There is one decision you can make that can be the difference in tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars for you in retirement. Do you know what it is? How and when you claim your Social Security benefits is a critical choice that many people are not even aware that they have different options for taking. Financial professionals Joe Anderson and Alan Clopine discuss ways to max out your Social Security benefits. Whether you are married, single, divorced, or a widow, they guide you through strategies to make the most of your benefits.
(0:00) – Intro
(1:05) – Financial Focus
(2:11) – Max-Out Social Security
(3:39) – What Age People Take Benefits
(5:08) – Who Qualifies
(5:40) –What are my Benefits
(7:23) – Percentages of PIA
(9:43) – Maximum Benefit
(10:59) – Spousal Eligibility
(12:40) – Spousal Break-Even Point
(15:52) – Survivor Benefit
(18:47) – Bridge Strategy
(21:08) – Taxes
(23:13) – Ask the Experts
(24:39) – Pure Takeaway
Joe: There’s one decision that most of us need to make in our retirement planning that could make the difference of ten, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to the bottom line. Do you know what it is? Stick around, folks. We will fill you in. Welcome to the show. The show is called Your Money, Your Wealth®. Joe Anderson here. I’m a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and president of Pure Financial Advisors. Of course, I’m with the big man, “Big Al” Clopine. Hello, Big Al.
Al: How you doing, man?
Joe: I’m doing all right. I’m doing all right. I want to help people break things down to put more dollars into your overall pocket in retirement. Social Security’s very complex, but also extremely important to your overall retirement picture. You have to pay attention because there’s a lot of different ways to claim your overall benefits. But if I were to ask you, how many of you’d know all the different areas that affects your overall benefit? What would you guess? One in ten! One in ten got this quiz right. Let’s close that gap. That’s today’s financial focus. [race car engine revs] ok, this is interesting. One in ten people figured out, all right, well, what calculates their overall benefit? 60% got this right–work history. All right, you got to put into the system, I got to pay into the system to get anything back. 51% got age, so 49% didn’t know age was included in the overall factor of the benefit. Benefit start date, marital status–18%. Some people thought life expectancy. How ’bout family medical history? 5% thought, “hey, we have good history.” or all of the above; 24% thought all of these were included in calculating the benefit. Let’s break it down, let’s get it simple, and help you boost your overall benefit. Let’s bring in Big Al Clopine. [music plays]
Al: All right. Well, first of all, Social Security benefits. Let’s talk about who qualifies and how much, how much you’re going to be receiving, and then let’s talk about boosting your benefits or how can you maximize those benefits? Then we want to get into bridging the benefits because if you wait, if you delay your benefits, you’ll get a lot more, but you’re going to have to be able to pay your bills during that period. Then, finally, we’ll get into a little bit of taxation. And, Joe, this is usually one of our favorite tv shows to do because it affects virtually everybody or almost everybody.
Joe: Yeah, well, without question. If you understand all of these different categories, I mean, it could make a huge difference. I mean, we’ve seen tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars of added benefit if they do the right calculation, and it’s all specific to– I mean, I wish we could have a map and say, “this is how you’d claim,” right? But all of you–
Al: It’s pretty complicated.
Joe: Yeah, it gets a little complicated, and all of you are a little bit different. But why is this important? So almost 40% of all of us men out there, 42% of women, are counting on Social Security to cover over 50% of their overall income. This is a huge deal, Al.
Al: Well, it is, and when you think about the way this was originally designed, it was designed to cover maybe 25%, maybe up to 30%, 33% of your income, basically to keep us all out of severe poverty, but this was not meant to replace your income, or even come close to it. And many, many of you, it’s 50% or more of your income in retirement, so if that’s the case, you’ve got to get this right in terms of your claiming strategies.
Joe: Here’s another interesting stat, you could claim your benefits at 62, right? That’s your earliest age that you could claim your retirement benefit, and then you could claim it at 70. 62, you’d get a permanent haircut on the overall benefit, you’d get a reduced benefit. At age 70, you’d get a lot larger benefit, but let’s look. Where are people claiming? Are they claiming the largest benefit? No. Only 2% of men are doing this and 4% of women. Where are they all going? They’re claiming it as soon as they can get it, right? 42% of men, almost 50% of women take the benefit at 62, which will give them the lowest benefit, so there’s maybe some disconnects in the education out there of maybe what should people be doing.
