Social Security…to file or not to file? That is the question.
Recently, I met with clients that were nearing retirement to review their retirement income plan. We discussed their investments, their continued savings planning, and income structuring options. Social Security benefits was the balance of our conversation. In consideration to which single moment would be the right time to activate their benefits, the topics of the hundreds of options and different values came up. With that in mind, where should you go from here:
Don’t always take Social Security Administration (SSA) advice
I’m not saying that they are trying to mislead you, however, quoting page 203 section 4 of the Program Operation Manual System (POMS), Social Security employees handbook, their job is to assist and “Provide enough information so that claimants can make informed choices, but do not give advice.” As a financial advisor, most people coming to me with these questions are seeking just that…advice. With consideration to a retirees entire picture, we are able to help determine when is the right time to activate your benefits.
Consider suspending your benefits to Full Retirement age or further
This decision isn’t synonymous with every beneficiary. Given the analysis of your goals, income needs, joint mortality, and even tax bracket, determining the right time to activate benefits may be very different than the choice your best friend made. Your personal financial advisor should have the background and knowledge to assist with this decision. Seek advice on this from someone who understands your financial picture to maximize your value.
Don’t forget about your loved ones
Social Security is an individual income benefit in retirement; however, it greatly affects more than one person’s income. For widows and widowers, the higher benefit is retained and continued for the rest of their life; the lower one is discontinued. When considering the tax advantaged nature of Social Security, it may make sense to hold off filing one of the household SS applications in benefit to the surviving spouse’s longevity. There are many investment and insurance vehicles that can be utilized to offset this income loss.
If you need the income, take the income
While the topic of sustainability of Social Security and the opinions to it are only a quick Google search away, the fact is, Social Security is a benefit that every retiree is entitled to, and historically speaking, changes have been made in the past to make sure it will continue. Likely, if needed, changes will be made again to make sure it continues for today’s Baby Boomers. If the gap in your retirement plan would benefit from taking Social Security, then you should. As always, it doesn’t hurt to have an advisor in your corner to help with this big decision.
For many married couples, the two Social Security selections could equate to over a million dollars of income over a retiree’s lifetime. In short, it is a big decision. Don’t hesitate to make this the topic of conversation at your next meeting with your financial advisor.