USA Today columnist Pete The Planner explains how to calculate your Power Percentage for retirement readiness, and how to set house rules to get on the path to a successful retirement. Plus, 8 benefits of claiming Social Security later, how a Roth 401(k) may give you more purchasing power in retirement than a traditional 401(k), and Joe wants to grow a fro.
- (00:53) Al’s Vacation and Trump’s Healthcare Plan
- (05:21) Pete the Planner: Calculating Your Power Percentage
- (18:47) Pete the Planner: Retirement Success Depends on Your Behavior Now
- (26:46) Big Al’s List: 8 Benefits of Claiming Social Security Later
- (37:11) Big Al’s List continued
- (47:45) Social Security Taxation
- (52:45) Making This One Move Now Can Boost Your Retirement By Thousands A Year
“There are two paths that every single person is on. It’s either a path to a successful retirement outcome or the path to an unsuccessful retirement outcome. And the challenge is, people think they’re on this path in the middle that doesn’t exist.” – Pete The Planner
That’s USA Today columnist Pete the Planner, host of the Million Dollar Plan podcast. Today on Your Money, Your Wealth, he’ll help us set house rules to get on that successful retirement path. Pete says that 35% is great, Al’s 28% is pretty good, and 10% is a ticking time bomb. He’s talking about the Power Percentage. He’ll explain what it is, and how to find yours. Al shares the 8 benefits of claiming Social Security later, the fellas explain why a Roth 401(k) may give you more purchasing power in retirement than a traditional 401(k)… and Joe wants to grow a fro. Now, here are Joe Anderson CFP, and Big Al Clopine, CPA.
:53 – Al’s Vacation and Trump’s Healthcare Plan
JA: I feel fresh, Al, I feel fresh. Went to the doctor last week.
AC: Get a clear bill of health?
JA: Yeah, everything looks good. But sometimes I sleep a little funny and I had this kind of a little bit of a sore throat. And he’s like, “yeah, you think you snore?” I go, “Yep.” He’s like, “you have a little bit of sleep apnea?” I was like, “I don’t know. I’m sleeping. Maybe. You tell me.” And then he goes, “well, when it’s late at night and you’re reading a book, do you kind of like, doze off?” I’m like, “yes! When it’s late at night, and when you’re talking to be like this. And the stuff I read? Yes, I doze off.”
AC: I have a constant indent on my forehead from when that happens. (laughs)
JA: So I’m going to get a little sleep test.
AC: Are ya? OK. Well, that’s interesting.
JA: Yeah. I’ll let you know how that goes.
AC: Yeah. Usually, that occurs when you’re older, or overweight, which you’re neither. So I don’t know. Although you’re not as young as you used to be.
JA: I know. Got a birthday coming up here too. 43.
AC: Yeah, that’s not bad.
JA: Feels good, feels like 23.
AC: Yeah, I’m 60, I feel 40. I feel your age.
JA: Yeah. You look 70.
AC: (laughs) Thank you very much for that.
JA: Oh man. How was Greece?
AC: Oh, Greece was fantastic. We went to six different ports on our cruise, including some of the normal ones, Santorini and Mykonos. And Joe, I got to say it was a lot of fun. This is Ann and I’s first cruise. Well, I guess we did one 15 years ago with the kids on one of those big giant ones, so this was a small one. This was 130 guests, and it’s intimate, you get to know a lot of people, which is good and bad, because sometimes you end up with people that, gosh, I wish I didn’t keep seeing them. But, by and large, a great trip.
JA: How about if the whole boat was just full of them? That’d be tough.
AC: (laughs) Well there was this one guy. He just had these stories, and just told him over and over again. And I had dinner with him one night and heard the story. At lunch, I was sitting across from him, he was talking to somebody else, heard the story. And then I was at the pool, the deck area, and he walked by with another guy. He was telling the story. Wow, this guy has The Story! (laughs) It was pretty good, but the third time through…
JA: Well, we’ll see what happens here in the next couple of weeks with this health care bill. It’s important to see kind of what happens with it, because that blows up, and it’s going to be hard to get any tax reform. And then if that happens, then we’re going to see a little bit of pullback in the overall markets.
AC: Yeah probably Joe, because the markets kind of have some of that already factored in, that there’s going to be something happening. And I think a lot of people don’t understand, why does health care have to pass first before taxes? And the two are interrelated, because the health care bill will eliminate certain taxes, and that’s kind of like the starting point for the new tax bill. So that’s why those are kind of related.
JA: Like the net investment income tax. That was the 3.8% tax on top of capital gains if your adjusted gross income is over $200,000 for a single taxpayer and $250,000 for a joint filer.
AC: Wow, you’ve been reading up. Is that what you read late at night? (laughs) That’s why you fall asleep quickly.
JA: Yeah exactly. I was like, “Yeah if you read what I read, oh my God.” (laughs) Yeah, so we’ll see what happens there.
As Big Al just mentioned, once healthcare passes, tax reform is the next step for President Trump and the Republicans. We’re told it’ll be the biggest tax cut ever, but the President and the GOP remain divided on a number of key policy questions. How might income tax, estate tax, and business tax change? Visit the White Papers section of the Learning Center at YourMoneyYourWealth.com and download the white paper, “Tax Reform: Trump Vs. House GOP” to find out. Are your tax strategies at risk? Get year-end tax-planning tips that can help you stay on track in the midst of uncertainty. Download the Tax Reform white paper to find out more. Visit the White Papers section of the Learning Center at YourMoneyYourWealth.com
5:21 – Pete the Planner: Calculating Your Power Percentage
JA: Alan, I’m excited.
AC: I am too, Joe. We got Pete, huh?
JA: Pete the Planner. PtP.
PtP: Hi fellas, how are ya?
JA: I was going to give me this grandiose introduction Pete, but it seems you’re just chomping at the bit to get on our show!
AC: Well once you say, “Pete the Planner”, everybody knows.
JA: Yeah, you just got to jump in. Well, I want to thank you very much, I’m a big fan of your work, and it’s a real pleasure to have you. So thank you very much for taking a little bit of time to join Big Al and me.
PtP: No, it’s my pleasure. It’s my favorite topic on the planet, and I could talk about it all day, and I could talk about it for free. It turns out when you’re on your show, those are the terms.
AC: Yeah, we sent you that contract, and you notice there’s no comp. (laughs)
PtP: Yeah I noticed that the private jet rider had been scratched out.