Al: Right, and, Joe, the other thing, too, is that people are working longer, and when you’re working longer, you actually– if you take your benefit at 62 and you’re still working, and you make more than about $20,000, you got to start giving that benefit back, so it’s only until you reach full retirement age–which, in this year, 2022, is 66 and 4 months–it’s only at that point where you can actually receive your full benefit and continue to work, right? And so a lot of people don’t really realize that, that they–they collect early and then they got to give it back anyway.
Joe: Right. Well, I understand why so many people claim it at 62. It’s like, ok, well, if you’re retired, right, I want to get a paycheck coming in, all right? I’m used to having that paycheck and maybe I don’t trust the system, I mean, there’s all sorts of different things that people are looking at here. But let’s just break it down. Who qualifies, right? So minimum employment–10 years, 40 quarters, so you have to put into the system for 10 years or 40 quarters, ok? Earliest age you could collect is age 62. That’s your retirement benefit. Your survivor benefit you could claim a little bit early, at age 60. And then there’s also some spouse and survivor benefits as well that we’ll talk about in a little bit. But there’s two real big factors. You got to put into the system, and then you have to qualify from an age perspective.
Al: Well, you do, and then, to figure out how much you actually qualify for, you may be getting statements once a year or every few years. Or, if you’re not, if you haven’t got a statement for a while, go to the Social Security website. That’s ssa.gov. You can actually set up an online account and check your status at any point. It will tell you what your benefit would be at age 62 and full retirement age and age 70, and also, it’ll give you things like survivor benefits and spousal benefits, potentially. So the way that this is calculated is they take your 35 highest-income years, and they’ll take some of the years where you worked, you know, 35 years ago, where you were making less, and they will add an inflation factor to make this fair, right, but they’ll take 35 years. Now, if you only worked 20 years, then they’re going to figure 15 years at zero, so that will potentially affect your benefits, so just be aware of that.
Joe: Yeah, really good point is that, like a lot of pensions that some of you have, they might take the highest 3 years or maybe the highest 5 years, and they calculate your pension based on that. Social Security is going back all the way up 35 years, all right, so–but they’re indexing those wages with inflation, and then they take an average of those 35 years and divide it by 420, and then they come up with all sorts of different calculations and replacement ratios and it gets somewhat complicated, but then that gets your primary insurance amount. So, like al said, go here–ssa.gov. You can look and start planning to see what your overall benefit is. How do you max this thing out? Ok, well, couple different ways that you could do this. Full retirement age. Keep it simple at 66 and 4 months, but let’s just say 66. If you take it at 62, that’s fine, but you’re going to receive a 25% permanent haircut on that benefit. For instance, 66, your benefit is $1,000 a month. You take it at 62, you’re going to receive 750 bucks, ok? Or you can take it at 63, 64, 65, anywhere in between, but this is your full retirement age. If you delay, you get an 8% delayed retirement credit every year that you wait. So if you wait until age 70, you get a 32% increase, ok? So here are your options. When do you want to claim your benefit? 66? Do you want to claim it at 62, receive a lower benefit, but you get the cash in hand? Or do you want to delay it? But, oh, I don’t know if I want to delay it, I don’t know if it’s gonna be there, or you could die, too, right? There’s a lot of different things that you have to calculate, given your overall benefit strategy. If you need help with this, here’s what we’re doing today. We’re going to give all of you a free Social Security analysis. We’ll run your numbers. We will look at what is the most optimal way for you to claim your benefit. If you’re married, if you’re single, if you’re a widow or widower, whatever, we can run the numbers for you and give you some ideas on how to truly max out the benefit that you deserve. That’s our gift for you today. Go to yourmoneyyourwealth.com. We got to take a break. The show is called Your Money, Your Wealth®.
Joe: Hey, welcome back to the show. The show is called Your Money, Your Wealth®. Joe Anderson here, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, with Big Al Clopine. Go to yourmoneyyourwealth.com. What we’re giving away is that Social Security analysis, and we can help you out with a claiming strategy. Let’s see how you did on the true/false question.
Al: “Do you have Social Security withheld on your entire salary?” Joe, what do you think? Is that true of false?
Joe: Some people, absolutely true; others, false.
Al: That’s a correct statement. I agree with you.
Joe: $147,000. So they will take out Social Security, or fica, for retirement benefits, up to $147,000 of income. After $147,000 of income, they won’t take out that fica tax, or it’s 6.25% or 6.5%.
Joe: 6.2% is what they’ll take from here, then anything over. So let’s say, if you maxed out your benefits, what does that look like? Here’s the most that anyone can receive from Social Security. So, at 62, it’s $2,300, $2,400. At age 70, it’s about $4,200. I mean, these numbers are getting pretty big, Al.
