dumbest Social Security Rule)

There are several really dumb rules in the Social Security system, but the remarriage rule is the dumbest rule of them all.

Taxability of Social Security

Taxability of Social Security can be at many different rates, ranging from 0% to 85%, depending upon your other income and filing status.

Adjusting Withholding Saved 44% of the Tax Bill

Adjusting withholding on your income taxes can produce some surprising results. See how one taxpayer saved 44% in taxes by adjusting his withholding.

How Taxation of Social Security Benefits Works

You probably are aware that a portion of your Social Security retirement benefit may be taxable.  Do you know how the tax is calculated?  Or how the taxable portion of your benefit is determined? The Rules There are a couple of different levels of income that determine how much of your Social Security Benefit is taxed. But first we must define Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI). This is your Adjusted Gross Income (line 37 of Form 1040) plus all of your tax-exempt income. Next is to define Provisional Income (PI). This is your MAGI plus 50% of your Social Security benefits. Now to the taxation levels: The first taxation level is $32,000 of Provisional Income for a married couple filing jointly (MFJ) or $25,000 for single, head of household and qualifying widow(er) filing statuses.  If your Provisional Income is less than this first level for your filing status, none of your […]

Substantial Earnings Years of Credit

How does the substantial earnings years of credit work for Windfall Elimination Provision?

Filing for Social Security Survivor Benefit alone, preserving Retirement for later

Social Security Survivor Benefits offer one of the only remaining opportunities to use timing strategies when filing for Social Security benefits. You can still restrict an application for Survivor Benefits and delay filing for your own benefits until a later, more advantageous date.

Delayed Retirement Credits – When are These Applied?

If you delay filing for your Social Security benefit, for each month that you delay you will earn delayed retirement credits. The increase for each month of delayed retirement credit is 2/3% (0.667%) for every month. This equates to 8% in delayed retirement credits for every year of delay. But when are these credits applied to your benefit? As with so many Social Security-related calculations, timing is everything. With delayed retirement credits, the key is exactly when you stop delaying and start collecting benefits. Starting Benefits Before Age 70 When you’re delaying benefits past your full retirement age (FRA), you can start receiving benefits at any age after FRA up to age 70. So, for example, if you decided to start your benefits upon the month of your 67th birthday, you’d have 8% in credits earned if your FRA was age 66. For the sake of this example, let’s say […]

Social Security Benefits After First Spouse Dies

When your spouse dies there are a few things that happen to your Social Security benefits that you need to be aware of. These things will affect your benefits significantly if your own benefit is less than that of your late spouse’s benefit (or Primary Insurance Amount). These changes to available benefits could also result in increased benefits if your own benefit is the larger of the two. These same impacts are apparent for ex-spouses as well. While reading the below, just replace “your spouse” with “ex-spouse” and all provisions are the same. Spousal Benefits cease When your spouse dies, the spousal benefits that you may have been receiving will cease. This means that your own benefit is the only retirement benefit that you will receive at this point. For example, Jane and John, both age 64, have been receiving Social Security benefits for a couple of years. Jane’s PIA […]

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 […]

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