Category Archives for "Social Security Benefits"

Social Security Maximization

Social Security

The most common question for pre-retirees is - when do I take my social security benefits?

When it comes to Social Security retirement benefits, your age, marital status, health and financial needs are all important considerations.

With more than 10 years of unprecedented market volatility, corporations eliminating over 85k pension plans since the mid 80's and a government agency (SSA {Social Security Administration} with 2,728 filing rules) is prohibited from dispensing advice, we offer expert advice on when and how to file for the optimal Social Security filing benefits.

Utilizing guaranteed income financial products, we work with you to design a plan to protect you and your family from unanticipated circumstances and market instabilities so common in our everyday life. We realize you've worked hard for your money.

Our mission is to work even harder to make sure you collect the maximum amount of Social Security payments and filling any income gaps in coverage with appropriate financial products designed to meet your high standards.

Filing for Benefits

The Social Security Administration website at http://www.ssa.gov provides a wealth of information on Social Security retirement benefits.

The age at which you begin receiving benefits is one of the most important factors affecting the amount of your monthly benefit.

The power of delayed retirement credits
For each year after full retirement age that you delay taking benefits, delayed retirement credits increase your monthly benefit amount. The percentage of increase depends on the year you were born.

If you were born in 1943 or later, your benefit increases by 8% each year until you reach age 70. After that, no additional delayed retirement credits are earned.2

Working After You Begin Collecting

You can keep working after Social Security retirement or survivors benefits begin. If you are at full retirement age or older, there is no reduction of your Social Security benefits, regardless of how much you earn from work.

Before your full retirement age, earnings are subject to an “earnings test.” If your income exceeds a specified amount, Social Security will withhold all or a portion of your benefits.

1 Source: Social Security Administration Benefits Planner
2 Source: Social Security Administration, http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10147.pdf
The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice. Our representatives are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel. Final decisions about Social Security filing strategies always rest with you and should always be based on your specific needs and health considerations. It is important to acquire as much information as possible in order to make an informed Social Security claiming decision because one year after the Social Security claiming decision is made, the options for change are extremely limited. The Social Security program was created by an Act of Congress. It is subject to change. In the past, Congress has made changes to the law which has had an impact on Social Security benefits. Congress can make changes to the law at any time, which might impact benefits in the future.

Bad Advice From SSA (Social Security Administration)

Widows Got Bad Social Security Claiming Advice From SSA: IG Report

Misinformed Social Security filings resulted in about $131.8 million in underpayments to beneficiaries age 70 and older, the SSA Inspector General found.


Employees of the Social Security Administration have been asleep at the wheel when advising widows and widowers of the enhanced benefits that come with delaying claims to full retirement age, according to a report from the agency’s Inspector General.

According to the report, an estimated 11,123 beneficiaries were eligible for higher benefits had they delayed claims until age 70.

The misinformed filings resulted in about $131.8 million in underpayments to beneficiaries age 70 and older, and another $9.8 million in annual payments for those under age 70.

“SSA policy states its employees must explain the advantages and disadvantages of filing an application and the filing considerations so the claimant can make an informed filing decision,” the IG’s report says.

But the agency’s employees did not meet those obligations. “We did not find any evidence in the agency’s automated system to support the claimant’s decision to elect to file for retirement benefits, as required,” the report added.

The report also found that SSA did not have controls in place to alert employees as to when delaying benefits was in applicants’ best interest.

The findings in the report were based on a sample of 50 beneficiaries, 82% (41 individuals) of whom were eligible for a higher monthly benefit had they delayed claiming the retirement portion of their benefits until after age 70.

For the seven beneficiaries under age 70 that inadvisably claimed early in the SSA’s sample, the loss in benefits will be substantial. Upon reaching age 70, the average loss in benefits will be $5,185 annually.

When widows or widowers are entitled to benefits that exceed their individual retirement benefits, they have the option of delaying filing for the retirement portion of their benefits until age 70 in order to receive a higher monthly benefit. They can file limited claims that allow access to the widow benefit before age 70.

In one example, a beneficiary was paid retirement and widow’s benefits after filing an application in January 2011, six months before her 66th birthday.

From August 2015, when she turned 70, to September 2017, she was paid total benefits of $39,708. Had she delayed her retirement benefit until age 70, she would have been entitled to another $13,000 in benefits during that period.

“We did not find any evidence that SSA employees informed the widow about her option to delay her retirement application up to age 70 to increase her retirement benefits,” the report says.

The decision when to file for benefits belongs solely to claimants, the report notes. But SSA policy requires employees to electronically document when unfavorable filing decisions are made.

The IG recommends that the agency “take action” regarding the 41 beneficiaries in the sample that received lower benefits due to inaction from agency employees, though it did not say whether that action would include repaying benefits that were lost.

The office also recommends reviewing the remaining 13,514 beneficiaries that are potentially impacted from early filings, and exploring new controls to assure beneficiaries are informed of the option to delay retirement portions of benefits.


