Social Security Benefits

The Ideal Age to Start Social Security

 I recently had an opportunity to travel to Chicago to meet with a group of retired airline pilots.  We had a great conversation on areas such as estate planning, investment planning and income tax planning given changes that occurred in January 2013.  However, it was Social Security that garnered the most interest and questions for this group of retirees between the ages of 60 and 70.  Specifically, the question at hand was, “When is the ideal time to start receiving social security retirement benefits?” 

If you think that the IRS Code is complex, then Social Security claiming rules are a close second.  Unfortunately there is a lot of confusion and misinformation.  Moreover, the stakes are quite high.  Perhaps at age 40 social security benefits are a distant thought, but for those aged 60+ the issue is quite ripe. 

Deciding When to Claim

As with most financial planning decisions, general rules get you only so far.  The key is to structure your decision, when to claim in this case, based on your individual goals and circumstances. The reason that most Americans choose to start social security retirement benefits as early as possible is because frankly they need the money now.  However, for those with flexibility in timing, there are strategies that can be employed to maximize benefits, especially for married couples. 

Social Security Simple Math

All kidding aside, if you know the day you will die then the decision is straightforward and is a “simple” math equation.  Barring certainty on that “day” however, certain assumptions must be made.  You see, social security benefits are designed to be actuarially fair or equal. Meaning, if you collect a reduced benefit starting early at age 62 you will have smaller payments lasting for a longer period of time, but if you elect to postpone receiving benefits you will collect a larger amount for a shorter period of time. If you live to normal life expectancy the math is the same.

There are a variety of software programs designed to assist in making the most-educated decision about the optimal time to claim social security retirement benefits.  Please feel free to contact us if you would like assistance in making this important decision.

Timothy Wyman, CFP®, JD is the Managing Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. and is a frequent contributor to national media including appearances on Good Morning America Weekend Edition and WDIV Channel 4 News and published articles including Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. A leader in his profession, Tim served on the National Board of Directors for the 28,000 member Financial Planning Association™ (FPA®), trained and mentored hundreds of CFP® practitioners and is a frequent speaker to organizations and businesses on various financial planning topics.

The information contained in this report does not purport to be a complete description of the subjects referred to in this material.  Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making a decision and does not constitute a recommendation.  Any opinions are those of Center for Financial Planning, Inc., and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James.

Social Security Planning for Divorcees

 Today’s longer life expectancies, especially for women have increased the importance and complexity of retirement income planning.  What used to be a 20-year retirement period has progressed to 30+ years for many baby boomers.  One common concern I hear expressed from women thinking about leaving the workforce and transitioning into retirement is "can I enjoy my desired lifestyle and have enough money to last through my retirement years."  Discussing retirement income and what part Social Security will play often leads to this question, “If I continue working, can I draw on my ex-husband's earning record at my full retirement age and defer my own Social Security benefit until age 70?"

The answer is “yes” and “it depends!”  In a special rule that applies only to divorced spouses, you can claim benefits on your ex even if he has not yet filed for retirement benefits.  The key is he must be at least 62 years old with sufficient Social Security credits.

Here is how this strategy works:

  • At your Full Retirement Age (FRA) file a restricted claim for spousal benefits only
  • You begin to collect 50% of your ex-husbands FRA benefit from age 66 to 70
  • The Social Security benefit based on your earnings record increases by 8% per year with the delayed benefit credit from age 66 to age 70

Additional requirements:

  • You are single and were married for more than 10 years
  • You have been divorced more than 2 years (If divorced less than 2 and your ex-spouse is not collecting you must wait for the 2 year mark to receive benefit) 

Crunching the numbers:

  • If you are less than FRA, drawing an ex-spouse benefit to delay yours may not be allowed because the decision is impacted by the amount of your own benefit.  If your benefit is greater (prior to reaching FRA) than ex-spouse you must take your own benefit.
  • This strategy makes sense if your retirement benefit at full retirement age, plus a 32% increase due to delayed retirement credits would be worth more than the spousal benefit.

Settling on a Social Security strategy is one piece of the retirement income puzzle.  This strategy is not meant to be a one size fits all solution; rather an example of how Social Security planning can be customized to meet your individual income needs.

Laurie Renchik, CFP®, MBA is a Senior Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. In addition to working with women who are in the midst of a transition (career change, receiving an inheritance, losing a life partner, divorce or remarriage), Laurie works with clients who are planning for retirement. Laurie was named to the 2013 Five Star Wealth Managers list in Detroit Hour magazine, is a member of the Leadership Oakland Alumni Association and in addition to her frequent contributions to Money Centered, she manages and is a frequent contributor to Center Connections at The Center.

Five Star Award is based on advisor being credentialed as an investment advisory representative (IAR), a FINRA registered representative, a CPA or a licensed attorney, including education and professional designations, actively employed in the industry for five years, favorable regulatory and complaint history review, fulfillment of firm review based on internal firm standards, accepting new clients, one- and five-year client retention rates, non-institutional discretionary and/or non-discretionary client assets administered, number of client households served.

The information contained in this report does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material.  The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete.  Any opinions are those of Center for Financial Planning, Inc., and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James.  You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.

When Should You Take Social Security?

 Baby boomers, on average, are living longer than any previous generation.  While that’s good news, it also presents new challenges. 

    1)  A longer life increases the likelihood that you’ll have increased medical and long-term care expenses.
    2)  The value of your nest egg will be more significantly impacted by increases in the cost of living over a longer term 

When you consider these factors, it’s more important than ever to make calculated decisions about when to begin drawing Social Security benefits within the context of your overall retirement income plan.  

According to the Social Security Administration, 74% of retired Americans drawing retirement benefits are receiving permanently reduced amounts.  Reduced benefits are the result of filing when you first become eligible for benefits at age 62.  Social Security rules are built around full retirement age (FRA), which is the age at which you are entitled to your full retirement benefit or Primary Insurance Amount (PIA).  

The reason the PIA is an important number to know is because it is the base amount on which:

• Reductions will be made
• Increases given or
• On which spousal benefits are determined  

Eligible Americans who turn 62 this year must wait until age 66 to begin receiving full payments.  But they can receive smaller payments beginning as soon as age 62, or larger lifetime payments beginning as late as age 70.  The net effect of filing at age 62 will be a 25% permanent reduction of annual benefits.  On the other hand, those waiting until age 70 will see their benefit bumped up by 8% for every year they wait to file from age 66 to age 70. That’s a permanent 132% increase in benefit amount for life!   

Here is a hypothetical example illustrating how the math works: 

If Boomer Betsy decides to apply at age 62, or waits until FRA of 66, or delays to age 70.  Boomer Betsy’s PIA is $2,230. 

Age 62: Benefit amount is permanently reduced by 25% from $2230 to $1672    

Age 66: Full retirement age benefit of $2230

Age 70: Benefit increases 8% per year from age 66 to 70 increasing from $2230 to $2943 

Of course, there’s no telling how many years you will be collecting benefits but with careful planning, a strategy can be developed to improve potential lifetime benefits of Social Security by structuring the benefits to begin at optimal times based on your financial plan.

Have a social security question?  Send me an email.

Click Here to get information on our upcoming seminar on Social Security Planning.

The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete.  Any opinions are those of Center for Financial Planning, Inc., and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James.