Al: They’re pretty big, but I would say, Joe, don’t necessarily count on these amounts because this is if you max it out for, like, 35 years. So the average benefit right now across the United States is about $1,700, so that’s more likely what you might be getting, but this is why we get so excited about talking about Social Security. You see some of these numbers, and you can see how much difference it could make in your retirement if you just figure out how to do this, when to claim. Spousal benefits and survivors, we’ll get into.
Joe: Yeah, there’s a lot of confusion on, “all right, well, hey, maybe I never worked, I never put into the system, so what does that mean? Do I not qualify for any of these benefits?” not necessarily. Uh, there’s a spousal benefit, so as long as you are married to an individual for at least 10 years, you will be eligible for their spousal benefit.
Al: Yeah, and, Joe, so spousal benefit–so it starts at age 62. That’s the earliest you can claim, so be aware of that. You don’t necessarily even have to be married to get the spousal, just as long as you were married 10 years earlier. If you’re currently married, your spouse must be collecting benefits. If you’re formerly married, your ex-spouse must be at least 62 and eligible for benefits, and then the benefit itself is 50% of your spouse’s benefits up to the full retirement age. So if your spouse waits to age 70, right, you’re only gonna get half of what he or she would have received at age 66, indexed for inflation.
Joe: Yeah, it’s a really good point, so spousal benefits is that you take a look at what your benefit is, or you take a look at half of your spouse’s, all right? So if you don’t have an earnings record, so that would be zero. And let’s say your spouse has a $2,000 full retirement age benefit. If you claim your spousal benefit at full retirement age, you will receive $1,000–half of that benefit. If your spouse waits until age 70, you will only receive 50% of that benefit at his or her full retirement age. So if the spouse waits until age 70, it doesn’t necessarily matter. Claim those spousal benefits. You could claim your spousal benefit as early as 62, as long as the other spouse is claiming. All right, just hearing me talk about this is getting me confused, right? It’s a lot of stuff going on, but again, minimum age is 62. If you claim it at 62, you’re not getting 50%. You’re getting something less. Your spouse has to claim. But wait. You could claim on a former spouse. How ’bout that, right? You get divorced, you could claim on that person’s record, right? It doesn’t reduce the other person’s record, unfortunately or fortunately.
Al: Heh! That’s absolutely right. It does get confusing when you keep talking about it. Now, one thing people always want to know is, like, what’s a break-even point? Yeah, in terms–so I could claim at 62 and get all these benefits, or I wait till 70, and I’ve–8 years I missed payments, right? But the break-even–if you’re spending the money that you’re getting–is usually around 80 years of age; 79, 80, 81 years of age. It could be a little bit different if you’re saving and investing, but, Joe, I think this is kinda what people need to think about. Now, if you have impaired life expectancy, and you don’t think either husband or wife is gonna make it to 80 or even close to 80, you might want to claim early for that reason.
Joe: Yeah. There’s all sorts of different reasons why people want to claim here, right? It’s like, “hey, I want bird in hand, I’m gonna claim at 62,” and other people: “no, I’m gonna wait until age 70,” well, then they think about it as a break-even. So if you take all the benefits at 62, you add up all of those benefits, you know, when do they intersect? Well, here, in this example is that Joe, myself, at 66, my benefit is $1,900. Erin, her benefit was $900, so if Joe and Erin both claimed at 62, or if they both claimed at 70, the break-even is right around 80. It doesn’t necessarily matter what these numbers are. You could run it any which way. Usually, that break-even is anywhere from 78 to 82, depending on what calculator or what type of assumptions that people make here. So if you think you’re gonna live a little bit longer, yep, might make sense to hold off. But also, you have to look at so many different factors. It’s life expectancy, it’s health, it’s family history, it’s what are your other assets, you know, so when you start combining different things, you’re going to make different choices than just looking at this in a bubble. I think, al, this is where people make mistakes. They’re like, “oh, the break-even’s 80? I’m gonna die at 78. I’m gonna take it early.” well, you know, we don’t know what the heck’s gonna happen.
Al: No, you don’t, and I think you and I tend to look at this the same. We sort of treat this as longevity insurance, in a way. In other words, it’s a guaranteed income for life. You don’t know how long you’re gonna live, medical improvements keep happening, so, in many cases, it pays to wait as long as you can. Now, if you need the money, claim it. I mean, that’s–heh!– that’s kind of obvious, right? But if you can wait, that might be a good way to go. We should talk briefly about survivor benefits, and that can be with your current spouse or even a former spouse, as long as you’ve been married at least 10 years, so that works. Here, you can start claiming as early as age 60, spousal with 62, survivor benefit is 60. Realize, if you’re claiming before your full retirement age, you’re gonna get a haircut for life, so just be aware of that, and then you can receive 100% of your spouse or ex-spouse’s benefit. Little different than spousal. Spousal benefit–your spouse is still alive, you get 50%. Survivor, you get 100%.