AC: We didn’t even send a bottle of wine, sorry.
PtP: Oh well.
JA: Pete, tell our audience a little bit about your background, and then I’m going to just pepper you with a bunch of good questions.
PtP: Sure. Yes. I was a financial advisor for a decade or so, and along the way, started writing. So I’m a columnist for USA Today now. I do work for Good Morning America, I’ve written 10 books. I study people’s money habits and I love it. I love it!
JA: This is, what, maybe six months ago. Alan came, and he goes, “I got this best article. You’re going to be really excited about it.” And he talked about the Power Percentage, and lo and behold, that’s Pete the Planner. So, Pete, this is one of the coolest things. And Al and I talk about it all the time, so we’re stealing your stuff and you don’t even know it. (laughs)
PtP: I’m OK with that.
JA: We’re going to come out with the Super Power Percentage, we’re gonna trademark that. (laughs)
AC: We’re going to tweak it a little bit. (laughs)
JA: But tell our listeners a little bit about, what is The Power Percentage, why did you come up with it? Let’s go from there.
PtP: So this is a bit of a long story, but thank God we have time. (laughs) Three or four years ago my wife and I are out to dinner, and it’s February, and for some reason, I always use a February date night to sort of update, “here’s how we did financially last year.” Like guys, I’m trying to like store up brownie points, I’m thinking this is going to end well. And so I said, “well honey, we saved more dollars last year than we did the year before.” And so I’m waiting for her to shower me with praise or something, and she didn’t. And she said, “well by my math, that’s a much lower percentage than we saved the year before.” So it’s like, who did I marry? What am I doing here? This is a bad idea.” And it occurred to me that oftentimes, our numbers, the dollars we have saved, that we do save, they don’t tell the whole truth. Because the reality is once you start working, what you’re trying to do is, you’re trying to break your dependency on that working income over time, so you can eventually stop working. And because of this, I kept looking for metrics to figure out, “how efficient is a person with your income, and how well can I tell that they are independent of their need for income?” And I couldn’t find one. For a while, I was using a sort of a derivation of net worth increase. And so we created this thing, a Power Percentage, that essentially says, “how much of your income either gets you out of your past (pay off debt), or moves you forward to the future, thus creating independence.” Or another way to say, of course, is the reverse, is “how dependent are you on your income?” And so Power Percentage is the best way we’ve found. We’ve been testing the ever living daylights out of it and I’m pretty happy with the result. It’s a pretty good indication, no matter how much money you make or how much money you have, of what your current behavior is in relation to your financial health.
JA: Because people might look at, let’s say, their credit score, and they’ll say, “Hey I have an over 800 credit score. I feel pretty good about that.” Or how much income that you have. But it’s funny, the more income that people make, the more they potentially spend, or borrow, because they can. And so it’s not necessarily an indication of, really, how well that they’re doing with their overall wealth and their income.
PtP: Yeah this lady wrote me a letter for my column a couple months ago, and it was something to the effect of, “Hey, my husband and I make $400,000 a year collectively, and we have for the last 10 years or so. We’re 55. We want to retire at 58, and we have $1.2 million. What do you think?” The classic sort of newspaper column with e-mails you receive, and guys, you’ve already done the math. What I think is, she’s in big trouble. She’s made four million bucks over the last 120 months, and she’s got $1.2 million to show for it. And so she’s just too dependent. Her lifestyle was consuming her entire income., You guys have done this long enough. You know, everyone thinks they can cold turkey change their habits after their cake party retirement party, and “oh, we’ll cut our spending back 60%. No problem.” No, you won’t. No, you won’t. Because you haven’t done it when it mattered. You’re definitely not going to do it now.
JA: It’s funny. People underestimate all the time how much that they’re actually spending too. Al and I will sit down with a couple, they make $500,000 a year, they’re in their 50s, they’ve been making $500,000 a year for several years. They don’t have any savings. Mortgage, credit card debt, car loans. We’ll be like, “well how much do you think you spend on a monthly basis? They’ll look at each other and they’ll say, “well, I don’t know, the cable bills about a hundred bucks and….”
AC: It’ll be $3,000 a month, I guarantee you.
JA: Yeah. It’s $5,000 a month. I go, “that’s $60,000 a year, you make $500,000! I mean, do you get robbed daily? I mean where’s the money going?”
PtP: Yeah it’s funny. We’re on this precipice between people thinking they need a lot of money to retire, and just on the other side of that is, being able to retire because you don’t need a lot of money. I’ve just come to the conclusion, with people absent pensions today, absent defined benefit plans, that the real solution to retirement planning is to not need money. Now that’s not being cheap. Like going to McDonald’s and stealing ketchup to make tomato soup. We’re not talking we’re being cheap. We’re talking about breaking your dependency on your income. And what’s great about this is… I had this conversation with some colleagues., guys, I’m anxious for you to weigh in. They asked me, from an industry perspective, from a job perspective, what group of people do you find to be the most disciplined with money? Now one of you guys is going to say an accountant, but I’m going to have to disagree. I would say for me its teachers.
AC: Yeah I was gonna say teachers too.
PtP: And what makes my heart sing is that I can find a couple of teachers who are married will have a beautiful financial life while they’re working, and while they’re retired, and the income isn’t that great. But it doesn’t matter because they’re living within their means. Whereas you’ve got a sales guy making a quarter million dollars a year, he’s going to suffer through retirement, because of his dependency on that higher level of income.
AC: Yeah, there’s no question about that. So Pete, let’s go over that power formula. How does that work?
PtP: So what you do – by the way, this is a much-debated topic in my world. So what’s going to happen at the conclusion of our program today: your listeners are going to send me emails. They’re gonna try to throw a wrench in my spoke of how this thing is figured. I’m OK with it, I’m comfortable with it. Let’s go through it.
AC: Well it may be censored, so they may not get to hear it. We’ll see.