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Get a Bigger Social Security Benefit

How to Get a Bigger Social Security Retirement Benefit  1

Many people decide to begin receiving early Social Security retirement benefits. In fact, according to the Social Security Administration, about 72% of retired workers receive benefits prior to their full retirement age. But waiting longer could significantly increase your monthly retirement income, so weigh your options carefully before making a decision.

Timing counts

Your monthly Social Security retirement benefit is based on your lifetime earnings. Your base benefit--the amount you'll receive at full retirement age--is calculated using a formula that takes into account your 35 highest earnings years.

If you file for retirement benefits before reaching full retirement age (66 to 67, depending on your birth year), your benefit will be permanently reduced. For example, at age 62, each benefit check will be 25% to 30% less than it would have been had you waited and claimed your benefit at full retirement age (see table on next page).

Alternatively, if you postpone filing for benefits past your full retirement age, you'll earn delayed retirement credits for each month you wait, up until age 70. Delayed retirement credits will increase the amount you receive by about 8% per year if you were born in 1943 or later.

The chart below shows how a monthly benefit of $1,800 at full retirement age (66) would be affected if claimed as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. This is a hypothetical example used for illustrative purposes only; your benefits and results will vary.

Early or late?

Should you begin receiving Social Security benefits early, or wait until full retirement age or even longer? If you absolutely need the money right away, your decision is clear-cut; otherwise, there's no ''right" answer. But take time to make an informed, well-reasoned decision. Consider factors such as how much retirement income you'll need, your life expectancy, how your spouse or survivors might be affected, whether you plan to work after you start receiving benefits, and how your income taxes might be affected.5

1Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2016.2  http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/jack-olantern-history/interactives/halloween-by-the-numbers3 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2016.http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/cheesy-squash-casserole-recipe.html#lightbox-recipe-image 5 gradientfinancialgroup.com Newsletter  Insurance products and services are offered through Craig Colley | Coliday and is not affiliated with Gradient Securities, LLC. Some of these materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.

Changes to Social Security Claiming Strategies

Changes to Social Security Claiming Strategies  1

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 included a section titled "Closure of Unintended Loopholes" that ends two Social Security claiming strategies that have become increasingly popular over the last several years. These two strategies, known as "file and suspend" and "restricted application" for a spousal benefit, have often been used to optimize Social Security income for married couples.

If you have not yet filed for Social Security, it's important to understand how these new rules could affect your retirement strategy. Depending on your age, you may still be able to take advantage of the expiring claiming options. The changes should not affect current Social Security beneficiaries and do not apply to survivor benefits.

File and suspend

Under the previous rules, an individual who had reached full retirement age could file for retired worker benefits--typically to enable a spouse to file for spousal benefits--and then suspend his or her benefit. By doing so, the individual would earn delayed retirement credits (up to 8% annually) and claim a higher worker benefit at a later date, up to age 70. Meanwhile, his or her spouse could be receiving spousal benefits. For some married couples, especially those with dual incomes, this strategy increased their total combined lifetime benefits.

Under the new rules, which are effective as of April 30, 2016, a worker who reaches full retirement age can still file and suspend, but no one can collect benefits on the worker's earnings record during the suspension period. This strategy effectively ends the file-and-suspend strategy for couples and families.

The new rules also mean that a worker cannot later request a retroactive lump-sum payment for the entire period during which benefits were suspended. (This previously available claiming option was helpful to someone who faced a change of circumstances, such as a serious illness.)

Tip: If you are age 66 or older before the new rules take effect, you may still be able to take advantage of the combined file-and-suspend and spousal/dependent filing strategy.

Restricted application

Under the previous rules, a married person who had reached full retirement age could file a "restricted application" for spousal benefits after the other spouse had filed for Social Security worker benefits. This allowed the individual to collect spousal benefits while earning delayed retirement credits on his or her own work record. In combination with the file-and-suspend option, this enabled both spouses to earn delayed retirement credits while one spouse received a spousal benefit, a type of "double dipping" that was not intended by the original legislation.

Under the new rules, an individual eligible for both a spousal benefit and a worker benefit will be "deemed" to be filing for whichever benefit is higher and will not be able to change from one to the other later.

Tip: If you reached age 62 before the end of December 2015, you are grandfathered under the old rules. If your spouse has filed for Social Security worker benefits, you can still file a restricted application for spouse-only benefits at full retirement age and claim your own worker benefit at a later date.

Basic Social Security claiming options remain unchanged. You can file for a permanently reduced benefit starting at age 62, receive your full benefit at full retirement age, or postpone filing for benefits and earn delayed retirement credits, up to age 70.

Although some claiming options are going away, plenty of planning opportunities remain, and you may benefit from taking the time to make an informed decision about when to file for Social Security.

Call us at 949-216-8459 to request your personalized Social Security Report. Even if we have provided you with a report in the past these changes may impact the outcome of that report!