Joe: Yeah, and here’s a quick example. So let’s say you have one spouse that has a large benefit, you have another spouse that doesn’t necessarily have a record. You look here, and we have one spouse that has a $2,000 monthly income from Social Security, the other spouse does not have any benefit at all. So the spouse that doesn’t have any benefit will claim the spousal benefit, so they will get half of this spouse. But if the spouse that has the larger benefit takes it early, it hurts the surviving spouse, and we have life expectancy of 85 and 94, so we’re pushing this thing out pretty far. So the longer the spouse waits that has the record or has a larger benefit, the better off for the entire family, all right? So there’s a lot more things to consider here, but if I have one spouse that has a large benefit and another spouse that has a lower benefit, the one with the larger benefit–if everything works out, right? You should push that thing out and you will collect a lot more dollars. If they claimed at 62, it’s 355 grand. If they waited till age 70, it’s 465. That’s a $100,000 difference, ok? It’s a huge difference of total cash in pocket, all right? That’s why these decisions are so important. If you want help with this, we have a free Social Security analysis. If you’re single, widow, widower, it doesn’t matter. We’re here to help you out to maximize the benefit that you deserve. Go to yourmoneyyourwealth.com, click on that special offer. We’ll be right back.
Joe: Hey, welcome back to the program. The show is called Your Money, Your Wealth®. My name’s Joe Anderson. I’m a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, with Alan Clopine. He’s a CPA. We’re breaking things down from boosting your Social Security. Let’s see how you did on the latest true/false.
Al: “Social Security is mandated by law to include a cost-of-living adjustment each year.” Joe, would you say that’s true or false?
Al: Yeah, mandated. That sounds pretty serious.
Joe: I don’t know. I mean, I think that’s false, but I think they give a pretty healthy COLA. This year was quite large.
Al: They do. Well, and the truth is, they check it every year, they look at cost of living, but they don’t have to do an increase and, in fact, if you go back the last 10 years, Joe, I think there was a couple years maybe where there was no increase at all.
Joe: Well, there was very little inflation.
Al: Just because there was little inflation, yep, so they don’t have to, so it’s–yeah, it’s false.
Joe: So let’s say, if there’s no inflation adjustment, so how do you get a little bit bigger boost, right? So we talked about taking it at 62, taking it at full retirement age, or taking it at 70. So what is really the bottom line here? How big of an increase is it? Well, it’s pretty big. It’s about a 76% boost to your overall benefit, and most of us will need the money later in life, all right, because if you run out of money, if the market turns, or we, you know, do something with the overall cash, right, a lot of times, it’s better to wait, but the choice is yours, of course. If you take it at 62, you get a little bit lower benefit, but sometimes you might want to bridge that gap.
Al: Well, I think so, yeah, so 62 to 70, you get 76% more benefit, so just be aware of that. We’re living into our 90s. In fact, did you know this? A 65-year-old couple–the median age that at least one of you will live to is 92, so you got to plan into your 90s, and now, with medical advances, it may be longer, so just be aware of that. But, Joe, you’re right. Bridging the gap is kind of– it’s a tricky thing, right? So we’re telling you to wait, but then you don’t have this income for 8 years, so how do you figure that out?
Joe: Yeah, this is where planning really comes into play, where you’ll have to sit down and kinda pencil this out because you know your situation more than anyone. Most people, right, almost 50% of men and women take it at 62. Only 2% or 3% push it out until age 70. We just talked about the pros and cons to claiming on each side of the spectrum but think of it like this. If you wanted to bridge that gap, right, well, there’s ways that you can create income from your portfolio, of course, right? So you look at– all right, you’re going to be taking more dollars from the portfolio in those beginning years, but then that distribution rate is going to lower as that Social Security comes in, and the Social Security’s gonna be that much larger, so the amount that you have to pull from your portfolio is gonna be that much less. Another really key, important factor that a lot of people don’t necessarily look or consider is the taxation of Social Security, all right, or of the taxation of your other assets. If all of your assets are in, let’s say, a 401(k) plan or IRA, 100% of that is gonna be taxed at ordinary income rates– state and federal. So if you push out your Social Security and you increase that overall benefit, Social Security will be taxed to some degree for most of you, right, but it’s tax-favored. It’s more tax-favored than, let’s say, a retirement account.