PtP: (laughs) This is all monthly dollars. I’m gonna give you a list of things. You add up monthly dollars. Monthly dollars, monthly dollars. The amount you and your employer put into your retirement plan each month. OK. So that’s number one. Number two: how much you save or invest outside of that, which includes college plans, IRAs, and any savings that aren’t going to be immediately spent, like a vacation saving or a holiday spending. You know what I mean. Then we’ve got the mortgage principal payment. OK so of course when you pay your mortgage it splits into a few pieces. I’m interested in how much of that mortgage payment is going to pay off the principal, which then tells me whether a person has a 15 or a 30-year mortgage. And so I want to know that number, the mortgage principal payment gets added in. You get to add in any HSA deposit. And then you can add in any other debt payment you’re making, as long as it’s not going to pay off a credit card which you used last month. Like you can’t cash flow it that way, it needs to be paying down a balance, and you can not include debt payments on transportation costs. because it’s a depreciating asset. So you add all those things up. You divide by your gross monthly income, and that gives you your Power Percentage.
AC: And so what’s the goal?
PtP: The goal is to be above 35%. So this is where I’m going to get a little dramatic, probably too dramatic. So much so that I probably won’t get invited back. If you’re 10% or below, you’re a ticking time bomb. That’s pretty dramatic, isn’t it?
AC: (laughs) Yeah, but I think you’re right.
PtP: It is, because here’s what it means. It means one of two things. It means, A, you’ve got a bunch of debt and you’re not paying on any of it. Or it means you have no debt, and you’re not saving a dime. Well actually, you are saving a dime in relation to the dollar you make, because you’re below 10% (laughs). 11 to 20%, eh, it’s OK. 21 to 34 is good and 35 and above is great. And guys, what we’re measuring here, and let’s be very clear, we’re measuring current behavior. We’re not measuring assets, we’re not measuring income, we’re not measuring debt or savings. We are measuring behavior. What are you doing with what you’ve got right now? And I think by measuring Power Percentage, you eliminate complacency, which is so common for people who have already accumulated a good amount of money.
AC: So I did it myself. I think I’m 28 or 29%, so it’s pretty good. Not great.
PtP: And to make it go up, it’s pretty simple. Save more or pay down more debt.
JA: Get on him, Pete! Get on him! (laughs)
AC: ‘Cause I just went on a cruise to Greece. So I shouldn’t have done that, sounds like.
PtP: Well, look – guys always want to know, what do I do. I max out my retirement plan. I max out my kid’s college plan. I max out my HSA, and then beyond that, I don’t care what I spend money on because I’ve taken care of business. So – everyone thinks I’m a cheapskate. I’m really not. I just get rid of when I need to get rid of, and then you move on.
JA: I think that’s the only way to do it, to be honest with you. There are so many different budgets, and all of this stuff, that I think no one ever goes with. But if you pay yourself first and you max out what you need to do, take care of business, and then blow everybody else, who cares?
PtP: Yes. So I’m going to give you the preview of next week’s USA Today column that I haven’t even written yet, but it’s this:
JA: (laughs) did we inspire you?
PtP: Let’s just go with that. Let’s go with, “you inspired me.” I’m comfortable with that.
AC: He’s writing about how terrible our show is. (laughs)
PtP: No, no, it’s like “you guys, I heard this show.” No. OK, you guys are in a similar business I am in a sense that we just want to help people. We want to give little pieces of practical advice that stokes a fire in people, financially. That’s what we do. So people hear all these rules, “oh, do this do that.” What I’m telling people right now is like, just have rules. Your household should have standards. I don’t care what they are. But if you don’t have a financial standard you’re in trouble. So here’s our standard. Max out the things just told you, and don’t have credit card debt. Those are the standards of our household. I don’t care whatever else we do. But what I find is that, that people that struggle with budgeting or saving for the future, you say, “what are the rules of your house, financially” and they just look at you like your head fell off, because they have no rules, they have no standards. Think of, when you go to dinner with your friend that’s a vegetarian. And they’re like, “well, I’m a vegetarian.” Of course, they talk about it all night.
AC: And they look sick. (laughs)
PtP: Yeah, right? They don’t beat themselves up when it’s time to order, going, “man, should I have the pot roast?” They’re not going to do it because their standard is no. So it’s really like putting your stake in the ground and saying, “this is who we are and what we’re going to do and there is no wavering.” That’s where I’m at right now. It’s just like, just have a rule in your house, just any rule. Have a rule.
So you’ve got your house rules in place and retirement is shaping up nicely. The next step is to make sure you leave a lasting legacy for the ones you love. Learn 10 Gruesome Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid at our free webinar, July 11 at 10:30 am Pacific. Visit PureFinancial.com/estate to register. Nicole Newman, Attorney at Law, and Joe Anderson, CFP, will answer questions like should you have a will or a trust? How do you protect your assets from probate, in-laws, creditors, predators and the expenses of long-term care? How do changes in estate tax law impact your existing estate plan? Visit PureFinancial.com/estate to sign up now for our free webinar, 10 Gruesome Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid, Tuesday, July 11 at 10:30 am Pacific. That’s PureFinancial.com/estate.
18:47 – Pete the Planner: Retirement Success Depends on Your Behavior Now
JA: Welcome back to the show, the show is called Your Money, Your Wealth. Joe Anderson, Big Al Clopine, hangin’ out. We’re talking to Pete the Planner. A couple of other things that I really enjoy about you is, it’s always about your behavior of savings. I think there’s a lot of advisors, there’s a lot of different financial people, or shows, or blogs, or they dive in so much of the allocation. But if you’re not saving it doesn’t matter anyway. “Hey, you have a really good allocation on your five bucks.” What the hell are you gonna do with that?
PtP: Yeah it’s funny. Personal finance has definitely blossomed over the last few years. My current pet peeve – you’re going to get me on a rant and this is embarrassing for everybody – my current pet peeve is all the sort of anti-latte, anti-avocado toast stuff, like, I get it. Like, I understand that if you eat a bunch of superfluous items on a regular basis you wouldn’t have as much money as you otherwise would. But as personal finance experts, wasting our time screaming about that is a little bit silly. Like, deal with the reverse. Don’t tell people not to spend. Let’s work on saving because here’s what happens. Let’s say, guys, that I convince someone to eat one last… whatever’s expendable. I don’t know. And they don’t spend that money. They didn’t save it, they just didn’t spend it. So then there’s this idea that they’re going to balance, spend that extra money that’s there later. I think as professionals, we have to focus on getting people to do the good habits, as opposed to complaining at them for their bad habits. And that’s my current gripe. I’m a grumpy guy, guys.
