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social security benefits

The Affect of Earnings on Your Social Security Benefit

How do current earnings impact your Social Security benefit? Surprisingly, the impact can be felt in several different ways,

Advice on Social Security Benefits

Gather your information together and know a few things about your Social Security benefits before you ask for advice.

What Your Social Security Statement Is Telling You

Do you understand what your Social Security statement is actually telling you? Chances are you might not realize what they’ve assumed.

3 Myths About Social Security Filing 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 to be proven incorrect in some circumstances. If you happen to be able to delay your Social Security filing age and you live a long time after age 70, over your lifetime you will receive more from Social Security than if you […]

Credit for Reduced Social Security Benefits When Subject to the Earnings Test

Continuing to work while receiving Social Security benefits may cause a reduction to your benefit – if you earn more than the annual earnings test (AET) amount. But this reduction isn’t permanent – you will get credit for reduced Social Security benefits when you reach Full Retirement Age. So how does this work? Earnings Test The earnings test limit is $17,640 for 2019 if you are under Full Retirement Age for the entire year. The limit is $46,920 in the year that you reach Full Retirement Age. Full Retirement Age (FRA) is age 66 if you were born between 1946 and 1954, ratcheting up to age 67 if your birth year is 1960 or later. So for 2019 if you were born after 1952 and you are receiving Social Security benefits, for every two dollars that you earn over $17,640, one dollar of your benefit is withheld. For example, if […]

Social Security Income Replacement Rates

Social Security replaces pre-retirement income at varying rates, depending on your lifetime earnings. This article provides examples of replacement rates.

Friends With (Social Security) Benefits

Social Security is arguably one of the most important cash flows for individuals in retirement. Many individuals have paid into the system for years, and in turn will be eligible for reduced benefits as early as age 62, or at their full retirement age (between ages 66 and 67). The decision on when to start collecting benefits is important and can impact your retirement cash flows for your remaining retirement. This decision should not be taken lightly, and it should not be left to informal conversations with friends, coworkers, etc. In other words, don’t base your decision to take benefits based on what your friends have done. Your situation is different. And in most cases, your decision is final. There are several strategies that may be employed when collecting benefits. Such strategies include taking benefits early at a reduced amount, delaying benefits for a higher amount, spousal retiree benefits, and […]

The Do It Yourself Do Over For Social Security

In addition to the 12-month Do Over option, you have a way to DIY the process. This is described in the attached article.

Spousal Benefits are for One Spouse at a Time

Note: with the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act 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. This post intends to clarify something that comes up repeatedly: both spouses cannot collect Spousal Benefits at the same time. If you stop and think about the mechanics of Spousal Benefits, it should become clear to you that this isn’t possible. Below is a recap of the rules that are necessary for Spousal Benefits to work. Image via Wikipedia Rules for Spousal Benefits 1. In order for a spouse to file for Spousal Benefits, the other spouse in the couple must have filed for his or her own […]

Should I Use IRA Funds or Social Security at Age 62?

Image via Wikipedia Folks who have retired or are preparing to retire before the Social Security Full Retirement Age (FRA) face a dilemma if they have IRA assets available. Specifically, is it better to take an income from the IRA account during the years prior to FRA (or age 70) in order to receive a larger Social Security benefit; or should you preserve IRA assets by taking the reduced Social Security benefits at age 62? At face value, given the nature of IRA assets, it seems like the best thing to do is to preserve the IRA’s tax-deferral on those assets, even though it means that your Social Security benefit will be reduced. If you look at the taxation of Social Security benefits though, you might discover that delaying receipt of your Social Security will provide a much more tax effective income later in life. In the tables below I’ll […]

Deemed Filing

Deemed filing these days has an absolute application. It applies for folks who are eligible for both their own retirement benefit and a spousal benefit.

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, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Should You Delay Retirement?

The question of delaying retirement may arise as you get closer to your “goal year” of when you want to retire. For some individuals’ fortunate enough to be covered under a company or state pension, it can be tempting to retire as soon as possible and collect the pension benefit. The same may be true for folks wanting to start taking Social Security at age 62. Before making the decision to retire or retire early an individual should consider the effects on delaying retirement and continuing to work. This is assuming that they can accrue extra pension benefits for the extra years of service. For Social Security, this would be delaying past an individual’s normal retirement age as long as to age 70. For example, let’s say an individual has the opportunity to be eligible to retire at age 55 and receive a pension of $5,500 per month. However, if […]

Why Social Security Decisions Are So Tough

If you’re facing the decision of when to file for your Social Security benefit, you’ve probably noticed just how confusing it can all be. There are so many decision-points in the system, it’s no wonder folks are confused.  Depending on your point of view and how you count the decision-points, each person facing this decision has thousands of possible combinations to consider as they decide when to pull the trigger and file for benefits. Recently I was going over a decision tree that I had built to describe the decision-making process for filing, and within this review I have counted that for a single, there are 14 decision-points and a total of 96 months in which a filing decision can be made, for a total of 1,344 combinations. 

WEP Impact Calculation Factors

In this blog we’ve covered the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) from many different angles. Here we’ll go into some more depth on the actual calculation of the WEP, including how some of the factors are determined. As you are likely aware, the Windfall Elimination Provision or WEP impacts your Social Security benefit when you are receiving a pension based on work where Social Security tax was not applied to the earnings. The point of WEP is ostensibly to act as an offset, since the reason no Social Security tax was applied to the earnings is because the pension is intended to replace Social Security benefits for that worker. WEP impact is applied as a reduction to the first bend point of the calculation of the Primary Insurance Amount. (Calculation of the PIA is explained further here.)