Social Security Strategy

The first question people ask about Social Security is usually this: What’s the best age to claim benefits? The truth is there is no specific age that’s appropriate for everyone. Some retirees may be better off collecting Social Security as soon as they’re eligible for partial benefits at 62, while others may benefit more by waiting until they reach full retirement age (67 for anyone born in 1960 or later), and some may want to delay claiming until their benefit reaches the maximum at age 70.

Since Social Security is only one piece – albeit an important one – of your overall retirement income plan, your claiming strategy must be viewed in the broad context of your finances, personal and family life, and vision of your ideal retirement. There are numerous factors to consider, such as how much you’ve saved for retirement, whether you’ll be receiving a corporate pension from an employer, what your projected living expenses will be, the state of your health, and the longevity of primary relatives. Your marital status will also play a role, as will the age difference between you and your spouse.

Social Security has thousands of rules, many of which are key to maximizing the program’s benefits. For example, your partial benefit may be reduced until full retirement age if you work and earn income that exceeds a specified limit. The income taxes due on your benefits, however, are an ongoing concern throughout retirement. The federal taxes due each year don’t depend on your age at application; they’re based on your total combined income. Once that income exceeds a certain threshold, you’ll pay federal taxes on a larger percentage of your Social Security benefits. Eighty-five percent of your benefit will be taxable rather than fifty percent. The difference is significant, and is one to be aware of in deciding when to turn on the spigot.

People commonly believe that the longer you wait to collect Social Security, the higher your benefit will be. That’s not exactly true. While your monthly benefit may be higher, the total benefit you receive throughout your life may be the same or even lower. For example, waiting until age 70 to collect and dying at 71 could mean your total Social Security earnings may be far less than if you had claimed a partial benefit at age 62. While we can’t be certain what the future holds, your health and family longevity are important factors to consider.

We’ll Help You Decide When to Claim Social Security

Social Security is a subject Johnson Brunetti deals with day in and day out. We offer the experience, knowledge, and foresight to help you choose a claiming strategy that can serve you well today, tomorrow, and in the decades ahead.

We may start by running the numbers, but our analysis doesn’t stop there. We make sure our recommendations reflect what you want from retirement. Combining a qualitative and quantitative perspective can be helpful. For example, we may advise a retiree to take a partial benefit at age 62 if they can’t derive enough income from savings, or if additional years of withdrawals would deplete their assets too soon. We may make the same recommendation to another retiree for a very different reason. They may have enough savings, but collecting Social Security in the early years of retirement can help them realize their dream of traveling the world or starting a business while they’re still healthy and active.

If You’re Like Most of Our Clients, You’ll Need the Answers to These Common Social Security Questions:
  • How much will my Social Security benefit be?

  • When should I apply for benefits and why?  

  • Should my spouse and I be the same age when we apply?

  • How much of my total retirement income will Social Security represent?

  • What happens to my benefit when I die, or my spouse dies?

  • Can my children collect my benefits once I pass away?

  • Will I have to pay state and federal taxes on my Social Security income? What should I expect my tax liability to be?

  • Will I collect a bigger benefit by waiting longer?

  • Will the amount of my benefit always remain the same?

  • Can I file for benefits and stop them if I change my mind?

  • Can I continue to work once I start collecting benefits?

Our Philosophy & Approach to Social Security Strategy

1. We believe your claiming strategy should support your vision of retirement

When to claim Social Security shouldn’t be purely a dollars and cents decision. It should also reflect what’s most important to you personally. We’ll take the time necessary to get to know you well, so we can understand your vision of retirement in addition to your financial needs.

2. We encourage you to think about Social Security as one piece of your entire retirement income plan

You don’t come to us for one size fits all solutions, so we want to help you make decisions about Social Security within the context of your overarching financial picture and personal goals. Your Social Security benefit is one piece of the customized retirement income strategy and financial plan that we create for you.

3. We educate you so you know the ins and outs of Social Security

Social Security is governed by thousands of rules. We’ll explain the most important of these, and explain why they’re relevant. Each time we make a recommendation, we’ll tell you how we came to our conclusions and why they make sense for your situation.

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