JA: I think, piggybacking off that, is, all right so let’s say that I like scotch and there’s an expensive scotch that I’d like to pound down a bottle of every Friday night. And let’s say I don’t do that one Friday night and I saved myself a couple of hundred bucks. Like you just said, I’m not going to save it. Guess what, I’m going to reward myself with something else. I’m going to buy something for 400 bucks the next week.
PtP: It’s a big disconnect. I mean this idea of like, “well, I took my lunch three days this week, so it saved $19.” I’m like, “no, no you didn’t. You really didn’t. You just didn’t spend 19 bucks. Unless that 19 bucks traveled it’s way to your savings account or your IRA or towards your Chase credit card, it didn’t matter. Your action was futile.
JA: Talk about your podcast a little. It’s interesting. You get people on there, and you’re like, “all right buddy, let’s get you naked here.”
PtP: Yeah. No, it’s a video podcast in which we get people naked. No that’s not true. (laughs) We get a person on every week from around the country, and we change their names, and we don’t say really where they live, so they can just be honest and not lie to themselves, not lie to me. They tell me exactly what they’re doing financially. And we created this calculation that will tell them the exact day they will be a millionaire. And then, so we use that day to work backward. And then we try to move their million dollar day up by changing some of their habits. So it’s called Million Dollar Day, is the name of the podcast. Million Dollar Plan I should say, I don’t even know the name of my podcast, so that’s good. I’m a professional. Million Dollar Plan and so that’s what we do, we take one situation, we dive deep, if I have to yell at ’em I yell at ’em. And oddly enough, after almost 200 episodes, I always ask at the end if people have life insurance, and these people still come on the show without life insurance, and it makes me want to go crazy.
JA: Yeah. They have a couple of kids and everything’s doing pretty good. And “oh, what do I need that for?”
AC: Yeah, no will. No trust. (laughs)
PtP: That drives me bonkers. Here’s what happens guys, you find these people have beautiful financial situations that are nine out of 10s in terms of doing what they should do. But that lack of a contingency plan is just immature and embarrassing at best.
JA: I think with how you’re changing the way personal finance should be approached is what I think as an industry we need to do collectively. And I think most of the industry might be afraid to kind of give people the hard truths. Yeah, you make a lot of money, you’ve saved a million bucks, but you’re going to go broke and you gotta face that. But no one necessarily wants to say that as a professional. Apparently, I’m not a professional, because I’ll say it. (laughs) Right? We kind of pussyfoot around it. We don’t necessarily want to hurt anyone’s feelings. We don’t want to say anything rude or anything like that. But if I’m a personal trainer and you come into my office or my gym, and you’re 300 pounds, we gotta say, like The Biggest Loser – you are overweight. Let’s do something here.
PtP: Yeah it hit me probably six months ago I was doing some work and this idea hit me. There are two paths that every single person is on. It’s either a path to a successful retirement outcome or the path to an unsuccessful retirement outcome. And the challenge is, people think they’re on this path in the middle that doesn’t exist. They’re like “oh, I’m somewhere in the middle.” No, no you’re not. ” Well, I’m gonna…” It doesn’t matter. You’re either on the path to a successful outcome or an unsuccessful outcome. And math tells the truth. And if you’re going to continue down an unsuccessful path for a couple more years, you’re making it harder. I’m not going to explain compounding interest. It’s an insult to your show because everyone listens to your show understands it. But the point is, people, don’t look at it in that binary way. They don’t say, I’m either on the path to success, or I’m on a path to not succeed. If they’re on a path to not succeed, they’re not looking at themselves in the mirror enough to change the behavior to get on the other path.
JA: Hey Pete Where do people find you, where can people watch you, where can they read your work, and everything else?
PtP: Thanks for asking. PeteThePlanner.com is a good place to go. And then, USA Today… I don’t know what day I’m in the paper, guys, I’m going, to be honest. It’s a very colorful paper. (laughs) I think I’m on Monday or Tuesday, it’s one of the days. And yeah. We’re here to help. We’re here to help.
JA: That’s Pete the Planner, folks. Pete, thanks so much for coming on. Hopefully, you will grace us with your presence again on this little rinky-dink show. (laughs) I write for the Annandale Gazette. It’s in Minnesota. There are about 200 people that live in the town, and they give me a call once a quarter.
PtP: Wow, well as long as this interview doesn’t get your show canceled, I’ll be on again, guys.
JA: (laughs) That’s Pete the Planner. Go to PeteThePlanner.com, PeteThePlanner.com, we gotta take a break. Shows’ called Your Money, Your Wealth.
Your Money, Your Wealth isn’t just a podcast, it’s also a TV show! Check out Your Money, Your Wealth on YouTube to see Joe and Big Al talking about planning for retirement over your entire lifespan, investing biases you may not realize you have, Social Security claiming strategies, and… Pure Financial Feud! Watch clips of the Your Money, Your Wealth TV Show – just search YouTube for Pure Financial Advisors and Your Money, Your Wealth.
It’s time now for Big Al’s List: Every week, Big Al Clopine scours the media to find the best tips, do’s and don’ts, mistakes, myths and advice to improve your overall financial picture – in handy bullet-point format. This week, 8 Benefits of Claiming Social Security Later.
26:46 – Big Al’s List: 8 Benefits of Claiming Social Security Later
AC: As a little prelude into that I want to tell you, according to Social Security Administration, where America’s income comes from. And this is all retirees together. Everybody’s different, but this is collective. So Social Security income accounts for 33% of your total retirement income. Interestingly enough, Joe, the second highest category is post-retirement work earnings. We’re actually working, and that’s 32%.
JA: Really? So after I retire I’m still working part time.
AC: In some capacity.
JA: Right. Consulting part-time, Wal-Mart.
AC: Wal-Mart, yeah, that’s what I was thinking. Pensions 21%. Savings and investments, only 10%. Because no one has saved. Except for our listeners! And then other, 4%.
JA: What’s other? Gifts?
AC: I think that’s trust funds. Inheritance. (laughs) Anyway, the reason why I bring that up now is that it’s important that we make the most of our Social Security. When you claim it later, some good things can happen. And that’s my list here – 8 Benefits of Claiming Social Security Later. The first one Joe is to avoid a benefit reduction, which simply means that if you’re younger than full retirement age, which right now, for this year is 66 years and two months, if you are collecting Social Security payments younger than that, before full retirement age, and you’re still working, you may have to give some of those benefits back.