What Are ​Required Minimum Distributions3

Traditional IRAs and employer retirement plans such as 401(k)s and 403(b)s offer several tax advantages, including the ability to defer income taxes on both contributions and earnings until they're distributed from the plan.

But, unfortunately, you can't keep your money in these retirement accounts forever. The law requires that you begin taking distributions, called "required minimum distributions" or RMDs, when you reach age 70½ (or in some cases, when you retire), whether you need the money or not. (Minimum distributions are not required from Roth IRAs during your lifetime.)

Your IRA trustee or custodian must either tell you the required amount each year or offer to calculate it for you. For an employer plan, the plan administrator will generally calculate the RMD. But you're ultimately responsible for determining the correct amount. It's easy to do. The IRS, in Publication 590-B, provides a chart called the Uniform Lifetime Table. In most cases, you simply find the distribution period for your age and then divide your account balance as of the end of the prior year by the distribution period to arrive at your RMD for the year.

For example, if you turn 76 in 2016, your distribution period under the Uniform Lifetime Table is 22 years. You divide your account balance as of December 31, 2015, by 22 to arrive at your RMD for 2016.

The only exception is if you're married and your spouse is more than 10 years younger than you. If this special situation applies, use IRS Table II (also found in Publication 590-B) instead of the Uniform Lifetime Table. Table II provides a distribution period that's based on the joint life expectancy of you and your spouse.

Remember, you can always withdraw more than the required amount, but if you withdraw less you will be hit with a penalty tax equal to 50% of the amount you failed to withdraw.6

1 3 4Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2015.
2
http://mentalfloss.com/article/55599/15-delightful-facts-about-saint-patricks-day 5 http://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/bacon-and-cheese-quiche/19288cf4-0cdc-46cc-bc86-4c9bfa799695 
6 gradientfinancialgroup.com Newsletter  Insurance products and services are offered through Craig Colley | Coliday and is not affiliated with Gradient Securities, LLC. Some of these materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.

It’s not too late to maximize Social Security benefits

A look at how some couples can still use the ‘file and suspend’ strategy and other issues

Question: I will be 66 in April, and my wife will be turning 65 in July. Given the new Social Security rules, what would be the most effective strategy to optimize our benefits? My wife devoted herself to a career as a full-time mother, which unfortunately means that, in the eyes of the Social Security Administration, she doesn’t qualify for retirement benefits.

Answer: Given your ages, you can still take advantage of a claiming strategy that has largely been curtailed. But you would need to act quickly. First, some background.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, enacted in November, puts an end, in most instances, to two Social Security filing strategies: “file and suspend” and a “restricted application” for spousal benefits. You can find a summary of the changes at new Social Security rules change claiming strategies.

In the months since, we have heard from numerous readers who have asked, in effect, the same question: What do I do now?

Broadly speaking, there are still steps that would-be beneficiaries can take to “optimize,” or maximize, their benefits in retirement. (Example: Each year you delay collecting Social Security between ages 62 and 70, your payout increases about 7%.) The best way to do the math is to take advantage of the growing number of tools and online advisory services that help identify an individual’s (or couple’s) optimal claiming strategy.

At this point, most services have updated their computer coding to account for the new rules. Among them: SSAnalyze!; and MaximizeMySocialSecurity.com, SocialSecurityChoices.com and SocialSecuritySolutions.com. The latter three all charge a fee.

As for this specific question, the Budget Act has several grandfather clauses, one of which allows a person who has reached full retirement age to file and suspend—as long as the request to do so is received before April 30.

If you turn 66 before that date, you could file and suspend, which would allow your wife to begin collecting a spousal benefit. (If you plan to do this, I would book an appointment immediately with your local Social Security office, or apply online. You can do so four months before turning 66.) Meanwhile, your benefit, when you eventually claim it, will have grown in size, thanks to “delayed retirement credits.”

But again — and without knowing the specifics of your financial situation — I would urge you to run the numbers through an advisory service. Social Security remains far too complicated to try this on your own.

Q: In an earlier column and question about Social Security, you mentioned a “restricted application.” My wife and I are both 63 years old. She is planning to retire at 66, her full retirement age, and I plan to continue to work for an indeterminate amount of time, possibly until I turn 70. Is a restricted application still available in our situation?

A: Yes, you can still take advantage of this strategy—but only because you have already passed your 62nd birthday.

Under the changes in Social Security claiming strategies, workers who reached age 62 before the end of 2015 are still able to file a restricted application when they reach full retirement age. This means a person could file for just a spousal benefit, instead of his or her own benefit.

Let’s say your wife claims a benefit of $2,000 a month at her full retirement age. When you reach your full retirement age, you could claim a spousal benefit of $1,000 (half of your wife’s benefit) and defer claiming your own benefit to, say, age 70.

 

The article “A strategy to maximize social security benefits” first appeared on WSJ.com.