One of the reasons I started this company was to help people make better decisions. I recently met with Bonnie to help her plan for her retirement. We went through her Social Security and looked at her assets. Fortunately for her, she had very little debt and a reasonable income goal for retirement. The challenge is that she did not have enough savings for retirement. Her goal was to retire at 62 and live off Social Security, a small pension, an inheritance and her 403(b) plan.
A friend said that she went to Social Security and they told her to take the benefit as early as possible. Is this good advice?
Answer: First Social Security offices are not allowed to give advice. They are there to help process paperwork. It may be in their best interest to have you complete the paperwork while you are there so they will not have to do this in the future. It is impossible to tell whether or not it is best for you to start early without an analysis of your unique situation. Since no two people have the exact same variable it is difficult if not impossible to try to create some filing rules beyond the older higher income spouse should usually wait to file until age 70, but this also may not be true if both have a short life expectancy.
Answer: One of the myths about Social Security is that they are broke. This is more political than factual. The recent audited report of Social Security shows a surplus and is expected to run a surplus through 2023 at which time outflows will exceed inflows and the surplus will be drawn down. This is expected to last about 10 years. At that time if nothing was done currently contributions to Social Security would be able to pay 77% of promised benefits. So the real question is not will it run out of money, but would you rather have ¾ of $3000 or ¾ of $2000.
Answer: Good question. It actually depends. There are basically 4 variables that come into play when calculating the optimal benefit from Social Security. It is very complicated as you have to look at your age, your work history, your marital status and how long you think you or your spouse will live. One error that most fail to consider is how long their spouse expects to live and will they need the money to live their lifestyle on the income from Social Security.
Answer: It depends. The spouse is entitled to the greater of half of their spouse’s benefit or all of their own benefit whichever is greatest. If you turned 62 by December 31, 2015, you may be grandfathered in and eligible to use the restricted application for spousal benefits only. This would allow you to get half of your benefit at full retirement age and let your own benefit grow to age 70. If you did not turn age 62 by that date you fall under what is known as deemed filing and you automatically get the greatest of all benefits you are eligible for when you file. This would be the greater of half of your spouse’s benefit or all of your benefit. As a side note, your spouse must have either filed for benefits or if eligible filed and suspended if they were eligible.