JA: Yeah there’s two parts to that because if I do claim it early, let’s say at 62, then I receive 25% permanent haircut on my benefit. So that was fine back in the 80s. Because here’s what people I think really have a hard time grasping: because you and I know the statistics. It’s still like close to 65% of people take it as soon as they can get it. And then you’ve got maybe 25% that are taking it at full retirement age. And then a few percent are waiting after full retirement age.
AC: In fact the stats, Joe, as I recall, the most recent I saw is roughly 80% of the people take it before full retirement. Which right now is 66 years and two months. Which means they’re getting less and less each year, and so by taking it early, if you’re still working, you have to perhaps pay some of it back. And $16,900, roughly, is the amount that you can earn without having to give any back until that last year.
JA: Yeah but you don’t really give it back. So let’s talk two things here. And then I’ll probably come back to that – or you’ll probably come back to it. They had a significant change in Social Security back in the 80s. So they changed the full retirement age because it was at 65 then they moved it to 66, to 67. And so depending on the year you were born, it was either 66, then 66 in two months, 66 and four months, and so on, till you reach age 67. So back in the 80s, it did not matter, because of where they looked at life expectancy. If you took it at 62, you took it out of full retirement age, or you took it at 70. You roughly got the same pool of money out of the system, as long as you weren’t working if you retired at age 62.
AC: That’s true, and that’s based upon normal life expectancy at that point. Which some people are more, some people are less, so on an individual level it’s different, but collectively it didn’t matter.
JA: Yes, it didn’t matter at all the numbers made out. Let’s say your total benefit was going to be $700,000. So if you took it at 62, you got a permanent haircut, but it didn’t matter because you took it four years early. You got that haircut, and then you lived to life expectancy, you got $700,000, total, over your lifetime. Or you wait until full retirement age, you’ve got your full benefit. So you’ve got 25% more of your benefit because you waited until your full retirement age, so you received more, then you lived to life expectancy, guess what? Boom, $700,000. Or you waited until age 70, and then you’ve got 132% more – 8% delayed retirement credit to age 70. Then you take it there, but then you die, boom, $700,000. It didn’t matter, really, the numbers kind of lived if you lived until normal life expectancy. Guess what? Our life expectancies have increased significantly since the 80s.
AC: Right. And they haven’t changed the actuarial tables.
JA: So the longer you wait, probably the more dollars that you’re going to receive.
AC: I think that’s right and Joe that leads into the second one, which is collecting delayed retirement credits. And so that’s if you take Social Security at full retirement age, again that’s 66 years and two months, you get your normal benefit. But then if you wait until age 70, your benefit actually increases 8% per year. And so right now, it’s close to 32%, about 31, 30.5% additional from going from full retirement age to age 70, so you get a lot more benefit by waiting. And that’s a benefit for life.
JA: Right. If you look at, what, age 62 to 70, what is that a 75% difference?
AC: 76% difference. Related to the first one is when you work and claim benefits at the same time, then it’s better waiting, because you got to wait till full retirement age, otherwise as we mentioned before, if you claim Social Security benefits before age 66 and two months, in the current year, you may not get to keep all your benefits, because there’s earning limitations.
JA: Right and that’s $16,920. So here’s how that works. Social Security benefits are based on a monthly income. And so if I’m taking my benefits at age 62, and I’m still working, and if I make more than $16,920 of income, so these are wages though. This is wages or self-employment income. This is not pension income. This is not 401(k) distributions. This is not interest or dividends. This is you actually employed somewhere earning a living, earned income. So if you make more than that, then all of a sudden every $2 that you earned over that limit, they take a dollar back from your Social Security benefit. So they don’t necessarily take it back. They just assumed that you didn’t claim it. So what happens then is that, let’s say you take it, you get a 25% permanent haircut. But if you’re still working, if you’re over that limit, then that 25% permanent haircut increases. So now it’s not 25, it might be only 24, 23, 22 – or decreases, I should – the amount of money that you receive later would increase. So some people think, well they’re taking it from me! Well, no. You’re going to get it back later, with a higher benefit. So it doesn’t make a lot of sense to take it at 62 if you’re still fully employed. Because it might wipe everything out, and it looks like you didn’t claim anything, to begin with.
AC: Yeah, and the other thing that happens, Joe, is you get this benefit at age 62, and you don’t even realize it’s not all yours until you do your tax return next year. The Social Security Administration knows about that – as soon as they find out what you really made, they will reduce your benefit for the following year, and they reduce it dollar for dollar. So you may not receive any payments for several months to make up for that excess that you got paid in the first year.
JA: Let me see if I can explain how the math works.
AC: Oh boy you’re going deep. (laughs)
JA: But I have to round. Is that fair?
AC: That’s fair.
JA: OK. So let’s just say my Social Security benefit is $10,000 a year. So I’m going to claim my Social Security benefit at 62, it’s $10,000 bucks a year. And let’s just assume the income earning limit is $20,000, versus $16,920. So the earnings limit’s $20,000. So I claim my benefit, and I’m still working, and I make $40,000 a year. So that’s $20,000 over the limit in that example. So, on $20,000 over the limit, every $2 earned, they take a buck back. So what are they going to do? They’re going to take $10,000 of benefit away from me. Well, my benefit is $10,000. So I would receive zero benefits. It would assume that I never claimed to my benefit. Does that make sense?
AC: Right. For purposes of your future actual benefit.
JA: Correct. But I already collected the $10,000 that year. And so the following year, I’m still claiming my benefit. I’m still going, all of a sudden I file my tax return in April and then all of a sudden Social Security Administration says like, “hey, what the hell are you doing Anderson? You made $40,000 here. You’re over the limit, we gotta take this thing back.” I already have it, I already spent that $10,000. So all of a sudden, my benefits are going to stop because I’m over the income limit. And then they’ll look at that tax return the following year. Oh, now I’m under the limit. It’s not like I have to cut a check back to Social Security. They’re just going to not give me that payment until I get everything caught back up.
AC: Yeah, theoretically, that same example, if you’re over that limit every single year, you may get to full retirement age and still not receive benefits until you’ve made up that over payment.
JA: You got it. So that’s another reason just to really understand the rules here because there’s a reason why they’re doing this. They don’t necessarily want you to double dip when you’re taking the overall benefit.