Al: Yeah, and, Joe, let’s talk about that. So this is the way Social Security is taxed. It actually used to be not taxed, but I think it was back in the eighties where they changed that, and they came up with this thing called provisional income. So your provisional income is basically all your income plus half of Social Security. That’s what provisional income is, and then you go to this table and figure out, all right, what is your income level? And so let’s just say you’re single, your income is below $25,000. Your Social Security is tax-free, right, so that’s how this works. If it gets between $25,000 and $34,000, then some of–half of your Social Security will be taxable. And if you get over $34,000, up to 85% of your Social Security is taxable at your current tax rate. That’s not the tax rate. Heh! That’s how much of your Social Security would be taxed. So here’s the thing, is–another way to think about this is you’re gonna have at least 15% of your Social Security being tax-free. And by the way, many states, including California, where we’re at, it’s completely tax-free. So if you can push out this benefit, then you can have more tax-free income for life, and that can be a great benefit.
Joe: Yeah, without question, so it’s not an 85% tax rate. Some people are like, “oh, you’re taxing my benefit 85%?” no, 85% of the benefit would be subject to income tax at your current rate. So, again, provisional income–you take a look at how are you creating income from different sources: IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, um, investments, dividend, interest, all right? They kinda put all of that into a bucket and say, “what is that number?” and then they add half of your Social Security. One thing that they don’t include in provisional income is Roth IRA distributions, so looking at tax diversification in the play here is key. So if you can start pulling money from Roth, they don’t even look at that, so you could get your threshold lower and still have a higher income. So, again, you can kinda play with your numbers, depending on your situation, and as long as you know the rules to play by, right, you can really advance yourself from a tax perspective.
Al: Yeah, and I think a lot of people, they see these numbers and they go, “well, my income’s way over that.” but the truth is you’re retired, in most cases, right? So your income may be lower than you think. You’re getting money from your Roth IRA tax-free. You’re pulling money out of your non-qualified, non-retirement account that you’ve already paid tax on. Maybe that’s tax-free. You pull a little bit out of your IRA, half your Social Security, maybe you can stay below these numbers and be super-tax-efficient on the Social Security.
Joe: Yeah, very well-said, Big Al. Uh, let’s switch gears. Let’s, uh, let’s go to “ask the experts.” [music plays]
Al: “I qualify for the divorce benefit, and my ex-husband just passed away. Does that mean I can collect on Social Security benefit earlier?” and, Sarah, the answer is yeah, potentially. So the basic rule is, as a spousal benefit–and your own benefit, the earliest is 62–as a survivor benefit, it is age 60 unless you’re disabled; it’s actually age 50. So you could potentially collect earlier. Realize, though, the earlier you collect, then you have a haircut for life, so just remember that.
Joe: Now, I’m not understanding that question. I thought she was already – was she claiming her ex-husband’s benefit, and then he died, and then can she claim the–well, if she’s already claiming, isn’t she?
Al: Well, maybe she’s claiming spousal. I’m not sure.
Joe: But yes, if he passed, then you can increase your overall benefit then to the survivor benefit, so the survivor benefit is 100%, not 50%. All right, let’s go to the next question. [music plays]
Al: “The Social Security lump sum death benefit is only $255. Is that expected to go up anytime soon? Most funerals cost thousands of dollars.” peter in San Diego. Uh, you’re right–$255 is the amount. You have to apply for it. No, I’m not– I don’t think it’s going to go up. It’s not meant to cover the whole cost of the funeral, unfortunately.
Joe: Covers a shovel?
Al: Yeah, I suppose, maybe. Heh!
Joe: Oh, boy, that’s generous. Thank you. Um, all right. Let’s see what we learned today. Social Security–it’s a big decision that you have to make. Who qualifies and for how much? We want to boost your benefits. You need to take a look at boosting as much as you possibly can. Potentially, you’ll want to bridge the overall benefits or, maybe more importantly, put together a comprehensive strategy for yourself that looks at the taxation of the overall benefits and your other income. Hey, if you want a Social Security analysis done, you can go to yourmoneyyourwealth.com, you can click on the special offer this week. Scroll down, you can click on that Social Security analysis to find out what is the best combination for you, your spouse, or you’re single, widow, widower, whatever. That analysis will help you determine the best course of action, given the details that you put in. All right, that’s it for us. For Big Al Clopine, my name’s Joe Anderson, and have a wonderful weekend, everyone, and we’ll see you next week.
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