The Social Security Administration proclaimed April 2018 as National Social Security Month to promote the program’s history, mission, and services it provides. In a wry twist of fate, the man who would end Social Security, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, announced his retirement from Congress this April. The guy who proposed bumping Social Security’s full retirement age to 70 decided to retire at age 48. I’m not sure where he goes to church but the man has chutzpah.
Here are tips for Social Security month: Like the Social Security Administration’s Facebook page for information and communication. Props to Social Security’s website, www.ssa.gov. It is an easy website to navigate and explore. Use the website for benefit projections and to apply for them. Plus, you can check your earnings history to make sure there are no mistakes.
Speaking of mistakes, you cannot rely on the Social Security Administration employees to help fill out forms or determine the optimum filing strategy. Married couples have dozens of different filing tactics. It’s self-serving but talk to an expert for specific questions. Making the wrong decision could be the difference between a comfortable retirement and struggling every month for the rest of your life.
Many people blunder by filing early for benefits. If you were born after Jan. 1, 1960, full retirement age is 67. While you can take benefits at age 62, your payment is cut 30 percent. Taking benefits early has earned income limitations, too. When possible, consider delaying past full retirement age since benefits increase 8 percent annually until age 70. After age 70 there is no benefit to delaying. One strategy for couples is for the lower-earning partner to start benefits while the older one delays. Delaying Social Security is a form of longevity insurance; you maximize late life income.
Don’t ignore a missing Social Security payment — you could be a victim of identity theft. Like I’ve explained to y’all before, thieves go where the money is. Learn more about identity theft prevention at Social Security’s blog at blog.ssa.gov. Social Security may call you, but they will never contact you by email. Identity crooks use email in an attempt to access personal information.
Spousal benefits pose thorny planning dilemmas. Earlier this year there was a report where more than 9,000 widows and widowers were underpaid over $130 million. Under the rules at the time they could have chosen a survivor benefit and allowed their own benefit to continue growing. The strategy, “file and suspend,” ended for anyone born after Jan. 1, 1954. Married couples have the same choice and the same cut-off date. Multiple marriages can mean multiple options for ex-spouse benefits. Simply choose the spouse with largest benefit, as long as the marriage lasted 10 years.
You can’t always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP can help figure out what you need. For specific recommendations, visit livingstonfinancial.net or come by the office in Redfish Village, 2050 Scenic 30A, M-1 Suite 230.