Let’s stop and take a breath here for a minute. Social Security is complicated! And in the last couple years, the rules for claiming Social Security have changed. Learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits under the new rules – visit the Webinars section of the Learning Center at YourMoneyYourWealth.com to watch our Social Security webinar. Joe Anderson will teach you about claiming strategies, how to calculate your benefits, spousal and ex-spouse benefits, survivor and children’s benefits, Social Security taxation and much more. Make sure you receive all the benefits to which you’re entitled! Watch the webinar, How To Maximize Your Social Security Benefits Under The New Rules. Visit the Webinars section of the Learning Center at YourMoneyYourWealth.com. Now, back to Big Al’s List, the 8 Benefits of Claiming Social Security Later.
37:11 – Big Al’s List continued
AC: The next one I want to go over is boost your annual earnings. Social Security payments are calculated using the 35 years in which you earn the most. And here’s what can happen, is people tend to earn more as they get older, because they’re more experienced. Then if you retire at age 62, you’re using a lot of your early years when you weren’t making a lot of money. If you work at age 70, you’ve got eight more years of higher income that replace those lower beginning years, and you end up with much more benefits that way as well, by waiting, in this case, to age 70.
JA: Here’s another thing that people might not understand. Let’s say if I do take my benefit at full retirement age. So I’m taking my Social Security benefit at full retirement age, but I’m still working. I want to work until age 70. So they’re never going to hurt you. So you could claim your benefit at full retirement age, they’re not going to do that clawback that we talked about earlier. There will be tax, and I’m sure will coming up with that shortly. But here’s what happens is that, let’s say I make $120,000 a year, the max of Social Security. So they’re going to replace that $120,000 with maybe an income that I made 35 years ago. So the next year, my Social Security benefits will increase, just because they’re knocking out that lower year, they’re adding on the higher year. So even if you are claiming your benefit at full retirement age, and still working, and those income years are higher than any other income year that you’ve had, that will go back into the calculation, and then that will increase your overall benefit.
AC: Yeah that’s a good point Joe. And I’ll just repeat that first thing you said, which a lot of people still don’t realize: at full retirement age 66 years and two months, if you claim your benefits, you can work as much as you want. There’s no clawback, there’s no limitation. You can make couple of hundred thousand dollars and still receive your full benefit. It’s only when you claim Social Security before full retirement age that you have certain income limitations, and those income limitations are based upon earned income only: salary, self-employment income. Pension income, interest income, rental income, none of that counts. So just be aware that. Another one, this is rather obvious, but I guess it’s worth going over. You get larger payments when you’re older. You wait on Social Security, so you get larger payments when you’re older. But if you think about it, if you can work in your 60s, and a lot of people can, then not only do they have higher salaries, they’ll get higher benefits, but now maybe when they’re in their 70s and they’re not able to work, by waiting, good things have happened. Because they have a much higher benefit when they’re not able to work. And it’s a great benefit for those that can wait.
JA: You know, we talk about levers quite a bit on the show. Just when you look at certain things that you can do to kind of stretch your dollar out within retirement. Working later of course is a key driver of that. And the reason why is because then if I work a couple of years longer, that means I’m not taking money from my portfolio for, let’s say those two years. I’m not claiming my Social Security for those two years. I might be saving more money in those. So working two years, three years longer, it affects three or four different things in a significant manner.
AC: Yeah, and of course different for everybody, but I would say working an extra year or two would probably add another three to five years of retirement ability, in terms of funding the retirement, because it’s more than one for one at that point.
JA: Yes, it’s like “OK, well if I work one more year, then that means I have one more year of retirement.” No, if you work one more year, that could be four years more of funding your retirement.
AC: It could. Next one, Joe, is you get bigger inflation adjustments. So Social Security each year looks at the cost of living, inflation, and more often than not, there’s an inflation adjustment. There’s an increase in the amount that you get. Well, that increase is a percentage, and if you have a higher payment, your percentage increase is going to be higher, so you’ll receive higher raises than those that took Social Security early.
JA: Just another part of the equation when it comes to your overall retirement. Social Security is a key driver, and I think some people still underestimate a number of dollars that they’re going to receive, even though it might be 20, 30% of your total income. But it’s still 20, 30%. You don’t want to screw this up.
AC: Yeah, you don’t. Another one Joe, is less stress on your 401(k) and IRA savings. And this is, of course, presuming that you’re working up until the point where you receive Social Security. So delaying Social Security will give you a bigger benefit, and because you’re working, you haven’t touched your 401(k)s, your IRAs, the same thing you just said, which is, by working those few extra more years, you think you’re going to retire at 62 or 65. You work two or three years. It makes a huge difference in how your retirement looks. We’re on the last one, which is maximizing survivor payments. This is a big one, and this is I think one of the most important reasons you might want to wait as long as you can, hopefully to age 70 to claim your benefit. If you’re married, and if you’re the higher wage earner. That could be husband, could be wife, it doesn’t matter. But here’s the thing is, the survivor payments, both of you probably worked at some point, both of you may have your own benefit, but when one spouse passes, the higher benefit between the two spouses is the one that the survivor gets to take.
JA: Right, because the Security Administration says, you had two benefits, one person passed, so we’ll give you the higher of the two.
AC: Right exactly. So if you think about it, if you have one spouse that has less of a benefit, claim that whenever you want. It’s not as important. But the one that has the higher benefit, wait as long as you can, because when one of you passes, whether you’re the one receiving the benefits or the survivor, you’ll get that higher benefit for life.
JA: Yeah. There’s a lot of different things to consider, because there’s also the spousal benefit. So you got the survivor benefit if you’re married. But there’s also a spousal benefit. And the spousal benefit is always based on the full retirement age of the spouse. Let’s say that my benefit is a thousand, and let’s just assume I’m married, and my wife’s benefit at full retirement age is $3000.
AC: Yeah. She was more productive than you. (laughs)
JA: Very. A lot more, Alan. So then all of a sudden, my benefit, I look at my benefits statement, it says a thousand bucks, and I know $3000, that’s too high of a benefit but I’m just using the math, for all these advisors that are listening and saying “Anderson, you don’t know what you’re talking about.” But the point is, that my benefit from $1,000 would jump to $1,500. As long as I took that spousal benefit at full retirement age. If my wife took her benefit at 62, as long as I take the spousal at full retirement age, I would get half. So it’s not based on what their benefit is. Or if that spouse waited to age 70, I don’t get half of the larger benefit. I don’t get half of the smaller benefit. I would get half of their full retirement benefit, as long as I take that benefit at full retirement.
AC: So let’s say that again. So your wife takes her benefit at 62, which is a lower benefit by about 25%. You wait until full retirement age and take the spousal, which is half of hers, you get the amount that would have been at her full retirement age, not half of her age 62 benefits.
JA: You got it. I would not receive a reduction in my spousal benefit, just because she took her benefit at 62. Let’s say she waited to age 70. I take the spousal benefit. I do not get an added benefit because she waited. I would still get 50% of her full retirement age benefit.
AC: So when it comes to spousal, if you’re taking the spousal benefit, you want to wait until full retirement age, so that you get the highest maximum benefit.
JA: Right. You can also claim on an ex-spouse as well. As long as you’re not currently married. So if you were married for 10 years to an individual, you can claim on their benefit. So as long as you’re full retirement age, they don’t have to be claiming. When it comes to the spousal benefit, if you’re currently married, they have to be claiming to claim the spousal benefit.
AC: Yeah, and that’s confusing. So you’re married to your spouse. You can’t claim the spousal unless they’re claiming their benefit. But if you’re divorced and have been married at least 10 years to an ex, you can claim on their benefits, whether or not they’re claiming.
JA: Correct. Let’s say you were married twice for 10 years to each individual. Then you can claim the higher of the two.
AC: So that’s a strategy.
JA: Yeah, we’re getting an app. (laughs) Social Security app. dating.com or whatever.
AC: So you got to be really nice for 10 years. 10 years and a day. Then you can go back to your normal self.
JA: Yep. So here’s the app. Social Security benefits and a picture. (laughs)
AC: A little countdown. How many days you’ve got to wait to get the full benefit.
JA: Yeah yeah yeah. Have a little countdown, we’ll give you a little beeper, then as soon as that 10 year hits, boom! You’re out.
AC: Yeah. And it will have little colors. Each year you get closer it gets a little bit closer to green or something.
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47:45 – Social Security Taxation
JA: Here’s another thing that I want to get into, is the taxation of Social Security. Because we are broadcasting this in Southern California. Al and I both live in San Diego. So if you live in the state of California, we have a lot of podcast listeners, for those of you that live in California, and our radio listeners here in California, the state of California does not recognize Social Security benefits as taxable income. So the state of California won’t tax it. So that could be a 10% savings for a lot of you, depending on what your taxable income is going to be in retirement. So you have to look at the taxation of it also. At the very least, you’ll get 15% tax free on the Feds. So 85% is the maximum that they will tax. So if my benefit is $10,000. $8,500 will show up on my 1040. So I’d get that $1,500 tax free. So that’s pretty cool. So then it comes into strategy when it comes to taxes. So we talked to all about delaying spousal, survivor benefits, clawbacks, and so on. But if you really want to look at maximizing this, now you’ve got to put a different discipline in. Such as the taxation of the overall benefits. And Al and I’ve ran these numbers multiple times. If you live until normal life expectancy, it might make sense for a lot of you to continue to delay. Because you’re going to receive that higher benefit, but also the taxation of that benefit is going to be much favored, versus the 401(k) dollars that you pull out, where it’s going to be 100% taxable from the Feds and the state. And plus an 8% delayed retirement credit. I mean, that’s pretty good. So if you think that you can try to create that larger benefit from your 401(k) plan by investing, that’s one thing, but just know it’s not necessarily, again, what’s on your 401(k) statement. It’s what’s coming out after tax. So you have to look at the taxation of this.
AC: You do, Joe. And I think a lot of people, when they retire, let’s just say they retire at age 65, for example, and they’ll sign up for Medicare, and maybe they’ll collect Social Security. A lot of people kind of have that date in mind. And so I’m just going to go over a hypothetical person, which is somebody that has saved a lot of money outside of retirement, because maybe they had a rental property that they sold, or maybe they inherited some money, or maybe they just saved some of their salary. So they’ve got some money to live off of. They’ve got a bunch of money in an IRA, and now they’re in a very low tax bracket for the next five years because if they push out Social Security, they don’t have that. They don’t have to take money out of their IRAs, because they’re not 70 and a half yet. So here’s a strategy for you, is start doing Roth conversions when you retire, age 65, you’re in a very low tax bracket, maybe you’re married and your taxable income is zero, because whatever little income you have is offset by your itemized deductions, exemptions. You could convert $75,000 in that example, and still stay in the lowest 15% bracket. Do that for a few years, you get a lot of money into a Roth IRA. Now, at age 70, you go ahead and start Social Security. You’ve converted a bunch of your IRAs to Roth, and so there is no required minimum distribution in a Roth. And when you start taking money out of a Roth, It’s a 100% tax free. So now you’re your age 70, and 70 and a half, and it’s like, “wow, my income is still pretty low, because I don’t have this much of a required minimum distribution, number one. And we’ve got these rules on Social Security, and it’s it’s only taxable depending upon my other income. And right now, Joe, if you’re married and your provisional income is under $44,000, it’s going to be less than 85% taxable. It’ll probably be 50% taxable. And if your income is less than $32,000, then none of it’s taxed. And this is where a lot of people are kind of missing out on the Social Security, and that’s when we talk about purchasing power of your money, it’s like looking at all factors, and taxes are obviously a big part of that, because if you can arrange your income through retirement to be tax efficient, you stretch your dollars a lot further.
JA: Al and I just saw a long time favorite client, and they’ve been doing conversions since, I don’t know, probably what six, seven years? They’ve been clients for eight? So they’ve been doing conversions probably for eight years. So now, they have a large sum of money, and it was all in retirement accounts, a lot of it was. And so we were able to convert over that time period, at fairly low brackets, to get probably 70% of their assets in Roths over the last probably seven years. So now they have so much more flexibility, because it’s like, “hey, we want to do a large purchase this year. How about if we pull $50,000, $100,000,” and this and that or whatever. Well OK well we could do a bunch of different things here, and you could pull from the retirement account, if you want to pull $100,000 out, well, you’re going to have to pull about $160,000 just to pay the tax. Or we could pull from the Roth, or maybe you finance it. I mean, there’s options. And then, because they have the capital to pay it off tomorrow, well it might make sense to finance this thing. It really depends on the situation. But they have control, they have the ability to mitigate their tax, to maximize their wealth, because they have different options to pull from. And then it’s like they’re living off of X amount of dollars. Al and I did a tax projection, and they’re pulling most of it from the IRAs, because we wanted to continue to bleed those out, and let the Roths grow until they claim their Social Security benefits at age 70. But after looking at the tax projection, maybe we just give ’em another $20,000 of income in Roth, and that keeps ’em in the 15% tax bracket. And they’re in their living off of about $150,000.
AC: Yeah. And they’re paying the lowest tax rate.
JA: And then, Market Watch came out with this:
52:45 – Making This One Move Now Can Boost Your Retirement By Thousands A Year
AC: Really, one move.
JA: One move. What do you think it is?
AC: Save more.
JA: “New research shows that employees who choose a Roth 401(k) from their company menu of retirement plans might end up with more purchasing power in retirement than if they pick a traditional 401(k).” Here we go. See, this is the problem. This is a very good article. They must be listening to Your Money, Your Wealth. Because people don’t think of purchasing power. They look at their statement. Those are two totally different things. Let me explain. If I have a $100,000 in the 401(k) plan, and that 401(k) plan continues to grow, and I keep putting money in pretax, my $18,000 a year, $24,000 if I’m over 50, and I watch that $100,000 grow to a $150,000, $200,000, $250,000, I feel pretty good. I look at the statement, I’m saying, hey, I’m building the nest egg. Yes you are, but that 250 or 300 or whatever statement value you see, is not all yours. And so, for individuals that have saved a lot of money in retirement accounts, they will be shocked to know the amount of tax that they’re going to pay. But here’s what you hear is that, well, I’ll be in a lower tax bracket in retirement. That is true, for about 70% of the population. But the 30% is really what we’re trying to talk to. The people that have saved. Because the average balances of retirement accounts are pretty small. A lot of people haven’t saved.
AC: Our listeners are that 30%. And this actually is very relevant to you.
JA: Sure. Because then it’s like, now I take the money out of the 401(k) plan, I have to pay ordinary income tax. But most people that have saved money want to replicate their overall lifestyle in retirement. They don’t necessarily want to reduce their lifestyle. The people that reduce their lifestyles don’t necessarily want to, they have to. So as you’re building your overall nest egg, the purchasing power means everything. It’s not necessarily what’s on your statement, but what is all yours. So in a Roth 401(k), it’s after tax. So yes, you do not get that tax deduction. So you’re giving up a tax deduction today, but then all of those future dollars are going to grow 100% tax free for you. So then you have to think of, all right well, when do you need the deduction? So you could get in the math, and you and I have argued about this for years. Yeah I get the math. You look at, if I get the deduction today, that’s great. And then I get the tax deferral. But when do you need the money the most? It’s not necessarily while you are working and have income, it’s when you don’t have any income at all. You’re trying to produce the income from your overall investments. I’d much rather bite the bullet today and then have tax-free in the future. But that’s just me.
AC: (laughs) Well, I tend to agree with you in certain circumstances. There’s certain cases where people are in the highest tax bracket today, and will be in a lower tax bracket in retirement. And so maybe it doesn’t make sense for them, but here’s how the argument goes. And here’s the fallacy in the traditional argument, in my opinion, which is this: you put $5,500 into a regular IRA, and you get a tax deduction. So it only costs you $4,000, or whatever. You put $5,500 into a Roth, there’s no tax deduction, so it costs you the whole $5,500. So then there’s a $1,500 tax difference. Let’s just say. And as the argument goes, to compare apples to apples, then you take that $1,500 and you invest it, and you have a rate of return, and if you’re in a higher tax bracket today versus retirement, you’re in a better situation doing a traditional IRA. Now the problem, as you and I know, is nobody saves that $1,500. So in that case, the Roth actually is forced savings, and probably a better approach for a lot of people.
JA: Right. So what Al’s saying there is that the $5,500 to get a tax deduction, doesn’t cost me $5,500. So you get that little bit of tax savings, but those tax savings, you should be saving then. But what are people doing? They’re spending it.
AC: So when you get your tax refund, did you save it?
JA: No of course not! Vacation! I’m goin’ to Greece!
AC: (laughs) Yeah you bought that new appliance or whatever you did.
JA: Yeah exactly. So yeah I understand. I hate taxes more than most. And what we try to do on the show is educate you on looking at things from a broader perspective. Al’s been a CPA for over 30 years. He’s always looked in the rearview mirror, until the last 10 years.
AC: That’s right. Now I look forward.
JA: Yes. Now you look forward. We look forward to another day.
AC: Yeah we do.
JA: Andre, your hair, man. I just can’t get over it. Our producer today.
AC: Yeah. He’s got a different look, doesn’t he?
JA: It’s like a pillow on his head. Is he sleeping? I’m not sure. That just looks comfortable. I’m just gonna grow a fro out like that. How do you grow a fro like that? That’s just long? You weren’t born with hair like that, where you? Where do you go do that? He goes to the salon! (laughs)
AC: You know, when we went to Greece, we flew to Paris and Athens, and everyone has these little pillows. Those crescent shaped pillows around their head on airplanes.
JA: I’m not sure what a crescent shape is.
AC: (laughs) That’s because you never fly. But anyway, Andre doesn’t need that, because he’s got the pillow on his head already.
JA: He could stand up and just kinda move his neck around a little bit and it’s like, “oh.” I want to get a blow dryer, blow dry that thing. (laughs)
AC: You needed about a year to grow your hair out.
JA: Me? It would take me 50 years. I went to Minnesota for, what, I left Thursday night, got back on Monday, didn’t shave? You couldn’t tell. I could have went to the office. (laughs) That’s it for us today. We’ll see you again next week. Show’s called Your Money, Your Wealth.
So, to recap today’s show: The benefits of claiming Social Security later essentially boil down to the fact that, if you can afford to wait, you end up with more money in just about all respects. If you save into your Roth 401(k) instead of your traditional 401(k), you’ll have more purchasing power in retirement. And oh, Joe can’t grow no fro.
Special thanks to our guest, PeteThePlanner. Check him out on USA Today, or at PeteThePlanner.com
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Pure Financial Advisors is a registered investment advisor. This show does not intend to provide personalized investment advice through this broadcast and does not represent that the securities or services discussed are suitable for any investor. Investors are advised not to rely on any information contained in the broadcast in the process of making a full and informed investment decision.